About Self-Nature

A woman once asked Zen Master Seung Sahn, “Do you believe in God?”

“Of course!”

She became perplexed. “You are a Buddhist monk, and a Zen master, at that. How can you possibly believe in God?”

“I can believe my hands. I believe in my eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Why not believe in God? If you believe in your true self completely, then you can believe that the sky is blue, the tree is green, the dog is barking ‘Woof! Woof!’ It’s very simple, yah?”
The woman was silent for a moment.

Zen Master Seung Sahn continued, “Buddhism teaches, ‘One by one, each thing is complete.’ That means that your mind is complete. How is your mind complete? (Hits the floor with his Zen stick.) Just this point. Did you hear that? (Hits the floor.) That point is already complete. If you’re thinking, it’s not complete. But in this moment (hits the floor), just hear that sound. At that moment, this sound and you (hits the floor) already become one, which means you and the universe already become one. This means there’s no subject, no object; no inside, no outside. Inside and outside already become one. The name for that is absolute, or truth.

“So if you keep this mind (hits the floor), your mind is already complete. The sun, the moon, the stars, and everything are already complete. Your sound and my sound are the same. This sound (hits the floor) is your substance: this sound’s substance and your substance already become one; my substance and this sound’s substance already become one. It’s the same substance as the sun, the moon, and the stars—any substance is the same substance. So Buddhism teaches, ‘Each thing has it. It and dust interpenetrate.’ This means that sound’s substance, and name and form, already become one. Let us consider ice, water, and steam. The names and forms are different, but fundamentally it is all still H2O. Water is H2O. Ice is H2O. Steam is also H2O. Name and form are different, and constantly change according to conditions, but the substance is the same.”

“But this seems so difficult, and not related at all to the question of God,” the woman said.

“Put it all down, OK? If you’re thinking, this seems very difficult. If you’re not thinking, it’s no problem. If you’re thinking, you make ‘I’,’my,’ and ‘me.’ Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Thinking makes I; thinking makes everything. But if you are not thinking, then what? When you are thinking, you make this whole universe, you make everything. And then ‘I’ and ‘God’ and ‘Buddha’ and everything are separate. But if you keep this point (hits the floor)—this moment—then you and God are never separate. It’s very easy, yah?”

Additional metaphor:  “cover the world with leather…”