Great Master Wonhyo was born in 617 CE, about 1300 years ago. He was a pioneer, not only in Korean Buddhist thought, but also in philosophical thought. His contribution to Korean Buddhism and philosophy is still felt and admired to this day.
In 661 CE, there was a famous monk named Wonhyo in Korea. Wonhyo believed he would become a better monk if he went to Tang China to learn more knowledge about Buddhism from the great Chinese masters. He and his friend, a fellow monk named Uisang, embarked on a long journey to China.
They journeyed westward on foot and by the time they had reached the harbor of Tanghang castle, darkness had fallen. They faced strong winds and very heavy rain, so they took shelter in a safe looking cave and decided to stay one night inside.
Wonhyo woke up in the middle of the night feeling very thirsty. He groped in the darkness for some water to drink. His hands fell upon what felt like a drinking gourd. He picked it up and felt water inside. He tasted it and it was very sweet. He drank the remaining water in one big gulp. The water was cool and refreshing, and it quenched his thirst. He went back to sleep and rested well until morning.
Early the next morning, Wonhyo and Uiang woke up and were alarmed to see human skulls and bones scattered around them. The shelter they had spent one night in was not a cave but an old burial chamber. Wonhyo remembered what had occured during the night and began to look for the drinking gourd. The gourd was nowhere to be found. He realized that he drank from one of the skulls and the fresh water that quenched his thirst was actually some stagnant water that had collected in a skull. He examined the inside of one of the skulls and saw the cloudy water was writhing with maggots. The moment he saw this, he threw up, and he awakened.
Wonhyo realized that all phenomena is a result of discrimination within the mind, nothing else. He said to Uisang:
"Last night I was suffering from thirst and drank from what I thought was a drinking gourd. When I awoke this morning. I saw it was not clean water that I drank, but putrid water inside a human skull. When I drank the water, it was refreshing and tasty, and I slept peacefully afterwards. This morning when I saw what it was I really drank from, I felt sick and vomited. The impurity or purity of an object doesn't reside in the object itself, but exists within the discriminating mind. Now, I have realized that everything is created by the mind. Because I have realized this Truth, I cannot suppress my joy, nor the wish to dance and sing!"
One realm we have never conquered--the pure present. One great mystery of time is terra incognita to us--the instant. The most superb mystery we have hardly recognized--the immediate, instant self.
I am Myohye Do'an, a bhikṣu (fully ordained Chán Buddhist monk) and Chán Master. Here I share my thoughts and observations about living a life of compassion, attention and gratitude.