Wake Up and Laugh
Dharma Teachings of Zen Master Daehaeng
Daehaeng Kun Sunim
Korean Buddhism is tough. In our earlier review of The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn, we noted that the essence of it was "don't-know," and that that we are constantly being urged to "keep that don't-know mind." "By pretending to know something, we are hiding from the truth that nothing is everything and that everything is nothing." Our reviewer wrote,

    His theme is: shut up the mind; you know nothing ... so stop pretending. If you want to learn the way, go off in the mountains, eat pine needles for a year, purge the ego, know that you don't know, have never known, will never know.

Every thing we need (and need to know) is already here, and Masteer Daehaeng tells us it is called Juingong. In the helpful glossary to Wake Up and Laugh, it is defined as "our true nature, our true essence, the master within that is always changing and manifesting, without a fixed form or shape."

We have here five talks given by Daehaeng, presented between 1989 and 1994. In the first of these, she tells us how to die. And, each time we die, we have to keep it a secret:

    First, you must let go of everything and die, and keep what you experience secret. Second, you must let go of everything and die again, and not reveal what you experience. Third, you must die yet again, and keep what you experience secret. Then you'll be able to attain wisdom and respond as a manifestation of the Dharma.

"Without dying like this, you won't be able to reach the point where the entire universe bursts forth from within you." It is lines like this last that make one willing to read on.

Each of these talks ends with question and answer, and some of these provide the most lively elements of Master Daehaeng's teachings. In one, the questioner reports his confusion with the concept of heaven. "Sometimes friends ask me where heaven is. I tell them what I have learned from you: 'Heaven is within your own mind.'"

    KUN SUNIM: Rather than worrying about trying to impress others with what you know, you'd better work harder on our own practice. If you don't know for yourself, you have no business trying to answer other people's questions. Now who told you that heaven is in the Brahma realm?

    QUESTIONER: I read it in a book.

    KUN SUNIM: There is no such thing. The Brahma realm doesn't exist separately from the world. Hell is right here in this world, heaven is here, and the Brahma realm is also right here in this world ... When you live free from the shackles of your mind, everywhere you are is a heavenly realm. Heaven and hell are not somewhere else. They are right here.

Like most Buddhists, Kun Sunim is not without her paradoxes. A questioner asks about the Buddhist monk who wrote, "To think that spiritual practice is done outside your daily life is foolishness. Further, 'dwelling in' or 'upholding' are also counter to the truth." He asks Master Daehaeng, "Please teach me about the stage of mind to which he was referring."

    KUN SUNIM: Please come over here. I'll teach it to you. Come here closer. Here, give me your hand.

    [When the questioner held out his hand, she slapped it gently with her hand four times...]

    Do you understand. Now, do you have any other questions?

    QUESTIONER: No, not right now. Thank you very much.

If we have any complaints about this book, it would be that Master Daehaeng repeats to her listeners (and to the readers) what they should not do. Like think; try to be logical about it all; worry with the meaning. Then, and only then, are they to learn what they should be doing.

Moreover, her answers to questions from the audience can be somewhat confounding. She says, "You are the one that takes care of you." "If you try to depend on something outside yourself, no connection is made with your foundation, and so nothing is input into it. If nothing is input into your foundation, how can it take care of things?" If you are born as a beggar in this life,

    if you continuously entrust everything in your life to your foundation and do your best to live sincerely, then later you will be able to receive a better role ... If you think about this, you should have some feeling for where you came from, where you are going, what you are doing, and why you are doing.

"If you think about this," she says, in the midst of a book that tells us to stop thinking. She falls into that trap that so many speakers and writers on Buddhism fall into: at the moment we are being told that this isn't it: (the book, the speech, the words, the master's voice). We read this or hear it as we are beng told that this is not the way to learn the way.

Thus we read that we should not be reading if we want to find the truth. Then, as master, she comes up with some ideas are supposed to be useless, but that leave us, well, speechless: "Your body is not the master. Your body is like a planet, where many different beings live together. 'You' don't exist by yourself. Right now in your body there are so many different consciousnesses, shapes, and lives. Even when you drink a cup of water, you don't drink it alone. Rather, all the lives in your body drink the water together..."

Finally, we are told that we have to be careful. "You are connected to the whole of existence. Everything is your business, your pain, your family, and your body."

    So there's nothing you can treat carelessly. And those practitioners who cultivate mind have to be especially cautious about anything, because their mind is connected and communicates with every mind in the universe, all the way from Buddhas and Bodhisattavas to insects.

"If you reach the state where you can communicate like this, your mind will become one mind with everything. When you can communicate with everything like this, then even if a life-or-death situation confronts you, everything will become one mind, and hand that aren't hands will fill the air and help you."

--- A. W. Allworthy
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