Practice :

Burning for Enlightenment
Now being an ordained monk the young Jinje sunim(honorific title for Buddhist monks and nuns) set out for a small deserted hermitage in Taebaek mountain with the intention of enlightenment. He immersed himself in his Hwadu, just eating mountain patatos, but the abbot of the temple below him worried and continued to ask him to come down and stay in the temple. After two months of this distraction he decided to leave Taebaek mountain and went to study with some monks at Torisa temple.
He started the winter retreat determined to break through his hwadu, getting up to meditate after all of the other monks had fallen asleep. After two months he was struck by an experience which he believed to be enlightenment. He stopped his practice, becoming complacent and believing himself to have been enlightened, and waited for the end of the retreat to see his master.
First meeting with Seon Master Hyanggok
At the end of the retreat however, he found out that his Master Seogu had passed away, so after the cremation ceremony at Donghwasa monastery he went in search of masters to confirm what he believed to be Great Enlightenment.
First he went to SeongCheonAm temple to meet the Master Song Cheol sunim. At that time however, Master Seong Cheol sunim was in the middle of a practice that consisted of not meeting anyone for 10 years. The master just cried out to Jinje sunim, “I don’t know, I don’t know!”
Next Jinje sunim traveled south to meet the famous Master Hyanggok sunim, a Dharma friend of Song Cheol sunim. Immediately upon meeting Jinje sunim, the master Hyanggok hurled a question at him,
“If you cna answer I will hit you thirty times, if you don’t I will still hit you thirty times! What will you do?”
Jinje sunim was at a loss for words, the Master asked again,
“After Nan-ch'ünan killed the cat Joju put his shoe on his head and left the room. What do you think of this?”
Jinje sunim was still speechless, despite all of his confidence in his mistaken belief of enlightenment he could not avoid being reprimanded. However, without having faith in a teacher it is not easy to put aside mistaken beliefs of seeing one’s self nature, so he went out traveling the country meeting all the different masters.
But there was a problem, some of the masters rebuked him as did Master Hyanggok, but others seemed to confirm his experience as enlightenment. If all the masters had reproached him it would have been easy to put away his false belief, but because there still were a few who did not. He wasted the next two years believing himself to be great man of the way.
When he was 25 he entered into a difficult winter retreat at Sangwonsa temple at Odaesan mountain. It was especially cold that winter, and with only a heavy blanket to sleep in a room that wood freeze any tea left over, the community lived and meditated. One sunny day he was sitting outside enjoying the warmth and reflecting on his life, “Is everything in the world clear, like it was for the great masters of the past? If somebody asks me a question am I confident that I can respond clearly and quickly?” The answer was, without a doubt, “no”.
“I have been mistaking a thief to be my son, a rock to be a nugget of gold. In the end who is it hurting?” he reproached himself and decided to put aside all of his mistakes and start over again, but this time under the instruction of a “bright eyed” Seon master.
And among all of the Seon masters he had met so far the young Jinje sunim was impressed by Master Hyanggok’s precision and clarity in teaching; his ability to use “the knife the other masters did not use” in separating white from black. So at the end of the retreat he departed for Master Hyanggok's temple.
I will give my life for it
“I have come here to study under you, master,” said Jinje sunim as he prostrated himself before Master Hyanggok.
“The Great Way is boundless and sublime, how are you going to solve it?” the master asked.
“I will give my life for it,” the young monk replied and so Master Hyanggok gave him a new hwadu:
“Hsiang-yen: Up a Tree” (香嚴上樹話):

A man was hanging by his teeth from a tree branch high upon a precipice. His hands were tied and his feet dangling. Somebody walked by and asked him why Bodhidharma came to China. If he answers he will fall, if he does not he will have failed in his duty. If you were in this situation, what would you do?