August 1, 2015 – Summer Retreat in Bongwha Part 3.

First uploaded in Korean on 2015.08.01
Dharma Talk: Ven.Pomnyun Sunim
Record in Korean: Lee, Jungil
Translation in English: Rei Yoon

3. The reason why there is no end to practice is partly because there is no end to your karma but also because the circumstances are changing all the time. One day you decide ‘I shall do this way’ but then the circumstances change and you have to change again. You might think you found the answer but it is no longer the answer when the circumstances change. That is why you have to be awake all the time. Middle way is a living, changing thing, just like a person. There is no such thing as ‘if you are suddenly enlightened, then there is nothing more to do.’ This is a big dilemma. You constantly learn that there is no self in theory, but this itself is a self-centered way of thinking. It is a contradictory way of thinking just like when ‘there is nothing that does not change’ but then again you think ‘but the truth never changes.’ Truth is always moving around between what changes and what does not. What changes can be true, yet what does not change can be true. The essence of our existence is that there is the unchanging within change; there is change within the unchanging.”

“To explain this in the words of science is like this. In a chemical reaction, the material changes but not the atoms. In a nuclear reaction, atoms change but not the particles. State can change but not the substance. You can observe that there is something unchanging within something changing. But the unchanging thing again changes. This in one word is ‘form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form.’ This expresses the principle of nature, the reality of our lives.

Someone who was lucky yesterday will not necessarily be lucky today. You can say there is a higher possibility for the person to be lucky today; because there is a continuity. But it is not a law that yesterday’s luck should visit again today. Today might be a lucky day but tomorrow might not be. Build a house with glass and you will think ‘it is so warm and nice’ in the winter; but in summer you will say ‘building a house with glass is intolerable; it is so hot.’ What is appropriate is always changing according to the circumstances. You have to be flexible and adjusting. You cannot build a house entirely for the summer, nor can you build one just for the winter. What you do is to adjust to the environment. You open the window in the summer for coolness. You install insulators in the winter for warmth. You live in the house and continuously make adjustments. Keep thinking and adjusting. You cannot completely eliminate summer heat or winter cold but you can easily make it a little bit cooler or warmer. This flexible adjustment is the middle way.

The sixth patriarch Huineng said ‘if a worldly being is enlightened, it shall be a Buddha; but if a Buddha falls in ignorance, it is a worldly being.’ This means that an enlightenment is not something permanent. It is something living and changing. You have to be awake to all the moments. It is wrong that too many people are attached to the thought that there is such thing as you are enlightened once and wisdom is lit up forever. Remember that things are always changing. So be awake to the conditions of here and now. Do not try to fix your feeling, others or the world. Do not make it static.

I see some people who are doing fine with their practice, but they themselves think things are not going well. There will always be ups and downs. That is how you progress. If you have done something wrong and it was not intentional, then you still learn from it ‘I see that I had such desires’ or ‘I see how ignorant I was.’ These are all invaluable learnings. Every day is a practice.

Keep hold of this teaching. Then whether you fall or tumble in your path of practice, they are all part of your practice. As long as you manage to stick to this teaching, you are a practitioner; ups and downs of practice does not make you a more successful or failing practitioner. But if you lose grip of this teaching, then you are no longer a practitioner.”


“The reason why all of you did so well with practice here is because the atmosphere here was so nice. Do not get it wrong. Do not even dream that this great state of focus will continue in your daily lives. (Laughter)

Here, we are in a great atmosphere with great companions. But if you go back to your lives, you will easily be disturbed. If someone makes you angry, you will easily succumb to anger. The difference is that you have cultivated a small power to observe and turn back. You will notice ‘I see I am succumbing to this bad feeling.’ Treasure such improvements and repeat intensive practices like this retreat. It will grow deeper. Then when you will be less disturbed. You keep going like this. If you can remain perfectly at composure in your busiest of living, then you are the Buddha.

That is why there is the stage of ‘Sotapanna.’ A Sotapanna has entered the stream of a saint but still is not one. Sotapanna will fall and tumble for who-knows-how-many-times but still he/she has held a strong grip of the direction. When you reach a stage that you will fall only one more time, then you are a Sakadagami. When you are falling for the last time, you are an Anāgāmi. When you will fall no more, you are an Arahat. But still, do not make a fixed idea that ‘Arahat will no longer fall.’

It is important to note that you have found the path. After you find the path, it is not so important that you reach the destination or not. You just keep walking; that is it. What is the point in going quickly or slowly? Persistency is everything. Keep practicing like so. Do not worry yourself with the thought ‘if I go back home, my practice will go back to null.’ Just go back home in peace.”


Sunim said that the fact that we have found the path is a very significant thing; for all we have left to do is to walk the path. The minds of the participants lit up at this encouragement. They gave a big applause to Sunim who had given such an invaluable teaching.

The retreat that began with the meditation of July 9 and went through programs like “harmony of everything” and training for “People that cultivate the Pure Land (Jungto)” finally closed on this 22nd day with Sunim’s Dharma Talk. We pray that the fruits of our hard practice will all go to the countless beings in suffering in the universe.

Community members expressed their respect with a three-prostration to Sunim who had been so loving and devoting in teaching the participants despite his weak health.

View this article in Korean

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