Previous to Master Chung San, Kouksundo was a secret mountain practice that had been passed down from teacher to student for 9700 years.
The following interview with Master Chung-San was conducted in 1974 by honorary Professor Kim Gun of Kunkuk University.
My hometown is Su-won. My father’s name is Goh Suk-hyung and my grandfather’s name is Goh Hwang-gyu. At the age of three I went to live with my grandfather. I lived with him for ten years and attended elementary school until grade four. You can guess that my family’s economic situation was poor. Originally my family was well off, my grandfather was rich, had widespread moral influence and was devoted to his country. He was well educated, faithful and a patriot. My family’s economic difficulties began when my grandfather threw himself into the tumultuous situation that occurred at the end of the Josun Dynasty when Japan occupied Korea. His patriotic heart made him resist the Japanese occupation and his name got into the Japanese black book, from that time he literally lived his whole life in his house until Korea was liberated. Furthermore, he donated his whole fortune to school foundations, churches and public welfare services. He was a poor gentleman for the rest of his life.
When I was three my father went to live in Manju to resist the Japanese as his father was doing. I did not see my father again until we met in Seoul 32 years later. Many other members of my family moved away and I could not see them. After I met my father again I no longer felt like an orphan.
When I was 13 in 1948 the whole country was excited because we had been liberated from Japan.
But I still felt lonely. After thinking hard, I went into a mountain temple, called Hae-sun Temple in the Tae-hak Mountains, without telling anyone. I shaved off my hair and became a Buddhist novice on my own.
No. Six months later I was carrying a letter from the abbot of Hae-sun Temple to Guang-duk Temple when I accidentally met a Daoist Master. This incident became my motive for going into Sundo (way of mountain-man). It was an extreme accident of fate and I didn’t even know that I was going to learn Sundo.
Although I was a bald, novice monk, I was still young and playful. On that day I played by throwing rocks and pulling leaves of grass as I made my way to deliver the letter to Guang-duk Temple. I was throwing the rocks up and hitting them with my palm when unexpectedly a shabby-looking old man sitting by the road roared with laughter and called to me “Child.” I later learned that he was around 50.
The old man frightened me and I stood still and just stared at him. Then he said “It hurts to hit rocks like that. Would you like to learn how to break rocks with your hands?” In that brief, startling moment, I naively replied “Teach me.” I thought the old man was just playing with a little kid and I observed him to be ‘an unusual old man.’ Then he became serious and said “I will teach you.”
Next he gave me a dipper and told me to go get him some water. When I returned with the water he was not there. I looked around and finally saw him on top of a tall rock. I went to him and gave him the water. He took a sip and then calmly said “This is how you break rocks”. He raised his right hand and extended only his little finger. There was a stone the size of a fist next to him and he broke it by striking it only with his little finger.
A chill came into my veins. I was very frightened and was perfectly convinced that either the old man was not human or I might have been possessed by a fox or a ghost that caused me to have illusions. I thought it would be best to get out of there as fast as I could. I had these continuing thoughts of running away and caught a detailed glimpse of the old man while I searched for an avenue of escape. I asked myself again “Is he a man or ghost?” But the old man was smiling and remained calm. He had no white hair, a long beard, peachy red face, and sparkling eyes. He looked like he might be some kind of Daoist master. Even though I was deep in the mountains, curiosity and fear kept me there.
Then the old man asked me some questions in a voice I could not refuse to answer.
“Where do you live, child?”
“In Hae-sun am Temple.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m delivering an abbot’s envelope to the Guang-duk Temple.”
“Pull out the envelope.”
I gave him the envelope and he barely looked at it before ripping it up.
“Have you learned any Buddhist sutras?”
“I’ve learned the Chun-su-gyung (sutra).”
He told me to recite it and I began reciting.
Then he began asking more questions.
“You are smart. Why are you trying to become a monk? What reasons do you have?”
I thought I was in big trouble but at the same time I wondered if he was a real Daoist master. I continued to answer all the questions he asked me such as my name, date of birth, and family circumstances. I even told him about a dream my father had when I was born. My father dreamed about hugging the moon to his chest when I was born. I babbled for a long time explaining the dream. I thought that if the old man was some kind of Daoist Master then my father’s dream might be a good omen.
Then the situation suddenly changed. The old man ordered me to follow him. I was very surprised because I thought the old man was only going to give me some good advice and leave. Instead he told me to go deeper into the mountains. When I tried to turn around and run he blocked my escape.
Not knowing if he was a man or ghost, I just adventurously followed him into the deep, deep mountain until he told me to sit in a space between the summit rocks. It seemed as if no human had ever been there before. It was a dark black night and all I could hear was noisy crying sounds. I was so frightened and regretted that I had followed this man. I only thought about escaping at sunrise. When dawn came he told me to eat and, come to think of it, I was hungry.
Then the old man said “A man cannot take back what he said. You told me to teach you how to break rocks. So I said I would and from now on we will be Master and pupil. You must do as I tell you.” He ordered me to follow him again.
