Four Times Five Equals Twenty
Zen Master Seung Sahn’s closing talk at Hwa Gye Sah temple in Seoul for the 1999-2000 Winter Kyol Che
[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]
What is the meaning of this? Mountain is water, water is mountain. In this world, everything has name and form. Within time and space, everything is changing. Among the ten thousand different things, there is not one that is not subject to the law of change. Everybody gathered here today has eaten and then come here. During that time your body has already changed. Because of that the Heart Sutra says, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”
[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]
What is the meaning of this? Mountain is emptiness, water is also emptiness. “Empty” means beyond time and space. Beyond time and space means no name and no form. At this point we return to the substance of the whole universe, to our original substance. Completely empty. In true emptiness there are no opposites, there is only the absolute. Thus the Heart Sutra says, “no attainment with nothing to attain.” This is the world of Nirvana.
[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]
What is the meaning of this? Mountain is mountain, water is water.
The great Korean patriarch Seung Chol Sunim said, “Mountain is mountain, water is water.” If your mind is clear like space–clear as a mirror–then when a mountain appears, only the mountain is reflected; if water comes only the water is reflected. This mind reflects everything. We call that Annuttara Samyak Sambodhi. Here there’s no high, no low, no discrimination, only truth.
So, three worlds have appeared: Mountain is water, water is mountain, the world of name and form. Next is the absolute. That’s the world of no mountain, no water–Nirvana. And lastly is truth world. Everything we see and hear is the truth. Mountain is mountain, water is water. But which one is the correct world? Surely there must be a correct world. Which one is it? If somebody here finds the correct world, they will get thirty blows from this stick. If they cannot find the correct world, they will also receive thirty blows from this stick. Why is it that you get thirty blows from the stick even though you find the correct world?
Mountain is blue, water is flowing.
Today is the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Many of you here have eaten walnuts and sticky rice on this full moon ceremony day. This is the beginning of a new year on the Chinese calendar. Also, today, all of our foreign Buddhist students are finishing the three month winter retreat, Kyol Che. Kyol Che means tight. So today is Hae Jae, which means to loosen. If we loosen, then we have to loosen everything. Everybody has things they are attached to, so now it’s necessary to let go of those things. If you cannot let go of all these attachments then you cannot solve the great work of life and death. Originally when we come into this world we are empty handed; also, we go empty handed. But many people find something and grab on to it, hold it and attach to it. So I ask you all: whatever you are holding, let it go!
Originally nothing can bind us, but because we are binding ourselves, we feel like we are in prison. If we let go of everything in our mind, if we let go of our attachments, then even if our body dies our true self does not die. That’s why people from eighteen different countries, as far away as Africa and from Russia, have gathered at Hwa Gye Sah and Shin Won Sah to practice and attain that point this winter. Thank you.
The blue mountain does not move. The white cloud goes back and forth. Both the blue mountain and the white cloud are originally empty. Within that emptiness four times five equals twenty. But we must understand four times five equals twenty. We all learned that in elementary school. How did four times five equals twenty appear? If you attain four times five equals twenty, then you attain to your original face, Buddha’s original face, and you finish the great work of life and death. Even though you know, you don’t understand. All grammar school students understand, but what does it really mean? I give this as homework to everybody. All the people who practiced at the Zen center already understand.
Coming empty handed, going empty handed, that is human. Where we come from, we don’t know. What thing is it that came empty handed, what is it that goes empty handed? Life is like a floating cloud which appears, death is like a floating cloud which disappears. In empty space there is no absolute truth. In time and space, truth appears and disappears. How is our life and death different than empty space? The cloud that goes back and forth has no substance. If you try to hit empty space, nothing happens. But if you hit one of us we say, “ouch!” In that “ouch” there is substance. There is one thing which is always clear, not dependent on life and death.
People from all over the world have gathered here and practiced hard for three months to attain enlightenment, that one thing. Why is it that the people who live close to the temple don’t do that? We should all do that. What’s the most important and urgent thing for us in the world? To get enlightenment is that thing. As you try Kwan Seum Bosal, you should ask yourself, “who is doing Kwan Seum Bosal?” If you attain that point, then you and the whole universe become one. Even though this is most important, our students sometimes forget this. “Maybe I will do it tomorrow,” they think, “or I’ll do it the next day,” but this mind can never do it. In this world, time will not wait for you. When you die and lose your body, where will your consciousness go? This is a very important matter.
The Buddha said, “If you want to understand your true self, keep a mind which is clear like space.” What does this mean? We have to find this consciousness, our true nature. When we keep a mind which is clear like space, we and the whole universe become one. At that time, all Buddhas appear. That’s not special.
