Duk Sahn Carrying His Bowls
“Duk Sahn Carrying His Bowls”
The following is taken from Mu Bul Ju Ji Su Nim’s introduction and Soen Sa Nim’s talk at the Man Cham ceremony on March 3, 1978, at the Providence Zen Center.
Ju Ji Su Nim: Welcome to the first Man Cham. Man Cham is a formal Dharma speech, the style of which originated in China. “Man Cham” means ”Coming together to check the Dharma”. Originally in China, Japan, and Korea; a Zen Master’s Dharma was very expensive, very difficult to hear, and many people wanted to hear it. Here in the United States, we get the Dharma very cheaply, but it is getting more and more expensive. So we all have been sitting for four days and are now gathered here to hear this Dharma.
When a Zen Master speaks the Dharma, it is just like a mirror, so that your own mind is reflected. If you hear this speech and you understand yourself, you understand your mind. You are Buddha, and you can save all people. If you are not Buddha; if you have bad karma and you hear this speech, then you will understand your bad karma, and you must do more hard training.
Zen Master Seung Sahn enters the Dharma room followed by Mu Bul Su Nim, carrying a book wrapped in cloth, and Mu Ryeom Su Nim, who is ringing a bell. They stop at the high seat before the altar and bow, and the book is placed before the seat. Then Soen Sa Nim, takes the high seat, and the following is chanted (in Korean): ”This Dharma’s meaning is very profound. The whole assembly wants to hear it. Please, great Zen Master, descend. Reveal Buddha in this place.” Soen Sa Nim hits the Zen stick on the platform three times.
Soen Sa Nim: Before the ancient Buddha appeared, there is one which is, aready pure and clear. Even Shakyamuni Buddha did not understand the transmission to Mahakashyapa. What does this mean? Buddha transmitted to Mahakashyapa and through Bodhidharma, from India to China and then to Korea, and now to America. Now this Dharma shines here in this Dharma room. Which one is correct? Somebody appears and says, “I understand this,” but this stick hits him. Somebody else says, “I don’t understand,” and also this stick hits him. Why? KATZ! When Shakyamuni Buddha picked up a flower, Mahakashyapa only smiled. This is correct Zen.
Today we perceive one kong-an from the Mu Mun Kwan, number thirteen. Famous kong-an; already you understand. The title is, “Duk Sahn Carrying His Bowls.” Very difficult kong-an, but very easy.
One day, Duk Sahn came into the Dharma room carrying his bowls. Soel Bong, the Housemaster, said, ”Old Master, the bell has not yet been rung and the drum has not been struck. Where are you going, carrying your bowls?” The Zen Master was surprised. Then Duk Sahn returned to his room. Afterwards, Soel Bong told the head monk, Am Du, who then said, “Great Master Duk Sahn does not understand the last word.” Later Duk Sahn heard this and sent for Am Du. “Do you not approve of me?” he demanded. Then Am Du whispered in the Master’s ear. Duk Sahn was relieved. The next day on the rostrum making his Dharma speech, Duk Sahn was really different from before. Then Am Du was very happy. He went to the front of the Dharma room, laughing loudly and clapping his hands, and said, “Great joy! The Old Master has understood the last word. From now on, no one can check him.”
This is the kong-an. We’ll check the first point of this kong-an. Am Du said, “The great Master doesn’t understand the last word.” What is this “last word?” “Last word” means moment to moment, keep your correct situation, and this means “just like this.” When you are hungry, you must eat; when you are tired, you must sleep. When someone is hungry, give them food; when someone is thirsty, give them a drink. Tired time, sleep. That is tired time’s last word. Hungry time, you must eat. This is hungry time’s last word. When somebody is hungry, give them food. That is someone’s hungry-time’s last word. When somebody is thirsty and you give them something to drink, this is somebody’s thirsty-time’s last word. This last word is not difficult. our everyday mind is the last word.
Again, we check this: “One day, Duk Sahn came into the Dharma room carrying his bowls. Soel Bong saw this and said, ‘The bell has not yet been rung and the drum has not been struck. Where are you going carrying your bowls?'” It has already appeared, do you see? What is Duk Sahn’s mistake? If you understand Duk Sahn’s mistake, then you understand the correct situation; then you understand the last word. Very clear, this first course.
Next course: The Zen Master heard that the head monk said, ”He doesn’t understand the last word.” Now, the head monk and the Zen Master are very close, like father and son, but this head monk had bad speech about the Master, so he was very angry. “Come here! You don’t believe in me?” “No, no, no, I believe in you,” and he whispered in the Master’s ear. What did he whisper? This is the next course. Not difficult! If you keep your correct situation, then no problem.
