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誡初心學人文 Admonitions for Beginners

Translation by A. Charles Muller

January 28, 2020

[Updated: 2020-01-28+09:00]

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Translation

1. Introduction

The Gye chosim hag-in mun was written by the eminent Goryeo Korean Seon monk Jinul 知訥 in 1205. It is a short guide for newly-ordained monks and nuns that explains the various pitfalls to be avoided when practicing religious discipline in the monastery. This translation began as the result of a reading of the text that was done in a graduate course on Korean Buddhism at the University of Tokyo in the Spring of 2015, and has been revised in the course of similar readings courses afterward. The main source text we used was Taishō 2019B, but we also compared this with the version contained in the Hangul Bulgyo Jeonseo, vol. 4, pp. 738–739. Graduate students who have worked together on this translation include Mami Ono, Kin Shing, Linbin Zhu, and Yao Zhang. Mami Ono has developed a draft translation into modern Japanese.

2. Translation

By the Haedong monk Jinul of Mt. Jogye.

[T 2019B.48.1004b6] 海東曺溪山沙門知訥述。夫初心之人、須遠離惡友親近賢善。受五戒十戒等、善知持犯開遮。但依金口聖言、莫順庸流妄說。 1 旣已出家參陪淸衆、常念柔和善順不得我慢貢高。大者爲兄小者爲弟。儻有諍者兩說和合。但以慈心相向、不得惡語傷人。若也欺凌同伴論說是非、如此出家全無利益。 2 財色之禍、甚於毒蛇。省己知非、常須遠離。 3

Beginners should keep away from bad friends and associate with good people. When you receive the five precepts, ten precepts, and so forth, you should know well when to observe the rules and when you can break them. You should rely only on the holy teachings from the Golden Mouth 4 and not follow mundane chatter or deluded theories. Once you have left home and entered the pure community (of monks and nuns) you should always remember to be docile and complaisant, and should not be proud or arrogant. Treat your elders as older brothers and treat your juniors as younger brothers. When there is an argument, try to reconcile both opinions. Treat others only with compassion, and do not hurt them with harsh speech. If you insult your comrades and preach to them about right and wrong, there is no benefit whatsoever in leaving home. The trouble caused by wealth and sex is worse than that of poisonous snakes. Reflect on yourself and be aware of your faults, and always keep distance from them.


Unless you have a good reason, don't enter someone elseʼs room. When someone is staying in seclusion, don't pry into his affairs. If it is not one of the six days of purification, 5 you should not wash your underclothes. When you go to wash your face, you should not expectorate in a loud voice. When you get on line to receive your meal, you shouldn't cut in or jump ahead. During walking meditation you shouldn't open your shirt or wave your arms. When talking, don't laugh in a loud voice. Don't go out of the monastery if you don't have real business. Take care of the ill with kindness, and go out to receive guests with joy.


When meeting elders and seniors, you should make way for them respectfully. When managing the necessities for your life as a monk, you should be frugal and know when to be satisfied. During lunch you should not make noise while eating and drinking. When picking up and putting down (bowls, etc.), you should do so quietly and carefully and not raise your head and look around. You should not take pleasure in fine food or dislike coarse food (you shouldn't be picky).

須默無言說、須防護雜念。須知受食、但療形枯爲成道業。須念般若心經、觀三輪淸淨、不違道用。赴焚修、須早暮勤行自嘖 6 懈怠。知衆行次、不得雜亂。

You should keep silent, and you should avoid entanglement in distracting thoughts. You should know [the proper way] of taking food, which is just keeping your body from becoming gaunt, so that you can accomplish the work of the Way. 7 You should recite the Heart Sutra and carefully observe the triply pure donation, and not go against the function of the Way. When attending services involving the burning of incense, you should be diligent day and night,and repent of your laziness. You should know the proper order of all procedures, and should not mix things up.


When singing hymns of praise and chanting your vow, you should recite the text, paying attention to its meaning. You should not just make noise and you should not be out of harmony. When you revere the honorable countenance of Buddha statues, you should not look around at other things. You should know your hindrance of harmful behavior is accumulated as vastly as the mountains and seas. But you should know that it can be eliminated by repentance through principle 8 and repentance through activities. 9 You should contemplate deeply that worshipper and worshipped are equally arisen in dependence on reality. You should have deep faith that the sympathetic response of the buddhas has no lapse, but follows immediately like shadows and echoes.

