Inka Speech, Arne Schaefer

[Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick] Zen is rooted in Buddhism and in Taoism.

Buddhism teaches; first get enlightenment then instruct all beings.

Taoism teaches to live a life in perfect harmony with the universe.

[Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick]

The sixth patriarch of the Zen Lineage, Hui Neng, said "originally nothing". That means originally no Zen, no Buddhism, no Taoism, no roots.

[Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick]

But aren't roots very important? Without roots how do we know where our place is? Without roots, how can you get energy and grow?


Look outside: After a long, cold winter, all the trees are at their place and new green leaves are growing.

Standing here in front of you and giving my first Dharma speech as a JDPSN is something special. Coming to that point was a long way somehow. There were two incidents in my life that were very important and I would like to share with you.

First, I grew up in a small town in the middle of Germany, everything was fine as far as I could understand it at that time. A few months before my eighteenth birthday, I had to learn that my mother has got serious blood cancer and is going to die soon. Although my mother had blood cancer already for several years, I didn't know it, because but my parents thought it would have been better not to tell me when I was a child. Then, when it got serious I had to learn that my mother might die from it soon. On the rational side I of course understood, but my heart could not. She was always there and I could not imagine a life without her. I remember that I talked with my mother about death and she said she was not afraid of death, but of all the pain that might be caused by the metastases. My sister, my father and I were sharing the times at her bed when the doctors told us it is going to be very critical. At the night when she died it was my time to be there at the hospital, a one hour drive from home. I called my father and sister at night to come. So short before her death I felt like it is ok to let her go, she would finally find peace after all the pain she had endured. My family came and we stood around our mum. I was holding her hand and I could feel her pulse getting weaker and weaker and than vanished. At that moment my heart completely fell apart. That was a kind of pain I have never experienced before, I even didn't know about! Leaving hospital and my dead mother behind it felt like I have completely lost the ground under my feet, I felt completely uprooted.

Zen Master Seung Sahn has always taught, a good situation is a bad situation, a bad situation is a good situation. At that time of course I didn't know that, I just felt this tremendous suffering and I was looking for help. I needed an answer for the purpose of life; anything had become so meaningless for me.

So I started to look around. After a while I made a decision to go on a longer journey and traveled to Asia. My family was not so unhappy, they were afraid letting me go so far away, but also accepted my strong wish, although I could not explain well why I wanted to go. In Indonesia I visited Buddhist Temples like the Borobudur and in India I stayed a while in McLeod Ganj, a village up the hills of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and many Tibetans are living in their Indian exile. I visited some lectures and got some basic teachings about Buddhism and Meditation. Back in Germany I was seeking for a sangha and started with the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition. But soon it felt like this is not yet my practice and I continued looking around.

Then I moved to Berlin and started to study religious studies and philosophy. One day a friend said to me there would be a Zen talk nearby at a museum and asked me, if I would join him going there. So there I was sitting in the audience and met the first people from the Berlin Zen Center and the first teacher of the Kwan Um School of Zen, Zen Master Wu Bong. Poep Mu JDPSN was talking about this famous Kong-an of an old woman burning a hermitage. Most of you know this story: this old lady was supporting a monk for ten years and after ten years she wanted to find out, what he had attained. So she sends her beautiful daughter in beautiful clothes to test this monk. This daughter presented all the nice gifts her mother had given her to the monk and he was very grateful. Just when he said "your mother is such great bodhisattva supporting me for such a long time" the young girl set on his lap embraced him and asked him: "How do you feel now?" He said "rotten log on cold stone, no warmth in winter." So this young girl thought, wow, this is a great monk! She went back to her mother and told her: "he is a great monk, he has a strong center, his mind is not moving, and he must have attained something!" Her mother just said, I am not interested if he has a strong center, I want to know, what he said.  Then the girl told her, what he had answered. Upon hearing that the mother got very furious, run up the hill to hermitage, beat the monk with a stick out of the hermitage, yelling at him: "Get out of here! I was feeding a demon for ten years" and burnt down the hermitage.