I surrendered to him and decided to follow. I already was a monk who had left home. So I thought that following this strange but Daoist Master looking teacher wasn’t going to be that bad. I decided that if following him turned out to be a bad thing then I would just run away. Later on I tried to run away from him many times. But eventually I practiced in front of him for 15 years. I still see him nowadays from time to time and get instructions from him.
As time passed I got to know him more and found out his name is Lee, Song-woon. His sacred name is Chung-woon. I found out he was famous among the mountain practitioners and everyone revered him as a Sun person (mountain-man person).
I followed him into Sok-li Mountain. He led me deep into the mountain where people could not live. Under a high peak he took me to a space between some rocks where one or two people could sit down. Leaves had been spread on the ground there. The master entered the space without hesitation so I guessed that he had visited and stayed there many times before. An odd thing about that place was the poor scenery when I first visited there.
The master had tied one end of a big white cotton cloth, the size of 4 rolls, to my waist and the other end to his waist. He had walked forward to lead me and almost dragged me. I was dragged for a long distance in that condition.
As I first told you, I just adventurously followed him not knowing if he was a man or ghost. After following him he told me to sit between the spaces of the mountain’s summit rocks. The night was very dark and all I could hear was the noisy, crying sounds and beast sounds. I was so frightened and shivering that I regretted that I had followed this man. I only thought about escaping. When dawn came he told me to eat and, come to think of it, I was hungry.
But I couldn’t help being disappointed when I was told to eat raw food. Later on I found out that the raw food was made from powdered pine needles, grass roots, arrowroot, barley, beans, and rice. On this occasion he may have given me powders made of pine needles or grass roots. I took a mouthful and then sipped some water but it would not go down my throat at that time. I told him I could not eat this food. The Daoist master said to me “This is the only kind of food to eat from now on. So first you do the training eating these kinds of food. If you can’t eat then just drink water. They will taste delicious after you starve for a few days. I was in despair and could do nothing so I starved for two days. Finally I started eating the raw food because of hunger and it wasn’t bad for surviving.
At times during my first month with the master I couldn’t take mountain life anymore and attempted to escape. I made 3 escape attempts on the 15th, 21st, and 30th days. Each attempt failed. When the Daoist master wasn’t there I ran as far down the mountain as I could guess. Suddenly he appeared ahead of me and blocked my way. Smiling, he said “Don’t even think of it. There is no going back. Let’s go up.”
I even tried finding other types of food which I could make myself and so I started feeding myself. I spent a full year training to eat raw food. When I was able to eat raw food, the Daoist master took me to the So-baek and Tae-baek mountain ranges.
Later on I realized that I had hiked all over the high steep peaks of the Sok-li and Kangwondo’s Tae-baek mountain ranges. I lived a primitive practice life in the mountains. We moved often. We would live in a place for a few days or months and then move. We lived in spaces between rocks or in caves and I constantly fought with wind, rain, and snow.
It’s a fair question. Our clothes were not even like clothes. We used animal pelts for underpants. The fact that I had the power to protect myself from wind, rain, and cold seems miraculous to me too. It must have been because my mental power led me.
I also had the question about what and how I should practice. Life was very simple during my first year and I asked the Daoist master a few times about what and how to practice. But his answer was always the same.
“Have you gained confidence in eating raw food? Then sit here, close your eyes and sit quietly. Don’t think. You have to empty your mind completely to make something else come in. If distracting thoughts come up every moment then you’re a long way from it. You should not have thoughts of your parents, the world, white rice, a warm sheet, money, or have anything else in your mind. The first step in learning is removing all thoughts from your mind. Every Dao (way) begins from disinterestedness and an empty mind. Thoughts, judgments, stubbornness and all similar things should be eliminated. Then the law of heaven will come into you. The law is being that way. Don’t say anything and just close your eyes and sit quietly. I will teach you everything when it is time.”
I had to do as I was told. The basic training of my body and mind was completed after one year of ascetic life. Later I realized that the basic training continues for the rest of one’s life. But at that time my mind was very disturbed and complicated. I thought to myself “What on earth is this man teaching me with this tough basic training?” I have lived and practiced for 15 years in the mountains. From time to time I questioned myself about why it was so challenging. Was it the Sundo that was so hard or had I not devoted myself entirely?
After spending a year in basic training I entered the first step of SunDo practice at the beginning of the summer of 1949. I did not know anything about the first step or what it was about. I only practiced what the master ordered me to do. I can perfectly remember all the steps and contents of the practice because I had to repeat each principle and movement hundreds of times and master them with my body before I was allowed to move on to the next level. Even if it took me days, months, or years to make it mine, I just did it. The first step is called Joong-gi danbup.
I have described all content and forms of danbup in a separate book. For now, I will explain the concept of the content briefly. The Daoist master explained Joong-gi danbup in detail as he told me to practice it.
Quoting his words unchanged, Joong-gi danbup is “a practice in which you can move your body as you intend. The principle of this practice is in the Joong-gi. The ‘one’ energy of the universe is Central energy which is the synthesis of yin and yang. The Central energy creates and changes everything. The ‘one’ energy of humans is the Central energy, the synthesis of yin and yang, which creates, completes and changes the mind and body.”