居衆寮、須相讓不爭。須遞相扶護。愼詳論勝負、愼聚頭閑話、愼誤著他鞋、愼坐臥越次。對客言談不得揚於家醜、但讚院門佛事。不得詣庫房見聞雜事自生疑惑。非要事不得遊州獵縣、與俗交通。令他憎嫉失自道情。儻有要事出行、吿住持人及管衆者、令知去處。若入俗家、切須堅持正念。愼勿見色聞聲流蕩邪心。又況披襟戲笑、亂說雜事。非時酒食 妄作無礙之行、深乖佛戒。又處賢善人嫌疑之間、豈爲有智慧人也。

Living in the residence hall, you should be humble, avoid struggles and help each other. You should be cautious in regard to: arguments over right and wrong, engaging in idle chit-chat, wearing others’ shoes, and observing the proper order among you and your companions when you sit and sleep. When you talk to guests, you should not air the dirty laundry of the monastery, but instead praise its management and Buddhist services. You should not go to the treasury to inquire about various matters and thus give rise to doubts. Unless it is necessary, you should not travel around the countryside or hang around with secular people. This makes your companions jealous and you lose your own religious sensitivity. If you have some business outside the monastery, you must inform the superintendent monk and other supervisors, to let them know where you are going. If you enter a secular household, you must firmly maintain correct mindfulness. You should be on guard against seeing and listening to things that disturb the mind and bring wrong thoughts. Furthermore, you should not open your collar and play around, talk irresponsibly about various matters. Untimely drinking and eating, and deludedly carrying out unbridled activities is profoundly contrary to the Buddhaʼs precepts. Furthermore, when you have arisen suspicions among those who are virtuous and kind, how can you be regarded as a wise man anymore?

[T2019B.48.1004c9] 住社堂、愼沙彌同行、愼人事往還、愼見他好惡、愼貪求文字、愼睡眠過度、愼散亂攀緣。若遇示師陞座說法、切不得於法作懸崖想生退屈心。或作慣聞想生容易心。當須虛懷聞之。必有機發之時。不得隨語學者、但取口辦。所謂蛇飮水成毒、牛飮水成乳。智學成菩提、愚學成生死是也。

When you stay in a meditation residence, refrain from behaving like novices; refrain from coming and going for personal matters; refrain from judging others' strong points and weak points; refrain from being strongly attached to the words in the texts; refrain from sleeping too much; refrain from being distracted by sensory objects. If you encounter a teacher ascending to the pulpit, you should definitely not take his teaching as something overawing and that you should give up on.

On the other hand, you should not think that because you are already familiar with the teaching that you can take it lightly. You should listen to the teaching with an open mind. There will definitely be a moment that you will get it. You should not merely go along with scholars who evaluate the sermon based on its eloquence. 10 This is like the saying, “snakes drink water and produce poison; cows drink water and produce milk. When the wise study, they complete bodhi; when the foolish study, they fall into saṃsāra (birth and death).”


Moreover, you should not think lightly of your teachers of the Dharma. Doing so will create obstacles on your path, and make you unable to advance in your cultivation. You must pay attention to this! The Mahāprajñāpāramitā-śāstra says, it is like a man walking at night, who is shown the way by an evil man who carries a torch. If he does not accept the light just because the badness of that man, he could drop into a hole or fall into a pit. 11 The process of listening to the Dharma is like treading on thin ice. You must focus your eyes and ears to catch its subtle sound. You should quiet your discriminations and savor the deep meaning. After the sermon, you should sit silently and reflect on it. If you have any doubts, you should inquire widely with those people who already understand. “Ponder on it in the evening, and inquire about it in the morning. You should not stray from the truth by as much as a hairʼs breadth.” 12 If you pay correct attention, you will be able to produce the right faith, and embrace the Way in your mind.


