On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

January 11, 2021

Since I became Buddha – pt. 2

Song-chul (1912-1993)

Some people misunderstand the implications of this. They think, “What a wonderful law. We all live in paradise, and we’re all Buddha. So there’s nothing to do. We don’t have to study, or work, or make progress. We can do anything we want, can’t we?”

That is perhaps the initial reaction, but it is the result of a lack of true understanding. Yes, we’re fundamentally Buddha, we live in paradise, and the Great Light brightens the entire universe. But people with their Eye closed still can’t see the Light. You are fundamentally Buddha; but if your Eye is closed, there is only darkness.

Think of a mirror covered with dust. The mirror itself is clean and clear, and it reflects light. But once covered with dust, it reflects nothing. The fact that a dust-covered mirror cannot reflect anything is itself a wonder.

To say that you are Buddha is not enough. It’s wrong to think that since you are Buddha, you live in paradise and therefore there’s nothing more to do. To think that there’s no need to open the Eye means that you’ll be a blind Buddha forever.

So you have to have confidence in one thing. Even if we are sitting here in the darkness with our Eye closed and unable to see the Great Light, we must move forth with the confidence that we are living in the Great Light, and that if we strive hard enough we will be able to see the Great Light.

No, you may not be able to become as perfect as the Buddha in this life, and you may not be able to see paradise all around you. But you must have the confidence that you are fundamentally Buddha, and that you do in fact live in paradise. The only flaw is that you haven’t opened the Eye and haven’t seen the Light.

If you become aware of the fact that you are surrounded on all sides by the Great Light, and if you open the Eye, then the Great Light is yours. Present reality is absolute. It is non-producing and non-extinguishing. And as I said before, Buddhism has the exclusive copyright on these words.

Because atomic physics and quantum theory are now proving what the Buddha said so long ago, some may mistake this as a chance to brag about the superiority of Buddhist thought. This is not the point however, and certainly not a Buddhist attitude. All we can do is take these developments and realize how close science is coming to Buddhist thought.

What the Buddha said over 2,500 years ago is being proven by science today. The only difference is in the timing. And it’s nice to see that science is beginning to agree with Buddhism on these things.

The fundamental nature of humanity is astoundingly great. It goes back fathomless time periods and it is immortal. But it is only because we have not opened the Eye that we cannot see this.

You may be saying to yourself something like, “What is this monk talking about? My eyes are wide open, they’re as clear and bright as day itself, and he’s telling me I’m blind. What’s going on here?”

But you’re talking about the visual sensation from your eyes. And you may have great eyesight, good enough to see the eye of a needle in the dark. But these eyes are of no use. What I’m saying is that you have to open your Internal Eye, your Eye of Wisdom, your Eye of Intuition, the Eye of the Mind. I’m talking about opening this Eye so that you can see the Great Light pervading everything evenly throughout the universe. I’m talking about a perfectly clear mirror that reflects everything quietly, very, very, quietly.

How can you clean the mirror of dust, how can you open the Eye? The easiest and fastest way is through meditation, and through the use of the koan. And if you make the breakthrough with your koan, the Eye of the Mind will open up. It will sparkle and glimmer. There’s a saying that if you try really hard once, you’ll even surpass the level of the Buddha, that your Eye will open.

Yet there is another method of opening the Eye. Something is covering the Eye, just as dust covers a mirror. If you discover what that something is, and remove it, then you’ll be able to see, won’t you?

The Three Poisons

Your Eye is covered by what we call in Buddhism the “Three Poisons”– greed, anger, and foolish thinking. And because we are filled with greed and desire, with anger and rage, with all kinds of foolish thoughts, we cannot see that we are fundamentally Buddha. We do not understand that we are living in paradise right now. So we talk about the world of hardship and toil and pain, and spend our time wondering if we’re going to hell or not.

But if you remove these three poisons completely from your mind, then there is no way that the Eye will not open up; and it will open completely.

Which is the worst of the three poisons? Greed. It is because of greed, craving, and desire that anger and folly arise. So by eliminating this greed, you can eliminate the causes of anger and foolishness and let the Eye open by itself.

Where does this greed come from? From “me, myself, and I.” From the cravings of the self. “Me! I don’t care what happens to others! I have to look out for myself!” That is where all the greed comes from. And following this greed, these cravings for the self, come anger and foolishness.

You see, living a self-centered existence naturally implies at least infringing upon, if not harming others. And by doing so, your Eye will never open. Your world only becomes darker and darker.

How do we rid ourselves of this self-centered greed and these cravings only for ourselves so that the Eye will open? Simply by forgetting your own greed and your own cravings, and only by living for other sentient beings.

Most people spend their entire lives thinking only of themselves, doing things only for themselves. To get the Eye to open, however, you have to reverse this completely. Forget yourself. Think and worry about others, and let all your actions be centered around others. Center all of your thoughts and actions around helping others.

That should be your general standard for behavior. If you do this, the three poisons will naturally melt away by themselves. The layer of dust on the mirror will become thinner and thinner, and the Eye will become brighter and brighter.

When the three poisons have melted away completely, the Eye will open wide, and you will see the Great Light. If the dust is removed, is there anything to prevent a mirror from reflecting, anything to keep the Eye from opening wide?

And when you see the Great Light, you will come to see that you have been Buddha for fathomless ages and that the entire universe is paradise. And for the rest of eternity you will be free-flowing, unlimited, and unobstructed.

If someone asks me, “What is Buddhism?” I usually reply that Buddhism is living in a world turned inside-out or upside-down, living in a world that has been reversed. In today’s world, people live self-centered lives, and in the process they do unimaginable harm to other forms of life. In Buddhism, however, you dispense with the self and its endless cravings, and live for other beings. So it’s the reverse of contemporary life as we know it.

Song-chul (1912-1993)

Excerpted from Echoes from Mt Kaya: Selections on Korean Buddhism

“So you have to have confidence in one thing. Even if we are sitting here in the darkness with our Eye closed and unable to see the Great Light, we must move forth with the confidence that we are living in the Great Light, and that if we strive hard enough we will be able to see the Great Light.”

This excerpt speaks to our current times so well, and Song-chul helps us to understand one of the thorniest questions in Buddhism along with the process required to become free of delusion.

We can clearly sense the difference between what our conditioned reality paints and how one would see with an opened Dharma Eye. And once one gets that glimpse of the world, there is still much work to do as the habits in perception and thinking are ingrained and require continual reining in. Not to mention the three poisons of anger, greed, and ignorance which are so rooted in our being. So there is no resting place after the first enlightenment…it is a continual journey.

We are so fortunate to have the teachings, the stories which bring the principles to life, and the presence of others along the Way to help guide us through dark times.

Courage, indeed, is what we need to carry on.

Sending you strength and clarity for the year to come,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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