Shared by Zen Master Wonji Dharma.
“Everything is already determined and has no meaning. I had met with Zen Master Seung Sahn in a private interview back in about 1992. I have spoken often about this particular interview and even posed Zen Master Seung Sahn’s comments to many of the other teachers in the Kwan Um School of Zen, many of the comments I received were less than satisfying. Apparently, he hadn’t made this particular statement to very many people so they weren’t sure how to respond.
“I don’t remember the particular gongàn I was working on at the time, but I had a question about it and honestly, I wish I remember what question I asked him at the time; yet his response really shocked me at the time and I was extremely confused. Nevertheless, his response to my question was “You don’t understand! You have no choice!” I remember thinking, “WHAT? This isn’t Zen Buddhism.” So, I said to him, “Did you just tell me that I have no choice?” Daesonsa-nim said, “Yes, everything is already determined and you have no choice.”
“This confused the shit out of me, so in desperation, I said to him “That sounds like Catholic Determinism, are you telling me that everything is written in a book written by the Dao or God?” He then looked me squarely in the eyes, “You don’t understand, so you are confused.” I asked him to please explain it to me and he said “Look, everything is already determined, and you have no choice. And until you realize that you have no choice, only then do you get a choice.”
“He continued, “Everything has no meaning, no reason, and no choice, and we have our practice to help us understand our true self. Then, we can change no meaning to Great Meaning, which means Great Love. We can change no reason to Great Reason, which means Great Compassion. Finally, we can change no choice to Great Choice, which means Great Vow and Bodhisattva Way.”
“At this point, I bowed to him and thanked him for the interview and frankly I wasn’t sure what it meant. His statement became a huàtóu for me and I sat with it for a very long time, and eventually I digested his comments.” –Wonji Dharma