Lotto Dhamma


In Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake, one of the more memorable stories, for me, was about Zen Master Seung Sahn and a few of his American students driving across the States in a van.  Stopping in Las Vegas in the wee hours of the morning to rest, Zen Master Seung Sahn stepped out of the van and went for a walk. While taking in the lights and sights of the city, his students passed out in the van. Soon, the door flung open, waking everyone up and there stood Zen Master Seung Sang urging his students to follow him. He led them into a casino and they stood there absorbing the strange environment. Next thing they know, Zen Master Seung Sahn is coming towards them with two sacks of coins in his hands and starts handing out fists full of coins to his students. When his students protested that it was against the tenets of Zen, the Zen Master replied, “These people are all trapped in Hell – the hell of their own desires. All of you are practicing the Great Bodhisattva Way, which means always having a mind that does together-action with all beings. If you do not understand their kind of Hell, how will you ever save them?”

Last week, as we were leaving the house, I notice a long, multi-legged bug (something like a millipede) by the door. I was about to scoop it up and show it the way out when EunBong protested that I should leave it in the house. She said that in Korea, if you see that bug in your house, it means you’ll have a lot of money come to you. She’d told me the same thing last year when we had one in our toilet. I’m not too keen on most superstitions, and this one is no exception, but EunBong pointed out that I did get my severance pay the same week that we’d seen the insect before. Anyway, at least this superstition saves insects from being squished, and I thought the path of least resistance would be to leave it alone.

That night, the little critter was crawling all the walls of my dreams, and had grown about three times the size. It ever grew crab arms! When I told EunBong about the dream she said we had to go buy a lotto ticket! My mind went back to a few days earlier. I took the green bus home from work because it was 200 won (about 17 cents) cheaper, but dropped me off about a 25 minute walk from home. Walking through the cold, I looked up and did something I hoped I’d never do… I said, ” If Gwan Se Eum Bosal really is listening, can’t you help me win the lottery or something!” I always thought it was wrong to seek money through spirituality, but that day, I did it… My wife, a devout Gwan Se Eum Bosalist, must have rubbed off on me a little! I actually started to think that maybe she was answering me. Again, that night I had a dream that we won the lottery, 2.4 million dollars to be exact, and I really started being convinced. We even started talking as if we’d already won, making plans what we would do with the money; help my dad retire, buy a house for EunBong’s parents, help Haiti, build a temple, travel for a few years and settle where ever we like best!

Friday night came and I took a step back. I watched my mind, saw the suffering we were setting ourselves up for. I thought about Zen Master Seung Sahn with his students in Las Vegas, I hoped EunBong wouldn’t be too disappointed. She really believe me when I said I thought we would win. Before Fina was born, I was meditating everyday. I would tell her my thoughts about her and her friend’s lives and they would be true. But my mind hasn’t be very clear since, and I would actually be disappointed in myself if I used meditation for something like winning the lotto.

We waited in front of the TV, Korean Lotto 6/45 tickets in hand, until 7:50, when they showed the lotto results, wondering if our lives would be changed. The first number came and we had it. I thought, “Is this for real?” but the rest of the numbers came up one by one and we had none of them. I asked EunBong if she was okay and she told me that she was relived. Although she’d lost sleep that week, excited that we would win, she was also afraid of what might happen if we did. I took the remote and changed the channel, again with Zen Master Seung Sahn’s words in mind. At least, now I understand this level of suffering, I can help save others.

Wanting Enlightenment Is a Big Mistake: Teachings of Zen Master Seung San (Shambhala Pocket Classics)


2 responses »

  1. Hi,

    Better luck next time! LOL!

    No, seriously, I think many of us have got lost in that little fantasy from time to time, and here you’ve really described it so well. Thank you.

    And though, like you, I don’t (usually!) pray for lottery wins, I certainly do pray for your peace and happiness Joseph.

    Kwan Seum Bosal,


  2. Hi Joseph,
    I just spent many wonderful minutes speaking with you via skype and thought I’d trash this message, but I’m still reflecting on your dream(s) of winning the lotto and exploring some symbolic and metaphorical possibilities. It was such a strong dream sequence, which dream workers suggest denotes that it carries significant wisdom or learning. It’s clear that it did–and you have told the tale well! Needless to say, I enjoyed this blog entry and smiled about it in recognition of my own similar experience–on more than one occasion.

    I looked up “money” in the dream book, which yielded a surprisingly brief passage in a section titled “Valuables.” This paragraph caught my attention:

    “Valuables may depict rewards for your labours, mental or physical, and YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD RECEIVING THEM. … Finding valuables and happily receiving them would indicate your willingness to accept your good fortune and may also serve notice of many good things coming your way. Should the dream involve something you are planning to do, it could predict the prosperous outcome of your efforts.”

    Maybe if you think back to what happened that day or in the few days around the time you had that dream it will make more sense to you. One of the assets of a dream is that it tells us something about ourself or our life that we were previously unaware of. Edgar Cayce, bless his heart, said “Dreams work to solve the problems of the dreamer’s conscious, waking life, and they work to quicken in the dreamer new potentials which are his to claim.”

    What is offered at that level is not to be considered selfish or unethical to accept; including material abundance. I think EunBong may be more culturally conflicted about wealth than you are, given the compelling and deeply rooted beliefs and social status indicators in Korea; but we all, to some extent, hold conscious beliefs that arise from “untruths” embedded in the subconscious mind from external sources. Dreams provide the tools of liberation that help us identify, correct and delete those restrictive influences that hinder our progress.

    It is said that when we follow our dreams, they always lead us to truth. Blessedly, given their limitless application to that path, their capacity, unlike money, is never spent.

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