When Poep Mu JDPSN told this story he of course asked the audience, what was the mistake of this monk? Why did this old woman get so furious and beat him out of the hermitage? I was sitting in the audience thinking: "I don't understand! Why did she do this? He was really so strongly practicing; he had a not moving center!" This case caused a big question in my mind. So there was the hook and I have swallowed it. Poep Mu JDPSN had talked about this Don't Know and this summer in which I met him I did several YMJJs and the summer Kyol Che in Warsaw, I really wanted to find out about this Don't Know. The following winter I went to Korea to sit Kyol Che in Shin Won Sah Tempel. It is very wonderful, that today there are several friends present with which I spend the Shin Won Sah retreat, even Zen Master Dae Bong (at that time Do Mun Sunim JDPSN) who was leading his first Kyol Che at that time is here!

The beginning of the three month retreat was very difficult. You did not have mobile phones or an internet connection as I can see nowadays everyone has and uses during Kyol Che. We all had to stay for the whole three months, there were no people coming and going. After a while I got used to the everyday schedule, looking at the calendar and seeing how all the many days that we still had to go became less and less painful - there was an everyday routine and each evening I was surprised another day had gone. In the middle of the retreat we had the intensive week before Buddhas enlightenment day. We would have only three hours of sleep and the last night we would sit all night through. During this intensive week there was suddenly a moment, where thinking was completely gone. There was silence and peace inside of me I had never experienced before. I got a taste of Don't Know - finally I got a taste of our true root, the root of all of us and the root of the whole universe. Until than it just made sense to me, but that moment was hitting me. With this moment came this wish, that everyone could make this kind of experience for just a part of a second. Then his whole world would be different! We all want to by happy, but we don't know where to find true happiness and do so many things that can't help us. That is our tragedy! If anyone would just get a glimpse of it, would connect with its true roots for a millisecond than we would know where to find true happiness. It is always there, it is always available. That moment was a very strong mind medicine I got from this retreat and it was the answer to my questions. Actually I was thinking of becoming a monk at that time, because I was so grateful for this experience that I wanted to encourage others to make the same experience. At the end of the retreat I was asking Dharma Master Do Mun Sunim about becoming a monk and he said, that I have to understand my karma. Becoming a monk might be a great mistake. That was really a very good answer for me! I went back home to Germany and thought, if I have the karma, than it will turn out, if not than not. And as you see, it didn't, but the wish to support others to start and continue practicing was always with me.

During the last two weeks that I was attending the Winter Kyol Che here in Won Kwan Sah I did consulting interviews and some older Students, even Dharma Teachers in long robes, asked me: How did it come you did not stop practicing? Why did you continue? I guess all of us know these doubts about practicing, when our checking is very strong and we think that our efforts should bring more results than only Don't Know. This experience of stillness and happiness connected with this strong wish that everyone could only get a little taste of that kept me going. Anytime I was back in the land of suffering from my thinking I remembered that moment of perfect stillness and unlimited compassion. So I really believe in our practice and in what we are doing. And since that moment it has always been the challenge, to keep the balance in life. The right amount of time you spend with practicing, with your sangha, with your family, at your job, with your friends. With time it all comes together.

So I am very pleased to have this great honour to become a teacher in this tradition and I feel very happy to continue to practice with all of you. And as many have already told me, this is just the beginning for me. I want to thank you all for helping me so far and for continuously practicing together and doing it with the right spirit for all sentient beings. Finally I want to express my gratitude to my teachers and especially to Wu Bong Soen Sa Nim, who has guided me until today and has always helped me. If I had a question, I always got good advice from him. I want to encourage you all, if you ever have a question, please be open hearted and address your teachers and sangha friends.[1]

[Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick]

In Zen we say everything is already complete, everything already has it.

That means harmony is complete and also disharmony is complete.

Harmony is disharmony, disharmony is harmony

[Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick]

In this hit, no harmony, no disharmony

[Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick]

Harmony is harmony, disharmony is disharmony. So which of these three statements is correct?


I am very happy to see you all from all over this world sitting here together in harmony in this Dharma Hall. Thank you.

[1] I am very sorry that I forgot at that moment to express my gratitude to my wife also. I catched up doing that at the party at Berlin Zen Center the week after my inka ceremony. Thank you Irmi, for all your love and support!