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Practicing Form

In traditional Korean temples, bikkhus, bikkhunis, laymen and laywomen sit in separate Zen halls. However at Musangsa, we all practice together in the same Zen hall, as is the international tradition at Kwan Um School of Zen, established by Zen Master Seung Sahn. Only the living quarters are separated.
At Musangsa, we observe the same rules as in the international Kwan Um School of Zen. There’s sitting meditation, chanting meditation, bowing meditation, and Kong An interviews between a student and a teacher.
All of these practicing techniques are there to help us find our original nature, moment to moment – “only don’t know”. Through “just do it”, those techniques help us to let go of our attachments to our thinking and mind habits. While those techniques utilize the body, they help our minds become clear, which helps us control our emotions and situations, and even offer help to others with more clarity.

Sitting Meditation

buddha

Many people imagine sitting meditation as sitting up straight on a cushion, legs crossed. That may be a formality in terms of body posture. 

In a larger context, however, Zen practice includes more than sitting meditation – bowing, chanting, and all activities in everyday life are part of Zen. This means Zen isn’t so much about the bodily posture – it’s more about how we control and use our minds. 

If you keep either the body or the mind higher than another, that is not complete Zen. Although everything is truly created from mind alone, for most people, the mind is heavily affected by how they keep their bodies. 

And because of that, various formalities in Zen have appeared over the ages that employ techniques using our bodies. Many people have attained enlightenment and wisdom by practicing them. 

Sitting meditation is one of those techniques unique to Zen, and it is considered a very important part in the Zen tradition. 

Why We Bow
by ZM DaeBong Sunim

buddha

Bowing practice means awake. Bowing very quickly your body and your mind become one. It’s also a very good way to take away lazy, desire and anger mind. Often, when we wake up, our consciousness and our body doesn’t quickly connect. That’s why, first thing in the morning, we do one hundred and eight bows. Bowing practice is like a repentance ceremony every morning. Through these one hundred and eight bows, your body and your consciousness very quickly become one. Then, being clear and functioning clearly is possible.

Also, there are some people who cannot sit. Maybe they have a little crazy mind or too much thinking. If they sit, they cannot control their consciousness. For them, using their body some way is very important. In Buddhism, everything’s direction is the same point — how to perceive my true nature and save all beings from suffering.

Bowing means I want to realize my true nature not attach to small mind and take our karma, our thinking, and return to this moment very clearly. I want to find my true nature and save all beings from suffering.

Buddha is not God. Somebody asked Buddha “Are you a God? or Are you a Man?” then Buddha said “I am awake!”.

Point of bowing is to become awake.

Why We Chant
by Zen Master Seung Sahn on Sep 1, 1975

buddha

One Sunday evening, after a Dharma talk at the International Zen Center of New York, a student asked Seung Sahn Soen-sa, “Why do you chant? Isn’t sitting Zen enough?”

Soen-sa said, “This is a very important matter. We bow together, chant together, eat together, sit together, and do many other things together here at the Zen Center. Why do we practice together?

“Everybody has different karma. So all people have different situations, different conditions, and different opinions. One person is a monk, another is a student, another works in a factory; one person always keeps a clear mind, another is often troubled or dissatisfied; one person likes the women’s movement, another doesn’t. But everybody thinks, ‘My opinion is correct!’ 

Even Zen Masters are like this. Ten Zen Masters will have ten different ways of teaching, and each Zen Master will think that his way is the best. Americans have an American opinion; Orientals have an Oriental opinion. Different opinions result in different actions, which make different karma. So when you hold on to your own opinions, it is very difficult to control your karma, and your life will remain difficult. Your wrong opinions continue, so your bad karma continues. But at our Zen Centers, we live together and practice together, and all of us abide by the Temple Rules. People come to us with many strong likes and dislikes, and gradually cut them all off. Everybody bows together 108 times at five-thirty in the morning, everybody sits together, everybody eats together, everybody works together. Sometimes you don’t feel like bowing; but this is a temple rule so you bow. Sometimes you don’t want to chant, but you chant. Sometimes you are tired and want to sleep, but you know that if you don’t come to sitting, people will wonder why; so you sit.

