Friday, December 30, 2011

Closing Year Message: Take Care of the Mind

As 2011 comes to a close and we usher in 2012, I think of the many things that happened in the past 12 months. Some important gurus are no longer with us such as Kyabje Lama Lhundrup of FPMT's Kopan Monastery. Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba have manifested stillness. It was a challenging year for FPMT with Kyabje Lama Zopa manifesting stroke. Personally it was a tough year too both domestically as well as work wise. However, I want to thank the Guru-Buddha, Guru-Dharma and Guru-Sangha first of all for all the blessings received during the year. Without this blessing to come into contact with the Guru-Triple Gem, no other blessings possibly matters. That is just how important the gurus are. It is due to the blessings of gurus, that I reconnected back to the late Seung Sahn Sunim and the Kwan Um School of Zen that he founded. This year I attended a meditation retreat headed by a Zen Master who received dharma transmission from ZM Seung Sahn. Having been a student to Seun Sahn Sunim and having met him before, it was not so problematic to get to know the existing Zen Masters. I am regarded as an "old student" by them so to speak, even though I had not had much contact with the School after my correspondence with ZMSS ended. But now with the knowledge that they do organise regular retreats every year in most of their Zen centres, my spiritual direction is clearer going forward. Now I can fulfill my direction of doing more retreats. Without the blessing of having met Seung Sahn Sunim in the past, I do not see if their Zen retreats will mean as much to me now. Next I want to say my gratitudes to my family and being close to them, caring for them and be cared for by them, we naturally avoid many troubles. Any hindrance is easily overcome. Therefore, our spouse and children are our closest protectors. So, I thank my family here. Then I have to thank my external root and subsidiary protectors who did a fantastic job this year. I want to mention the incident whereby I fell on the slippery icy ground twice in an oversea country recently. That was the first time I saw real natural snow! And without signboards to warn tourists of slippery grounds, I fell in no time. On those occasions, I definitely risked having a head concussion and fracturing my limbs. I say this because I was informed by another visitor whereby a lady, also from Malaysia, had fractured her wrist from a fall at the same place and as a result, her holiday was ruined. Although she is said to be older, it does not mean my bones are stronger. We never know our karma. On my second fall especially, I thought I risked breaking my back or injuring my spinal cord. It was an even harder fall. But thankfully, somehow the pouch bag that I was wearing, which is normally in front, somehow I found it at the back. It, therefore, unexpectedly cushioned my fall and I end up with only some pain. Here I learned that certain karma may not be avoided and we have to face it. Having some blessings could help smoothen our handling of bad times. Having a good protector is also the result of having some good karma. So, nothing escapes karma.  I have also done a Dorje Khadro fire puja ngondro before my trip, so that purification possibly helped too. And I remember that I was sick for a few weeks before my trip.
I also would like to express my thanks to friends, especially those who read my blog. Next year will be tougher and I can foresee it will be very challenging for me personally. Therefore, I need to lay low for a while and that means I may not be able to write as much as before. 
When "the final countdown" song blares in the air in every city around the world, most people will be busy enjoying themselves, oblivious to the fact that death may occur to them in 2012. This is for those who will die in 2012. We wish we knew when we will die, don't we? Then we can prepare ourselves. But the thing is death can come at any time. And Buddhists are taught to prepare ourselves all the time. Some other religions may think we are pessimistic. But I rather think we are actually pessimistically realistic than realistically pessimistic. You understand the difference here? Think about it. 
I wish everyone goodbye, thank you for reading my blog and I apologise for whatever wrong I might have committed/ offended either knowingly or otherwise. I will end this with a quote from the Ch’an Master Yun-men who said, “Every Day is a Good Day!” I certainly need to be reminded of this since next year is forecasted to be not so good according to feng shui and especially for people with certain horoscopes. I try not to think of it but people keep reminding me of this. Master Yun-Men is not saying that there will never be any bad days. He is saying that if we take care of the mind, then no matter what happens, it is okay. Then 2012 (or any year) will be no problem. We don’t have to freak out. Essentially our own mind is our best protector! So, that is basically my motto for next year. I repeat – “Everyday is a good day!” I might just enlarge it on a poster and hang it on my wall... less I forget. That and "Avoid evil do good, purify the mind" must adorn my walls. :) Take care!  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Time of Merriment and ... Serious Practice

