The Ferryman

February 9, 2009, at Haeunjeong-sa

From Finding the True Self by Jinje, the 1st ed. (p.68)




How would you save the child?


The bright light of the New Year’s full moon
Reveals all things of the universe in gilded glitter,
While the wisdom moon of a true spiritual seeker’s heart
Illuminates all creations of myriad colors and shapes;
But the moon itself is formless, without even a trace.
The sound of waves in Haeundae Sea is the entirety of
Shakyamuni Buddha’s forty-nine years of enlightened life,
His boundless teachings.
Who truly understands what profound truth
The Buddha’s one phrase lays bare?


There is a wide array of spiritual practices available in Buddhism, but if properly initiated and correctly trained in this life in the Seon practice of the living phrase, anyone can become an enlightened being who has perfected the path; anyone can revel in the exuberance of truth for endless eons. Therefore, everyone should now accept this hwadu:

What is my true self from before I was born?

Hold this hwadu at all times, awake or asleep, fervently investigating and questioning so that the one mind focused only on the hwadu will flow steady and sound.

Seon Master Yantou once disguised himself as a boatman on the bank of a large river. He installed wooden boards on both sides of the river, and when people knocked on the wood, Seon Master Yantou would come out dancing from his hut, his oar on his shoulder, and ferry them across the river.

One day, a middle-aged woman came with a child and asked him to ferry them across. When the boat reached the middle of the river, the woman suddenly grabbed the child and asked Master Yantou, “Where has this child come from?”

Yantou tapped the side of the boat three times with the oar.

The woman lamented, “I was never able to raise my children, even though I gave birth to six of them, because I have yet to meet a person whose eyes are open to the truth. Alas! This seventh child is no exception!” And with that, she threw the child into the river.

How would you answer the woman’s question to save the child? Would you understand Master Yantou and the woman?

Two villains steal and cheat each other; it is difficult to tell which one is an elder or a younger brother.