Oriol Casanovas Photographer

Wash out your mouth before talking about Zen

We live in a game of the mind. We name and give adjectives to the reality that surrounds us, giving it attributes that limit our ability to perceive it. If we talk about the moon, we create a conditioned and limited vision of the moon in the mind. And if somebody shows it to us, as the famous saying goes: "all we'll see is what the finger points at."

When Siddartha Gautama left his princely life, he did so to understand the origin of suffering and remedy it. In his introspective work he realized that our search for security, in a constantly changing reality, is like trying to hold soap bubbles. The desire and the eagerness of possession, makes us constantly fall into our cycle of suffering.

Korean Zen Buddhism shows us a path to free us of our cycle of samsara. It shows us a path, but not the route. According to Zen, before filling our cup, we'll have to empty it. That is easy to say but hard to do. Few can release the burden that shapes our psyche, structured from our childhood. In any case, we must accept our own ignorance; as the great Dharma Teacher Seung Sahn used to say: "- Only don't know!" Maybe that is why there is the saying that quotes: "Wash your mouth before talking about Zen." -- Oriol Casanovas

korea zen monk

"Taoist chanting, Confucian chanting, Christian chanting, Buddhist chanting don't matter. Chanting Coca Cola, Coca Cola, Coca Cola … can be just as good if you keep a clear mind. But if you don't keep a clear mind, and are only following your thinking as you mouth the words, even the Buddha cannot help you." ― Seung Sahn

korea zen landscape monastery autumn red leaves

Buddhists traditionally consider monastic life as one of the most favorable environments to progress towards enlightenment. Korean Zen monasteries are usually located in proper places according to oriental geomancy: Feng-Shui.

korea zen nun turnips haeinsa

In the monasteries, it is common for monks and nuns to farm to feed the sangha. Collecting turnips to elaborate "Kimchi", the traditional Korean vegetable ferment.

korea zen gate

A gateless gate. The Koan (Kon'gan in korean), it's an impossible question or history formulated by the master that provokes the “great doubt” in the Zen student. The objective is to break the polarities of consciousness. “Throw your logical mind overboard” -told me the master.

korea zen novice monk haeinsa offering

A novice, in formal pose, heads to the temple for offering food to the Buddha in Haeinsa Monastery.

korea zen thousand buddhas songgwangsa

Each of us is a pottential Bodhisattva. The one who, motivated by great compassion, has generated a spontaneous wish to attain the state of perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

korea zen daewonsa monastery bell nun

The ceremony bell, calls the awakening of consciousness from the beings of the air.

korea zen songgwangsa monastery temple novice monk

A novice monk crosses the main courtyard of Songgwangsa. This Monastery it is considered as the greatest among the trio of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea representing the "the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha".

korea zen monastery tongdosa novice monk

Break time in Tongdosa Monastery. A novice monk decides the route to be taken before starting his stroll.

korea zen monastery temple daewonsa dragonfly

A dragonfly seems to observe a devotee as he bends down to greet the Buddha in Daewonsa.

korea zen monastery temple daewonsa martial arts training monk

A monk training marcial arts in a dam near Daewonsa monastery.

korea zen monastery main temple songgwangsa guardian painting

The Guardian painting in the main temple of Songgwangsa monastery.

korea zen monastery temple unmunsa meditation praying

Meditation in a small chapel in Unmunsa monastery.

korea zen monastery temple unmunsa gomushin shoes

Gomushin shoes, made in PVC plastic, are commonly used in rural areas. In the monasteries is the ideal footwear, but due to its uniformity, each nun or monk must mark it in order to recognize them.

korea zen monastery temple unmunsa nuns

Nuns going back to their daily routine after the ceremony in Unmunsa.

korea zen monastery temple daewonsa buddhas buddha

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. - The Buddha.

korea zen monastery temple hermitage monk martial arts training

Monks are used to train martial arts because it's a good way to understand discipline, conditioning, perseverance, freeing the spirit and, of course, self-defense.

korea zen monastery temple meditation rest

Meditation at the Kugnakam temple.

korea zen monastery temple heavenly king

In the main hall of monasteries one usually finds the Four Heavenly Kings. The Four Heavenly Kings are four gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world. They are the protectors of the world and fighters of evil, each able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma.

korea zen hierarchy monastery temple haeinsa

An special occasion. The Korean Zen hierarchy, gathered in a hermitage within the precincts of the monastery of Haeinsa.

korea zen monastery temple frescoes parable honey

Frescoes are usually painted in monasteries remebering instructive buddhist parables. Parable of honey.

korea zen monastery temple haeinsa nun

A nun greets a monk as he climbs the stairs in Haeinsa.

korea zen monastery temple haeinsa staircase monk

A monk ascends the steep stairs leading to the main temple of Haeinsa. Usually, certain architectures in Zen monasteries, pose a test for the attention and concentration of those who visit these places.

korea zen monastery haeinsa monk nun

Old nun and young monk. Different generations, a single instruction.

korea zen martial arts monk

A monk of the Chogye order, martial arts training with a metal rod of 5 kg.

korea zen monastery tongdosa bridge novice monk

Tongdosa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, representing the Buddha . It is the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

korea zen monk nun birthday

All forms, thoughts and conceptions are ultimately illusory. Zen teaches that true enlightenment can't be grasped through them; they must be set aside.

korea zen monastery dormitory

The room of a monk, precise little. A bamboo pole to hang clothes and the meditation cushion. The Korean dormitories usually are equipped with underfloor heating system, thus is not a problem to sleep on a mat on the floor.

korea zen monastery temple meditation monk

One method Buddhists use to cultivate awareness is meditation. The practice of meditation involves the development of a state of awareness whereby one is able to understand the true nature of reality.

korea zen monastery temple haeinsa stupa

Before the dawn at Haeinsa main Temple.

korea zen monastery temple daewonsa

A nun chanting in the temple of Daewonsa. In Buddhism, chanting is the traditional means of preparing the mind for meditation.

korea zen monastery temple daewonsa sangha

The lay Sangha. " Those who have confidence in the Awakened One have confidence in what is supreme; and for those with confidence in the supreme, supreme is the result". Itivuttaka - The Buddha.

korea zen monastery temple lights


korea zen monastery temple haeinsa drum

The beating of the beopgo drum at Haein-sa Monastery. This tradidional dharma drum calls the awakening of the consciousness of earthly beings,

korea zen monastery temple songgwangsa ceremony monk

Ceremony in the monastery of Songgwangsa. Monks and novices chanting the heart Sutra:
Go, go! Go beyond! Go far beyond! Recite to awaken!

korea zen monastery temple daewonsa lotus flower

A lotus flower, symbol of enlightenment, grows in Daewonsa's monastery pond.