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Awaken Your Mind and Practice (Balsim suhaeng jang) 發心修行章, by Wonhyo

Translated by A. Charles Muller

March 28, 2016

[Updated: 2016-04-19T13:36:17.93+09:00]

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Awaken Your Mind and Practice 2 (Balsim suhaeng jang) 3

1. Introduction

Awaken Your Mind and Practice is a short tract written to encourage newcomers to Buddhism to energize their determination to practice. The author starts by showing how people entangle themselves in the vicissitudes of life. While they sometimes realize the futility of achieving success in worldly terms, they just as often judge other, not paying serious attention to their own shortcomings. Then, at about the time when they begin to realize that they should be paying serious attention to their spiritual cultivation, they are already too old and decrepit to do serious practice. Therefore Wonhyo strongly urges us to take religious practice seriously, right here, right now.

There are various theories regarding the authorship of this work, but the prevailing views are that it was written by Wonhyo, either at the time when he first really became firm in his practice, or late in his life. The text has remained in basically the same form since its printing in the 13th year of Myeongjeong (1558). In the publication of the text at Weoljeongsa 月精寺 in 1574, this text, along with Jinul's 智訥 Admonitions for Beginning Students (Gye chosim hag-in mun 誡初心學人文) and Yaun's 野雲 Self Admonitions (Jagyeong mun 自警文) were published together with the title Cho balsim jagyeong mun (“First Arousal of the Mind Self Admonition;” 初發心自警文). This text was selected as part of the curriculum in the śrāmaṇera sutra study course, 1 where it is used down to the present day. Awaken Your Mind and Practice has come down to the present through two major transmissions. One version was printed in 1577 at Songgwangsa 松廣寺 in Jeolla Province, and the other was printed in 1583 at Seobongsa 瑞峰寺 in Gyeonggido. The version translated here is that contained in HBJ, which is based on the version printed in Haeinsa 海印寺 in 1883.

2. Awaken Your Mind and Practice 2 (Balsim suhaeng jang) 3


發心修行章 芬皇寺沙門 元曉述

By the Śramaṇa Wonhyo, from Bunhwangsa 4


The buddhas, the buddhas—they adorn the palace of extinction [of suffering], and for countless eons they abandon desire, practicing austerities.

Sentient beings, sentient beings—they circulate in and out of the door to the burning house, 5 for countless lifetimes not letting go of their cravings.


Though the heavenly palace 6 is unguarded, few enter, as they take the three poisons and the afflictions as their possessions.

Though uninvited, those who enter the negative rebirths are many, as the four vipers and the five desires are the treasures of their deluded minds.


Who would not want to return to the mountains and cultivate the way? Yet they do not go there, as they are ensnared by their cravings.

Yet even if you do not return to the lush mountains to cultivate your mind, according to your individual ability, you should engage yourself in wholesome practices.


If you can abandon your own pleasures, you will be trusted and revered as a sage. If you can practice the difficult, you will be venerated like a buddha.

Addicted to things, you are a follower of Māra. Compassionately giving to others, you are a Dharma-prince.

高岳峩巖、智人所居。碧松深谷、行者所棲。 7
飢餐 8 木果、慰其飢腸、渴飮流水、息其渴情。

Among the lofty peaks—this is where the wise dwell. The deep valleys of blue pines are home to religious practitioners,

They satisfy their hunger eating fruits and vegetation, and quench their thirst by drinking from the streams.


Though you lavish your body with fine foods, it will inevitably break down. You wear soft clothing to preserve yourself, but will never escape death.

Echoes resounding in a cavern—a hall for the recitation of the Buddha's name. The sad cries of wild geese warm the heart of a friend.


Knees bent in reverence may become as cold as ice, but you should harbor no thought of the warmth of fire. Suffering from the pangs of hunger, have no thought of seeking food.

A hundred years passes by in a flash, so why not train yourself? In the course of our lives, how much time is frittered away, without cultivation?


Only one who frees his mind from desire is called a śramaṇa. Only one who is not attached to the mundane world is called a renunciant (pravrajita).

A practitioner wearing finery is like a dog in an elephant-skin. A man of the way with hidden yearnings is like a hedgehog trying to enter a mousehole.


Although you may be able and wise, if you remain in your home in the village, all the buddhas feel sorry for you.

You live in a mountain hut, not practicing the way; but still the sages have joy.


Even if you have ability and learning, if you do not live according to the rules of morality, it is like being guided to a cache of jewels, and not going to get them.

Even though you may practice diligently, without wisdom, it is like wanting to go East, but heading West.


The practices of those possessing wisdom are like boiling raw grains to make rice. The practices of those who lack wisdom are like trying to make rice by boiling sand.

Everyone knows well enough to eat to satisfy their hunger, but they don't know enough to study the dharma in order to rectify their deluded thoughts.

Needing both practice and wisdom is like a cart that needs two wheels. Improving one's own spiritual condition and then elevating others is like the two wings of a bird.


If you receive the gruel and offer a prayer but do not understand its meaning, won't you be embarrassed to face the almsgivers?

If you accept food and offer invocations, but don't penetrate their point, shouldn't you feel shame before the holy ones?

