FORWARD - FINDING THE TRUE SELF

It has been my pleasure to know Seon Master Jinje for more than thirty years. We first met at the mountain retreat of Ilta Sunim, who was renowned for his study of vinaya and his ascetic practices. Since then, Master Jinje has come to hold a unique place in Korean Buddhist life. He was trained in the traditional monastic style of meditation, which required retreat from ordinary life, but his subsequent efforts have been directed toward people living in the ever-growing urban areas of Korea. 

The large complex he has developed at Haeunjeong-sa is located on a mountainside at the very edge of downtown Busan. Facing the main hall, one has a view of mountains and forests. When one turns in the other direction and looks out toward the sea, there spreads out below a vast complex of high-rise buildings. One feels that his monastery is like an island floating above the busy and vibrant life of the city. The location is an expression of his attempt to preserve the values of the quietude of the mountain for reflection and contemplation while at the same time to maintain easy access for millions of people in the city below it. This combination of mountain and city is hard to create and sustain. Master Jinje has accomplished it with skill and a deep feeling of compassion for the people who live their lives in the work and stress of a modern city. One is reminded of the ten oxherding episodes, where the final scene for the meditator is the ability to reenter the marketplace of human activity. In many ways the activities of his monastery reflect the need to have the enlightened ones among us. It also shows us a living example of how a contemporary Buddhist master can express this reentry to the “marketplace.”

Jinje Sunim’s teachings, as presented in this volume, are traditional and yet contemporary in application. Our mind is ever a focus for his attention because it is the mind that is the seat of experience. However, he reminds us that the search for our “mind” can never result in finding a fixed and unchanging entity. Every moment is a new experience; this is true whether we are in a mountain monastery or standing in the midst of a vast city that roars around us.

The application of hwadu, a dialogue expressing the wisdom of a questioner and the possibility of awakening this same wisdom in a responder, is at the heart of his practice and instruction. It is the shock of the unexpected, the sharpness of the rejection of normal discourse that is needed to shatter the strong defenses and barriers so deeply embedded in our psyche. Master Jinje presses for the adoption of this particular approach of the Korean Seon tradition. He feels that it is essential to have the moment when sudden enlightenment floods the mind While meditation is often a path to this singular event, he wishes to remind us that no activity can ease one into enlightenment. A shift of such magnitude in the way our minds process experience requires a method that is radical and utterly transforming. Often we hear this described as “sudden” enlightenment, but it may perhaps best be described as “whole” or “entire.” This means that there is nothing omitted from the transformation of view of that moment.

In this volume, Master Jinje shares his thoughts and insights about this method with the goal of bringing awareness of hwadu practice to people everywhere. His message is shared in poetic formulations that are as pleasing to read as they are instructive.

Lewis Lancaster
Chen Professor Emeritus of Buddhist Studies
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of California, Berkeley