Zen Master Man Gong was Seung Sahn Soen Sa’s Dharma grandfather. As a thirteen year old child, he was studying sutras at the temple Donghaksa in Korea. The day before vacation, everyone gathered to listen to some lectures.
The lecturer said, “All of you must study hard, learn Buddhism, and become as big trees, with which great temples are built, and as large bowls, able to hold many things. The verse says:
“Water becomes square or round according to the shape of the container in which it is placed. Likewise, people become good or bad according to the company they keep. Always keep your minds set on holiness and remain in good company. In this way, you will become great trees and containers of Wisdom. This I most sincerely wish.”
Everyone was greatly inspired by this lecture. At this point, the Sutra Master turned to Zen Master Kyong-Ho, who was visiting the temple, and said, “Please speak, Master Kyong Ho; everyone would like to hear your words of wisdom.”
The Master was quite a sight. He was always unshaven and wore robes that were tattered and worn. Although he at first refused, after being asked again and again, he reluctantly consented to speak.
“All of you are monks. You are to be great teachers, free of ego; you must live only to serve all people. Desiring to become a big tree or a great container of Wisdom prevents you from being a true teacher. Big trees have big uses; small trees have small uses. Good and bad bowls both have their uses. Nothing is to be discarded. Keep both good and bad friends; this is your responsibility. You must not reject any element; this is true Buddhism. My only wish is for you to be free from discriminating thoughts.” Having completed his talk, the Master walked out the door, leaving the audience astonished. The young Man-Gong ran after him, and called out, “Please take me with you; I wish to become your student.”
The Master shouted at him to go away, but the child wouldn’t listen. So he asked, “If I take you with me, what will you do?”
“I will learn. You will teach me.”
“But you are only a child. How can you understand?”
“People are young and old, but does our True Self have youth or old age?”
“You are a very bad boy! You have killed and eaten the Buddha. Come along.”