“Joong-gi danbup of the human body is like the ha-do (ancient numbers of the universe). Joong-gi danbup begins from the central (5 and 10) earth energies and functions through the five elements creating principle.”
“The spleen and stomach are the central earth energies. The synthesis of yin and yang activates the three processes of supply, unity, and maintenance. Breathe deeply and calmly by concentrating your heart on the center of the lower danjun and the central earth energy will bear fruit. This is the form of bringing yin and yang into equilibrium and the basic form of nurturing the Central energy. ‘Protecting the middle and packing the one’ shelters the one energy and protects Central energy. The proper attitude for going into SunDo is to shelter the one energy and protect central energy.”
“Continue this practice every day beginning from the Chook hour (1~3 am) to the Oh hour (11 am~1 pm).”
This is how he explained it to me. I was 14 years old and his words were difficult to understand. But after more than 20 years of practice I realized that the practice time principle was based on the interpretation of danli (dan principle) through the principle of changes.
At that time he would make me do only one of the 50 items in Joong-gi danbup. He would demonstrate the motion (posture) and make me follow it immediately. I would repeat the posture hundreds of times as I thought of its meaning. When he approved that I completed the motion (posture) then he would teach me the next one. The fifty danbups have 10 root danbups and each root has 5 stem danbups. So the sum comes to 50 danbups.
I practiced Joong-gi danbup for a full year. I did not start Gun-gon danbup until the next year in the spring of 1950. Gun-gon danbup is the next higher level and when I began it I realized that Joong-gi danbup had only laid the groundwork. Therefore without the basic groundwork of Joong-gi danbup I would not have been able to practice the mysterious Gun-gon danbup correctly. It is difficult to understand this just by listening to an explanation and would definitely have no effect at all. But when experienced and gained by the body, its principle operates on the body and mind. In that operation, one will automatically get to realize by himself.
Gun-gon danbup has only 23 postures. But it still took me a full year to practice this Gun-gon danbup. My Daoist master, Chung-woon, would always explain something with a few simple words and then make me practice so I could realize the danbup automatically. By realizing and experiencing its principle I was able to grasp its truthfulness. When I experienced the truth of the principle then I had faith in it. This faith has become so strong that it is like a mountain which wouldn’t change even if the whole world moved.
If one cannot treat the accumulation of Won-gi (source energy) correctly then he/she could get into a difficult and troubled situation. Practitioners could be seriously damaged if they do not learn how to cope with it correctly through guidance from an instructor.
Think about it. I went into the mountains and had a year of hardship. Then I had a year of practicing 50 danbup of basic haeng-gong which was followed by another year of practicing Gun-gon danbup. You can guess how hard it is to practice Dao.
Now, talking about it, my attempt to make people in cities attain Dao by practicing only one or two hours a day actually seems not possible. But my master gave me directions to open practice centers because he said it is not absolutely impossible for people in cities to attain Dao. I did it. And by discovering the possibility that this job could be accomplished, I gained faith.
However, the phenomena that happen from Gun-gon danbup haeng-gong are hardly understandable through common sense. Danbup principles are composed of the essentials of eastern philosophy. One cannot understand them without accepting eastern philosophy. And one cannot get through the mysterious experience without practicing it.
It is like a western doctor researching eastern medicine. It is like the fact that he/she could not use acupuncture, moxibustion or medicine without accepting the energy principles of the one energy, 12 meridian lines and 365 meridian points of eastern philosophy. Western doctors cannot see the results until they accept the principles and apply them.
During the late 20th century western doctors suddenly expressed great interest in eastern medicine. This shows that they are hurrying toward the recognition of the principles of energy, yin-yang, and the five elements of eastern philosophy. But western doctors, with their psychology and physiology, are only in the first step of proving the rationality of eastern philosophy based on dan principles. The theory seems abstract. But when one puts it into practice, it is reasonably proven by the phenomena which occur in the body.
That is why my master Chung-woon always explained with a few simple words and then made me realize automatically through practicing the danbup. My realization and experience gave me faith in the principle because I knew its truthfulness. This faith has become so strong that it is like a mountain that wouldn’t change even if the whole world moved.
The energy of Heaven-Earth-Man and Gun-Gon pervades the universe and operates the yin-yang /five elements. Man lives within the same principle.
The Gun-gon haeng-gong (breathing-motion (posture) practice) can be seen from a universal standpoint as a method of implementing the cosmological formation principle inside the human body.
Are you saying that SunDo is the way of experience and not the way of understanding? Am I right? In other words, with experience the understanding comes.
That is definitely right. My master always instructed me by movements rather than by explaining them. He would explain the principle in a few words after I had experienced the results of the practice method. Gradually I understood the principle. It is none other than entering by doing. It became evident when I practiced the Gun-gon danbup because the mysterious phenomenon that master explained actually happened to my body.
There are 10 stem danbups in the Gun root danbup and 12 stem danbups in the Gon root danbup. Finally there is the Juasa-bup (sitting posture). So the Gun-gon danbup is formed of 23 haeng-gongs (breathing posture).