Today is Christmas and many people are celebrating and partying and enjoying the festive mood. Lights and music are everywhere. Shopping malls and cinemas are full of people and many retailers are offering year-end sales. The streets are jammed with cars and people are just going somewhere to have a good time. While we are busy with samsaric indulgence, somewhere in Korea, a group of dedicated meditators are putting extra effort to practice through the night. They cut down on sleep to intensify their effort, hopefully  to gain enlightenment. The reason they do that is because it is to celebrate Sakyamuni Buddha's Enlightenment according to the lunar calendar, which falls on January 1, 2012 according to the normal solar calendar. So, for one week before that, they intensify their efforts to commemorate that achievement. I personally think that it is the best form of celebrating the Buddha's Enlightenment. What better way to celebrate it than to achieve enlightenment yourself! Let's wish the Christians a "Merry Christmas", and the meditators at Mu Sang Sa a "All the Best and Strive With Diligence!" I sincerely hope there will be among them those that will "make it"... if you know what I mean. :)

Even though not that I am indulging in samsara very much, but still comparing with those practitioners, I am like way way behind. Look at Geshe Tenzin Zopa, the former resident geshe of Losang Dragpa Centre. He has gone for a ngondro retreat for one year. He intends to complete his ngondros, then consider going on full three-year retreat. Before him, we hear of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche who had left a letter behind before he wandered off into the mountains to do his cave retreat. It is unknown when he will return. He was exemplifying the wandering yogis of ancient Tibet like Milarepa. That is amazing. I wish these 2 monks "All the BEST"! After completing all those retreats, people will naturally feel more confident studying with them. Nowadays people are studying and taking guidance from teachers who have not themselves experience any long term meditation retreats. They have not gone through the due process and hence I am not sure how their followers can truly learn from these type of teachers apart from basic teachings. It is only when you have "been through it and done that", that you can seriously teach others something through your experience. But if you have not, you will be just as blind as the others that you are trying to teach. As HH Penor Rinpoche said, even people who have been recognised as reincarnate tulkus need to do extensive study and meditation life after life. But now people do not look at their gurus on this matter. They do not think it is important to have a guru with extensive study and meditation. It does not matter that their guru has not even done the one-year retreat before, let alone the three-year retreat. Their teachers bank on their followers to have faith in them and the followers foolishly think that it is enough just having guru devotion alone (and nothing else). Year-in and year -out the teachers do not teach them much about meditation, and merely give them the basics, some initiations, some pujas, and just these, they think their teachers are really very high attained Buddhas. Sometimes these teachers give highest yoga tantra, and the followers who took them do nothing more than reciting the sadhana six times a day, without much meditation into each session. Even after many years, nothing much has come out of all their practice. And yet, these people do not question themselves. I am not trying to downplay the importance of basics, initiations, sadhanas and pujas, but without a more deeper meditation practice, and developing samatha-vipassana, the root of samsara cannot be severed.

Over here, I am surrounded by sights and sounds and yet my thoughts are with those people experiencing the peace at Mu Sang Sa. My thoughts are also with Geshe Tenzin Zopa doing his ngondros and the wandering Sakyo Mipham Rinpoche experiencing the serenity of his natural green environment. Perhaps one day I shall join them. One day. For me, next year I will probably take on a lower profile. I am not sure what this means, yet. Perhaps I shall cut down on my blog posts. I don't know yet. But I shall endevour to be less visible and lay low for a while. I think I can have one or two more posts for the year before it ends... but we shall see.  

