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Dharma Talks : The Kwan Um School of Zen and Providence Zen Center

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Soap Enlightenment  

The first thing the Buddha said after his great enlightenment was that everything had Buddha nature. The problem is that we don't know that. Because we are ignorant of our original nature, we use it to produce suffering. Not good, not bad, but...suffering.

Several months ago there was a story in the news about a very rich widower who had one son. Even though the son's education was the best that money could buy, he had some very strange opinions, which try as he might the father could not assuage. The son was very taken with the idea that humans should never cut their hair or bathe. Now, if you hold ideas like this for two or three days, they won't create much of a problem, but as the son grew older, and the years passed, there was a big problem, as well as a big smell! Finally, the father gave up and let the son do as he pleased.

Several years later when the father died, the son was shocked, for he had only been left two things: a small empty house and a very large bar of soap. The rest went to charity. The son didn't know what to do. Day after day he just sat in the house and looked at the bar of soap. Three... four... days passed, and he started to get hungry, something he had never experienced before. Circumstances had definitely changed for the worse; he would have to do something. Finally his soap meditation brought a realization: he would have to cut his hair, take a bath, and get a job. He grabbed the huge bar of soap and ran to the shower. He scrubbed and scrubbed... and then he scrubbed some more. Finally, just as the bar was beginning to wear down and he was starting to get clean, he noticed a bright, shiny object emerging from the center of the bar. Frantically he scrubbed, finally revealing a large diamond--his true inheritance.

Most human beings are just like this young man, except it's their minds that need cleaning to reveal the jewel hidden inside. One time Un Mun Zen Master addressed the assembled monks saying, "Between heaven and earth, throughout the universe, there is a jewel. It is hidden in the mountain of form. Pick up the lamp and head straight for the Buddha Hall; take the triple temple gate and bring it on the lamp." If you truly attain the jewel of this kong-an, you have already received your true inheritance.

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