Phenomena beyond the boundaries of common sense become activated in the Gun-gon danbup haeng-gong. One is the skin pore breathing through the whole body and another is the circulation of energy through the function and control vessel.
In my situation, since I practiced with the one thought by focusing all my strength and maybe because I practiced inside the mountains, I began to feel the phenomenon of won-gi (vigor) accumulating halfway through the won-gi danbup. The energy accumulated in the lower danjun. And then a lump of flaming red heat rushed up. This is called Do-tae (pregnancy of Dao). This phenomenon can be seen as the entry into SunDo practice.
If the practitioner cannot treat the accumulation of won-gi (vigor) correctly then he could face a troubled situation. Practitioners can be seriously damaged if they don’t get instructions from their teacher about how to cope with it.
One should practice the way of circulating this self accumulating, large amount of energy by first raising it through the control path on the back of the spine, spinning it around the head and back to the distance of the ears, and then down the front side of the chest’s function-control vessel, and finally back to the lower belly. This energy circulation is completely accomplished when you practice the Shin-bup of Gun-gon danbup.
The very difficult skin pore breathing method can be acquired by the body through the Jin-gi (true energy) danbup which is practiced after Won-gi danbup. And more pore breathing is acquired by the body during Sam-hap danbup.
The essential practice of Gun-gon danbup is circulating the function and control path. I was ordered to circulate it once a day and I did what I was told. One must pay attention to danjun breathing when doing it. Inhale energy and keep it in the lower danjun for a while. Lower this energy with the hot energy gathered from the danjun to the anus, roll it through the spine and raise it to the level of the back of the ears as I mentioned before. Then spin it back as far as the ears again and lower it to the neck, chest, and to the belly, and finally when the energy arrives at the lower danjun, exhale the energy that was inhaled. This is practiced by respiration, but the circulation of the function and control vessels is done by thought. And that thought comes from bearing the heart. When this becomes skilled, the strength of hot energy actually circulates physically. This is what one senses and realizes in the Jin-gi danbup.
Follow the rules of the 23 motions (postures) and control the breathing when doing Gun-gon danbup. This is called breath control. Inhale and hold the energy in the danjun and then exhale and hold again. Regularly control the time of inhalation, exhalation and holding to be the same and practice each of the 23 motions (postures).
The most efficient time to practice is between the Chook hour (1~3 am) and the Oh hour (11am~1 pm).
Yes. Joong-gi danbup is 50 motions (postures), Gun-gon danbup is 23 motions (postures), but Won-gi danbup is 365 motions (postures). It’s not easy for an ordinary person to remember the names of all the motions (postures). But if practiced by knowing the principle of them, one will naturally get to know it. When I practiced the 365 motions (postures), I practiced 12 motions (postures) at a time. When the motions (postures) became ripe and their principle became understood, then I practiced the next 12 motions (postures). Thus, I repeated all the motions (postures) thousands of times.
My master said “The won-gi (source energy) energy of Won-gi danbup is the synthesis of all energies. Therefore, keep this won-gi (source energy) in your body and practice so that you could move your body as you intend.”
Moving your body as you think seems easy, but at the same time it is a difficult matter.
Inhale time in the Won-gi danbup gradually increases. Inhale for a long time, but accumulate energy in the lower danjun and think that you are rolling the energy in the lower danjun and equally circulate the energy to the 12 meridian pathways. When doing this, bring the energy of the lower danjun down to the back of the anus. Then to the tips of both feet. Roll it up again, raise it up through the control path to the shoulder and to both tips of the hands. Back again to the shoulders and raise it up the head and this time, exhale the energy.
There are other more detailed energy-circulating motions (postures). But they are published in independent volumes.
And then master said,
“You have just finished the first step, Jung-gahk-doh, of SunDo. Jung-gahk-doh is the formless law of heaven, earth, and man. So first you forget your body with this practice.” Then he told me to learn the next danbup.
Truthfully speaking, Won-gi danbup is an important base. It is the practice of adapting your whole body, from tip to tip, to a heavenly quality by following heaven’s way. This is accomplished by circulating energy accumulated by the Gun-gon danbup haeng-gong through the 14 meridian vessels. The 14 vessels are composed of the 12 vessels plus the function and control vessels. Malfunction of the body will naturally vanish when Won-gi (source energy) overflows and circulates the body. One’s body becomes healthy and, little by little, superhuman strength soars up.
Yes. After completing Won-gi danbup that year I moved to many different places that fall. We lived in many places in So-baek and Bahk-dal Mountain caves and under rocks. I continued to devote myself and practiced ascetically. During that fall of 1952, my master said to me, “You are young but you have developed your mind and body enough to get yourself into Dao. You’ve developed to the state where your mind can lead your flesh which previously was a chunk of greed. From now on, you can practice the principle of Jin-gi danbup which leads you deep inside Dao.
I will tell you the essentials in short. Jin-gi danbup is based on circulating energy and evening the breath. In eastern metaphysical philosophy there are five operations in heaven and six energies in earth. The microcosm, which is the human body, has five vital organs
(kidney, heart, liver, lungs, and spleen) and six viscera (urinary bladder, small intestine, gall bladder, large intestine, stomach, and the triple burner).”
