Inka Speech

April 24, 2016 at Mu Sang Sa Temple, Korea [Raises the Zen stick over her head, then hits the table with the stick.] Cause is result. Result is cause.

[Raises the Zen stick over her head, then hits the table with the stick.] No cause, no result.

[Raises the Zen stick over her head, then hits the table with the stick.] Cause is cause. Result is result.

Of these three statements, which one is correct?


The sun shines outside and the weather is warm.

As some of you know, I was born in Turkey, and growing up, I was going around and around to many different countries. Actually my first language is English, but I learned hangul, the Korean alphabet, from an early age so I could read and write in Korean. I never really had a chance to learn Chinese characters. Most of you know that hangul was invented by the Korean king Sejong. His picture is on the 10,000-won note. When King Sejong came into power in the 15th century, he had a big aspiration to help all people learn to read and write. To achieve that, a secret society of scholars and supporters had to carry out his mission, because once he decided to make the alphabet, he got much opposition from his own supporters. When he had become king, all his supporters were helping him to create a neo-Confucian society in Korea. Buddhism had already been in Korea for almost a thousand years. Making a written language available to common people, and not just aristocrats, the wealthy and educated, came with great opposition from those with power. King Sejong had eight brilliant scholars who worked to invent this alphabet in secret. One of them was his own son. Intelligent, bright, well educated, talented and creative, he was also a great swordsman, skilled in horseriding and a brave warrior. He loved his father very much and supported him on his mission. One day, this 20-year-old beautiful son suddenly fell ill and very quickly died. Totally unexpected. For the king, it was the greatest suffering of his life. “How come my most precious son died, who has so much ahead of him? I could have given him this whole kingdom. Why does he die before me?” The king fell into great remorse, deep sorrow and suffering. Some time passed, and in his suffering he slowly began to recognize something. When he came into power trying to establish Confucianism, he had to weaken Buddhism. To do that, he destroyed many Buddhist temples, confiscated temple wealth and treasures and even banned Buddhist monks and nuns from entering the capital for many years. Ultimately, Buddhism declined and he became powerful. When his son died, it really hit his mind. “Ah, what happened here?” The correlation of deep personal suffering on the inside and the suffering created throughout Korea when he destroyed many aspects of Buddhism in the past—he recognized this as cause and result. Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “Cause and effect is always clear.” It’s only clear when we really attain that. King Sejong continued his mission to create hangul, and actually the alphabet was completed despite strong opposition because several Buddhist temples gave his scholars refuge for the mission to be carried out in secret. Not only that, he later built many temples and even established an examination for sunims’ training. When his beloved queen died, he bestowed the most beautiful 49-day ceremony for her and nationally declared it as the most important ceremony be given to loved ones. Cause and effect is always clear. When we see our results, what do we do? I’m one of the people who can read dharma in hangul, thanks to King Sejong’s wide compassion. He gave that freedom. Ironically, when I started practicing, I learned it in English. My first encounter with the Kwan Um School of Zen was at the Paris Zen Center, meeting Zen Master Wu Bong and having my first kong-an interview. Receiving primary-point teaching in English from a Polish-Jewish Zen master in Paris. After many years, here we are now all together in Gyeryongsan Mountain, talking about Zen in English with people from many different countries. As we know, Zen Master Seung Sahn knew Chinese characters very well, and he was also well versed in Buddhist sutras. Yet when he went to America, he had to learn English and start from zero. It was through English that he could teach anyone outside of Asia. He didn’t try to learn English to be perfect at it, but instead he used whatever appeared and turned it into teaching in the simplest language possible. That was the most effective way he could teach. Even in language, he chewed, digested and gave the dharma to us so we could swallow it smoothly. What really makes people great? I say great because King Sejong was posthumously named Sejong Dae Wang, “King Sejong the Great.” Zen Master Seung Sahn, our founding teacher, we call him Dae Soen Sa Nim, “Great Zen Master.” There are many Zen masters and many kings. Not many of them are remembered as a great king, a great being, a great teacher or a great Zen master. Also, these two didn’t actually aspire for greatness. What made them great was their big vow and direction. King Sejong’s direction was to help all people without distinction to become educated. Zen Master Seung Sahn’s direction was to save all beings from suffering, without distinction, beyond culture, language, nationality, gender, color, beyond any differences. When all of those beings, when all people benefit, then this great appears naturally, just like the sun gives us warmth. What’s most important is that we don’t leave anybody behind. I am truly grateful for this teaching because I would have been one of those people who would be left behind if it wasn’t for the benevolence and compassion of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s very wide, compassionate, deep and loving dharma that holds everything. During the three-year memorial of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s death several years ago, there was a big ceremony at Mu Sang Sa Temple, and about 200 people from all over the world came to Korea. During that time we visited one temple, Dong Hwa Sa, near Daegu on Palgongsan Mountain. We got off the bus and the abbot, a Korean monk, was going to welcome all 200 of us, give a dharma speech and share some tea. This temple has beautiful grounds with some bridges, and we had to walk about 15 minutes through the gardens to get to a big hall where we were to meet the abbot. As we were trying to get there, the big group was slowed down naturally; some had to go to the toilet, others had jet lag, still others were disoriented and tired. I was one of the volunteers helping. Hye Tong Sunim was up ahead of me, perfectly organizing everything. At one point, he came down the steps and said to me, “Bosalnim, can you make sure that everyone comes quickly? The abbot is already here and we are late. He will give his speech soon.” I replied, ‘Yes, yes, Sunim!” I rushed down and tried to get the people to come up quickly. The crowd was moving and I could see they were trying hard but inside my chest was this rush, “Come on guys! The sunims are waiting!” Then, Zen Master Soeng Hyang came up the stairs with a group of people behind her. Beckoning them, I yelled, “ Come on guys!” And Zen Master Soeng Hyang looked at me and said, “Kathy, Jean is back there, really far away. Her foot is injured and she’s not going to be able to walk so fast. Don’t leave anybody behind, OK?” When I heard that, I totally stopped. I saw all the people coming up and all the rush inside me suddenly disappeared. Inside my heart was this echo: “Don’t leave anybody behind.” “Don’t leave anybody behind” is a teaching for that part in each of us that leaves ourselves behind, the part that doesn’t believe in ourselves. When we don’t believe in ourselves, we leave someone else behind. This is a very ordinary thing that happens all the time. Leaving someone else behind. So, believing in ourselves, we can save all beings from suffering.

[Raises the Zen stick over her head, then hits the table with the stick.] Great is ordinary, ordinary is great.

[Raises the Zen stick over her head, then hits the table with the stick.] No great. No ordinary.

[Raises the Zen stick over her head, then hits the table with the stick.] Great is great. Ordinary is ordinary.

Which one do you like?


It’s wonderful to see so many great dharma friends all together here. Thank you very much.