Zen Master Seung Sahn: In His Own Words [video]

Here is a video of Dae Soen Sa Nim giving a TV interview in Korea, recorded in 1997 — seven years before his death. In his own words, without the halting English, in a well-produced production, you can feel his energy and his Great Compassion. His energy is still strong and very clear. The subtitles have been prepared by capable native English speakers, so there is a natural feel to his expression.

In the video, Dae Soen Sa Nim tells some private stories of his early life. He discusses how he became a monk in the first place, in the turmoil of Japanese occupation and the Korean War. He also shares some stories of his free-spirited Teacher, the wild-wisdom figure named (Park) Ko Bong Sunim — known for his rule-breaking and sharp speech. In this way, it is a precious record, quite unlike the usual films which are more of formal Dharma talks.

The interview was filmed on the little hill inside our temple — Hwa Gye Sah. From about 1:40 in the video, you can hear the sound of the meal “moktak” being struck, or else the special “work period” moktak, if it is just before Buddha’s Birthday, and we are called into making the thousands of lotus lanterns which will be sold on the holiday, to support the temple. (I couldn’t imagine him giving an interview during an official mealtime.)

I was probably in the temple, at that time, when the video was filmed. Surely I was living there, if I was not outside the temple walls for a few hours for some important business. But in that year, I was living with him at Hwa Gye Sah.