To summarize the principle that I’ve been taught, let’s start with the concept of the five operations. The five elements are the basic ingredients that nature possesses.
The concept of six energies evolves from the five elements. As five element action transforms its character to the movement process above earth, another energy function evolves from this process. It is a sixth energy. The principles of the six energies are described and interpreted in the I-Ching. The complex principles of the six energies (positions, changes, and operations) cannot be explained in words right now.
I listened to these explanations as I practiced Jin-gi danbup.
“The creation of nature is boundless and infinite. But nature operates by its fixed rule of change. This is heaven’s way. You should know that your body has just acquired the practice that makes the principles of creation and change of the five operations and six energies operate.”
The proof of this accomplishment is the phenomena that the energy accumulated in your lower danjun circulates through the function and control vessels and then to the whole body. This is the creation of heaven and earth in your body. So therefore, put this principle in your heart and practice the circulation of the function and control vessels from time to time using Won-gi danbup’s breathing of inhalation and exhalation beginning from the Chook hour (1am~3am) to the Oh hour (11am~1pm).
Calmly do Won-gi danbup’s inhaling and exhaling 9 times (9 breaths) and then circulate the function and control vessel 1 time. When 9 breaths and 1 circulation becomes proficient then do 8 breaths and 1 circulation. When that is proficient do 7 breaths and 1 circulation, then 6 and 1, 5 and 1, etc. Continue to practice until you can circulate the function and control vessel to the whole body with every breath. Practice haeng-gong with your eyes half-open (until this time, I’ve practiced with the eyes closed) and focus your eyes on one spot. Also focus your mind on one spot.” Master Chung-woon warned me as he made me practice.
I practiced techniques called Lip-dan, Joa-dan, Wa-dan, Jun-dan, and Gong-dan. Master Chung-woon always said to me,
“Dao is the principle of formation and substance of heaven and earth and can also be the principle of formation and substance of human beings. Human beings should follow Dao”.
Chung-woon continued, “But among people there are those who do not know the correct way and those who know the way but violate it. These people don’t follow the principles of heaven and earth and are not able to live their destined life. It is a sad matter. When one knows and follows Dao, then one unites with the principle of heaven and earth and becomes both the son and master of heaven and earth
This principle, called SunDo today, is the only true Dao of heaven, earth, and man. Some tried to teach this principle in the past but people would not follow. Eventually, even the people who practiced and realized Dao had to go into the mountains. However, when people in the east and west become clever enough they will know to follow this Dao. This Dao is not biased like religion, philosophy, or morality. It is the Dao (way) of life for anyone who wants to live their heavenly given life span by knowing and practicing. You should know that it is the Yeon-dan-bup (Dan development method) of Danli (Dan principle). It is the result of wisdom which has been improved by our Bae-dal people in ancient times. And you should have the lofty aim of returning the favor of our ancestors who improved this Dao by practicing and handing it down to future generations. And by reciting these words from time to time, your mind will not get lax. This is not like a magic spell. It is the attitude of wishing with the heart by means of respecting the grace of our ancestors.”
Then Master Chung-woon recited,
“Instruct me in the immortal law. Spirits who went into the true origin, guide me to the great Dao. I wish with right and true heart that you would let me live and be joyful with you. I wish to learn and master my body so that I would be one with your spirit in the marvelously created heavenly lands.”
He told me to occasionally recite this wish and called this the “Heart wishing chant.”
Then Master Chung-woon told me that whenever I have distracting thoughts I should recite 6 words from my heart, “Jung-shim-shi-gahk-do-haeng”. The meanings of these words are: Jung-shim (right heart), Jung-shi (rightly see), Jung-gahk (rightly realize), Jung-Doh (right way), and Jung-haeng (rightly act). My practice of Dao gradually became very profound. The practice of Jin-gi danbup was an asceticism that lasted two full years. A normal person wouldn’t stand one day of that ascetism. How I could put up with it could only be because of the power of my mind and practice.
It was in the early spring of 1954, at the age of 19 and 6 years after entering the mountains. Inside I was a practitioner of Dao. But on the outside I looked like a wild beast wearing the mask of a man.
The next level of practice is Sam-hap danbup. In Gang-won-do’s Chi-ak Mountains I devoted myself to the highest level of Dobup (Dao method). From that time, master Chung-woon would give me instructions and then leave. I think he was acknowledging my ability to practice by myself. He would return to observe the depth of my practice, give me more instructions, and then leave again. Sam-hap danbup is a stage that cannot be interpreted by theory. You would not believe even one out of a hundred if I were to tell you about it.
It is nothing but breathing through the pores of the skin, namely the pore breathing. This principle is called Sam-hap danbup. In the stage of Sam-hap (three unions), three energies (heaven, earth, and man) are united. Sam-hap means the energy circulation through the whole body’s pores continues after a temporary stop of breathing through the nose and mouth. Could you be convinced? Probably not. It has been said that some types of lower classification creatures with no lungs or degenerated lungs can take in oxygen through their skin. But who can be convinced that a man could stop breathing with his lungs and breathe through his skin? But I have done this practice. A practitioner should not wear any type of clothing when practicing this. I did a year of ascetic practice with not even a piece of underwear on. You might feel some sympathy when you imagine me sitting on dead leaves under rocks in the deep mountains when it was storming and snowing. But I endured in the single heart of spreading Dao through my improvement.
