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A "Hello Letter" from the Monastery
From Br. ChiSing
January 16, 2009

Br. ChiSing and the Ven. Beop Jun Sunim
Br. ChiSing with the Ven. Beop Jun Sunim
at the Bo-Hyun Temple in Richardson, TX
Dear Buddha-in-drag,


This is just a short hello letter to you from the small Dhammakaya monastery in Arlington, TX. I will write a longer letter to you next week when I leave the monastery to be with you in person once more.

After all of the meditation practice here so far, I am finding my mind to be more supple, and my heart more joyful, and my body more ACHEY....LOL! (mindful grin)

I have been meditating 60 minutes at a time, a few times a day, plus two 90-minute meditations so far. The monk who is guiding me is teaching me how to let go more and relax more during meditation, and that is helping me enter into a timeless NOW space where there is no concern for past or future, and so, 60 or 90 minutes just whizzes by.

The week I spent at the Zen Meditation Retreat in Houston during Christmas/New Year was my way of purifying past karma and releasing the past, and practicing at the monastery now is my way of creating a positive foundation for now and the future, especially these next four years from 2009 to 2012. This is my way of dealing with a midlife crisis before it happens!

Last night, after the evening chanting and meditation, before going to bed, I opened up a book of Buddhist quotes, and these words leapt up from the pages and penetrated deeply into my heart --

" 'The mind of the ancient Buddhas' should not be understood as something irrelevant to your experience, as some mind which exists from the beginingless past, for it is the mind which eats rice or tastes other food in your ordinary everyday life, it is the mind which is grass, the mind which is water. Within this life just as it is, is the act of sitting like a Buddha. . . . One honors the Buddha with a grain of sand, one honors the Buddha with the water in which rice has been soaked. One offers a handful of food to living creatures."
-- Soto Zen Master Dogen

"All beings by nature are Buddha, as ice by nature is water. Apart from water there is no ice; apart from beings, no Buddha. How sad that people ignore the near and search for truth afar: like someone in the midst of water crying out in thirst; like a child of a wealthy home wandering among the poor. . . . How boundless and free is the sky of Awareness! How bright the full moon of wisdom! Truly, is anything missing now? Nirvana is right here, before our eyes; this very place is the Lotus Land; this very body, the Buddha."
-- Hakuin Zenji

Isn't that just exquisitely and beautfully worded? Wonderful, wonderful!

And so, I close this letter with a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh and something I wrote last year. Thank you for being my students, for being my fellow-practitioners, and for being my teachers. I am very grateful for you. I look forward to seeing you all next week and especially on February 1st for the LUNAR NEW YEAR Celebration of Light!

Thich Nhat Hanh:

"When we hear a Dharma talk or study a sutra, our only job is to remain open. Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing. If we read or listen with an open mind and an open heart, the rain of the Dharma will penetrate the soil of our consciousness.

'The gentle spring rain permeates the soil of my soul. A seed that has lain deeply in the earth for many years just smiles.'

"While reading or listening, don't work too hard. Be like the earth. When the rain comes, the earth only has to open herself up to the rain. Allow the rain of the Dharma to come in and penetrate the seeds that are buried deep in your consciousness. A teacher cannot give you the trruth. The truth is already in you. You only need to open yourself -- body, mind, and heart -- so that his or her teachings will penetrate your own seeds of understanding and enlightenment. If you let the words enter you, the soil and the seeds will do the rest of the work.

"A sutra or Dharma talk is not insight in and of itself. It is a means of presenting insight, using words and concepts. When you use a map to get to Paris, once you have arrived, you can put the map away and enjoy being in Paris. If you spend all your time with your map, if you get caught by words and notions, you miss the reality. The Buddha said many times, 'My teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon. Do not mistake the finger for the moon.'

"Sutras are essential guides for our practice, but we must read them carefully and use our intelligence and the help of a teacher and a Sangha. After reading a sutra or any spiritual text, we should feel lighter, not heavier. Buddhist teachings are meant to awaken our true self, not to add to our storehouse of knowledge. The Buddha did not want his disciples to be caught by words and notions, even his own."

     ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Brother ChiSing:


I open my heart to learning from my spiritual teachers and spiritual communities. And I affirm the truth of my own wisdom and experience, nurturing the inner teacher within myself. I am both student and teacher, and beyond such roles. I am Wisdom incarnate, I am Truth expressing.

A good student is a wonderful asset to a spiritual community. And what is a good student? Well, I can share with you what a good student is not. A good student is not someone who blindly hangs onto every word that a spiritual teacher says with no room for dialogue. And neither is a good student someone who completely rejects a spiritual teacher or leaves a spiritual community just because of one or two disagreements. In both cases, even though their attitudes are completely opposite, the result is the same: no true learning takes place. Instead, a truly good student is one who opens the heart to receiving spiritual nourishment from the teacher and the community, always checking to see if it truly resonates within and is in accord with general spiritual principles. A good student knows how to dialogue and discern, to doubt and debate when necessary, with an open heart and humble attitude. A good student understands that all teachers are still students, and all students are potential teachers. And, ultimately, there is only one student and one teacher, and no student and no teacher, just vast clear spacious freedom. And We are That.

     ~ Brother ChiSing

In Peace, Love and Joy,
Brother ChiSing


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