Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mingur Rinpoche; a talk on the Prayers for Loving-Kindness (GongSoSa Temple in Suwon, Korea)

The first of the Mingur Rinpoche talks was held at a very small Dharma Hall in Suwon. It was just a bit above bitter on the thermometer, and those who couldn't squeeze into the Hall sat in two tents set up outside. We really wanted to sit close to Rinpoche, and with Fina in our arms, people were kind enough to make room inside the Hall, away from the breeze.

His themes were kept very simple, directed towards beginners, but it's always nice to listen to the fundamentals again, especially from a fresh perspective. One thing I've noticed in my travels is that Buddhist communities don't necessarily know much more about the teachings of Buddhism than I do. Many people visit temples to have their prayers answered more than to learn Dharma. I was very happy for my wife and mother-in-law to have a chance to hear his teachings. That said, he also answered a few questions I'd been asking myself over the last few weeks. I recorded most of the talk on my small recorder, and just spent the last four hours deciphering every word (and giving attention to Fina between!). I decided not to edit his English very much, hoping you can get a feel for the flavour of the talk. I hope you enjoy!

He started off with complements to the Koreans on their warmth and kindness, their tradition, their countryside, temples, and food, pointing out how fortunate they are to have such a strong, living Buddhist community, a community surely not taken for granted by a Tibetan monk.

He then greeted us with, "Seong bul hassaeyo!" (Korean for, "Let's become Buddhas, together!") and began.

"Our Buddha nature is like a diamond. What are the qualities of a diamond?"


"Yes, that's one." He picked up his mala and counted one bead. "What else?"


"Yes, that's two. More..."

"Difficult to find." "Precious." "Can't be destroyed." The crowd named about ten different qualities.

Finally, Rinpoche added with a laugh, "And it's very expensive!"

"Do you think it's possible to have 5kg of diamonds? Finding your Buddha-nature is like having 5kg of diamonds. You don't know it, but you're already rich! haha!"

"So, someone finds a diamond and they clean it up, take it to the temple and put it on the shrine. What's the difference between this diamond and one that's buried in the mud? Nothing, they are the same. You just have to get some water and wash your diamond, maybe run it through the washing machine!"

Turning the talks towards a discussion of Mettã, he said, "In Tibet, there is a very famous prayer for all beings to have happiness and causes of happiness, that is Loving-Kindness. And for all beings to be free of suffering and causes of suffering, that is compassion.

He then asked what the translation in Korean was for the Prayers of Loving-Kindness. I think he was nearly as surprised as I was that there isn't one. He continued, "So, we all wish to be happy, yeah? I think we are all looking for happiness, for 24 hours. I see that. Why are you come here? Looking for happiness. I don't know how much happiness you can get from this talk, I hope you get some! And, right now, you are here also looking for happiness. Every moment, every minute."

"Why are we doing like this? (tossing his robe up over his shoulders and huddling up) We are looking for happiness. Our fingers get a little cold, that is a cause of suffering. Then we do like this (rubbing his hands together) we get some happiness. And while you sitting on the ground, you move time to time. Cross one leg, then cross the other leg. Then get a lit happy, but then sit like this too long, that is a cause of suffering. We cover our ears, but then sometimes we cannot hear very well, we uncover our ears, but then our ear is cold, but then in, again we can't hear, there's always a problem!"

His expressions and actions were very theatrical, as he used his robes to demonstrate his point, covering his ears, poking one out, making silly faces. Most of us couldn't stop laughing as we watched and listened.Scrunched up beneath his robe, he reminded me of a cleaned up Bodhidharma!

"Every moment is looking for happiness. Every blink is looking for happiness. If you don't blink your eyes for more than one minute, you will see the suffering! Every breath is looking for happiness. But the Buddha said, 'Why are you always looking for happiness and avoiding suffering? This is a sign of Buddha nature. We are worthy of happiness. Our true-nature is free from suffering, free from delusion. It has unchangeable happiness, happiness beyond concept.'"

"We are all looking for our home. We are homesick. Do you know homesick? We are now in Korea I think you don't have so much homesick. When you come to Bodh Gaya, then you may have homesick! Bodh Gaya is in India! I think we've all got homesick, so we are trying to return to our home. Our home is Buddha-nature. The Buddha gave one example. There is a bird and the bird has a nest. Sometimes the bird flies away, flies very far. But the bird doesn't think he's going to stay there. Always he's going to return to its nest, because the real home for a bird is its nest. The real home for us is our true-nature, our Buddha-nature. Because I wish to be happy and I don't want to be suffering is a sign of Buddha-nature. And this is also the basis of Loving-Kindness and compassion.

