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What is Ganhwa Seon :

"Ganhwa Seon" means the meditation practice (Seon) that investigates or questions (gan) a great topic of inquiry (hwa). This topic of inquiry is called "Hwadu," which all the Buddhas and old patriarchs had revealed their awakened Dharma. This is the meditation practice inherited from Sakyamuni Buddha and transmitted down to later generations of patriarchs up to the present generation. Ganhwa Seon is based on this deep, earnest questioning.
What is True Self?
All we living beings have "True Self," which is the nature of mind. It makes us breathe and stay alive; it controls the emotions. In that sense, it is called "True Master." The nature of True Self is so vast, open, peaceful and free, that no feud and pain can settle on it.

In our original mind, there is no right and no wrong, no love and no hate, no envy and no jealousy. All becomes good.
In our original mind, there is no mine, no others', no ours, no yours. All becomes absolutely impartial.
In our original mind, there is no birth, age, sickness, or death,
No rising, abiding, change, or passing away, and
No origination, continuation, decay, or emptiness.
There is nothing to suffer from or agonize with.
In our original mind, there is no Buddha, no God, no Muhammad.
No religions or conflicts at all.
In our original mind, high and low, first and last, do not exist. All is treated equally.

What wind brings about all the discords and disputes onto such a peaceful and vast open-mind ground?
The answer is one occasional thought.
One thought causes many and various thoughts.
Thoughts bring about concepts and sentiments.
Those becloud the mind, causing it to be ignorant and forgetful of the 'good old days' of True Self.

Then how can we resume our original mind to be free from the suffering of quarrels and strife and to live in peace together?
The way is to let go of every kind of thought. This is called 'polishing the mind.'
So how should we practice in order to polish the mind?

That is, to raise the question "What is my True Self before I was born?" Keep questioning it sincerely in your daily life. We meditators call this Hwadu.
It is very easy and simple. Of course, you devote yourself to taking responsibility in your family and in society. While living in the world, whenever discursive thoughts arise in your mind, you just return to hwadu and raise the given question. Then, as the single-minded questioning hwadu takes root in your daily life, various thoughts and emotions will subside. The moment will eventually come when you get absorbed in questioning hwadu single-mindedly. Then, your neighbor may say in a whisper, "That guy has turned into a fool." Or, "She has become wood and stone." But this whisper will not be heard by the ears. Once being absorbed deeply, you will unknowingly forget hearing, seeing and sensing. You will forget time-lapse and even the sense of existence while being deeply absorbed in the single-mindedness of hwadu questioning. And, unexpectedly, at the moment of seeing things or hearing sounds, the mass of questioning will break down.
When all doubts and clouds that entangle your heart are totally gone, you will see the original True Self and resume it. We call this "enlightening the right Truth."

Then, you will live in peace and bliss and harmony, forever and freely, without any obstacle.

It is the lifestyle we have dreamt of: the whole universe is one house and all human beings are one body.

Anyone can get a generous tip when one retakes the original mind, the True Self. In fact, it is the most precious treasure. It is incomparable to any love or valuable. That is why we call it 'unbounded, limitless wisdom.'
What is Hwadu?
Hwadu means literally "head of the word" or the instant before the word comes out. If a kong-an is used correctly it is a hwadu, and it clearly shows the state of all the Buddhas and Patriarchs. If a kong-an is something like a puzzle to speculate and think about then it becomes "dead Seon" instead of "living Seon".

A monk asked Master Zhaozhou, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?"
Zhaozhou said, "Mu" which means "nothing" or "does not exist."

Your enlightened state can become open and clear through Zhaozhou's, "mu".
If you understand what Joju was expressing when he said "mu" then that is all. However if you don't understand you are stuck and cannot help but think, "Wait, Buddha clearly said that all sentient beings have Buddha nature, of course a dog has Buddha nature, why did he said 'a dog does not have it'?"

A monk asked Seon Master Yunmen, "What is Buddha?"
The master replied, "Dried shit on a stick."

Master Yunmen said, "Dried shit on a stick", what did he mean? When the monk asked, "what is Buddha?" he had some expectations but when the master answered he was clueless. He was stuck. He couldn't make any sense of the response, there wasn't anything he could ponder he was only stuck with, "Why did he say, 'dried shit on a stick'?"

In this way, if the state of enlightenment shown by the Buddhas and Patriarchs is not obviously clear then you can only question, "Why did Zhaozhou say 'a dog has no Buddha nature'?" or "When I asked what Buddha was why did he say 'dried shit on a stick'."

If you can keep this question then this is called "keeping the hwadu" or "pursuing the hwadu" and this method of practice is called Ganhwa Seon. So this type of practice is not simply meditation and, without this question it is difficult to determine whether you are practicing Seon or just feeding your delusions. If you think you know or think you can find out what the masters Zhaozhou or Yunmen meant, then you are also simply feeding your delusions. The value of the hwadu is that it cannot be answered by thinking, it must produce this question. This sharp question that cannot be forgotten, if you can keep this question all throughout the day you will eventually fall into "Hwadu Samadhi" where thoughts, discriminations, even your own body is forgotten about. Once you are in this Samadhi you may hear a noise or see something and then the hwadu will break open, then you can know what the masters Zhaozhou or Yunmen meant.

A seemingly simple exchange of words with a master, like the above, can be a hwadu in itself. Otherwise you can recieve a formal hwadu from a master and pursue your study with that.

But hwadu practice isn't something you can start after reading a book, you must meet with a clear-eyed master or else practicing with a hwadu will become nothing more than any other type of meditation practice.