In the big cookie factory we call earth, there are many kinds of cookies. They take many different shapes and have different names, but they are all made from the same dough. Because they are all made from the same material we can make God, we can make Buddha, we can make Demon, we can make Satan. The myriad things in our world all have different names and forms, but the taste is the same. Even people come in many different shapes and colors: western people, Chinese people, Korean people. They all have a different appearance, but their substance is the same. So, the Buddha said, “Above is the dwelling place of all Buddhas, below is the six realms, and all have the same substance. One by one, everything is complete; one by one, everything has it. One by one, everything interpenetrates everything else. One by one, each thing is complete.”
What does not have Buddha nature? What is different from your original nature? The only thing that is different is your opinions and thinking. If you cut off all thinking, then your nature, Buddha’s nature and Kwan Seum Bosal’s nature all become one. Without cultivation, without practice, even without Kyol Che, you are already complete. Clear! Clear! Do you see this? Do you hear this? This stick’s substance, your mind’s substance, and this sound’s substance–are they same or different? If you say same, you will get thirty blows from this stick. If you say different, you will also get thirty blows from this stick. What can you do? If you don’t know, then come to the Zen Center. If you have an interview, then you will understand. Very easy. Easier than drinking water when you’re thirsty. If you attain this point, then everything you see, hear and smell has Buddha nature.
The Buddha said, “All things have Buddha nature.” However, a monk asked Jo Ju Zen Master, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” Jo Ju said, “mu,” no. So who is correct, Buddha or Jo Ju? Don’t know? Then practice. I cannot teach you this for free, you have to pay for it. You have to come here and practice Zen.
A long time ago, the Buddha was staying on Vulture Peak. There were twelve hundred great disciples assembled to hear him speak. Everybody was waiting with anticipation for the Buddha’s dharma speech. One minute, two minutes, three minutes passed, but no dharma speech. Then he just picked up a flower. None of the twelve hundred disciples could understand why the Buddha was holding a flower. However one disciple, Mahakashyapa, smiled. Then the Buddha said, “I transmit my dharma to you.” This is the well known story of Buddha giving transmission. We must all attain that point. If you only understand this through words, it’s not enough! Mind to mind, we must connect. Sometimes on television you see people at the stock market making signs with their hands. Nobody outside understands these signs, but these people understand each other. Their minds connect. But Buddha did not just connect his mind to Mahakashyapa’s, he gave his mind to Mahakashyapa.
When Lin Chi Zen Master was asked any kind of question–“What is dharma?”, “What is mind?”, “What is Buddha?”–he would just shout, “KATZ!” Dok Sahn Zen Master would just hit the questioner. HIT! Guji Zen Master would just raise one finger. What is mind, what is one finger? Did everyone attain that? No! Everybody at the Zen Center has already attained that. Maybe someone who only studies for a few days can attain that. You, too, must attain this one finger news.
Dok Sahn’s hit, Lin Chi’s KATZ!, Guji’s one finger, all are pointing to our substance. If you completely attain this point, this original substance, then everything you see, hear and smell–all are the truth. The floor is yellow, the wall is white–everything is the truth. In the Bible it says: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” This is the big road! The sky is blue, the tree is green, the dog is barking, “woof woof.” There is nothing that we can see and hear that is not the truth.
But only understanding truth cannot help us. How can we use this truth to help all beings who are suffering? That’s a big question. We call that function bodhisattva action. If somebody is hungry, give them food. If somebody is thirsty, give them something to drink. If somebody is suffering, help them. Give all beings hope. Not only this life, but lifetime after lifetime until all beings become Buddha. That is our job. That is the Buddha’s teaching. A long time ago somebody asked Jo Ju Zen Master: “What is Buddha?” He said: “Go drink tea.” Also somebody asked: “What is dharma?” He said: “Go drink tea.” “What is the correct way?” “Go drink tea.” Within his “go drink tea” there is the substance of universe, there is truth, and also there is great bodhisattva action. When the dharma speech is finished, go drink a cup of tea; then see what appears.
Our teaching is very clear: opposite world, absolute world, truth world, and function world. That’s very clear. But we have to make that our own. If you don’t understand that, then you need to go to a Zen Center and practice. If you don’t practice, you cannot attain that. If we attain that, then we can find the correct way, correct truth, correct life, and help all beings.
Today is the full moon of the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, Hae Jae. I hope everyone makes a great vow, finds the correct direction, attains their true self, gets enlightenment and saves all beings from suffering. Thank you.