Walking without a Trace

This article is edited from the Dharma talks given by Daehaeng Kun Sunim on December 15, 1991.

It's getting cold. I wish each and every family always to be blessed with health. If you fully comprehend the principle of mind, your family will always enjoy happiness. The essence of mind is beyond description in words, and its function penetrates everything including cutting edge science. Keep practicing and experiencing, without missing anything from the mundane to the most significant, and make everything your own.

You won't grasp the core of this principle by just coming to Hanmaum Seonwon. You must discard your ego. If you discard the illusion of “I”, all difficulties will subside. Your worries will disappear. But you do not discard these persistent thoughts of “I did” or “I must live,” which are based on your concepts of the material world; therefore, you cannot die. This does not mean the death of the body. It means instead, that you should harmonize yourself with the truth, the truth in which everything flows, constantly changing from one form to another. Let yourself go within that.

Would it make sense if water were to run against the current of the river? When a stream flows and meets rocks, it goes around them, and then continues flowing. When it rains heavily, raindrops gather into currents, which flow together, eventually being swept into the ocean. No matter what kind of problems you face, if you entrust all of them to the One Place, the foundation of mind, then they also will reach the ocean. In the ocean, there is no distinction between clean and dirty. When all things subside, the ocean remains calm and clear.

Do not ever entertain the idea that life is pointless. I have often said that our bodies are like gloves that we put on and take off, and the foundation of mind is like the hand wearing gloves. Therefore, we do not need to cling to the glove; it is not the essence. If you are able to attain the ability to live your life through Hanmaum, free of illness, pain, or poverty, my heart will not ache, and I will be most grateful.

Whether you succeed or fail depends on your mind. There are times when you succeed and there are times when you fail. Only when you are able to see both success and failure non-dually will you be wiser and have more capacity to deal with your life. You can generate light and brighten your home by handling difficulties wisely. We are intrinsically of one body and one mind; we exist together, and we share all things. You should understand this principle.

Many people practice their own religions. However, please do not become bound to the name of religion. The term Buddhism refers to two aspects: the fundamental source of life and living itself. Buddhism refers to the truth itself. Think deeply and live freely, while exploring the truth without binding yourself to the name of any religion. It is truly heartbreaking to see people suffer despite strong religious belief. If my words were not true, the entire Buddha-realm would not tolerate me. No living beings will benefit from those whose words are not consistent with their actions. Even Buddhism is just a name. You should understand the teachings. As I said just before, Buddhism refers to the foundation of everlasting life and the process of living itself. Since the foundation of each life, Juingong, is directly connected to the primary source of the universe and this world, everything operates in an interconnected way.

Today, I will answer your questions in detail. If you want to learn, you need to ask questions as well as listen. But ask questions without (any thought of) asking. You have not carried your footsteps with you along the road, nor have you stored up your spoken words within you. Likewise, speak, or ask questions unhindered by anything. This is “doing without (the thought of) doing.”

Questioner 1 (male): I deeply appreciate that I have the chance to ask a question. I have heard that, once we die, we cannot study the principle of mind any more, and that we cannot escape from the cycle of rebirth (samsara) because of the consciousness at the time of death. So, what is the meaning of Cheondo (the ceremony of spiritual deliverance)? I would really appreciate it if you could tell me how dead beings without bodies can be delivered.

Kun Sunim: Do you see mind?

Questioner 1: I cannot see it yet.

Kun Sunim: Death of your body does not eradicate the eternal foundation of your mind. How we have lived is automatically recorded within us. The recording is attached to your fundamental mind and replayed in the next life. What was recorded in the past comes out in the present.

The reason you have to study mind is that you should know that there is neither past nor future, and the present is also empty. Why is this so? The records of good and bad karma exist within you, and such karmic consciousness causes one to be unable to discern right from wrong. Thus, your present consciousness must be able to govern it, so that the karmic consciousness, which once controlled you, will now follow your lead.

Then, if you record something new in your present life, your karmic obstacles from the past will be dismissed. You will be a person who lives freely because you thoroughly have grasped the nature of existence.

We cannot engage in the practice of One Mind without a body. After the body vanishes, we are reborn according to the level of our mind. By the way, even when people are already dead, the formless consciousness of their minds perceives as if they still have a body because of the habits of living in the material world. While you are still alive, you should realize that your mind has no form. If you die without liberating yourself from the illusions of life in the material realm, you cannot take even one step after you have died; you cannot overcome the obstacles, small or large, that good and bad karma causes. If there is a river to cross, you cannot cross it because of the fear of drowning, nor could you enter flames because of the fear of burning to death. You would still think that you have a body. That is why the soul needs a guide to show the way (to help the soul realize the Path), why the ceremony of spiritual deliverance started.