Side Topic
Recently I also feel sad when I read that the First Lady of USA wanted to be her pet dog in her next life. From a Buddhist perspective, wishing to become an animal, no matter how comfortable an animal's life may seem, is a huge "No". Someone better advice her to wish to be human or angel instead. Regardless of whether she actually believed in rebirth or reincarnation or not, it is not good to plant the psychological "seed" in her own mind of wanting to be an animal. Nothing you wished for, even casually goes unnoticed by our own sub-conscious mind. We should be careful what we wish for.

Refer the news here:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Words of Encouragement for Korean Buddhists

A religious booth in Korea
Korean Buddhism is reported to be in decline. Buddhists use to make up a large percentage of the population in Korea but in terms of total Christians (both Protestants and Catholics combined), Buddhists are now in second place. The popularity of Christianity is evident from the many Korean artists who are seen wearing crosses and from their profile are in fact Christians. In their hotels, guests are provided with two books, one is the Holy Bible, and the other a Buddhist book which is a compilation of Buddhist teachings. Christianity is so "rampant" in Korea that at one time, there were news about the Korean "Moon sect" based on Christianity. Now we hear less of this sect. When I was in a popular street shopping destination in Seoul, I came across a small stall or booth with loud speakers blaring away their Christian gospel. There was no Buddhist booth there. From a Buddhist point of view, there is no need to go to that extent to promote Buddhism. Buddhists do not "sell" Buddhism like hawkers selling noodle soup on the roadside. A lot of Christians go on a missionary by peddling across the country on bicycles to preach the Word of God. They take their missionary very seriously. That is why in Malaysia, the Muslims are wary of their activities. Both are strong religions with many followers world-wide. So, Buddhists stay out of their way.

Even though Buddhism are contended to be in second place, we must do our part to protect the religion from further erosion. One way Koreans can defend themselves from over-zealous Christians is to have faith that only in Buddhism can we really attain Enlightenment and free ourselves from the bondage of suffering within this life itself. For us, Buddhists, the godly heaven is not our final destination. Since the time of Gautama Buddha, many Buddhists have achieved Enlightenment and demonstrated their deep wisdom by elaborating and going deeper into the teachings of Gautama Buddha. Enlightened Buddhists have also understood the real nature of phenomena in ways that people of other religions can never fully comprehend. Many Christians try to understand Buddhism by studying us, but when they study, they study with a skewed view and preconception. That is why they always fail to understand the Enlightenment of the Buddha. For example, they will never fully understand what we mean by Emptiness. But it is okay. We are not interested in converting anybody. If you are interested in Buddhism, you convert yourself by making the first move. But Buddhism will never be as evangelical as the Christians. We stay true to the ideals of Buddhism and stay low to avoid conflict with any religions. It is usually other religions who find fault with Buddhism, such as the Muslims who destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues. Many Korean temples have been burned by these extreme Christians as you can read from many news links. Even Hwa Gye Sa temple was not spared and was said to have been burned at least 3 times in the past. The Christian President of South Korea was said to be also not "Buddhist-friendly" and allegedly implemented policies to the disadvantage of Buddhism. These are atrocious acts and I am concerned that the Korean Buddhists may one day not be able to take it anymore and but become like those Sri Lankan monks who burnt churches due to conversions to Christianity that are seen as unethical. You must remember that Sri Lanka has always been a Buddhist country for many centuries and suddenly Christianity comes in and tries to convert the Buddhists there. As Buddhists, we never practice the hatred against other religions and never regard other religions as evil. Even if Buddhist convert to other religions, we never regard these converted Buddhists as a apostate. This is unlike other religions where apostasy exist. Buddhists will tolerate as long as the conversions are not aggressively done and certainly not in the manner of hatred thrown to Buddhism by burning down our temples and saying to the Buddhists that Buddhism is an evil and incorrect religion. In that sense, these Sri Lankan monks are only retaliating against the Christians there and not because of spreading the Buddhist religion or regarding the other religion as evil. On the other hand, when people of other religions burn the Buddhist temples and statues, they are doing that in the name of their religion and regarding Buddhism as incorrect religion. Hence this is the difference between the Buddhist monks who burnt down the churches in Sri Lanka and the many Christians who vandalised and burned Buddhist temples all over Korea. So when other religions points out that all religions have extremists, I am inclined to think that yes, it's still wrong to burn down house of worship of other temples but these are acts not to be regarded in the same light as "extremists" of other religions who actually does all that in the name of religion. Buddhists do not burn down other house of worship to spread the Buddha's teachings. At least I have not heard of it. If there are, let me know. Anyway, we should never retaliate against what they did. We leave that to their own karma. We do what we can and try our best to achieve enlightenment. For it is only in achieving enlightenment that others can be convinced that the Buddha's teaching of liberation from samsara is real. Many people have achieved enlightenment in the past and many people in the future will too. Koreans must be convinced that enlightenment is real and therefore, the Buddha's message in the Four Noble Truths is real. No amount of talking can replace a true experience of enlightenment. Only in this way can we truly protect the Buddhist teaching. No point in fighting with others. But it is because of what Christianity do to Buddhism in Korea and the dire situation Korean Buddhists are facing now, that I am writing some words of encouragement to them. This blog post is to be read with this in mind.  