It is important that you receive a hwadu from a clear-eyed master for two reasons:

1) While practicing with a hwadu may seem to be simple without instruction it is very difficult to continue your practice correctly.
2) During Seon practice, if you have an experience that leads you to believe, "I know!" you must have a clear-eyed master whom you have faith in, to examine your practice. If he says "that is not so" then you must be able to put down your opinions and resume your practice with hawdu.

Times have changed dramatically since when Master Zhaozhou responded with "mu". To the contemporary person making a living in society today it is rare that this response will evoke any emotion or create any question. However there is one hwadu which does not require any certain background, or tend to only work well with people living in monastery's. This is the hwadu that the Seon Master Jinje prefers.

This body is made of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind. Within a hundred years it decomposes. The elements return to where they came, the only thing that appears to remain is a handful of dust. This body is not the true "I". Before you recieved this body from your parents what was true "I". The "I" that was, is, and will always be.

"What is my True Self before I was born?"

Every Buddha is called "Buddha" because they awakened to this True Self, all the sages are called sages because they know this True Self. If anyone here awakens to this True Self they will be known as a Buddha, a sage.

What is my True Self before I was born?
I hope you can keep this hwadu with you throughout the day.
Why should we practice?
The first reason we must practice Seon is to escape the endless distressing cycle of birth and death. In the end, what are the most important things that must be done?

Birth and death are the most important things to people. Shakyamuni Buddha left his family and gave up his right to the kingdom in order to solve this fundamental problem. Every living creature undergoes birth and death, but it is difficult to explain through words just how much suffering is involved here. We have lived countless of previous lives, died countless of times. If we don't finish the work of birth and death in this lifetime we will continue to turn the wheel of samsara and experience this suffering for countless of lifetimes to come. It is to solve this work that we have come into this world, there is really nothing more. If we do not set out to solve it then we have missed a rare opportunity in receiving this human body.

So what must we do to free ourselves from the chains of suffering, from the wheel of life and death? It is necessary to find an enlightened master who has awakened to the essence of Seon, and be prepared to put a lifetime of effort in finishing this task- in finding True Self. In the scriptures it is said that, "receiving a human body is difficult; meeting with Buddhism is even more so." The likelihood of receiving a human body is similar to the likelihood of dropping a needle from high in the sky and it piercing a mustard seed. So now that you have the rare opportunity to practice you must take full advantage of it, you may not have such good fortune in the future.

The second reason we practice Seon is to allow our perfect wisdom to express itself so that we may find success and happiness for self and others. The ancient sages would say, "Those without fortune are so because they are lacking wisdom." Without wisdom it is impossible to live well, and things will never go one's way. Regardless of what one may inherit, be it royal standing or riches, without wisdom one will not be able to keep this. The practice of Seon allows us to use the wisdom that is inherently our own and from this we will naturally find success and good fortune.

You may wonder, just how can we use this wisdom we inherently possess? If you find your True Self, your face that was- before you were born, then inside of this you will find this wisdom. Once you enlighten to this wisdom then it will remain forever bright. So it really may be said that the practice of Seon is the path to success and happiness.

Seon meditation is hard to come by, however. No matter how many times you may have been reborn in the human realm, imagine for a moment how terribly hard it is to receive correct guidance. With that in mind, an ancient sage once said, "Sentient beings are hard-pressed to meet the right Dharma because they wander endlessly, deeply involved in the negative proclivities accumulated throughout countless lifetimes." So while having met it, we should practice it sincerely and diligently so that we can enjoy the great bliss of the true Dharma.

Life is short. Before you know it, you will be seventy or eighty years of age. Sicknesses occur with greater frequency, and you will die much sooner than you expect. At the moment of death, so many good people reflect back on their lives and lament, "I wasted my life." Yet, what is the use of regret at that moment? What purpose does it serve? We instead must devote ourselves to Seon meditation in order to set ourselves free forever from the suffering of birth and death. Since our spiritual condition in our next rebirth will be determined according to the level of our mental clarity in this life, we should not be lazy but should try to improve in our practice, moment after moment.
The importance of an authentic, clear-eyed master
What must we do in order to awaken to the True Self and to the mind's true home, so that all of us may enjoy perfect peace forever?

First, the most important thing is to meet an authentic, clear-eyed teacher who has awakened to the True Self. It is impossible through one's own power alone to arrive at the mind's true home, which is vast and boundless, profound and recondite.

It is necessary that Seon Master be able to teach with words quicker than a spark, more penetrating than lightning, also know how to use the knife which can kill ten thousand people or bring their lives all at once. Without these abilities, they cannot be a well knowing teacher or a Patriarch.

Still this One needs to live under the guidance of a clear-eyed master after awakening to their True Self. In this way their training matures as polishing a gem makes it shine, and they will eventually become an eminent teacher. They cannot be Seon master right after breaking their hwadu.

Refined pure gold never changes color: making pure gold without any impurities through the process of putting in the furnace 100 times. Similarly, the One be able to teach others when they shine like refined pure gold through training under a clear-eyed master.

Some meditators feel that they have finished their practice after breaking their hwadu open, so they live idly or quietly in a hermitage, but this is only one half of the way. They have not completed all of their work.

If we look at the historical eminent masters, they continued to live under their teachers enduring correction and harsh discipline. There is not one instance of these great masters who, once they awoken threw all of this away.

A mother lion throws her cubs off of a steep cliff and only raises the ones who are strong enough to climb up to the top. If they cannot, then they die. A mother cat also teaches her kittens how to hunt. Even animals need this instruction and time, how much more will one who would be a teacher of the Buddhas and Patriarchs; a teacher of gods and men. How can one, by one's own strength achieve this? One must study under a bright master, a well knowing teacher, in order to become an eminent teacher themselves with the freedom to use all their abilities.