Secrets on Cultivating the Mind by Jinul

I’ve been continuing my reading of the famous Korean Buddhist Jinul in Robert E. Buswell’s book Tracing Back the Radiance. The book contains a few translated works by Jinul including his most popular text: Secrets on Cultivating the Mind or Susim Kyeol (修心訣, 수심결). This is the opening passage as translated by Professor Buswell which I wanted to share:

The triple world1 is blazing in defilement as if it were a house on fire. How can you bear to tarry here and complacently undergo such long suffering? If you wish to avoid wandering in saṃsāra2 there is no better way than to seek Buddhahood. If you want to become a Buddha, understand that Buddha is the mind. How can you search for the mind in the far distance? It is not outside the body. The physical body is a phantom, for it is subject to birth and death; the true mind is like space, for it never ends nor changes…..

It is tragic. People have been deluded for so long. They do not recognize that their own minds are the true Buddhas. They do not recognize that their own natures are the true dharma. They want to search for the dharma, yet still they look far away for holy ones. They want to search for the Buddha yet they will not observe their own minds…..

I hope that you who cultivate the path will never search outside. The nature of the mind is unstained; it is originally whole and complete in itself. If you will only leave behind false conditioning, you will be “such” like the Buddha. (Pg 98-99)

The point of Buddhism, I think, is that the problems of life begin and end with the mind. Jinul articulates this very well.

1 The Triple World (三界) in Buddhism refers to:

  1. The World of Desires (Hell, Human World, Animals, etc)
  2. The World of Form (Lesser Gods), and
  3. The World of Formlessness (Higher Gods)

It’s just another way of describing the entire cosmos.

2 Samsara (輪廻) is the aimless wandering from life to life.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

One thought on “Secrets on Cultivating the Mind by Jinul”

  1. He cuts right to it. Maybe because the suffering seems to be happening inside the body and the mind we tend to feel like the answer to it will be very far away from ourselves. I liked how clearly this passage speaks of the nature of the mind and shows us where to “search”. Good news when Samsara is described as aimless wandering.


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