"And then there's wisdom, also. Everybody wants to do good, do you agree? No one thinks, 'I'm going to do bad.' But because of different circumstances you may change your mind! haha! What we call the nature of tree and the habit of tree is different. The nature of tree is straight, tall, a balance of branches, it's very nice! But the habit of tree is different. Maybe there's always wind blowing one direction, then the tree will grow to this direction. Maybe behind the tree there are rocks, then it must bend forward.

"It's like our first motivation is to want to good, but then because of different circumstances, we change. Okay. Now, never the less, the most important things is we try to recognize our good qualities. Right now, what I'm introducing to you is Loving-Kindness and compassion. And this Loving-Kindness and compassion is very important. It can remove the negativity, bad karma, accumulated virtue, good karma, it can also become the best protection for you.

"When Buddha almost became Buddha, under the bodhi tree, in Bodh Gaya, there were many obstacles that come, but the Buddha meditated in Loving-Kindness and compassion. And these obstacle makers can not make any obstacle for Buddha. Even they used weapons, but when the weapons get closer to Buddha, the weapons changed into flowers. That's why Loving-Kindness and compassion is more powerful than the Atom bomb.

"Okay, Now, how to practice this. Five steps. First begin with you. And second is someone whom you like. Third, a neutral person. Forth, someone who you don't like. Then, after that, what we call immeasurable Loving-Kindness and compassion, number five. And that's five steps.

"Okay, first is with us. Maybe you think this is easy, I think it depends, but sometime, nowadays, it is the 21st century, and we have this negative feeling about low self-esteem. In Korea do you have that or not? (crowd: "Yeah..") The feeling is, I'm bad, I'm no good, they don't like me. If you have this, it's very difficult to practice Loving-Kindness with you, we think, I hate myself. But, actually, that is Loving-Kindness! Even you can recognize, Loving-Kindness and compassion within hatred. Why do you hate yourself? You want to be good, you want to do better, that's why you're looking for happiness. And you don't like hatred, also. Do you like hatred? When you're feeling hatred, are you happy or not? No, because you don't like hatred. You wish to be free from suffering. If you know this it really helps to liberate this hatred into Loving-Kindness and compassion.

"Now you are going to meditate on this Loving-Kindness and compassion. The first part is, you can wish that, you begin with yourself. You realize how much I want to be happy. You are looking for happiness for 24 hours, yeah? And now you wish that, "May I have happiness, for 24 hours." You don't have to worry too much about the details of the causes of happiness.

"Now please put your spine straight, and then relax the muscles in your body. Now please close your eyes, and say in your mind, "May I have happiness and the causes for happiness."

?Why are you sitting quiet and close eyes and trying to meditate? Why? Because this is happiness, and this is Loving-Kindness. Try to see that, try to realize that feeling,  and realize that feeling, which is looking for happiness... And you like it because you wish to be free from suffering.

"How was that? Can you feel your Loving-Kindness? Do you like that?

"How many of you didn't feel that? If you don't feel, do you like that? ("No..") If you don't like not feeling, that is compassion. But if you like that, that is the Loving-Kindness.

"Normally the hatred is only the surface level. Anger and hatred is only surface level, but if you go to a much deeper level, there is Loving-Kindness and compassion. If you realize this way, then slowly, slowly all the emotion transforms into Loving-Kindness and compassion. But first its difficult. You fail, but the failing is the mother of success.

"Now we extend our Loving-Kindness and compassion to others. So first, you have to begin with an easy one. Choose you one person in your mind, your father or mother... In the west, some people hate their father and mother, I don't know in Korea? (one girl: YES! YES! YES! one older man NO WAY!) Doesn't matter. Then don't choose! When choosing an object of Loving-Kindness and compassion don't choose a cross of strong emotion. If you love and you hate both together then sometimes makes it difficult to meditate. So choose your friend, your children, husband and wife, or... a puppy! Anything, any being which you like. And that being is also the same as you, looking for happiness 24 hours, every movement every breath, and every eyes blink, same as you.

"You know the needle? If someone is going to poke a needle into your right or left cheek, which one do you like? Left or right? Or you don't like both? haha! Why? Pain? Yes, you are all very smart! haha! Because both is pain, both cheeks have sensation, the same with you and others. You and others are like your right and left cheeks. Both have pain, both have feeling, a feeling of wishing to be happy and not wanting to suffer, for 24 hours. We're all same, we are all like brother and sister although we look a little different. Though I am the first time in Korea, everyone looks like myself. I see some taller and some shorter some younger and some older. Although we are look different, actually under the skin we all same! Everybody looking for happiness. If you see this with your friend or family, and this is Loving-Kindness and compassion. And now we are going to meditate again and think of that person or being in your mind and try to understand that person is also same as you and wish that may you have happiness and causes of happiness. The causes of happiness means the right causes, not any causes you know, like taking drugs or something, the positive causes.