So the next day on the high stand giving his Dharma speech, Duk Sahn was very different from before. What does this mean, “different from before”? There are two points: ”What is different before the Dharma speech?” and ”What is the Dharma speech?” Maybe before the speech, he didn’t understand the last word, and during the speech, he did understand. Maybe. I don’t know. What is “understanding-the-last-word Dharma speech”, and what is “not-understanding-the-last-word Dharma speech?” So, Am Du heard his speech and was very happy. Why? He taught the great Zen Master, so that the Master’s Dharma speech was changed. And he went to the front of the room laughing loudly and clapping his hands, and said, “Great joy! The Zen Master has understood the last word!” Before, he’d said, “The Zen Master doesn’t understand the last word.” Now he says, ”He does understand.” What is this last word? Very important.
Everyday mind is the last word; “just like this” is the last word; “put it all down” is the last word; “go straight” is the last word; “let it be” is the last word. It is not any special word. When you see the sky is blue, that is the last word. When you see this wall, at this time, the correct situation is only white. Not special. If you make something, are holding onto something, this last word goes away; it doesn’t like you. Don’t check your mind; don’t check your feelings; don’t check anything. Only go straight. This go-straight mind is very important. It is like one drop of water being stronger than rock. One drop after drop after drop for ten years, twenty years, one hundred years, will make a big hole. One drop nonstop, one point not changing. If you are changing, you have a problem; you cannot make a hole. If you stop, you also have a problem. Only drip, drip, drip. You must understand this: Try, try, try. Try-mind is stronger than demons, stronger than Buddha. It is able to do anything.
Why have we come here today to talk about this very difficult kong-an? For the Great Work of life and death. Some are from New York, some from New Haven, some from Cambridge, some from Providence. Why here? Only for the Great Work of life and death. If you finish the Great Work, then you understand what is your correct situation, what is your last word.
So again the kong-an: If Duk Sahn had kept his correct situation, then there would have been no problem, but he did not, so he had many problems. But one thing: “Soel Bong said, ‘The bell has not been rung; the drum has not been struck,’ and Duk Sahn returned to his room.” If you can give me one word, all the kong-ans are not necessary. If you were Duk Sahn and Soel Bong had said this to you, what would you have answered? “I am sorry?” (laughs) Then Am Du said, “The great Zen Master does not understand the last word.” This is not difficult. If you make difficult, you have difficult. Also, don’t make easy. Don’t make anything. The True Way is not dependent on understanding or not understanding. Much understanding cannot help you. So put it all down.
Mu Mun said, “Understand first word; then understand last word. The last word and the first word are not one word.”
What does this mean? What is “first word” and what is “last word”? We have four kinds of ‘like this’: First, ”without like this”, primary point. “Without like this” means true emptiness, complete stillness. Everything is from complete stillness and returns to stillness. So this name is primary point. Next is “become-one like this”. This substance, your substance, my substance, universal substance become one. What is one? Hit! or KATZ! We say “become-one like this” is True Nature. Next, only ‘like this”: ”What is Buddha?” “The sky is blue; trees are green,” or “Spring comes; the grass grows by itself.” Only this. ”3 x 3 = 9” All is like this, not bad, not good. With wide questions, wide answers are needed. ”What is Buddha?” “The wall is white.” ”What is karma?’ ”The dog likes the bone.” The meaning is truth. “3 x 3 = 9.” This style. And next, “just like this”: For one-point questions, you must give one-point answers. For example, here is an apple. If you say it is an apple, then you are attached to name and form. If you say it is not an apple, you are attached to emptiness. Is this an apple or not? At that time, what is the correct relationship between the apple and you? What is the correct function?
So “just like this” means the correct situation, the correct relationship. If you understand your true self, then any relationship is no problem. Your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, no problem. With your car and you, with your coffee and you, being correct is possible. Everyday mind is Zen Mind.
So these are the four kinds of “like this”: “without like this”, “become-one like this”, “only like this”, and “just like this.” “First word” means “become-one like this”. “Last word” means “just like this”. What is the correct relationship between you and something?
So I ask you: The first word and the last word, are they the same or different? Mu Mun said they are not one word. Then are they different? The same? If somebody says the same, this stick will hit them. If somebody says different, this stick will also hit them.
One head, two hands.