Posted in ch'an, zen

Face Whatever Appears

“Separate yourself from disturbance and face whatever appears before you.”

Hongzhi

 

Sometimes our being is described as like a mirror.

There are several conditions that a mirror can be in. A dirty mirror might reflect what’s in front of it in a distorted way. A broken mirror might be even worse.

But a mirror that is clear and clean is going to give you an accurate representation of whatever you put in front of it.

We often see the world in distorted ways. We’re like a dirty mirror. We don’t see things clearly, rather we see everything through the filter of that dirt. We might feel like a cracked or broken mirror if we’ve had some particularly awful traumas in our lives.

We come into every situation carrying disturbances with us. Sometimes that’s okay. If you’ve been struck by lightning it certainly makes sense to be wary of all storms.

But other times it gets in our way.

We’ve all been kicked in the heart and a bad relationship can haunt us forever, making it hard to let people get close to us, making it hard to trust and have an open heart.

Or in the workplace, if you’ve ever had a boss that you really trusted who let you down…well, you know what I’m talking about. That’ll make you look sideways a little at all employers for a while.

And a lot of the time we project our own things onto others. If we feel really guilty about some aspect of ourselves, selfishness for example, it’s really easy to project that on others and see everyone as selfish. Or look for any little clue that might make that argument.

So, with our practice, what we’re trying to is train our minds, so we can learn to see things as they really are. We may not be able to clean the mirror, really. But what we can do is remind ourselves that it’s dirty. In itself, that is a kind of success.

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Posted in Mirror of Zen

Mirror of Zen

The Mirror of Zen is a text that was written by a teacher named So Sahn. He is one of the most revered Zen Masters in the history of Seon Buddhism. He was a Korean teacher and he tried to distill Zen teachings from over 50 sutras into a container that could easily be understood.

So Sahn lived in the 1500s. He became a monk at the age of 21 and dedicated himself to lifelong study. He lived in a time of great peril, when Korea was at war with Japan.

In these days there was some debate over whether practice should be centered on meditation or sutra study. Several different branches of Buddhism arose because of this debate, putting different levels of emphasis on different aspects of the Dharma. There were some saying we should just study the words of the Buddha and we really don’t have to practice ourselves. There are others who say that we just have to practice, that studying in any way is a distraction from our practice, we just have to sit like the Buddha did.

So Sahn dedicated himself to trying to bridge that gap. He thought that sutra study and practice were equally important. That’s actually a pretty common opinion these days, but not in So Sahn’s time.

It’s with this in mind that he wrote “The Mirror of Zen,” which is at once a study of core Zen concepts and also a practice manual. It’s a tiny little book. It can be read in just a couple of hours, but it has incredible depth.

I went through this text in great detail, but I also skipped the sections about how to be a good monk, since I don’t believe anyone reading this is a monk, I thought those areas wouldn’t be necessary.

Mirror of Zen: Part 1

Mirror of Zen: Part 2

Mirror of Zen: Part 3

Mirror of Zen: Part 4

Mirror of Zen: Part 5


 

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