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July 9, 2015 – Regarding Meditation and Summer Retreat

First uploaded in Korean on 2015.07.09
Dharma Talk: Ven. Pomnyun Sunim
Record in Korean: Lee, JunGil
Translation in English: Lee, JinSun

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Practicing the path of enlightenment in Buddhism is identified to take refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teaching) and the Sangha (Brotherhood, or the Buddhist community) and to learn the three supreme principles: precepts to avoid evil acts in body, speech, and mind; concentration or meditation to maintain the equanimity of the mind; the transcendental wisdom to understand the emptiness of all phenomena. You would observe precepts during the meditation practice unless there are extraordinary circumstances. So your focus for the next ten days would be a concentrative meditation. Have a tranquil mind and concentrate on your breath. Focus on the breath at the end of your nose and be aware of how you feel. Notice the movement of your body as you move. Be aware of the movement of your mind as distracted by external objects. It is the cardinal point of meditation to maintain the awareness.

Why do we meditate? Meditation itself is not the goal. We want to attain wisdom. There are other religions practicing meditation, however the difference between Buddhism and the other religions is that we seek wisdom. Having a peaceful mind is not the only point of meditation.

Wisdom links to ‘Right view’ and ‘Right thought’ among the Noble Eightfold Path. ‘Right views’ is to realize that everything in the world is interconnected and interdependent. It may look one exists solely; however the truth is there are cause and result. We call it the law of cause and effect. Every action in the world is an effect of the cause. An effect in turn becomes a cause. Therefore if you see a phenomenon, you can see the cause and predict the effect caused by the phenomenon. Wisdom is to maintain the awareness of the law of cause and effect.

Understanding of the law of causality will bring wisdom. The law of cause and effect is explained thoroughly in the Twelve Nidanas (the twelve-fold chain of causation). If you look into yourself deeply you can realize that you have suffering. In Buddhism, suffering means the cycle of pleasure and anguish. We cannot become free from suffering if we are trapped in the cycle of happiness and despair. Therefore life is suffering. This is the first Noble Truths ‘Suffering’ among the Four Noble Truths.

Suffering is caused by desire. There are two types of desires: wants and don’t wants. Desire leads to an attachment. Attachment brings an action which causes suffering. This is the second Noble Truths ‘the origin of suffering’ among the Four Noble Truths.

Suffering is caused by an origin. If the cause ceases, the suffering will end. This is the way to release from suffering.

How can the origin of suffering cease? The practice of the Noble Eightfold Path could extinguish the origins of sufferings. It is the right path to reach Enlightenment and Nirvana, being free from suffering. Attain the ‘Right View’ to clearly understand the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Middle Way and such principles.

You can also have ‘Right thought’ if you clearly understand the principles. You will know what to do and what not to do. You must be away from the three poisonous elements: greed, anger, and ignorance. You must not harm others. If you have right thoughts, you will have right words, right acts and right life. Subsequently you will comply with precepts. Upon the basis that you follow precepts, you will focus on meditation, clearly understand the principles, attain wisdom and then you will achieve inner peace. With peace in mind and clear understanding of the principles you will be able to obey the precepts without effort. The three supreme principles are interdependent like this.

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You could follow the prime rules without great effort in a restricted area like a meditation center. You are required to observe not only the five prime precepts but also other rules set in the center. If you resist following the rules, it means you are affected by your Karma. When it’s time to get up, if you think ‘I don’t want to get up, let’s stay in the bed.’ or when there is a rule that you are not allowed to eat anything other than provided, if you think I’m hungry. I’ll have what I brought’, you are influenced by your Karma. It is difficult to have peace in mind when you are affected by your desires. Therefore, it is important to follow the rules without thinking that they are restraints. On the basis of following the rules, practice constantly to awake from ignorance with peace in mind. You can reach the point of understanding the principles if you practice persistently in this way.

If you understand the law of causality, you can understand ‘non-objectivity’ or ‘formlessness’ as well. Realize the consistent transformation of your senses through close observations. The senses come and go all the time. You have an attachment to something because you think that its form is eternal. If you clearly see that all forms change, you will not have an attachment. This is non-objectivity or formlessness. Furthermore, there is nothing in the universe that has a permanent self-entity or self-nature. This is absence of self-entity in all forms or phenomena. You will learn these fundamentals as well.

You can realize your Karma and the principles through consistent practice. You can be aware of the moment when being affected by evil passions. Meditation cannot be tedious if you make a progress in this way. Let your thoughts come and go. Don’t hang onto them. However study, experience and apply the principles in a different ways to fully understand them.

Don’t force yourself to endure the ten days. Forcing will cause you to give up when it seems it doesn’t work. You will be anxious at the beginning and likely to become negligent half way through. You will think ‘This is no fun’ or ‘Will it work just to be sitting like this?’ and will become negligent. Practice persistently. Ten days is not enough. Even three years is not enough. Do your best to practice in the time given to you.

You will be anxious if you have too strong sense of purpose. However set a simple goal like ‘I will achieve or experience something this time’ and practice consistently. Then you will not be bothered about time whether it goes quickly or slowly. Be conscious of your Karma and understand how it works. Even if your meditation doesn’t go as well as you wish, it is also wisdom to understand why it doesn’t work when things go wrong.

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You will try hard at the beginning even when you are sleepy or your legs are numb. Your face will turn red, time will go very slowly. Half way through you will pass the beginning stage and will be bored and be negligent. Don’t waste your time like that. Practice persistently with peace in mind. There is no use to know the principles in Buddhism theoretically. You need to personally experience how Buddha’s teachings can change your life. Then you can be confident when transmitting Buddha’s teaching to others. Wish you practice constantly with peace in mind.


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