Long ago, there were two friends. One of them died, and the other friend saw the soul of the dead friend entering a frog's body. The living friend blocked his friend's way and shouted, “Where are you going?” Of course, it was only the soul of the dead man who could hear the shout. The soul answered, “Well, this house looks like a wonderful mansion. So I would like to go into it.” Once you enter a frog's body, it is very difficult to change from that form. Because you become accustomed to the frog's life and its environment, you have very little chance to raise the level of your mind and be reborn as a human. For this reason, the living can help the dead person's soul by the ceremony of spiritual deliverance.

Questioner 2 (male): I have listened to your Dharma talks numerous times, but I still do not understand many aspects of your teachings. I want to ask one question. It is said that there was a Buddhist monk called Chi-tong among the disciples of Hui-neng (638-713 A.D.), the sixth patriarch of Seon Buddhism in China. After attaining the truth, Chi-tong wrote a verse that said, “To attain intrinsic nature by practicing is to take a wrong course, and to `dwell in', or `confine' it is also to go against the Path.” Please teach me the stage of mind to which he is referring.

Kun Sunim: Please come over here. I will teach you. (She motions to him to approach her.) Come here, closer; I'll let you know. Please give me your hand. (When the questioner holds out his hand, she slaps it with her right hand. After that, the questioner bows to her with his palms pressed together, and she returns the bow.) Now, I have given you the teaching. Do you have any other questions?

Questioner 2: No, I don't, right now. Thank you very much.

Questioner 3 (female): One of my fellow practitioners told me that she could not concentrate or even remain seated for more than five minutes. I called her to plan a visit. We talked for about two hours. During our conversation, she commented to me that she had regained her calm. After I called her several more times, she got much better. It seems my practice helps other people, but unfortunately, I cannot help my own son, who has a severe sinus infection. Why is that so?

And I have another question. Sometimes, friends ask me where heaven is. I tell them what I have learned from you - “Heaven is within your mind.” I say that people living with peaceful minds go to heaven after they die. But my friends don't seem to understand. Once I read a story that heaven is somewhere on the other side of the universe called Bumcheon (the Bramah realm). It confused me. We are told that when we have a peaceful mind, we are in heaven. According to the story, however, heaven is somewhere in the universe far away. Now, I don't know what to say to my friends. Although I have been coming to the Seonwon for a longer time than they have, I am confused myself about this.

Kun Sunim: You seem to have tried very hard to answer these questions well.

Questioner 3: But I myself don't know the answers.

Kun Sunim: Since you don't know yourself, you are not able to answer.

Questioner 3: I understand.

Kun Sunim: Who told you that heaven is in Bumcheon?

Questioner 3: I read it in a book.

Kun Sunim: There is no such thing. Bumcheon does not exist anywhere other than in this world. Heaven, hell, and Bumcheon are right in this world. Look! When you commit a crime, you are put in jail. When you commit a sin, your mind becomes a living hell. However, when you live free from the shackles of your mind, you live in heaven. Heaven and hell are not somewhere else. They are right here, within your mind.

Questioner 3: What will happen to us if we can't cross the river or pass through the flames, or the black hole, after we die? What will become of us if we don't cross them at all?

Kun Sunim: If you don't cross them, you will be reborn into this world as you are. Look! Junk will reappears as junk, and gather with other junk; rusty iron will never appear as anything else, but only attract other rusty iron. Like attracts like, and everything is made new over and over again. Everything changes constantly.

Earlier, you mentioned that other people got well, but not your son. Why don't you reflect upon yourself first? Did you explain to him how to practice? When you ask for food, you must hold out your bowl. Having faith in Juingong is that gesture of holding out the bowl. You must have a deep faith to be able to reach the foundation within directly. It doesn't matter how long you have been coming to the Seonwon to practice. A problem like that occurs because your mind is directed outwardly. If you want to learn this principle, you should start practicing right away by entrusting everything to your true mind.

Questioner 3: I told my son what I had learned from you about the principle of Juingong. He seems to believe in this principle very much; he even saw you in a dream, but he hasn't recovered.

Kun Sunim: (Laughing) That's because something is wrong with his practice. If you only lick the outside rind of a watermelon, you will not know the true taste of watermelon.

