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See Your True Nature and Have Clarity in Life

Interview with Zen Master Dae Bong

Zen master Dae Bong who was born in 1950 is a master with the Kwan Um School of Zen, established by the late Zen Master Seung Sahn. Before coming to Zen, he studied psychology at University and also worked as a psychological counsellor at a Naval shipyard. Dae Bong Soen Sa Nim began practicing with ZM Seung Sahn in 1977 after meeting his teacher at New Haven Zen Center during a lecture. He ordained as a monk within the organisation a few years later, in 1984. He received inka1 from his master in 1992 and in April of 1999, he received Dharma transmission from ZM Seung Sahn, authorising him to carry on the lineage. Through the years, he has practiced and taught in various locations in the United States, Europe and Asia. He is currently living at Mu Sang Sa, Kye Ryong Sahn International Center in Korea.

For You Information is indeed honoured to have recently interviewed Zen Master Dae Bong on his perspectives of how Zen Buddhist philosophy and perspectives can be integrated into daily life for everyone.  

The World is a Single Flower

How do we approach the concept of ‘The World Is a Single Flower’ in our practice? 

We follow the Zen teachings from the Buddha’s teaching of reflecting back on himself. And we also consider what is this conception I have of “I” and “self”. In Buddha’s time, there was one main spiritual question; “Is there a permanent self; inside or outside?” And there were 6 main schools of thoughts at that time with a different approach and Buddha studied two of them and was still unsatisfied, as it did not give him the answer till on his Enlightenment, he found out the answer for himself – there is none because there is impermanence. So, we should not be too fixated with religious dogma and experiences and see the truth of our body-mind-consciousness, and learn to see beyond the projections, the ideas, the understanding and the conceptions we hold because of our upbringing, interactions, education and experiences.

How reliable is the insight we obtain during our meditation? 

If you completely don’t know, you can obtain moment-to-moment realization which means moment to moment, other people’s mind(s) will be reflected in your mind – you “intuitively” know what the person is thinking and will be doing next without you having to think too much. At that moment, the two minds (and bodies) are single.

True Nature, Strong Centre and Clear Direction

The ultimate goal of practice is to see one’s True Nature, when do we know we finally get it? 

First, stop thinking too much, learn to listen to your true self. In another Zen Master teaching, he said, “Learn to turn the radiance around.” This radiance means the ability of the natural mind, to feel touch, to see colours, to smell odour, to taste tastes, those abilities are the functioning of our true nature. Because we tend to send our attention out, we forget to really feel, see, taste and smell… we forget the original source.

Why is practice so important? 

It helps us to see emptiness better – the origins of one’s karma and present circumstances. Thus, young people who are facing difficulty in their life; be it personal, family and work can learn to see beyond what troubles them presently and learn to better manage the situation. That said, the Buddhist practice is to turn the light back and question where is this coming from. And like Buddha, keep having confidence in your “don’t-know nature” as it is from correct practice that you will gain ultimate realisation and having the answer to “What am I?”

What do we do before we get there? 

This sort of thinking has to be thrown out. But you have to do something; you could do something beneficial (e.g. watching TV doesn’t help you when you are dying); meditation can help. And it is not just sit-down meditation, and there are many types across various religions but our teaching is – when you are doing something, just do it! This moment when you are immersed in the doing, there is no opposites-thinking and no thoughts – it is total immersion – you and something become one. And a good teacher is important and valuable.

Bowing, sitting, chanting are simple ways, that is when you don’t add anything conceptual to it; if you are doing it right, well or for a purpose. Same for setting a direction; imagine you have entered a destination in your GPS and then along the way, you keep checking and re-entering the destination point at each juncture, it is not going to work. Just drive – just do it, and the benefit will come by itself and even turn bad things into something good!

Success, the Zen Way

With the reality of competition in life, many are learning ways to “stay ahead of the competition”. Is this correct and how do we balance our spiritual and practical pursuits?

First, “getting ahead” is not a correct thinking. There is already ignorance – the division and segregation of winner and loser. It shouldn’t be like this – remember, we are all one and we don’t need to have success based on another’s failure – there’s no inferiority if there is no superiority. The concept of competition drives people to compartmentalise things too superficially, because karma works in such a way that if you don’t learn to be in the shoes of others and have empathy (for your enemy), your lesson in life will include an opportunity for you to learn that (you will be placed in the losing end of the spectrum) and this is a vicious cycle if you don’t break it out.

How do we then become successful – is it a contradiction to Buddhism, as many regard Buddhism to have contentment as one of the core elements? 

First, consider all beings as one and to redirect attention to what is the purpose of your success. What is the purpose of getting rich, being successful, attaining a title or status? Isn’t it about contentment? All beings want to be happy, and the basic motivation of all beings is contentment and happiness. There is no contradiction, except look deeper beyond the definition of success, and don’t be deluded.

What can we look forward to at The Whole World is a Single Flower 2017 Conference?

For this conference, the focus will be on Green Dharma as we hope to engage in meaningful  and compassion conversations about how we can through practical means  save ourselves too from extinction, not just saving the planet; especially at the rate that mankind is creating environmental issues. For more information and registration for The Whole World is a Single Flower, please visit the conference website:

This articles was published in For You Information Issue 338.

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In Zen practice, we always say: 

“Understand the nature of your true mind, and you will understand yourself and everything. Your true self is the substance of the Universe. Just like how the Buddha and the stars became one.”

Zen Master Dae Bong

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