So, to Korean Buddhists, I have said enough. All of the above and in this paragraph are mainly written to encourage you guys not to give up so easily on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. These three precious jewels are more precious than anything you can find in this world and in the heaven. So, if somebody promise that you can go to heaven if you convert to their religion, say to him/her that we are not interested. It is because we already are in possession of the best and most precious of all jewels, and that is our faith in the Triple Gem. It is the only thing that can save us from the woes of rebirth. Enlightenment is real. Rebirth is real.  Do not let anyone tell you there is none. If one though can continue to the next thought, then rebirth is real. The last thought of this present life, do not just disappear or sleep. It continues into the next thought, but only thing in a different body. Stay true to Buddhism and remember to avoid evil, do good and purify the mind. For these three things are the essence of the Buddhist teachings. Most religions have the first two, but do they have the third? I am not so sure. And that is basically why we should never convert to another religion. Only in Buddhism can we find the full "tools and manual" to purify our mind to the fullest extent possible. So, Korean Buddhists, I encourage you not to give up! Om Mani Padme Hum. May All Beings be Well and Happy! 

For more info on the problems that Korean Buddhism is facing, read these links:

(note: this particular blog post is only meant for the eyes and ears of the Korean Buddhists and not for anyone else, and certainly not for people of other religions! It is not meant to find fault with other religions but only as an encouragement to fellow Buddhists)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Master Won Hyo and the Moral Issue

You can refer to the full story of the ancient Korean Zen Master Won Hyo at various links such as this :

When I was at Mu Sang Sa, there was a wall painting of this ancient master. I was briefed by Zen Master Dae Bong on his story. I forgot exactly what I asked but think I asked ZM Dae Bong after that whether one has to go through this process of breaking through good and bad in order to reach the great perfect enlightenment. Perhaps he knew what was in my mind and immediately emphasised that Master Won Hyo did the right thing to disrobe after that and never went back to the brothel. ZM Dae Bong then said he lived in Paris at one time and Paris is a very romantic country with many pretty girls. He also had a girl friend once. And he is still a monk. His point being not every once attaining enlightenment need to go have sex at the brothel or with another woman. 