My master said, “With every danbup you have earned from your practice until now, by preserving the energy of your whole body, you are in the stage of letting the won-gi of heaven and earth in and out the pores of your skin after inhaling once. As you acquire practice, your haeng-gong develops freely. Constantly do your practice.”
Master continued to appear suddenly and watch my practice progress and then would go again.
After a year and a half, in the fall of 1955, I gained self-confidence that I had almost accomplished pore breathing.
When pore breathing is mastered the principles of yin, yang, five-operations, and six-energies function freely in the human body. A practitioner can master the phenomenon of fire and water not approaching the body. This miracle is impossible without principle and practice. This Dao can only be, as you said, entered by practice and cannot be entered by theory. I can demonstrate this type of miracle anytime you want. I have demonstrated this many times throughout the country.
Not only Jo-ri danbup, there are many other danbups. In the fall of 1955 I was 20 years old and had lived in the mountains for 7 full years. At that time I had a change of thought. So I came down from the mountains and lived in the world for 4 years of military service. Then I re-entered the mountains. There was a simple reason why I did this.
One evening in late fall I was deep in mediation watching the sea of trees and peaks when the image of my grandfather, who raised me, came up on my eyes as a picture. I was absorbed into the emotion (posture) of my heart of missing my parents, brothers, and hometown. This is an improper course of awareness for a Dao practitioner. But I was just 20 years of age and, you know, it can happen.
Master found me and said,
“You’re not doing your haeng-gong. What are you thinking about?” So I told him the state of my heart.
Seven days later master brought me down to a small temple in Sok-li Mountain and began preparations for me to leave mountain life. Food was the main problem, above everything else, when descending from mountain life. I had been living in the mountains and eating raw food for over 7 years. It was not easy to switch to cooked food and be near houses. Even though I lived in a small temple, I encountered the smell of food, people, and muck. I could not keep these odors out of my nose. I wanted to get away from these smells. I locked myself in a closet. I ate only raw fruits and trained myself for a month so I could adjust to the smells of a house. For a good laugh, the asceticism of leaving the mountains was more difficult than the asceticism of getting into the mountains. After a month I began eating noo-roong-ji (scorched rice) with cold water. After 3 months I was able to begin eating rice and a few side dishes that didn’t taste fishy. It took almost a half-year of preparation and adjustment before I got the permission to visit my grandfather. After I visited my grandfather, I joined the Korean Army in 1956 and was honorably discharged from military service in 1959.
In the fall of 1959 I re-entered the mountains but did not meet Master Chung-woon immediately. Instead, I first had the urgent matter of re-training. It was difficult to begin but results came very fast and in 3 months I started gaining flesh from raw food. Then I went to look for Master in Tae-baek Mountain and So-baek Mountain. I practiced all the danbups while I was looking for Master. Finally, in the summer of 1960 we met again on Ch-iak Mountain. As soon as we met I began practicing Sam-hap danbup again for almost 2 years. And then, in the early spring of 1962, I began practicing Jo-ri danbup.
Jo-ri danbup is practiced by combining the haeng-gong of Jin-gi danbup with the hang-gong of Sam-hap danbup. So, it is a very high level and deep stage of dobup (dao method). To summarize Jo-ri danbup’s law, energy inhaled through the skin is concentrated and accumulated at the danjun. Then the energy is circulated through the function and control vessel and then through all meridian points of the whole body. Jo-ri danbup cannot be practiced nor understood unless Jin-gi danbup and Sam-hap danbup have been completed.
I practiced Jo-ri danbup for a long time – a full 3 years. It demanded an infinite amount of patience. As master told me, maybe I was destined to practice Dao. The asceticism I went through often felt like it was more for a man’s will to get through. Now I cannot live without Sun-dan (mountain man’s dan).
After I completed Jo-ri danbup in the fall of 1965, Master’s way of instruction had changed. He explained and demonstrated in detail the practices of Sam-chung danbup, Mu-jin danbup, and Jin-gong danbup and ordered me to practice them as he had explained. Then he said to me, “From now on, go anywhere freely as you will. Practice with care what you have learned, for there is no end to practice. We will meet naturally when it is necessary. When the time comes, descend the mountain and train people. And find a successor.”
He gave me these orders and left.
After that I practiced continually, following the orders he gave to me. I traveled throughout the country and practiced in well-known mountains, big and small temples, and practice centers of all kinds. I descended from the mountains in 1967.
You know all about what I did after I came down from the mountains. I gave individual instruction, opened practice centers, and demonstrated Dao powers throughout the country. Finally, on March 19, 1971, we registered under the title of Jung-Shin Dobup Education Association. The only task of the association was to teach and spread Jung-gahk-doh, the first stage of SunDo. We took the title Jung-gahk-doh and began educating people in the first step of SunDo practice.
