Why do I have to finish this?
Zen Master Su Bong: I had â€œI amâ€ mind, which means â€œOh, Iâ€™m already finished. I can do anything. I have freedom.â€ That mind.
Q: What did Zen Master Seung Sahn say to you?
ZMSB: I said to him, â€œSoen Sa Nim, now half of the retreat is over and itâ€™s no problem.â€ Before, I had talked about always having this mind that wanted to try something, especially if someone said donâ€™t do it. When I went on this retreat, the mind I had was not retreat mind. Lots of people go on retreats and think, â€œIâ€™m going to practice hard for 90 days and only follow my schedule, and I will do it!â€ Thatâ€™s try mind. When I went on retreat, I made up my schedule and then said, â€œIâ€™ll see what itâ€™s like.â€ So IÂ didn’tÂ have try mind, I had â€œsee what itâ€™s likeâ€ mind, kind of like â€œchecking it outâ€ mind.
When fifty days came and I wanted to leave, it was no problem. I had to hitchhike a long way, six or seven miles to the outskirts of a little town, to get to a public phone. I called Zen Master Seung Sahn and said, â€œThe next fifty days are no problem. My body can do it. If you say, â€˜stay,â€™ then I will stay. But why should I do that?â€ Asking him meant I thought I already had freedom mind and it wasnâ€™t necessary to finish the retreat.
Zen Master Seung Sahn said, â€œYou must only try.â€ I said, â€œYes, I can, but why?â€ Then he said, â€œFor all people,â€ and slammed down the phone. It took me two hours to get back home, and the only thing in my mind was â€œFor all people â€“ what on earth does that mean?â€ I asked him, why sit? And he said, for all people. What does this sitting do for all people?
For the next forty days I only had this question. I had no choice. ItÂ wasn’tÂ that I asked myself the question; it was there all the time. â€œFor all people â€“ what on earth could that possibly mean?â€ It was there while I was eating, while sleeping, while practicing. I just wanted to vomit. I wanted it to be out and done with. IÂ didn’tÂ care whether I found an answer or not; I just didnâ€™t want the question any more. Then one day I was sitting and all of a sudden itÂ wasn’tÂ there at all. I didnâ€™t understand anything, but it wasnâ€™t there. I was very happy.
Q: Did you finish the retreat?
ZMSB: Yes. That happened on the eighty-seventh day. I only had thirteen days more. Those last thirteen days were just a bliss-out because IÂ didn’tÂ have this frustrating question. It was like going to the beach and lying around, but better than that. I could just do it: get out, chant, sit, wash my clothes. I thought that was wonderful. When I came down from my retreat, I still had that good feeling for three days afterwards â€“ â€œonly do itâ€ mind. Any kind of action, I could only do it. Some people said, Korean people like to take you out after a retreat like that, itâ€™s a big deal. So letâ€™s take you out to dinner. Letâ€™s do this or that. Anything, I could do it. Then after 3 or 4 days it was done. â€œIâ€ appeared, then all karma appeared. Then again, only sitting, still sitting, still trying, only go straight, donâ€™t know.
Zen Master Su Bong, who died in July 1994 while leading a retreat in Hong Kong, was Zen Master Seung Sahn’s designated successor as School Zen Master.