是故破戒爲他福田、如折翼鳥負 龜翔空。

Everyone hates wriggling bugs that do not distinguish between clean and dirty; the sages abhor those śramaṇas who do not distinguish between purity and defilement.

The rules of morality are a good ladder for escaping the clamor of the world, and ascending to the heavens,

Hence, breaking the precepts and [presuming to] serve as a field of merit for others is like a bird with broken wings trying to fly in the sky carrying a tortoise on its back.

無行空身養無利益。 無常浮命愛惜不保。

When you are not free of your own sins, you cannot expiate the sins of others. This being the case, how can you ignore the rules of morality and yet accept offerings from others?

An empty carcass without practice, even if supported gains no benefit. Ephemeral and impermanent life, grasped for, cannot be preserved.


Aiming for the virtues of the dragon-sages, you can endure long suffering; Setting your sights on the lion's seat, you turn your back on pleasure forever.

When a practitioner's mind is purified, all the celestials join together in praise. When a man of the way harbors sexual desires, the good spirits abandon him.

世樂後苦、 何貪着哉。一忍長樂、何不修哉。
是道人貪、 行者羞恥。出家富、是君子所笑。

The four elements suddenly disperse and the body's long abiding cannot be maintained. The day has passed, and the morn is nigh!

Worldly pleasures eventually become suffering—why cling to them? After a moment of restraint we indulge long—why not cultivate yourself?

When “man of the Way” is greedy, practitioners are ashamed. When the “renunciant” accumulates wealth, he is the laughing stock of intelligent people of the world.


Though admonished endlessly, you don't end your addictions. You say “I won't do it again,” but you never get rid of attachment.

There is no end to one's worldly affairs, so they are never relinquished. Your scheming goes on without limit, so it never occurs to you to put a stop to it.


You always say “I'll do it today,” so your days of evildoing increase. You always say, “I'll do it tomorrow,” and your chances of doing good decrease.

“This year” never ends, so there is no end to affliction. “Next years” are without limit, so you never advance to bodhi.


The hours keep moving, the days and nights quickly pass by. The days keep moving, and the weeks and months fly by.

The days keep moving, and before you know it, it's next year. The years keep moving, and you suddenly arrive to death's door.

身必有終、後身何乎。 莫速急乎。莫速急乎。

A broken carriage does not roll, and in advanced age, you won't practice. Lying down, you get lazy, and sitting brings distraction.

How long will you live not cultivating, vacantly passing the days and nights? How long will you live with a empty body, not cultivating it for your whole life?

This body will certainly perish—what body will you have afterward? Isn't it urgent?! Isn't it urgent?!


End of Awaken Your Mind and Practice


1. [Korea] Sūtra School; monk's academy [seminary]. A sutra school is a place where newly ordained novice monks study the teachings of the Buddha systematically, especially the basic texts of Korean Buddhism. It has systematic structure of practice system (dharma lessons, question periods, sutra study and discussion, sutra reading, confession and etc.), which is intended to lead to samādhi ( concentration or mental clarity) and prajñā ( wisdom power). The standard curriculum is divided into step-by-step four levels, yearly courses. The elementary course (沙彌科 the śrāmaṇera course), the second year intermediate course (四集科 the Fourfold Collection Course), the third year course (四教科 the Fourfold Doctrinal course) and the final four year course (大教科 the Great Doctrinal course). In Korea, it used to take more than ten years to complete this course and become a fully ordained monk or nun but its length was recently modified to be equivalent to a university study course in length, about four years of formal study.

2. Before the start of the text, there is a fragmentary passage that reads: “The first patriarch from Haedong (Korea) traversed among the various mountain temples. The Hwaeom lecturer Ven. Wonhyo was from Gyeongju. At the time of the Sui in Zhongnan...Zhixian of the Nuitou School...The Hwangnyongsa Great Saint Hwajeong...National Teacher Wonhyo...” 「海東初祖 遊歷諸山、華嚴講師元曉和尚慶州人也。隋時終南山牛頭宗智賢師 黃龍寺 大聖和靖 元曉國師。」 The textual note in the HBJ indicates that it was a later insertion.

3. The source text for this translation is the version of the Balsim suhaeng jang contained in HBJ Vol. 1, p. 841. This is based on a version of the text held by Haeinsa dated 1883.

4. (Lit. Temple of the Perfume Emperor) Bunhwangsa was built in 634 CE and was situated next to the magnificent Hwangnyongsa 黃龍寺 (Temple of Yellow Dragon), the most important and largest temple of the Silla kingdom. While nothing at all remains of the extensive complex of Hwangnyongsa today, the stone-brick pagoda of Bunhwangsa is still extant. The monk most closely associated with this temple is Wonhyo (617-687), who is said to have spent much of his time teaching and writing extensive commentaries on the sutras while residing at this temple.

5. The parable of the burning house is one of the “seven parables” in the Lotus Sūtra's Chapter of Parables 譬喩品. The burning house from which the owner tempts his heedless children by the device of the three kinds of carts— goat, deer, and bullock, especially a white-bullock cart—i. e. the One Vehicle.

6. The destiny of rebirth for persons who have an abundance of good karma.

7. The note in HBJ offers instead of , but they are synonyms, so no change is necessary.

8. The note in HBJ offers instead of , but they are synonyms, so no change is necessary.