Okay. I will briefly tell you about the outer practice. However, people are often more interested in the marvel of the outer practice than the importance of the inner practice. Moreover, practitioners of the inner practice generally tend to focus on demonstrating their outside practice abilities. But if one can see that the outer practice of SunDo is only a reflection of how much inner practice has been achieved. Therefore, the outer practice cannot be accomplished alone. If one only does the outside practice then it will not be different from any other kind of physical training. When only doing the outer practice, the limits of ability will be the limits of bodily stamina alone. If you understand that the strength of SunDo is energy power rather than bodily power then you will soon recognize that energy power comes from the inner practice. Therefore, one should think of inner practice methods as energy accumulating methods and think of the outer practice as energy changing methods. Then one will know the true meaning of the so-called inner and outer practices.
The 9 stages of danbup (for inner practice) that I have already described are mainly composed of the adjustment of yin and yang through inhaling and exhaling. It is the dan practice method. It is the flow of energy itself that fundamentally prevents and heals disease. Healing occurs by the means of SunDo, the generating force, which makes Won-gi (source energy) of heaven and earth flow in the body. There is a saying, “Cure illness by Dao”. SunDo is the prevention and healing of disease by Dao. SunDo is a primary form of healing and comes before medicine, acupuncture, or moxibustion. Symptoms which result from blockages at meridian points are naturally cured by good energy circulation through the meridians and to the whole body. But if one has not reached the level of Dao to be able to do this then we have to use herbs, acupuncture, or acupressure as a suitable method of healing. These treatments are more successful when done by a person with Dao power. You can see the inner practice method as an accumulation of energy and the outer practice method as the activating form of accumulated energy (the activating form of Won-gi).
Outer practice methods are called Ki-hwa-bup. I will describe a few of these.
1. Sun-gong-bup (365 movements)
Yong-ma-hwa, Yong-choon-hwa, Choon-bi-hwa, 36 movements each
Ho-jin-bup, Bi-ryong-bup, 48 movements each
Sang-sang-bup, 80 movements
Bi-sang-chun-bup 81 movements
2. Ki-hwa-yong-bup ( 72 movements)
Ki-hwa-saeng-bup 72 movements
3. Chil-jung-bup (730 movements)
Choon-ma-bup 72 movements
Hwa-Choon-bup 72 movements
Bi-sang-bup 72 movements
Ji-ki-bup 96 movements
Chun-gi-bup 96 movements
To-gi-bup 160 movements
Bi-gi-bup 160 movements
4. Sam-tong-bup (270 movements)
Chun-bup 90 movements
Ji-bup 90 movements
In-bup 90 movements
5. Moo-gong-bup (310 movements)
Gong-gong-bup 90 movements
…-shim-bup 90 movements
Gong-won, Bo-jung-bup, Gong-hap-bup, Mu-ah-bup, Shin-il-bup, Sun-ki-bup, 90 movements each.
6. Hahk-woo-do (900 movements)
Jung-Doh-bup, Keum-do-bup, ……………………..
Pal-dan-bup (Pil-dan-bup, Shim-dan-bup, Ki-…-dan-bup, Haeng-bup, Hwa-bup, Soo-bup) And stuff like these.
However, the third, Chil-jung-bup can be practiced after going into the level of ‘Ji(智)’ and the fifth, Moo-gong-bup can be practiced after going into the level of ‘Ji(地).’ Ki-bup can be practiced over the level of five Ji(地).
SunDo is arranged in four stages which are Su 修, Ryun 練, Ji 智 and Ji 地. They are arranged in the orders of the dan power that has been earned through practice. In Su 修, there are 1 Su 修 to 6 Su 修. In Ryun 練 there are 1 Ryun 練 to 6 Ryun 練. In Ji 智 there are 1 Ji 智 to 10 Ji 智. In Ji 地 there are 1Ji 地 to 15 Ji 地. So from the first step #1 Su 修 to the highest #15 Ji 地, there are 37 steps. When one finishes Joong-gi danbup and Gun-gon danbup, one achieves 6 Su 修. When one finishes Wongi danbup, one achieves 6 Ryun 練. When one finishes Jin-gi danbup, one achieves 10 Ji 智 and one could enter 1 Ji 地 when one goes over Sam-hap danbup or Jo-ri danbup and to the final 15 Ji 地.
Therefore, to practice up to Sun-gong-bup in outside practice, one has to have at least over 1 Ji 智 of inner practice ability to be able to practice it.
As my motive of practicing SunDo had been accidental, the start of outer practice resulted from an accident. As my stage of inner practice became higher, Master instructed me to do the outer practice gradually. But the start of it was merely an accident. I had a severe accident when I was practicing Gun-gon danbup. I was sitting on a high rock and practiced for many days and nights with my eyes closed. Suddenly I lost my mind and fell from a great height. I lay unconscious on the rocks below when Master came and gave me various emergency treatments. I eventually recovered my health from the treatments that Master gave me.
After that, special medical arts were the first outer practices that I learned. There were many techniques to heal or prevent diseases or accidents that might occur while practicing Dao. Knowledge of herbs, acupuncture, acupressure, finger pressing method and so on was the medical arts that I learned first. Needless to say, the fundamental way to prevent and cure disease is by the flow of energy itself.
