Only Don't Know: Selected Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn
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Here is the inimitable Zen Master Seung Sahn up close and personal—in selections from the correspondence that was one of his primary modes of teaching. Seung Sahn received hundreds of letters per month, each of which he answered personally, and some of the best of which are included here. His frank and funny style, familiar to readers of Dropping Ashes on the Buddha, is seen here in a most intimate form. The beloved Zen master not only answers questions on Zen teaching and practice, but applies an enlightened approach to problems with work, relationships, suffering, and the teacher-student relationship.
strong feeling. But if your mind opens and you see this world, you will see that from moment to moment there is already a great deal of danger and you will be very unhappy, not knowing which way to turn. A long time ago, Shakyamuni Buddha was a prince, soon to become a king. He had everything, but he wasn’t satisfied, so he put it all down, cut his hair, went to the mountains, and sat under the Bodhi tree. One day he saw the morning star and got enlightenment: he understood that your true self
they only follow their desire, anger, and ignorance, and take their thinking minds as their treasure, they don’t see that this world—just as it is—is always teaching us truth. Everyone has too strong opinions, too much understanding, and too much checking of their feelings. Everybody likes to be stolen by their six robbers. So this is why rules and precepts appear. If from moment to moment you keep your correct situation, then the Buddha’s precepts and our temple rules are not necessary. Many
beings from suffering. Yours in the Dharma, S. S. LOW-CLASS PRACTICE Allston, Massachusetts September 14, 1977 Dear Soen Sa Nim, How are you? I hope you are well, even though you are working so hard. Everyone at the Cambridge Zen Center says hello to you and to our West Coast family. I must tell you something. This summer, I came to believe in Buddhism 100 percent, so I am very happy. Before, there was a lot of fighting in my mind about whether or not to practice. But this summer,
on a retreat. Your karma appears not only on retreat; it also appears when you take special medicine. Also if you do hard practicing, then anytime, anywhere, your karma appears. But don’t worry about your karma. Only go straight—don’t touch your karma. So I say to you, understanding your karma means only understanding: don’t touch. Practicing means you must perceive your karma. As you practice more strongly you will perceive that your karma is made by your thinking. When you cut off all
set out on a journey. We arrived at the home of a powerful witch who granted all our desires. I received the perfect woman. Quite content, we remained a long time, until we awoke to realize that we had forsaken our journey. The witch refused our request to leave, so we decided to escape. But wherever we went, the witch always managed to remain on our trail. We soon realized that if we wished to leave, we had to return everything she had given us—nothing belonged to us, even my perfect woman. Once