Wall Painting of Master
Won Hyo at Mu Sang Sa
And I must add that I realise yesterday that the woman that Won Hyo had sex with was a prostitute. Although I found out that he also had sex with a princess and had a son from the relationship after he disrobed, the fact was that Won Hyo was specifically led to having sex by his master. He did not go to the brothel girl out of his own desires. His master saw his ability to led hell beings and that led him to committing actions that will indeed lead him there. So, I think those sex actions were deliberately done in order to go to hell. And Master Won Hyo was well aware of that. And moreover, I found out that Master Won Hyo had such an acute bodhicitta in him that he started his own brand of Pure Land teachings for the Korean masses. He realised that meditation was probably too "unreachable" for most people and Zen had not yet reach Korea at his time. So, for Master Won Hyo, having sex was an act of great compassion. However, for present day masters who have sex, were they led to the girls due to a spiritual reason (such as to rescue those girls just like Master Won Hyo) or was it due to traces of sexual desires that still remain? I cannot answer that but this is the distinction I want to point out between Zen Master Won Hyo and other present day masters (including Tibetan Buddhist Masters) who like to use ancient master's actions or the teachings of tantra to justify their own sexual actions. Perhaps some of our present time masters have that special compassion too to commit actions that will send them to the lower realms on a compassion mission to save those beings there. Or, perhaps they could be practising a kind of Tibetan Buddhist tantra that requires a female partner. However, if we do not have that special ability and if we have not reached that level of enlightenment, then we better stick to saving sentient beings on the Planet Earth. And even if we do have that special ability and specific beings may require the masters to act in a certain "immoral" way, but our Planet Earth commonly demands that humans comply with certain decency and moral deportment, monks or otherwise. I am sure even some of our present Zen Masters have that same level of attainment as Master Won Hyo but maybe not everybody. But the principle of moral decency (in spite of bodhicitta) is true and applicable even for tantra. So, Masters still need to be discreet in their actions even though the "actions" may be correct spiritually. This issue is a very complicated one. While I cannot judge the actions of ancient or present Masters, and I respect all of them, I will remind myself of what I have posted before, i.e. Avoid Evil, Do Good & Purify the Mind. The intention of this blog post is basically to remind myself. As I said, I cannot judge the actions of ancient or present masters. I only need to make sure I do no wrong.

Note: the picture posted above of Master Won Hyo was taken by me and tells of the Master telling his friend that he need not go to China anymore.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


On 15 December 2011, the above teaching, which is the teaching of all Buddhas of the three times, had gained a deeper significance as far as I am concerned. A comment by Ven. Boon Keng had struck me that it is necessary for us to avoid non-virtuous actions, even after we have attained enlightenment. If we don’t avoid non-virtuous actions, we will have a down-fall. It is said that unless we are an eighth level Bodhisattva, then we must absolutely comply with morality. It is not to say that at levels above the eighth stage of Bodhisattva that we can ignore morality. No. Rather, at that level, good and bad are seen in the different light. Good and bad are used to help sentient beings more compassionately than ever before. So, when we hear teachings that say good and bad are transcended, it does not mean there is no good and bad anymore or there is no demarcation between what is good and what is bad. They are just regarded or used differently. At that time, we are no longer concerned with what happens to ourselves since at that time, we are no longer affected by self-interest. For breaking the precepts, we shall gladly go to the hell regions for even one sentient being. We shall have the ability to help sentient beings then. The story of the ancient Korean Zen Master Won Hyo comes to mind. I will comment on that story in a later blog. But until that level of attainment, we must comply with the common standard of morality. This is basically the message intended by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen’s Permissions and Prohibitions, but it never gained a deeper impression until lately. Hence, for the first time, when I bowed to the Three Jewels, I actually bowed respectively to “avoid evil”, “do good” and “purify the mind”. Even though it is the most basic teaching of the Buddha, it is also the highest. Maybe I should recite this everyday so that it sticks in my mind. It is possibly the most efficacious protective "mantra" one could ever get. And there is no need for any empowerment to recite this “mantra”. Everyone should recite it daily, less we forget it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Visit to Mu Sang Sa, Korea