Desire, anger, and delusion are habituated beginninglessly, and they entangle your thinking consciousness. They are temporarily suppressed, but rearise, just like a fever that reappears on alternating days. You must without fail apply yourself 13 to practice in every moment, using the power of skillful means and wisdom, and take pains to quash such habits. How can you be idle, just wasting away your days with chatter, [at the same time] aspire for the mind-doctrine (of Seon) and seek the path of escape [from cyclic existence]? You should just strengthen your determination and principle, and examine yourself without laxity. You should know your own mistakes and return to goodness 14 repent, and become pliant. As you endeavor to practice, your power of insight will intensify; as you train yourself, your practices will become increasingly pure. If you maintain the awareness of the difficulty [of meeting the Tathāgata], then your Buddhist training will always be refreshed. If you always keep a joyous state of mind, you will never fall back. If you persist for a long time, your meditation and wisdom will be perfectly clear and you will see the nature of your own mind. Using the “as-illusion” compassion and wisdom to save sentient beings, you become the great field of merit for humans and gods. 15 You should definitely apply yourself to this.


By the Old Haedong monk Jinul of Mt. Jogye in the Eulchuck year (fifth year) of Taehwa (1205)


1. This sentence comes from Baizhangʼs Pure Rules (Baizhang Qinggui 百丈淸規, by Baizhang Huaihai 百丈懷海, 720–814): 但依金口聖言,莫擅隨於庸輩. (T 2025.48.1138c24) Eisai榮西 (1141–1215) who lived during the same era as Jinul quoted a similar phrase in his Treatise on the Promulgation of Zen as Defense of the State (Kōzen gokokuron 興禪護國論).

2. These lines are adopted from Pure Rules of Chan Monasteries (Chanyuan qinggui 禪苑淸規, by Changlu Zongze長蘆宗賾 [?–1107] in 1103): 旣已出家,參陪淸衆。常念柔和善順,不得我慢貢高。大者爲兄,小者爲弟。徐言持正,勿宣人短。儻有諍者,兩相和合。但以慈心相向,不得惡語傷人。若也欺凌同列,走扇是非。如此出家,全無利益。(T 2025.48.1138a17 ff.)

3. This sentence is found in Baizhangʼs Pure Rules: 財色之禍甚於毒蛇,尤當遠離。 (T 2025.48.1138c26)

4. The teachings of Śākyamuni Buddha.

5. The six monthly poṣadha, or fast days: the eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, twenty-third, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days of a month, during which lay Buddhist practitioners observe the eight pure precepts 八齋戒. They are the days on which the four mahārājas 四天王 take note of human conduct and when evil demons are busy, so that great care is required and consequently nothing should be eaten after noon, hence the “fast.” the Prajñāpāramitā-śāstra describes them as 惡日 evil or dangerous days, and says they arose from an ancient custom of cutting of the flesh and casting it into the fire.

6. Taishō has ; we have corrected to based on a note in the HBJ text.

7. See Chixiu Baizhang qinggui 敕修百丈淸規 T 2025.48.1145a16ff.

8. I.e., by seeing their emptiness.

9. Actually carrying out verbal repentance.

10. Alternative rendering: You should not study following the language, merely grasping to verbal explanations.

11. The first part of this phrase 如人夜行, appears in several treatises in Taishō, but we are not able to find the full sentence. See, for example. T 1509.25.733b26–27

12. See Chanzong yongjia ji 禪宗永嘉集, T 2013.48.394a24–25.

13. In Yogâcāra and Abhidharma texts, gahaeng 加行 has a specialized meaning of “preparatory practices.” But it can also mean to simply make effort, apply oneself, etc., and in this Seon context, it seems to make more sense to understand the term in this general sense.

14. From the Mencius 7A:13.

15. Even though all things are illusory, enlightened Buddhist teachers use language and discriminations to save them. For example, the term “as-illusion samādhi” 如幻三昧 (Skt. *maya-upamā-samādhi) refers to a meditative state (samādhi) wherein one observes that all phenomena, like an illusion, lack inherent existence. In the same way, even though sentient beings lack inherent existence, the enlightened teacher still uses his or her compassion and wisdom to save them.