We are All Like Rocks

An excerpt from a letter written by Mu Bul Su Nim from Korea: Before Soen Sa Nim left Korea, we had the great fortune to meet Mrs. So. She has been working for almost a year on getting a bell made for the Providence Zen Center. She went to great trouble and expense to find the right poet and sculptor and foundrymen to do the job. We happened to be here in Seoul just when everything came together, on the day the bell was to be cast. We took a long taxi ride to the town where the foundry was and we all watched for about an hour as the men very carefully assembled the mold. The form for the inside shape of the bell was in one piece, but the outside was made up of three collar-like pieces which had to be placed over the inside form just so. The master foundryman checked each step very carefully. This bell is very big, about six feet tall, and a single mistake at this time would mean a whole year's work shot to hell, so the tension could almost be felt as the final piece of the mold was put in place.

Then, very quickly, the men rushed around getting the chain falls ready to carry the pot of molten bronze and to pour the bronze from the furnaces outside. Then, as they started pouring the red hot liquid from the furnaces into the pouring pot, Soen Sa Nim said something like this, "Originally this metal was ugly rocks. Then the rocks were heated for a long time over a very hot fire until finally they became liquid. Now this liquid will be poured into a mold and take the shape of a big beautiful bell, and when it cools someone will strike the bell and the beautiful sound will fill the whole universe."

Then everything was ready and the men started pouring the liquid bronze into the mold. They poured from two pots, from both sides, and they were very careful to pour both at the same speed, and not to spill. Two men guided each pot which was supported by a chain fall, and their faces were wet with sweating from the work. It seemed it would take forever to fill the huge mold, but finally the master foundryman gave the order to stop pouring and the men backed off the pouring pots. It wasn't quite done yet though. On a Korean temple bell, there is a tube coming out of the top of the bell which carries the air out of the bell when it is struck, making it resonate choong .... like a wa, wa, wongwongwongwong .... chong.

This had to be filled from the top, so one of the men took a longhandled ladle filled from one of the pouring pots and slowly and carefully filled the tube until the red metal overflowed onto the top of the mold.

Then it was finished. The whole room breathed a sigh of relief. The master foundryman was happy. He said the pouring had gone well.

"So," Soen Sa Nim said, "we are all like rocks. And when we practice hard we heat up our hearts making a big hot flame which melts our condition, situation, and opinion until we become like molten metal, ready to assume the shape of a great Bodhisattva, who, when struck with a cry for help, makes a big, deep sound which resonates and fills the whole universe, and makes everybody happy."

So I hope you keep such a mind, and save all people from suffering.