#20.Glossary of Zen Buddhism terms. 28Jan15

Having problems about Zen terminology?  Below  is one the best online glossary of Zen Buddhism terms. Just follow the link. Please note it may take times for the glossary to appear.



Ven. Ji Gong Sunim.

#19.What is Karma? 28Jan15

When people are happy and contented, they tend to take life for granted. It is when they suffer, when they find life difficult, that they begin to search for a reason and a way out of their difficulty. They may ask why some are born in poverty and suffering, while others are born in fortunate circumstances. Some people believe that it is due to fate, chance, or an invisible power beyond their control. They feel that they are unable to live the life they desire so as to experience happiness always. Consequently, they become confused and desperate. However, the Buddha was able to explain why people differ in their circumstances and why some are more fortunate in life than others. The Buddha taught that one’s present condition, whether of happiness or suffering, is the result of the accumulated force of all past actions or karma.DEFINITION OF KARMA
Karma is intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind. Karma means good and bad volition (kusala Akusala Centana). Every volitional action (except that of a Buddha or of an Arahant) is called Karma. The Buddhas and Arahants do not accumulate fresh Karma as they have destroyed all their passions.In other words, Karma is the law of moral causation. It is action and reaction in the ethical realm. It is natural law that every action produces a certain effect. So if one performs wholesome actions such as donating money to charitable organizations, happiness will ensue. On the other hand, if one performs unwholesome actions, such as killing a living being, the result will be suffering. This is the law of cause and effect at work. In this way, the effect of past karma determines the nature of one’s present situation in life.The Buddha said,

“According to the seed that is sown,
So is the fruit you reap
The door of good of will gather good results
The door of evil reaps evil results.
If you plant a good seed well,
Then you will enjoy the good fruits.”

Karma is a law itself. But it does not follow that there should be a lawgiver. The law of Karma, too, demands no lawgiver. It operates in its own field without the intervention of an external, independent agency.


Ven. Ji Gong Sunim.

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#18.What is Zen meditation? 27jan15

History: Buddhism was created around 2500 years ago following the 50 years long teaching of The Buddha (meaning the “awakened one”). Zen, a branch of Buddhism, was born in China 500 years later. Zen is the Japanese word for meditation. The Buddha meditated 6 years almost continuously before being “awaken” meaning 1) He realized the origins of human suffering, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. 2) How to reduce/ control them.

Meditation is the core training and practice of Zen Buddhism. Nothing even the readings, Buddhist rituals and even teaching (see Zen Tips: “Is Zen teaching necessary?”) are more important than daily solo and weekly group meditation. Meditation will help you to discover what we call your True self or True Nature, to experience inner peace, enjoy the beauty of life and appreciate the value of being patient, generous compassionate with people, surroundings and Nature. Finally and not the least meditation is also the only way to learn how to control our ego-centered mind main source of our dissatisfaction and unhappiness caused by our negative thoughts and feelings such as anger, frustration, resentment, anxiety, jealousy, illusion, expectations  and many more.

If you hold a bottle of muddy water with shaky hands the water will remain muddy and you will not be able to see through. If your hands are still the water becomes clear.

In this metaphor the bottle is your mind, the mud is your thoughts and your still hands is meditation. This will help you to understand meditation. The words medicine and meditation come from the same Latin root “meditatio” meaning “physical and mental exercise of concentration”. Brain and mind are one single entity a bit like a computer where the brain is the hardware and the mind the software.


#17.Is Zen teaching necessary? 27jan15.

This is a very legitimate question since Zen is a personal experience to achieve a
” don’t know mind” that is 1) To be able to scan and control the thoughts of our ego-centered mind and main source of discomfort and dissatisfaction and 2) To be free of concepts, preconceived  ideas, opinions and judgment.  If the goal is “Don’t know mind” why would one teach for hours or read zillions of books to fill up this mind? A contradiction isn’t it?
In a perfect world Zen teaching is probably totally unnecessary. Then why over the last 2000 years all Zen teachers have been teaching and writing books and will continue do so?
The reason is simple:
Students and more specifically Westerners want to understand the basics of Zen Buddhist philosophy, for example its complex terminology such as: “No self, impermanence, empty mind, nirvana, no form, awakening, karma, rebirth, reincarnation, monkey mind, no time, mindfulness, just be, no birth/no death, Middle Way, mirror thinking, Samsara, no beginning no end”. Asking many more questions like “When do I know that I am progressing?”, “How & why to meditate”.  
The perfect student may ask: “What is don’t know mind?”
The perfect teacher may reply: “Just sit and meditate and you will find out!”
This is a perfect mind-to-mind teaching for perfect people. Unfortunately few students and teachers are perfect and this type of teaching attitude will go nowhere especially in our Western World where we are more demanding for knowledge.
The #1 duty of the teacher is to help students in answering properly their questions. The #2 duty is to assist and assess their progress. Questions are important not only for the student but also for the teacher who will assess students and…..her/his teaching.
Academic Zen vs. Zen practice.
One may know the Bible or the Koran or the Sutras by heart but this knowledge will not make them better Christians or Muslims or Buddhist. Same thing for Zen practitioners.
One may know very well the mechanics of a car engine but it will not make her/him a better driver. Same thing for Zen practitioners.
Knowing and understanding Zen very well will not make a good practitioner.
Academia and experience should not be seen as opposite but complementary.
Bottom line:
Zen Buddhism loves the concept of the Middle Way and it should be apply regarding
Zen teaching and practice. Some academic teaching including discussion is necessary and will always be to help and maintain students on the right tract.
Talking about esoteric dialogue is judgmental and unfortunate.
As far our classes our current format is  ~ 15% of teaching + Q&A  and ~85% meditation. This is a good ratio for beginners. It will be modulated towards more meditation as progress in Zen practice is confirmed among our members.