"Now please put your spine straight, close your eyes, relax muscles in your body, and please relax mind and body together.

"Now please think of one sentient being in your mind, some one who you like. Understand that that person is the same as you and you wish that may you have happiness and causes of happiness. Now please close your eyes, please relax your mind and body.

"Okay, how was that? The first one os more easy or second one os more easy? Both is more easy raise your hand? And neither is easy, raise your hand? haha! Okay, no problem.

"And now number three is a neutral person. Not someone who you like, not someone who you hate.

"Now number four. Number four is with someone who you don't like. the best is with an enemy. Do you have an enemy? If you have an enemy then your are lucky, because you can practice this number four of Loving-Kindness and compassion. If you don't have an enemy, first you must go and make one enemy! haha! No, no, no, no, I'm just joking! It is not necessary to have an enemy, but if you are willing to practice Loving-Kindness and compassion with an enemy, then enemy may become your best teacher. Best friend for Loving-Kindness compassion. You know you cannot say everything's great, everything's fine, I'm practicing LK com, but I think we all have some disliked being, yeah? Someone, maybe we don't like. Easy to find? Yes? then, that's good. haha!

"I will tell you one story. When I was young, around ten years old, I was learning meditation from my father. One time, me and my father were having dinner together. One man showed up, a very angry man. Like this, breathing heavily. And this man asked my father, "I have just fight with another man, we both beat each other. Now I have come here to ask you to please help me how to control my anger." And my father said, "Why you are angry with that person?" The man said, "Haha. You know, this other person is very bad, telling me always bad things, nasty words, harsh words, and even beat me, so I don't like that person." And my father said, "Then maybe you hate the sticks of that person or the hand of that person or the words of that person's mouth, these are really what beat you, hit you, the words really hurt you, so you should hate the sticks and the words." And the man said, "Heh heh, I'm not stupid! I'm not going to hate the sticks, I'm not going to hate just empty words, I hate the person, you know, because he controls the stick, and he's saying the words, you know, so I hate him!" And then, my father said, "Well, then maybe you should hate the emotion within the person. Because that person is controlled by negative emotion, controlled by ignorance, controlled by ego. So you should hate that hatred within the person." And this man said, "Yeah, wow, that's right... phew."

So, even if you have enemy, that enemy's also same as you. Wish to be happy, doesn't want to be suffer, 24 hours. In USA, what they say? 24/7? 24 hours, seven days a week. We are all looking for happiness, including your enemy, also. But although you wish to get happiness but you don't get many causes of happiness. So continuing the story, my father telling to that man, "Because of the out of control, because that man has strong emotion, he's not only harm to you, he's also harming himself. Maybe he's harming for him more than harming to yourself." Why? Because of that negative emotion. Some people are even committing suicide, yeah? They can not control, because of negative emotion. That's why if you understand this meaning, then you will liberate from hatred, you will develop Loving-Kindness and compassion, even with enemies. A little difficult!

"Now we are going to try together, so now think of someone who you don't like. Please keep your spine straight, relax muscles in your body. Now please think of one person in your mind which who you don't like...

(A moment into the meditation there is a large crashing sound outside of many steel cups falling to the gravel...)

"Hmm, impermanence. You may have a shock, like that, and this is trying to avoid suffering. Everybody has this feeling, including your enemy.

"May my enemy have happiness and causes of happiness. The cause of happiness is free from negative emotion. Not like can't hate, can't harm others, not that cause of happiness.

"Now, please expand you Loving-Kindness and compassion to all sentient beings. Not just your enemies, not just your friends. To all beings. Everybody looking for happiness, to avoid suffering. Now you wish that, may all beings have happiness and causes of happiness. This becomes immeasurable Loving-Kindness.

"Okay. So now, number four is with an enemy.

"Number five is what we call immeasurable Loving-Kindness. Why is it immeasurable? Because the object of this Loving-Kindness and compassion is immeasurable, for all beings."


  1. Interesting about the lack of loving-kindness teaching in Korean Buddhism (presuming that this info is correct) . . . the term doesn't appear in the archives of ZM Seung Sahn's teaching.

  2. Yeah. I wonder if it also wasn't in Chinese or Japanese Buddhism.
    I think what he was asking was about Metta, the Prayer for Loving-Kindness, translated into Korean. Chong Go Sunim is the only monk I've heard mentioning it in Korea (and he's American!).

    It might be a good project for my wife and I to do together on the weekend!

  3. Thanks for sharing ! Very simple yet profound teaching.

  4. That's awesome you got to see him. He's going on retreat next spring for 3 years (!)

  5. image a 3 year retreat! I have enough trouble getting through 30 minutes!