The Billion Worlds, a bubble on the sea; All Buddhas and Patriarchs, a flash of lightning.
The Zen Circle
One evening, at the Providence Zen Center, Seung Sahn Soen-sa gave the following Dharma Speech:
What is Zen? Zen is understanding myself. What am I?
I explain Zen by means of a circle. There are five points marked on the circle: zero degrees, ninety degrees, one-hundred-eighty degrees, two-hundred-seventy degrees, and three-hundred-sixty degrees. 360° is exactly the same point as 0°.
We begin from 0° to 90° This is the area of thinking and attachment. Thinking is desire, desire is suffering. All things are separated into opposites: good and bad, beautiful and ugly, mine and yours. I like this; I don't like that. I try to get happiness and avoid suffering. So life here is suffering, and suffering is life.
Past 90° is the area of the Consciousness or Karma I.
Below 90° there is attachment to name and form. Here there is attachment to thinking. Before you were born, you were zero; now you are one; in the future, you will die and again become zero. So zero equals one, one equals zero. All things here are the same, because they are of the same substance. All things have name and form, but their names and forms come from emptiness and will return to emptiness. This is still thinking.
At 180° there is no thinking at all. This is the experience of true emptiness. Before thinking, there are no words and no speech. So there are no mountains, no rivers, no God, no Buddha, nothing at all. There is only . . .I' At this point
Soen-sa hit the table.
Next is the area up to 270° the area of magic and miracles. Here, there is complete freedom, with no hindrance in space or time. This is called live thinking. I can change my body into a snake's. I can ride a cloud to the Western Heaven.
I can walk on water. If I want life, I have life; if I want death, I have death. In this area, a statue can cry; the ground is not dark or light; the tree has no roots; the valley has no echo.
If you stay at 180° you become attached to emptiness.
If you stay at 270° you become attached to freedom.
At 360° all things are just as they are; the truth is just like this. 'Like this' means that there is no attachment to anything. This point is exactly the same as the zero point: we arrive where we began, where we have always been. The difference is that 0° is attachment thinking, while 360° is
For example, if you drive a car with attachment thinking, your mind will be somewhere else and you will go through the red light. No-attachment thinking means that your mind is clear all the time. When you drive, you aren't thinking; you are just driving. So the truth is just like this.
Red light means Stop; green light means Go. It is intuitive action. Intuitive action means acting without any desire or attachment. My mind is like a clear mirror, reflecting everything just as it is. Red comes, and the mirror becomes red; yellow comes, and the mirror becomes yellow. This is how a Bodhisattva lives. I have no desires for myself. My actions are for all people.
0° is Small I.
90° is Karma I.
180° is Nothing I.
270° is Freedom I.
360° is Big I. Big I is infinite time, infinite space.
So there is no life and no death. I only wish to save all people.
If people are happy, I am happy; if people are sad, I am sad.
Zen is reaching 360° When you reach 360° all degrees on the circle disappear. The circle is just a Zen teaching device. It doesn't really exist. We use it to simplify thinking and to test a student's understanding.
Soen-sa then held up a book and a pencil and said, "This
book and this pencil are they the same or different?
At 0° they are different.
At 90° since all things are one, the book is the pencil, the pencil is the book.
At 180° all thinking is cut off, so there are no words and no speech. The answer is only . .."
Here Soen-sa hit the table.
At 270° there is perfect freedom, so a good answer is: the book is angry, the pencil laughs.
Finally, at 360° the truth is just like this.
Spring comes, the grass grows by itself. Inside it is light, outside it is dark. Three times three equals nine. Everything is as it is. So the answer here is: the book is the book, the pencil is the pencil.
So at each point the answer is different. Which one is the correct answer? Do you understand?
Now here is an answer for you: all five answers are wrong.
After waiting a few moments, Soen-sa shouted
and then said, The book is blue, the pencil is yellow.
If you understand this, you will understand yourself.
But if you understand yourself, I will hit you thirty times. And if you don't understand yourself, I will still hit you thirty times.
After again waiting a few moments, Soen-sa said,
It is very cold today.