Q & A with Andrzej Stec JDPSN
Student: Last time, you talked about improving the quality of our practice. I am trying to be aware and count my mantra. During my daily activities such as doing housework, I cannot keep my mantra counter on my finger, so I have to take it off. Then my mantra count is very low. I try very hard and I am also recording my mantra count, but sometimes my mantra is only 4,000 or sometimes can be 7,000. I have this thought, maybe counting is not good, maybe I should practice differently? I wonder why there is such difference in the numbers? When I wash dishes, weed, or do work, I keep Kwan Seum Bosal and I write down what I do, but the numbers vary. So shall I still count?
Andrzej JDPSN: First, decide the number, then keep a record. If you decide 5000, then just try to do it. That is what will make your center strong. Counting will make your center strong. When you decide something and you do it, your center become stronger . One day you do 7,000, another day, you do only 3,000. Do you know why? At the end of the day, when you write down your record, write a note next to it. What happened? Why 10,000, or why 3,000? You will have a better picture of what’s happening in your daily life. We have unexpected situation in our everyday life. That is why I say, try to do your main practice in the morning when you don’t have many distractions. If you have to cook everyday and you cannot do 7,000, then don’t choose 7,000. You can do 5,000 and this will be your number. Very important as much as possible, have a consistent schedule everyday. If your schedule is similar everyday, your center will also get stronger.
Having strong center means having Dharma energy. We have 3 kinds of energy. We are born with original energy we get from our parents. Everybody is a little different, right? You see a little child running around nonstop, another child is weak and tired. Original energy is what we will have for our entire life so we have to preserve it. This energy can be nourished by food, rest, movement and supported by other kinds of energy. One thing everybody can do, is use air energy. There is the rule of three; average human beings will die after 3 weeks of not eating, or die after 3 days of not drinking water. If we don’t breath for 3 minutes, everybody will die or get bad brain damage. Breathing is most important. No matter who you are, woman or man, old or young, you have to keep breathing, so use that to get more energy. Additionally if you meditate and keep don’t know, then you can connect to universal energy and recharge your batteries even more. If you can gain those 3 kinds of energy, your center becomes strong. That’s about how to get energy.
You have a container (Lifting up a cup) and you put water into it. First, you have to make sure
that this container doesn’t have a hole, a leak. Most people have leaks. No matter how well they eat or how much they sleep, no matter how much they do breathing exercises or meditate they are always tired. It means we give away our power to something else. This body is like a container with holes. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and some other holes! (Laughter) Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say that we lose the most energy through our eyes. These days, if you look at TV, computer or mobile phone, you also lose lots of energy by looking at screens.
Temple rule says “don’t go where you have no business”, or you will also lose lots of energy. Unnecessarily moving around. See those buses on the highway? People coming, going – let’s see this mountain, let’s see that mountain, endless coming and going. I have one student who is very tired so she even stopped working, but she uses lots of energy to travel around the world right now! You have to choose your battles – where are you going?
The other good temple rule is “don’t listen to talk which does not concern you”. Everyone likes to listen to other people’s talk. What the politician said, what the American president said. Watching TV and listening to politicians, we lose lots of energy. Actually most of it doesn’t concern you.
If North Korea sent a missile to South Korea, they won’t announce that on KBS 1 before it happens! “News” is the wrong word. It is not news, they are old stories. Can you stop the war in Syria? Cannot. Most people actually don’t do anything about it. Everybody says, oh, global warming, the big iceberg fell off of Antarctica. What did you do about it? Nothing. But you worry. So what happens? You lose energy because you worry, instead of doing something about it.
Most people’s lives are reactive, which means not having power over their own lives. We say, you see something, you lose your eyes. You hear something, you lose your ears. We have to become proactive. Proactive means you are in charge. Do something is necessary. When you sit on the cushion every morning morning, you created a good habit. But when you sit are you reactive or proactive? If you just sit there, you become reactive. If you are proactive, then when you are sitting, you say, I have to do Kwan Seum Bosal. You do it, count it, then you are sitting and cutting off thinking proactively.
Zen Master Seung Sahn always taught us, when you sit, do something necessary. If you decided to sit and count Kwan Seum Bosal, then do it. That’s your responsibility. That’s what proactive means – taking responsibility, being accountable. Zen also means understanding yourself. It means also understand your life. Understand your own habit, your karma. Also, understand your schedule. Then your life becomes very simple.
We have to be truly grateful to Buddha Shakyamuni and all the great teachers. All of us here are very fortunate. The Buddhadharma is the most complete “manual” on how to become free, how to stop all leaks. We are even more lucky to hear Zen Master Seung Sahn’s teaching, because I would not be able to read all 84,000 sutras myself. He made it very simple: don’t want anything, don’t make anything, don’t check anything, don’t hold anything, don’t be attached to anything. When you are doing something, just do it. Do something 100%. If your practice is to repeat Kwan Seum Bosal and count, just repeat and count. Make it clear. If you decided to do 5,000, then try to finish it before you go sleep. You said (facing student), “I am counting, but when I cook, I cannot count.” You were proactive so you became more clear about your practice. It looks like a very simple example that is nothing special. Actually, it is very special because it is the truth. Most people are having a dream, “ I’m doing mantra all the time…I don’t need to count…” Maybe Buddha doesn’t need to count. But for us, we don’t know what’s really happening in our life. We don’t know where we have our leaks, what kind of thinking we have, what kind of emotions are controlling us. Often we are surprised by our own behaviour. If we try to understand the world outside, then we have double chaos; we already have chaos in our own head! Why do you want to understand the economy, politics or other people’s problems? Buddha said if you understand yourself, you will understand everything else. If you try to understand outside world first, you won’t be able to understand yourself.
Trying to empty “outside”, your mind will never become empty. But if you empty your mind, outside also becomes empty by itself. Then you have power. So keep counting.