(From Only Don't Know, by Zen Master Seung Sahn)

In this World Everybody is Crazy

Berkeley, California, January 25, 1978

Dear Soen Sa Nim,

I have a question for you.  I work every day with crazy kids who scream and yell obscenities and are very self destructive. One girl even bites her own arm and makes it sore. One theory about this illness is that these people are possessed by the spirit of a dead person. Is this correct? How can I help them?



January 30, 1978

Dear Marge,

Thank you for your letter. How are you?  

You spoke in your letter about crazy children and one crazy girl you work with. This girl is like a moth that flies into a flame, burns its body, and dies. In this world, everyone is a little like this, so everyone is crazy.

One of my students works in a Jewish nursing home. A few days ago, a man set a fire there. When the police came, they asked the man why he set the fire. He said, "I don't like this place." The police checked their records and found that the man had set several fires, all at Jewish-owned stores. When they asked him why, he said "I don't know why I don't like Jewish people. I just set fires." This is crazy.

Both the children you work with and this man are like moths -- they are strongly attached to something, so they do the same action over and over without knowing why. A mind that goes narrowly on one track like this is crazy. If a person's mind is a little wider, it is not so crazy. Wider still, it is only a little crazy sometimes. If your mid is clear like space, then you are completely sane.

When people hold on to their thinking and follow their thinking, they are controlled by their habits, so they do the same action over and over and they create their own suffering. If you hang on to your opinions, your condition, and your situation, you too are like a moth. If you cut through your opinions, your condition, and your situation, then there is no life and no death.

How do you keep your correct situation from moment to moment? In other words, how do you help other people? If somebody is hungry, what do you do? If somebody hurts himself, what can you do? You already understand. Don't check your feelings; don't check your mind; don't check anything -- only help people. If you cut off all thinking and keep this mind, "How can I help?" the correct action will appear. That is great love, great compassion, and the great bodhisattva way. This is our original job. If you hold on to your opinion, your condition, and your situation, you create opposites -- "I" and "they" -- and then you cannot help other people. 

If you don't make anything and don't hold on to anything, your mind is already the Absolute. There is no subject and no object. Inside and outside become one. Everything is true as it is. Then your everyday life is the truth, your moment-to-moment situation is correct, and already you have saved all beings from suffering. If you keep this mind, you will know how to help the crazy girl and other crazy children you work with.

So I hope you only go straight--don't know, and keep a great bodhisattva vow, get enlightenment, and save all beings from suffering.

Yours in the Dharma, 

S. S.