“When we eat, we eat in ritual style, with four bowls; and after we finish eating, we wash out the bowls with tea, using our index finger to clean them. The first few times we ate this way, nobody liked it. One person from the Cambridge Zen Center came to me very upset. ‘I can’t stand this way of eating! The tea gets full of garbage! I can’t drink it!’ I said to him, ‘Do you know the Heart Sutra?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Doesn’t it say that things are neither tainted nor pure?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then why can’t you drink the tea?’ ‘Because it’s filthy” ” (Laughter from the audience.) “‘Why is it filthy? These crumbs are from the food that you already ate. If you think the tea is dirty, it is dirty. If you think it is clean, it is clean.’ He said, ‘You’re right. I will drink the tea.”‘ (Laughter.)

“So we live together and act together. Acting together means cutting off my opinions, cutting off my condition, cutting off my situation. Then we become empty mind. We return to white paper. Then our true opinion, our true condition, our true situation will appear. When we bow together and chant together and eat together, our minds become one mind. It is like on the sea. When the wind comes, there are many waves. When the wind dies down, the waves become smaller. When the wind stops, the water becomes a mirror, in which everything is reflected-mountains, trees, clouds. Our mind is the same. When we have many desires and many opinions, there are many big waves. But after we sit Zen and act together for some time, our opinions and desires disappear. The waves become smaller and smaller. Then our mind is like a clear mirror, and everything we see or hear or smell or taste or touch or think is the truth. Then it is very easy to understand other people’s minds. Their minds are reflected in my mind.

“So chanting is very important. At first you won’t understand. But after you chant regularly, you will understand.

Kong An Interviews

buddha

Kong An interview is another unique way of practice in Zen; it is a question-and-answer time between the student and the teacher. Usually, the teacher is the one asking, and the student answers. Sometimes the student asks, seeking Truth, insight or wisdom. The interview Q&As can sometimes seem too profound, or sound like paradoxical nonsense. It is because those questions ask of the “true meaning” behind the words. Only with insight, intuition and mental clarity, can you truly answer those questions. 

Zen interviews have evolved over the years to have certain structures, e.g. using episodes of the Buddha or famous Zen Masters. It has been through these interviews that a Zen teacher verified the practice and enlightenment of the interviewee. This is a tradition very unique to Zen, and is also considered the bone.  

In Korean Zen tradition, there are 1,700 kong-ans (“ko’an” in Japanese) used to check the attainment of the practitioner. Zen Master Seung Sahn, when he taught in the West, selected ten that he considered to be very important. They were called the Ten Gates (later expanded to become the Twelve Gates). As he taught, he used many more kong-ans, and added new ones: those that have Christian and Taoist references, and his own. They are published in a book titled “The Whole World is a Single Flower”. Teachers all around the world verified in Kwan Um School of Zen — Zen Masters and Ji Do Beop Sa – use the book to teach Zen students.

Sitting Meditation

Sitting Meditation

buddha

Many people imagine sitting meditation as sitting up straight on a cushion, legs crossed. That may be a formality in terms of body posture. 

In a larger context, however, Zen practice includes more than sitting meditation – bowing, chanting, and all activities in everyday life are part of Zen. This means Zen isn’t so much about the bodily posture – it’s more about how we control and use our minds. 

If you keep either the body or the mind higher than another, that is not complete Zen. Although everything is truly created from mind alone, for most people, the mind is heavily affected by how they keep their bodies. 

And because of that, various formalities in Zen have appeared over the ages that employ techniques using our bodies. Many people have attained enlightenment and wisdom by practicing them. 

Sitting meditation is one of those techniques unique to Zen, and it is considered a very important part in the Zen tradition. 

Bowing Meditation

Why We Bow
by ZM DaeBong Sunim

buddha

Bowing practice means awake. Bowing very quickly your body and your mind become one. It’s also a very good way to take away lazy, desire and anger mind. Often, when we wake up, our consciousness and our body doesn’t quickly connect. That’s why, first thing in the morning, we do one hundred and eight bows. Bowing practice is like a repentance ceremony every morning. Through these one hundred and eight bows, your body and your consciousness very quickly become one. Then, being clear and functioning clearly is possible.

Also, there are some people who cannot sit. Maybe they have a little crazy mind or too much thinking. If they sit, they cannot control their consciousness. For them, using their body some way is very important. In Buddhism, everything’s direction is the same point — how to perceive my true nature and save all beings from suffering.

Bowing means I want to realize my true nature not attach to small mind and take our karma, our thinking, and return to this moment very clearly. I want to find my true nature and save all beings from suffering.

Buddha is not God. Somebody asked Buddha “Are you a God? or Are you a Man?” then Buddha said “I am awake!”.

Point of bowing is to become awake.

