Someone seems to have done an audiobook recording (in Korean) of the first chapter of that best-selling book I wrote in Korea 21 years ago this month. This opening chapter is titled “Seung Sahn, Seung Sahn, Seung Sahn” (I did not choose the chapter titles – – that was purely a publisher decision!), and describes the events leading up to my first encounter with Zen Master Seung Sahn, who would become my Teacher.
I stopped publication and further sales of the book (despite being offered a very, very large bonus to renew the contract, it must be stated for the record!) when the initial five-year contract ran out, because of two important reasons: one, things had grown wildly out of control for me in Korea, with fame and notoriety and too much social freedom, Chogye Order politics, and so my practice was beginning to go off the rails, which I never felt comfortable about at all. And, two: The book was written only to get The Compass of Zen published, finally, in Korea. Its very reason for existing — this whole infected experience — was finished, since The Compass was published the following year, by agreement. So, it was possible to let this whole situation drift off into emptiness, from which it had young emerged. People in the West ask if there is an English translation somewhere, and I reply that there isn’t, and that there shall not ever be, I hope. It was a book written for a specific, unavoidable reason, and it outlived its purpose. There is no equivalent purpose for this book appearing in anything other than the Korean language, for those very reasons. Also, the book was written in a more dramatic and perhaps more florid speech style which was responsive specifically to the audience who would be reading it – – there would just be too much work to re-create this for a Western mind to absorb best. So, it ain’t happening in English. Arrow already passed downtown, baby.
(By the way: I did not have anything to do with this little video, and only discovered its existence quite by accident recently. But for Korean listeners to perhaps get a better sense of this teacher who I practiced under – – so relatively unknown in his own country, at the time of the original writing! – – this is re-shared here in the hopes that it gets shared and shared, so that a new generation comes to know some aspect of why a Westerner would connect with him. I wish also to remind Koreans of the grateful jewels which exist embedded in little corners of their own tradition. They don’t need to become Americanized Southern Baptists in order to find an authentic teaching which connects with everyday life in the modern world.)