oday, with the advance of material civilization, we are enjoying lives of unprecedented richness and convenience. However, many people are also worried that our mental growth is not keeping up with material development because, as we often see, material riches not only make an obstacle in
mental growth and the pursuit of truth, but also lowers the quality of our lives 式 sometimes to the point of devastation where a proper balance between mental life and material life are not maintained. As the history of the world has shown thus far, material development that is not accompanied by mental growth cannot be said to be esirable; material development can be more harmful than beneficial for those not mentally mature enough to cope. It is widely known that a proper religious life can play a significant
role in upgrading our mental levels and maintaining the balance of our lives. Religion plays a large role in elevating our mental level.
We should lead a religious life, not for a religion itself, but for our happiness. People do not exist for religions, but rather, religions for people. We should know that a religion is not an end we should seek, but a means by which we can seek our happiness. And every religion has its unique way to lead people to happiness 式 Buddhism is not an exception. Buddhism, as in Buddha＊s teaching, is a religion that leads people to happiness through enlightenment. To be a Buddhist
means to be a person
who tries to achieve happiness through enlightenment. And every Buddhist should not lead a blindly religious life for Buddhism itself, but rather, try to attain enlightenment.
The Practice of Koan
Then, how may we attain enlightenment? Enlightenment can be attained through our experiencing, in person, what we believe and not through mere superficial or cursory knowledge. We cannot have the proper faith in our religion unless we truly experience what it says. It is practice that enables us to experience in person what Buddhism says. Zen meditation with koan, I think, is one of the most efficient ways of practice known to us. It is Zen meditation with koan that can defuse
and stereo-typed impressions of religion. In fact, attaining enlightenment is neither difficult nor easy. Whether it is difficult or easy depends on whether you practice in the right way or not. If you feel enlightenment is difficult to attain, you should know that, not that it is difficult, but that you are practicing in the wrong way. Enlightenment is not as difficult as most people think, that it is beyond our approach, but it is easy enough for anybody to attain if one practices in the right way. And to practice
Zen meditation with koan in the right way, you should know that practicing Zen meditation with koan without the right teacher is like sailing in the ocean without a compass. The right teacher will always be there to check your practice when you face new changes and phenomena. Enlightenment may be attained much more easily and sooner than you think.
Written by Master Subul Sunim of Ahnkook Zen Center
Monthly Magazine SEOUL(July 2007)