After a dharma talk at the Cambridge Zen Center, a young woman said to Zen Master Seung Sahn, “Tomorrow is my son’s birthday, and he told me he wants either a toy gun or money. But I have a problem: as a Zen student, I want to teach him not to hurt or crave things. So I don’t want to give him a toy gun or money.”
Seung Sahn replied, “A toy gun is necessary! [Laughter from the audience.] If you give him money, he will only go out and buy a toy gun. [Laughter.]
Today a few of us went to see a movie called Cobra, starring Sylvester Stallone. Do you know this movie? A very simple story: good guy versus bad guys. Other movies are very complicated, you know? But this movie had only two things: bad and good. Bad. Good. A very simple story.
“Your son wants a toy gun. You think that that is not so good. But instead, you should view the problem as: How do you use this correctly? Don’t make good or bad: how do you teach the correct function of this gun, OK? That’s very important—more important than just having a gun or not. If you use this gun correctly, you can help many people, but if it is not used correctly, then maybe you will kill yourself, kill your country, kill other people. So the gun itself is originally not good, not bad. More important is: what is the correct function of this gun?
“So you must teach your son: if Buddha appears, kill! If the eminent teachers appear, kill! If a Zen master appears, you must kill! If demons appear, kill! If anything appears, you must kill anything, OK? [Laughter.] Then you will become Buddha! [Much laughter.] So you must teach your son in this way. The gun itself is not good or bad, good or bad. These are only names. Most important is, why do you do something: only for ‘me,’ or for all beings? That is the most important point to consider.”
Excerpted from Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn (Boston, 2006: Shambhala Publications)