Questioner 4 (male): Although I have been coming to the Seonwon for a long time, this is the first time I am asking you a question. In your previous Dharma talks, you said, “Father and son are not intrinsically two. However, it is difficult for them to meet each other, even though they are kept apart only by the thickness of a sheet of paper.” Could you tell us what “a sheet of paper” means, and how we can break through this barrier?

Kun Sunim: There is a permanent foundation of mind that causes my current self to evolve and which leads me This foundation of mind is the primal mind before occurrence of thoughts. The primal mind is the “father.” The current mind that raises thoughts is the “son.”

For example, if electric power were the foundation of mind, the “father,” a light bulb, the current mind, would be the “son.” And bringing up one's thought to find the foundation of mind would be turning on the switch for the light bulb. To be able to light the bulb, you must believe that the power line has been installed. If you don't believe this, you won't be able to bring up the thought of lighting the bulb. The bulb and the power are connected intrinsically. However, if you're not aware of this or don't believe it, it is the same as if the two were disconnected. In order for the power and the light bulb to become one and function, it is essential to have faith. The light bulb, as it were, has to believe in the electric power so that it can make contact with the power and use it freely. Just as you turn on the switch of the bulb, believing in the existence of the electric power although you cannot see it, shouldn't you also believe in your Juingong, your root, so that by believing in it the “father” and the “son” will meet.

The self who led you in the previous lives exists in the present. It always has existed and always will exist. If the three elements were not combined together, you could not be born. Were it not for the everlasting self that leads you, you could not be born. It is not until you understand that the “father” and the “son” are not two that you can know your past and present - where you came from, where you are headed, and what you are doing here. Thus, you should know the principle that all beings are not separate from yourself, or exist non-dually, and that you can attune yourself to others non-dually as well. When you are able to do this, you can penetrate into everything.

Questioner 5 (male): I feel as if I have just entered the paradise of the Amita-bha's Western Pure Land. Because I regard you as Amita-bha Buddha, I consider this place to be heaven. I would like to ask you how to kwan in relation to my body.

Kun Sunim: I told you that paradise does not exist separate from us. Even though it is a simple idea, it is very important to know that everything depends on how you think. One thought from your mind can be Dharma. By a single thought, you can descend into hell. And by a single thought, you can live in heaven.

Amita-bha Buddha is not someone other than Buddha. With his one thought, Buddha could be Amita-bha or Aksobhya. In the east, he manifests as Aksobhya, in the west as Amita-bha, as Avalokites'hbara in this world, and as Ksitigarbha in Indra's heaven. They all are from mind and different names of Buddha. This is why we put all of them into our minds, using all of it for practice, while believing in and relying on Buddha in your mind.

You should repeat to yourself, “Only Juingong, Hanmaum, can lead my body.” Even at the time of death, only Juingong can lead us to die without pain, as ripened bean pods pop open and the beans fall out by themselves. It is also Juingong that leads us and makes us evolve so that we may be reborn with a higher spiritual level in the next life, and guides us to Jajaecheon (Buddhahood). Therefore, you should practice diligently.

Questioner 5: After I visited the Seonwon last month, all my children experienced great bliss.

Kun Sunim: (Laughing) Hearing of their bliss fills me with gratitude. (She puts her palms together.)

Questioner 5: The moment I entrusted my problems to Juingong, my mind gained clarity.

Kun Sunim: Return everything to your foundation without any attachment because everything has come from the foundation. Everything is already entrusted. Everything, including every part of your daily life, would not exist, if you had not been born into this world. All beings live together, their minds interconnected, giving, and receiving in a constant exchange with each other. If you don't exist, nothing exists. Thus, keep your mind at ease, and have deep faith in Juingong. Whether you are sitting or standing or working, continually address Juingong, “Because you exist, I exist. Only you are the One who can lead me.”

Questioner 5: Thank you.

Questioner 6 (male): I am so glad to have this opportunity to ask you a question. There is a strong preference these days for work that doesn't include physical labor. Most people don't like manual labor. Could you say a word about this preference?

Kun Sunim: You should accept whatever comes to you. Do not turn away from that which comes to you, and do not try to hold on to whatever leaves you. Do not cling to things gone by. Always harmonize yourself with the truth. Keep your mind at ease by letting go of your worries and let yourself move through your life in a frictionless flow.

Questioner 6: Who created Buddha?

Kun Sunim: All sentient beings did.

Questioner 6: Does the mind bring up a thought or does a thought arise by itself from the mind?

