Letter to Three Monks

by on Feb 1, 1976Zen Master Seung Sahn

A letter from Seung Sahn Soen Sa to three American students who are studying in Korea:

Dear Mu Gak,

Thank you for your letter. Happy New Year Byon Jo, Mu Gat, and Mu Bul.

You said a Korean nun would like to come to America. Many Korean monks and nuns want to come to America. I would like them to come, but strong practice, strong faith, and great vows are necessary. You understand what happened to the two monks who came. They have grown their hair and become gentlemen. No more monks. Why did this happen? Their practice, faith and vows were not strong enough. Also, they were not Zen or Sutra Masters, so they could not support themselves. If you have no money in America it is very difficult to live here. They were finally forced to join the worldly life.

In our Zen centers everyone must pay to support the Temple. People with special jobs (Zen Master, general repair man, etc.) can live in the center and not pay rent. These people are necessary. But we cannot afford to support someone who is not necessary at this time. If the Buddha were not necessary, we would be obliged to show him the front door.

It is O.K. if this nun wants to come to America, but why does she want to come? This is very important. Does she want to teach, does she want to study Buddhism, does she want to get a job? How can we support her? In the future, when our centers are strong and rich, we will be able to accommodate visitors. Now we cannot support special positions in our centers.

Now I have explained the host — guest situation. But this is not your job. What is your job? PUT IT ALL DOWN!

Now I will ask you about your job.

Long ago in China, Lin Chi Zen Master was walking in front of the Dharma Room. Just at this time two students appeared and simultaneously shouted, “KATZ!” at each other. Another student walking with Lin Chi asked him, “Is there a host, is there a guest?” The Zen Master said, “Yes.” The student asked, “Which one is the host, which one is the guest?” The Zen Master said, “You ask them.”

So Mu Gak, I ask you, which one is the host and which one is the guest? Tell me! Quickly! This is your job.

Dear Mu Bul,

Happy New Year. I will give you a New Year’s present.

Kwan Seum Bosal has one thousand eyes and one thousand hands. So he is always helping your mind and body and saving all people. He is able to do everything. He is a great Bodhisattva.

Mu Bul, I ask you, which eyes are the correct eyes, which hands are the correct hands. If you attain this, you are Kwan Seum Bosal.

Dear Byon Jo,

I will also give you a New Year’s present.

Duk Sahn, before he had become a great Zen Master, visited Yong Dam Zen Master for the first time. He talked with him until late into the night. Yong Dam said, “Oh, it is very late. You must go to sleep.” Duk Sahn said, “Yes, thank you very much. But it’s very dark outside; could you give me a light?” Yong Dam began to hand him a lighted candle, but just as he was giving it to him, he blew it out. Duk Sahn’s mind opened; he was very happy, and bowed to Yong Dam.

So I ask you, what did Duk Sahn get? Tell me! Tell me!

I hope you keep your bodies strong, always keep the great question, soon get great Enlightenment, and soon finish a Great Work. Here is a poem for you:

Good and bad are good teachers.
Good and bad are very strong demons.
Originally there are no feelings, perceptions, impulses consciousness.
If you keep it, you can not attain it.
If you put it down, you also can not attain it.
What can you do?
If you want to attain it, you must ride the bone of space into the diamond eyes.
Be careful! Be careful!
The puppy is crying outside the door.
Do not kill it with kindness.