There was a monk called Won Hyo, who lived around 600AD.
The story of his enlightenment is still famous today and marked a watershed in Korean Buddhism.
As was the way at that time, Won Hyo decided to travel to China for enlightenment. The journey was long and arduous. Along the way he took a nap; early in the morning he awoke with an incredible thirst. It was dark, but blindly feeling around his body he found a cup with water. He drank the water and drifted back to sleep feeling much relieved.
In the morning he awoke to find that the cup which he drank from was actually a human skull. And the water that he drank was stagnant.
He immediately felt nauseous and vomited.
At that point he had a realization. Won Hyo exclaimed, “Last night I thought this was water and it quenched my thirst. This morning I see that it is something else, so I am relating to it quite differently and am sick to my stomach. Therefore, mind makes everything, and without mind everything is empty.”
With this great insight Won Hyo realized he did not have to travel to China. Instead, he remained in Korea, resigning from the priesthood to teach as a layman.
Won Hyo’s astonishment at his unknowing actions and the power of the human mind to transform reality continue to be relevant even today.
Read the story of The Tea Master.