The main altar at the Buddha Hall
After my tour officially ended, my first stop the next day on a personal visit was to Mu Sang Sa. As I was staying in Seoul and not Daejeon as originally planned, my original plan to reach there before 12 noon was screwed. I had to seek some public help at the subway station near my guesthouse and also the Seoul main station to find my way to Yongsan station before going to Gye Ryong by train. The train journey took about 2 hours and I had expected only one hour. I bought the slower train due to ignorance at the ticket counter instead of the faster KTX train, which would have taken only 1 hour to reach Gye Ryong station. It was difficult to communicate in Korea as English is not commonly spoken there as widely as in Malaysia and Singapore. It was like chickens talking to ducks on many of these occasions. The few phrases that I had prepared before the trip were not enough. But thankfully Koreans are very helpful and generous people. Several of the Koreans I approached had even offered to walk us all the way to show us the direction, even though he/she was not going there in the first place. I was deeply touched by their helpful attitude. Anyway, after reaching Gye Ryong station, I took the taxi outside the station to go to Mu Sang Sa and it costs me about KRW8700.

The roof as seen from inside the Buddha Hall

Mu Sang Sa was up on the hills of Gye Ryong, slightly away from Omsa-ri, a small sub-urban town about 15 minutes travel time by car. Along the way to the temple, there was some snow at that time and the scenery was indeed peaceful. According to information publicly available, the Gye Ryong region is widely known for its spiritual energy being a fengshui balanced geography. The Zen Hall greeted us as the taxi cruised into the compound of Mu Sang Sa. We reported to the secretary on duty at the administrative office upon arrival and were quickly ushered to the dining hall for lunch. After lunch, we went back to the office where there is a small meeting room. There we had tea and some fruits with Zen Master Dae Bong. By then, there was a break and he had come out of the meditation session. I felt deeply touched by his kind gesture to take time off from the meditation retreat to talk and provide useful information on the temple buildings. He provided a tour of Mu Sang Sa and going in to most of the buildings, except for the Zen Hall where retreat participants were then under-going strict meditation schedule and are not to be disturbed.

The temples are beautifully designed both on the exterior as well as the interior. They generally reflect Korean architecture similar to other Korean temples. But the Buddha Hall had giant dragon heads on the eaves, different from the Zen Hall. These heads were also not found in Jo Gye Sa (the temple of the Jogye order located within the Seoul city) or Hwa Gye Sa (the other temple of the late Master Seung Sahn but still under the Jogye lineage or order). Along the walls on the exterior as well as interior are large mural paintings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or pictures that depict a certain Buddhist story. At the Buddha Hall, on the four sides of the exterior wall are paintings that depict the ten ox-herding pictures. This is a popular Zen guide to meditation practice. Mu Sang Sa was different from even Hwa Gye Sa as I was informed that Mu Sang Sa was a privately acquired asset and are not subjected the assets of the Jogye order. Local folks tell of the region having a harmonious Ying and Yang energy, represented by the dragons and phoenixes folk stories. There were also two paths coming down the mountains and one was representing the phoenix energy and the other from the opposite side representing the dragon energy. So, these energy paths envelope Mu Sang Sa in a perfect balance of harmonious fengshui, creating a suitable environment for spiritual practice. Zen Master Dae Bong explained that when Master Seung Sahn went to the site many years ago, he immediately knew that the spot was the best fengshui location. He immediately recommended that a temple be built there. It was then that efforts were made to find out more about the land ownership to enable future land acquisition. As per Zen Master Dae Bong, it started out from the current small office block. Then more buildings were added until what it is today. There are still future plans to develop Mu Sang Sa to accommodate more practitioners. As the adjacent land is said to be very expensive, any future developments will depend hugely on donations or contributions from the individuals or corporations. Thus far, from my personal observation, Mu Sang Sa has positively developed the temple site by constructing the Zen Hall, Buddha Hall, protector shrine, as well as the kitchen and accommodation block for participants coming for the summer and winter retreats. They were able to focus on their spiritual practice without much hindrance due to all these facilities. And these practitioners come from all over the world. All the retreats organised so far had been made possible due to the contributions they had received. I would urge large corporations, especially Korean large conglomerates to support the development of Mu Sang Sa as I feel that real practice is indeed going on in that temple. The temples built there are really meant for hard practice and not to build a beautiful temple or statue as tourist attraction. So, any contribution to Mu Sang Sa is indeed a contribution to the development of Buddhism and a support to serious practitioners whose goal is achieving liberation from samsara.

