The examination is the practitioner being asked about the condition of his own study and having it confirmed by the teacher. If one tries to reach the state in which one is skilled in all the other things of the world, while one must receive an examination from the guide and must strive and endeavor, only when one has received a fine examination to make certain from a bright-eyed supervisor of Seon practice can one proceed along the correct path. In paricular, the path proceeding to enlightenment through the investigation of the hwadu may also develop into very detailed and unanticipated circumstances. The movements of the mind that may arise internally in a practitioner, if they are not guided by a teacher, may harbor the danger that can proceed in a mistaken direction.
Therefore the practitioner has to occasionally seek out the teacher to ask about whether his study is proper or whether it is or is not going along a mistaken path, and what points need repairing and what are to be perfected, and according to the master’s guidance he must correct them and in order to mature his study he must be examined. In cases when the examination between the master and the disciple does not go well, practitioners may not be able to have an interest in the hwadu meditation and may fall into outrageous paths. For that reason the examination is important.
The seal of approval means the final process of practice in which one receives recognition that one is enlightened through the examination of whether the practitioner is enlightened or not to the hwadu. That is, when the practitioner has conquered the hwadu, the teacher examines that realm and if the practitioner is correctly enlightened, then he gives his nod and the seal of approval.
In Seon the seal of approval has a very important meaning. It is indeed just like the instant when one dots the eyes of a painted dragon in which one dots the eyeball of the dragon to vivify it and make it move. In Seon this final nod of approval in particular is important because when a practitioner says he is enlightened, there are no objective criteria to confirm that enlightenment. In other words, there is no exeternally visible yardstick through which to verify and ensure whether the practitioner is truly enlightened, or mistakenly enlightened, or if not, still incomplete in enlightenment. Therefore there are cases when the person is under the illusion that he is enlightened according to his own opinion. By gaining a minor knowledgeable view through study and being attached to that, or by interrupting the study, one may fall into a side-track, and so a deluded person of the Way is produced.
And so the practitioners, no matter how sure they are that the enlightenment they have experienced is correct, must receive a formal seal of approval that confirms whether they are mistaken or correct. If not there will be the appearance of pseudo persons of the Way and the unfortunate situation can spread to themselves, or indeed even to other people, who will be driven out onto private paths. They are to be warned against and should be warned against.
And if so, can anyone receive the seal of approval? The Dharma that the Buddha gave to the Venerable Kāśyapa through the mind-to-mind transmission like a lamplight so that it would not die out, has passed through many teachers and has been inherited up till today. These teachers are called the proper masters of the lineage or true masters of the lineage. Patriarchal Seon and Ganhwa Seon have cherished the tradition that has transmitted the Dharma that has given the seal of approval to the state of enlightenment and the pride in that distinctive enlightenment. By doing so, in a desolate land, the water of truth has flowed and the great land has achieved a green forest and finally a brilliant bloom has blossomed.