Kun Sunim: Neither bringing up nor arising by itself.

Questioner 6: During the process of our practice, it seems that “I” exists. Then, why do we say that “I” doesn't exist?

Kun Sunim: We say so because we are “doing without the thought of doing.” I asked earlier, can you carry your past steps along with you? Are you conscious of your steps while you are walking? You just walked over here unaware of your steps. Speaking is just like that too, isn't it? We also say it because nothing is fixed and unchanging.

Questioner 6: Thank you.

Questioner 7 (male): I came to see you for the first time a while ago and asked you a question during the Dharma talk you gave. Before seeing you that time, whenever I had difficulties, I could resolve them one by one by entrusting them to Juingong. However, when too many hardships suddenly fell upon me, I couldn't handle them properly. So, I came here and asked you about my situation, and all the problems were resolved. I have come here today with gratitude.

Then again, I am trying to put down even this gratitude to the fundamental place of Juingong. I would like to know the proper way of repaying gratitude and understand its virtuous merit.

Kun Sunim: Repaying gratitude is returning one's own virtuous merit to Buddha or to others. In a broader sense, it means releasing without attachments. In fact, everything in this world actually works repaying gratitude.

Raining is repaying gratitude, and the evaporation of water is also repaying gratitude. If you inhale, then you must exhale. After you eat, you must excrete. This is repaying gratitude. Taking a break after working hard is repaying gratitude, and getting up in the morning after having slept is also repaying gratitude. Receiving and giving are repaying gratitude. When you receive a great kindness from someone, feeling grateful for it is repaying gratitude. Acknowledging Juingong as the source of your success, without the thought of “I did,” is the greatest repaying of all. Whenever we accomplish a certain task, repaying gratitude follows naturally. Why do you have to think of it as something separate? Everything operates sharing energy. This in itself is repaying gratitude. Thus, we are grateful.

Questioner 7: Thank you.

Questioner 8 (female): Thank you for this opportunity. In one sense, I feel I have nothing to ask. In another sense, I have so many things to ask. I will take this opportunity to ask you a question. I have been going to Buddhist temples for almost twenty years; I have come here about five times. Still, my faith is not firm.

My mother passed away when I was young. At that time, my uncle, a minister, became a source of guidance and inspiration for me. He tried to lead me to adopt Christian beliefs and persuaded me to attend church. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't conform myself to Christianity. Jesus said, “Follow me, and you will be saved.” But I found it difficult to accept that idea. Inwardly, it strongly repelled me. I believed that religion did not create human beings but human beings created religion. However, I have always liked what Buddha said, “Follow not me, but the Dharma.”

Even though I have been attending Buddhist temples for a long time, I couldn't develop deep faith in Buddhism either. Then two months ago when I read a few books about your teaching, I felt “This is it!” But I still didn't start practicing. Looking back at my past, it seems to me that I have been living my life exactly the way you described in your books. I have been living by the foundation of my mind, I think.

When one doesn't have any religion, but tries to live a wholesome life, can one then draw upon and use the unlimited and mysterious power of human beings? If so, what is the difference between using one's mind and believing in Buddhism or practicing the principle of Hanmaum? I would like to know about this.

There is another point I wondered about. Since I was born a human being, I would like to feel sad, happy, or anguished when there is something about which to feel sad, happy or anguished. I would like to live like that. I am still hesitant about taking up my practice, and I wonder if it would be possible to live without relying on Hanmaum, or the Seonwon, or even Buddhism. I am confused and have little faith. Could you instruct me about this?

Kun Sunim: What an interesting religious person you are! (Laughing) How could “Bulkyo,” Buddhism, and daily life be separate? The first syllable, “Bul” refers to the everlasting foundation of life, and the second syllable, “kyo” refers to the operation of the universe and our living itself. Lives and activities of all things in and of themselves are the Buddha-dharma, in other words, the way we live as human beings. What made you think that Buddhism and daily life are separate from each other? The Buddha-dharma itself is the foundation of Hanmaum and the truth. If it is limited to one side, it is not Buddhism.

Questioner 8: I see. Do you mean that even people who don't attend the temple and who live as atheists can practice the principles of Hanmaum? Can living like that also be in accord with Buddhism? Can it be all right to live like that?

Kun Sunim: Let's look at it this way. If children could learn everything at home, why would their parents send them to school? Don't you think you need to have guidance until you learn the practice of One Mind (Hanmaum) and can mange the difficulties in your life by yourself?

Questioner 8: Thank you. I'll try harder.