Wishing you all a week …. as it will be.


Ven. Ji Gong Sunim.

#16.Zen paradoxes: don’t be frustrated! 27jan15.

Zen Buddhism is full of paradoxes in its literature, in its thinking and teaching. Here is an example: Question from a teacher: “Who are you? In your answer you cannot talk about yourself!”.  Does not make sense isn’t it?

Why such an attraction for paradoxes.?

The existence of paradoxes does not mean that Zen is confused. In fact Zen paradoxes have been created with the unique purpose to create a “short circuit ” in our analytic and logical thinking mind when facing 2 opposites and contradictory statements.

What is the rational behind this practice?


#15.Past-Present-Future: a Zen view. Revised 24Jan15.

Here ​is a simple way, but not the only one, to seek some serenity, comfort and security in our hectic and stressful life.
Our body is living now but our mind is usually either in the past or future. They are not synchronized. This lack of being together is a main source of stress and unhappiness.
Whatever you are doing, don’t let the past and the future move, disturb and control your mind. Instead try to synchronize your mind and body to be both at the same time. It will bring instant serenity.
The past is no more, and the future is not yet. To live in your memories and to live in your expectations and dreams is to live in a non-existential virtual reality, like watching a movie in a theater. Past and future are virtual reality and are used as a powerful tools by our deceptive mind to control us.
When we think of the past we always go back to the good and bad times and never the routine day-to-day time. This is how our mind is tricking us in order to create attachments. When we think about the future we have the tendency to see it far more “rosy” than it will be. This is also how the mind is fooling us. To be attached to the good/bad of the past and to the expectations/dreams of the future can be an ongoing  source of frustration, sadness, resentment, unhappiness and false hope.
When you are living in this fictional past and future world you are missing your true life. You will become nostalgic, anxious, worried or too wishful, because you will miss what you can enjoy now.
Having said this it is obvious that proper planning cannot be ignored and should be done.
What can we do or use to stay away from these virtual worlds (past and future) as much as possible?


#14.The “Zen mind equation”. Revised 22jan15.

In this “Zen Mind Equation”, the main positive attributes are in the numerator and their opposites in the denominator.

                           Reality       Mindfulness      Now       Meditation     Others     Letting go

ZEN MIND = ———– + —————- + ———- + ———–  + ———— + ————

                         Illusion        Distraction        Past          Thinking          Ego           Opinion          

                         Delusion                                   Future         zombie                                Judgment

        1. Reality (opposite of illusion, delusion)

Things are what they are and not what we want them to be. (the mirror mind)

  1. Mindfulness (opposite of distraction)

To pay attention to something, moment to moment, in a non-judgmental way.

  1. Now (opposite of past and future)

Our body is in the “now”. Trying to keep our mind synchronized to our body is one key to relaxation and serenity. Past & future are virtual. Don’t get trapped in their nets unless absolute necessity such as planning.

  1. Meditation (opposite of thinking zombie)

Physical & mental individual exercises aiming at taming the mind in order to control our ego-centered thoughts, which are the main sources of our unhappiness. Taming our mind is the only way to achieve long lasting serenity, happiness and relaxation and not the reverse. Group meditation is twice as effective as solo one. By definition meditation does not use audiovisual tools nor any external guidance.

  1. Others (opposite of ego)

The paramount duty of a Zen mind is to help others. It can only be achieved effectively by first knowing self that is controlling our ego-centered mind source of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction caused by our ongoing desire, anger, fear, jealousy, illusion, delusion, anxiety, resentment, stress, etc. Once this first stage is achieved helping others become natural.

  1. Letting go (opposite of opinion and judgment)

Back to Reality. Learning to let go our opinions, concepts, ideas and judgments unless they are necessary such as:

  • Making a decision.
  • Helping , assessing others such as teaching .


Ven. Ji Gong Sunim.

#13.Walking mindfully: a wonderful practice. 17jan15.

A forgotten mindfulness exercise.

Our mind loves to think…all the time even when we sleep. Latest neurological research ​estimates that we have around 45,000 thoughts/day and most of them are just “mental noise” or “mental spam”. We are thinking zombies on mind autopilot without too much control unless we learn a tool to reverse it. Zen calls this state “day sleep walking”.
In fact our mind hates to be quiet: “If I am not thinking, I am failing my job in analyzing, judging, deciding, reasoning and… controlling this human being.” However when our mind becomes overactive or wandering too much the effect can be very detrimental to us. Its thoughts may become alienating, obsessive and deceptive feeding us with endless anxiety, fear, anger, resentment, future expectation, illusion, deception and stress. You got the picture.