Notes & Quotes: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Seung Sahn

The following are my favorite notes from Seung Sahn's Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn.
  1. This book is a collection of Seung Sahn Soen-sa's teaching in America -- dialogues, stories, formal Zen interview, Dharma Speeches, and letters. The words arise as situations arise. Each situation is a game, and a matter of life and death.
  2. Original nature has no opposites. Speech and words are not necessary. Without thinking, all things are exactly as they are. The truth is just like this.
  3. In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people, and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same. In the same way, all things in the universe -- the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, rivers, people, and so forth -- have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. 
  4. Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, "The elephant is like a wall." The next blind man touched its trunk and said, "The elephant is like a snake." The next blind man touched its leg and said, "The elephant is like a column." The last blind man touched its tail and said, "The elephant is like a broom." Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.
  5. Throw away all opinions, all likes and dislikes, and only keep the mind that doesn't know. This is very important. Don't-know mind is the mind that cuts off all thinking. When all thinking has been cut off, you become empty mind. This is before thinking. Your before-thinking, my before-thinking mind, all people's before-thinking minds are the same. This is your substance. Your substance, my substance, and the substance of the whole universe become one. So the tree, the mountain, the cloud, and you become one.
  6. It is like a cat hunting a mouse. The mouse has retreated into its hole, but the cat waits outside the hole for hours on end without the slightest movement. It is totally concentrated on the mouse-hole. This is Zen mind -- cutting off all thinking and directing all your energy to one point. 
  7. Don't make difficult, don't make easy. Just practice.
  8. Dogen says, "Those who seek the easy way do not seek the true way."
  9. If we cut off all thinking and return to empty mind, then your mind, my mind, and all people's mind are the same. We become one with the whole universe.
  10. No one knows when he will die. It could be next year, or next week, or in the next five minutes. So put it all down, now, at this very moment. Keep your mind as if you were already dead. Then all your attachments will disappear, and it won't matter whether you study Zen or not. Right now you think, "I am alive, I am strong." So you have many desires, many attachments. Only think, "I am dead." A dead man has no desires.
  11. Ma-jo said, "Where is your question coming from? This is your treasure. It is precisely what is making you ask the question at this very moment. Everything is stored in this precious treasure-house of yours. It is there at your disposal, you can use it as you wish, nothing is lacking. You are the master of everything. Why, then, are you running away from yourself and seeking for things outside?"
  12. When you hold on to your own opinions, it is very difficult to control your karma, and your life will remain difficult.
  13. The Buddha sprang from the right side of his mother and took seven steps in each of the four directions. He then looked once each way, pointed one finger to the sky, and touched the ground with his other hand. He said, "In the sky above and the sky below, only I am holy."
  14. Actions themselves are not good and not bad; only the intention is important. If you think something is good, it is good; if you think it is bad, it is bad. If you want to cut off all thinking and all karma, you must practice Zen.
  15. The true you is without six senses. But the six senses use you, so you ask ten thousand questions. You must return to your true self. Then you will understand.
  16. Having no opposites is the Absolute.
  17. If you desire something, then you are attached to it. If you reject it, you are just as attached to it.
  18. The sea doesn't say, "Your water is dirty, you can't flow into me." It accepts all waters and mixes them and all become sea. So if you keep the Buddha mind, your mind will be like the great sea. This is the great sea of enlightenment.
  19. Zen teaches us to cut off all discriminating thoughts and to understand that the trust of the universe is ultimately our own true self.
  20. When appearing and disappearing disappear, then this stillness is bliss.
  21. The sutra says "Water becomes square or round according to the shape of the container it is put in. In the same way, people become good or bad according to the friends they have."
  22. The more you want enlightenment, the further away it will be.
  23. If one person makes great effort, if another person makes no effort -- don't worry. All that you need to be concerned about is your own job.
  24. A truly great man has no words or speech -- only action.