Questioner 9 (female): Kun Sunim, I have a problem with my thyroid gland, and my medication is not working. I wonder if it is because I am a high-strung person.

Kun Sunim: Let go of those thoughts and believe that only your Juingong can cure you. It is at the same place that you feel angry or lose your temper; it is also that place (mind) that can control your temper. Believe this!

Do not give in to your temper so easily. Above all things, losing your temper affects your health and ruins your body. Why is this so? The moment you lose your temper, each and every consciousness within you also loses its temper, which causes your body to break down. This is really how it works. (Laughing)

Questioner 9: Thank you.

Questioner 10 (female): I was waiting downstairs, and I summoned my courage to come up here. Currently all of my family are practicing the principle of Juingong. My mother has been a diabetic for a long time. Her eyesight had greatly deteriorated, and she also had had surgery. She had been bedridden for a long time. Then a couple of months ago, she began practicing the principle of Juingong. Since then, she hasn't had any insulin injections or any medication. Her condition has greatly improve.

I was deeply grateful, and I told people about how wonderful the working of Juingong is. A few days ago, however, she fell in the bathroom. When that happened, I thought to myself, “Even this can be used for practice. Entrust it to Juingong.” My mother is still in a lot of pain, so I am not sure whether I entrusted all of this to Juingong in the right way.

Kun Sunim: You are doing just fine. By the way, there is one more thing that you should know. You should let go of both sides, living and dying. When someone is dying, if you strive to keep that person from dying, the balance of the both sides will be lost. At the moment that you let go of both sides, there will be a flash of light (She holds up one finger). Yes? If you are afraid of your mother's death and trying only to keep her alive, this is not the way of truth. You won't be able to realize the true meaning of One Mind. With strong faith, practice letting go of both sides. Then, wouldn't there be good results?

Questioner 10: Thank you. I will practice harder.

Questioner 11 (female): Thank you, sunim. I am from the city of Daegu. I came to see you once before to discuss my son's problems. He was involved in a car accident which damaged his hear, and later he became mentally unstable. After attending your Dharma talk last November, while I was meditating at home, you appeared in my meditation. You threw a rope to me, and it turned into a bus token in my hands. What does the token mean? I cannot solve this puzzle.

Kun Sunim: Practicing One Mind, while letting go of living and dying, is like rounding off the rough edges of your mind. Also, if you look into the meaning of it, the function of the token is to continue circulating.

In this way, the truth of the five aggregates is entirely and directly connected to the human mind. Accept whatever comes to you with gratitude, and then release it all to your true self, Juingong, which is your own power generator. Entrust everything to it, and believe from the bottom of your heart: “Only Juingong can resolve it.”

Even the Buddha was born and died. It doesn't matter whether the physical body dies now or later. When it's time to go, we simply leave the body behind. Or, if it's time to get well, we get well. Just practice as diligently as you can.

The workings of the world occur like this. Just live your life freely with a fully open mind, flowing frictionlessly like water.

(After chanting a poem, she steps down from the Dharma seat.)

There exists

neither the Buddha-realm nor the universe

neither the four types of life forms nor the four


neither the East, the West, nor time

neither emptiness nor even the non-existence of


Out of each and every place

there is no place

without wind, water

and blossoms of flowers.

Out of each and every place

there is no place

that isn't green.

Mountains ahead and mountains behind,

transforming and manifesting,

freely come and go

without the trace of coming and going.

In the midst of it,

the foot remains a foot

and the hand remains a hand.

How can it not be vast and boundless.

The entire universe

comes form and returns to the mind.

Cheondo: A Buddhist ceremony performed to raise the level of the consciousness of the dead.

The three elements: According to Daehaeng Kun Sunim, it means combining together of sperm and ovum from parents, and of the Buddha-nature, the everlasting life force.

kwan: It literally refers to “observe” or “watch” in the manner of contemplation or meditation. In studying mind, it implies the act of entrusting and releasing everything to your true self, Juingong, with firm faith in Juingong.

Jajaecheon: The realm of Bodhisattva having sovereign knowledge and power. This also signifies the mind free of delusion equivalent to attaining Buddhahood.

The five aggregates: The components of human beings. The first component ru-pa is body and the rest four are the mental functions. 1) ru-pa: the physical form related to the five organs of sense, 2) veda-na: reception, sensation, feeling, 3) samjña-: perception, distinguishing, 4) samska-ra: intention, will, volition, 5) vijlña-na: consciousness, cognition.