There is a saying, “Cure illness by Dao”. SunDo is the prevention and healing of disease by Dao. SunDo is a primary form of healing and comes before medicine, acupuncture, or moxibustion. Symptoms which result from blockages at meridian points are naturally cured by good energy circulation through the meridians and to the whole body. But if one has not reached the level of Dao to be able to do this then we inevitably use herbs, acupuncture, or acupressure as a suitable method of healing. These treatments are more successful when done by a person with Dao power.
So I gradually began learning the outer practice methods starting from learning medical treatment techniques. In fact they were gradually practiced out of necessity. You would be surprised if I took my clothes off. My body is full of scars from struggling with rain, wind, heat, and cold. Moreover, fights with various types of fierce beasts left me with bite scars and claw scars all over my body.
The outer practice method can eventually be viewed as a battle technique to use on an enemy when you are in crisis. Master Chung-woon strictly prohibited killing any living thing without good reason and made me practice this method. He heeded me to only fight with beasts that tried to harm me without cause.
In battle one has to do the movements related to the techniques one is performing. The contents and forms are described in a separate book. There are many variations in movements. Bare hands, long needles, short knives and clubs each have their own techniques. In the mountains I used all weapons made from wood and trained in all these methods. However, one must not forget that the speed and accuracy of the defensive and offensive techniques do not come from the ability of the technique itself. These things come from the power of the inner practice.
Good question and that is the main problem. The original SunDo is in the inner practice. When the power of inner practice increases, then no evil, harm, or disease can approach. With the inner practice, one can gain extreme mental power, physical power, dao power and energy power. And with these powers we can fulfill our destiny and attain the goal of enjoying life. However, preventing sudden harm and helping build the ideal society for the sake of heaven’s way and justice is also a duty of the Daoist. It can be done by practicing the dao power of outside practice and the dao power of changing energy. That is also the duty of a Daoist.
Therefore, outer practice methods cannot be exempted in practice. But all practitioners neglect the original purpose of Dao and only, more than anything, try to learn the skills of breaking rocks with their fist. This mental state is a problem. Can you understand when I say to you, “At the higher stages of SunDo practice the rock breaks before the hand touches it. In other words, it cuts off the energy.” You may not believe it but it is a fact. If that fact is not accomplished, then Dao does not exist in this world.
Although this fact cannot be proved logically, it can actually be proved practically. I do not burn when I go on top of a pile of wood that is on fire. There is no logical proof of this but I have demonstrated it many times. You have seen the film I brought from Japan of me doing this haven’t you? I have also done this many times in the Seoul gymnasium.
But as you mentioned, I’ve started giving instruction in the outer practice methods, namely the Ki-hwa-bup. However, the skill of the outer practice will not become visible until the practice of Jin-gi danbup has fully matured and the practitioner has constitutionally changed into the Jin-gi (true energy) physique. But most of all, an outer practitioner should attain a high level of virtue in his heart. For this reason I order my students to follow guidelines. In other words, they must make an oath that Dao power can never be used outside of heaven’s principle and the human way. However, the practice of heart virtue cannot be achieved simply by making an oath. Therefore, to get into Dao, many accompanying conditions are needed.
Yes, when the practice gets higher then heart virtue gradually gets higher. But for the practice to get higher, there are many rules to be cautious of. There are thousands of things that should be done and not be done. I will tell you a few of the most important ones. There are many reasons for a Dao practitioner to go into the mountains but the most important reason is to leave every environment that interferes with the practice of Dao. But when there is the possibility of practicing Dao while living in society, one should practice the beneficial points of it, remove the disadvantages, and eliminate unhappiness, shouldn’t we?
This is the reason why SunDo-danbup is a very important purpose of our Jung-Shin-Do-Bup Research Association. We see practicing SunDo as a direct means to cultivate the virtuous character of upright people and humanity.
The criterion for uprightness can be summed up as ‘throwing away selfishness and adapting to the principles of heaven, social order, and national law’. Uprightness also means that we have to try to make this society adapt to these things.
Specific information about SunDo dobup practice is published in a separate book.
Good question. You asked me about my practice and I gave you a general description of it. Now it is time to tell you about the motive that brought me down from the mountains to open practice centers. I did not intend to get pupils and then take them into the mountains. My intention was to go out to the cities and make people practice SunDo. It is true that the principle of practicing Dao is to leave home and go into the mountains to practice. But just as Buddhism has monks who live outside temples and practice at home, SunDo has practitioners who live outside the mountains and practice in cities and towns. Before, I thought this might be impossible. After I came down and experienced practicing in society, I gained confidence that it was possible. Even though one cannot eat raw food in practice I realized that with a few cautions about food, then food would not be a big concern.
Sup-saeng (receiving life) is receiving things rightly from the outside world in order to keep our inborn heart and body alive. Sup means intake or receiving. In life we receive air, water, and food. One needs knowledge and training in the correct breathing method to receive air and the correct way of receiving water. That is the source of human life and the secret of receiving. Therefore correct breathing, correct eating, and correct drinking are very important.