Chant

Why We Chant
by Zen Master Seung Sahn on Sep 1, 1975

buddha

One Sunday evening, after a Dharma talk at the International Zen Center of New York, a student asked Seung Sahn Soen-sa, “Why do you chant? Isn’t sitting Zen enough?”

Soen-sa said, “This is a very important matter. We bow together, chant together, eat together, sit together, and do many other things together here at the Zen Center. Why do we practice together?

“Everybody has different karma. So all people have different situations, different conditions, and different opinions. One person is a monk, another is a student, another works in a factory; one person always keeps a clear mind, another is often troubled or dissatisfied; one person likes the women’s movement, another doesn’t. But everybody thinks, ‘My opinion is correct!’ 

Even Zen Masters are like this. Ten Zen Masters will have ten different ways of teaching, and each Zen Master will think that his way is the best. Americans have an American opinion; Orientals have an Oriental opinion. Different opinions result in different actions, which make different karma. So when you hold on to your own opinions, it is very difficult to control your karma, and your life will remain difficult. Your wrong opinions continue, so your bad karma continues. But at our Zen Centers, we live together and practice together, and all of us abide by the Temple Rules. People come to us with many strong likes and dislikes, and gradually cut them all off. Everybody bows together 108 times at five-thirty in the morning, everybody sits together, everybody eats together, everybody works together. Sometimes you don’t feel like bowing; but this is a temple rule so you bow. Sometimes you don’t want to chant, but you chant. Sometimes you are tired and want to sleep, but you know that if you don’t come to sitting, people will wonder why; so you sit.

“When we eat, we eat in ritual style, with four bowls; and after we finish eating, we wash out the bowls with tea, using our index finger to clean them. The first few times we ate this way, nobody liked it. One person from the Cambridge Zen Center came to me very upset. ‘I can’t stand this way of eating! The tea gets full of garbage! I can’t drink it!’ I said to him, ‘Do you know the Heart Sutra?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Doesn’t it say that things are neither tainted nor pure?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then why can’t you drink the tea?’ ‘Because it’s filthy” ” (Laughter from the audience.) “‘Why is it filthy? These crumbs are from the food that you already ate. If you think the tea is dirty, it is dirty. If you think it is clean, it is clean.’ He said, ‘You’re right. I will drink the tea.”‘ (Laughter.)

“So we live together and act together. Acting together means cutting off my opinions, cutting off my condition, cutting off my situation. Then we become empty mind. We return to white paper. Then our true opinion, our true condition, our true situation will appear. When we bow together and chant together and eat together, our minds become one mind. It is like on the sea. When the wind comes, there are many waves. When the wind dies down, the waves become smaller. When the wind stops, the water becomes a mirror, in which everything is reflected-mountains, trees, clouds. Our mind is the same. When we have many desires and many opinions, there are many big waves. But after we sit Zen and act together for some time, our opinions and desires disappear. The waves become smaller and smaller. Then our mind is like a clear mirror, and everything we see or hear or smell or taste or touch or think is the truth. Then it is very easy to understand other people’s minds. Their minds are reflected in my mind.

“So chanting is very important. At first you won’t understand. But after you chant regularly, you will understand.

Kong An Interviews

Kong An Interviews

buddha

Kong An interview is another unique way of practice in Zen; it is a question-and-answer time between the student and the teacher. Usually, the teacher is the one asking, and the student answers. Sometimes the student asks, seeking Truth, insight or wisdom. The interview Q&As can sometimes seem too profound, or sound like paradoxical nonsense. It is because those questions ask of the “true meaning” behind the words. Only with insight, intuition and mental clarity, can you truly answer those questions. 

Zen interviews have evolved over the years to have certain structures, e.g. using episodes of the Buddha or famous Zen Masters. It has been through these interviews that a Zen teacher verified the practice and enlightenment of the interviewee. This is a tradition very unique to Zen, and is also considered the bone.  

In Korean Zen tradition, there are 1,700 kong-ans (“ko’an” in Japanese) used to check the attainment of the practitioner. Zen Master Seung Sahn, when he taught in the West, selected ten that he considered to be very important. They were called the Ten Gates (later expanded to become the Twelve Gates). As he taught, he used many more kong-ans, and added new ones: those that have Christian and Taoist references, and his own. They are published in a book titled “The Whole World is a Single Flower”. Teachers all around the world verified in Kwan Um School of Zen — Zen Masters and Ji Do Beop Sa – use the book to teach Zen students.

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