As the temple tour almost ended, we suddenly saw a strange plant with yellow and white flowers still in full blossom even though it is already winter. The plant should have withered in the winter chill. But weirdly, it is still surviving. Zen Master Dae Bong suggested I take a picture of it and I did. Is there a Zen significance to this phenomena? I do not know. Anyway, if this is a sign of blessing from Master Seung Sahn, then I thank him from the bottom of my heart. Only from his blessings was my trip to Korea made possible. Dinner for the retreat participants was at 4.30pm but I did not stay on for that. My partner and I thanked Dae Bong Sunim and left for the Gye Ryong train station at about 4.45pm by taxi.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hwa Gye Sa and Mu Sang Sa

Today I returned from my trip to Korea and these two verses capture my thoughts and feelings after visiting these 2 temples which are associated with the late Zen Master Seung Sahn.
Hwa Gye Sa Temple Arch

1. Hwa Gye Sa
Abandoning likes and dislikes, practitioners focus their mind inward.
Travelling to Hwa Gye Sa to meet the Master again after many years,
Bowing deeply at the relics and stupa recalling his kindness,
The Master is no longer there, but yet his presence is everywhere.

Buddha Hall, Mu Sang Sa
2. Mu Sang Sa
Dragons and phoenixes adorn the temple of Mu Sang Sa.
They live in harmony in Mount Gye Ryong,
Protected by a Grandfather who rides on a tiger,
The lonely summer flower blooms in the winter chill.

1. The first poem describes my main purpose of travelling to Hwa Gye Sa. The dharma talk for that day was by Zen Master Dae Jin who talked about likes and dislikes and how these are impermanent concepts. While there, I was shown the former room of the late Master Seung Sahn. Many of his items are still there. Bowing at his stupa was a touching moment for me as I decided to stop corresponding with him years ago because I really did not understand what he was saying then. I decided that I should find out more and understand deeper before I write another meaningless letter to him. But ... Alas! Now that I have got a little bit of understanding, he is no longer around. But yet, I have got this feeling, that all this was made possible with his blessings. And I am not the only person who has felt his deep influence to so many people till today. In that sense, his presence is felt everywhere. The first picture shows the large arch leading to the temples inside Hwa Gye Sa.
Lonely Summer Flower

2. The second poem describes Mu Sang Sa where the Buddha Hall was adorned with many heads of Dragons. Even though I have seen temples with dragon heads before, but these heads are really very big. They reminded me of the dream I had before I had even heard of this temple. So I was quite surprised when I first discovered from a picture in the internet before my trip that Mu Sang Sa has the same big dragon heads as the temple in my dream. So I said I got to go see it for myself. But that was about October 2010, i.e. last year. It was only this year that I heard of the name "Mu Sang Sa". Very strange. There are also many phoenixes, especially the inner side of the temple roof. I was informed by Zen Master Dae Bong that the spiritual energy at the temple site, which is at Mount Gye Ryong, is strong owing to the harmony of Ying and Yang “chi”. I was informed that the local Korean folks believe in the protection of a local spirit pictured as an old man with a tiger (rarely as an old woman). When Buddhism came, he was regarded as a protector and Buddhist temples often has a separate shrine for him. While there in the temple, myself and Zen Master Dae Bong saw a small plant that should have been dead by then due to the cold winter conditions. I was told it usually grows in the hotter season. It was the only plant with flowers there. The other plants around it were dead (withered), except that one. Zen Master Dae Bong suggested I take a picture of it for posterity. And I did. So it was indeed a strange sight.The second picture is the Buddha Hall at Mu Sang Sa. The third picture is that of the flower plant that still survive the winter. As you can see, it is not surrounded by other similar plant. All photos here are taken by me.