In memoriam – Park Jae Won

박고모님  Today was the 49th day ceremony for Park Jae Won, who passed away in January. It’s hard to describe how warm and impressive he was. I’m a bit disappointed that this mediocre photo is the best I could find, but perhaps that’s impermanence telling me not to cling to any particular shape of him!

This is an interview with him from 2006, and touches on modern Korean Buddhist history, as well as his experiences with different Buddhist teachers in Korea.

Sadly, his wife also passed away a few weeks afterwards. Sigh. He leaves behind his daughter and her family.

 

Senior Advisor Mr. Park, and the Early History of Hanmaum Seon Center

This  interview appeared in the May/June 2006 issue (#27) of Hanmaum Journal.

If you visit the Anyang Hanmaum Seon Center, there is a chance you’ll see Mr. Jae Won Park(박재원). He has known Kun Sunim for many decades, and been a member of the Seon Center from it’s early years. In addition to taking care of all kinds of large and small jobs for the Seon Center, he also used to have many important roles in the Buddhist community and larger society of Korea. Here is his story.

How did you come to meet Daehaeng Kun Sunim?

I first met her through my association with Tanho Sunim [Tanho Sunim was also a disciple of Hanam Sunim, and was considered one of the foremost scholars of modern Korea -translator]. I’d met Tanho Sunim in the mid-1960’s and later had formed a group to help support his teaching and vision. He and Kun Sunim were very good friends, so on one of his visits, I went along and met Kun Sunim. That’s how I first met her, and eventually, in April of 1976, I had been appointed as senior adviser to Hanmaum Seon Center.

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Tanho Sunim

For many years I’ve wondered about that karmic affinity that led me to meet Daehaeng Kun Sunim. Her path has been so different from that of a worldly person like me. In my heart she’s closer to me than my own parents were; what kind of connection must there be to cause this? How much strength and hope must I have gotten from her in my past lives that I would neglect everything else to help take care of the Seon Center? I’ve thought often about how meeting her gave me such strength and why it was such a turning point in my life.

You know, I don’t actually see her that often, even though it would be easy to with my position. The reason is that every time I go up to see her, I start crying. When we all go to greet her on days like Teachers’ Day, just asking her to take care of her health makes my heart feel like it is going to burst. [This is, in part, a Korean traditional greeting -translator] I’ve received so much love from Kun Sunim. I used to stop by on my way to work and see her. It always felt so wonderful, and I hated those days when I couldn’t. If other members and I had talked about some type of food or meal, Kun Sunim would always find it and give us some, no matter what it was.

In those days, we didn’t have separate Sunday Dharma talks; people just gathered and asked Kun Sunim about whatever was on their minds. They would ask, and she would give very deep answers about the underlying issues. I’d hear those and think, “Wow! I really need to practice more diligently!” But then I’d forget about it almost as soon as I left the Center. It was so wonderful to see Kun Sunim and listen to her, but I was so caught up in other things that I didn’t do a good job of practicing.

In the garden above what is now the offices for the Hanmaum Journal, there used to be a separate building that Kun Sunim built especially for me, because I was getting too tired. I often was at the Center very late, or had to deal with strange people that would appear, demanding money and so forth, and by the time I had dealt with all of them, there would only a few hours before I’d have to go to work. So Kun Sunim had that building added so I would have a place to get some sleep. Later she also used it to meet and talk with the laypeople who would come to see her.

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During that time, the group I’d formed helped organize a Dharma talk for Tanho Sunim in Busan. It was a huge success, with 35,000 people inside the stadium, and another 10,000 outside. Everything had been arranged and set up by less than fifty of us. Until that time, the largest public Dharma talk in Busan had 2,400 people in attendance. Kyongbong Sunim [another friend of Kun Sunim’s, who was a very respected Seon Master, and lived near Busan, at Tongdo Temple – translator] teased me, asking how a sunim from Woljong Temple far in the north (Tanho Sunim) could come in and hold such a large Dharma talk in his back yard! As I think back on this, it seems like we all were just running Kun Sunim’s errands. Although there were difficulties, it was Kun Sunim who made everything possible. Whatever we thought was important, she just supported us unconditionally. I feel a bit bad sometimes, because at the time I didn’t realize just how deeply she loved us.

You were fairly important in Korean society at the time. Wasn’t it difficult to set that aside and come work for the Seon Center?

Back in…, oh it must have been before 1976, when I was appointed senior adviser to the seon center. One morning I deeply realized what an incredible teacher Kun Sunim was, and vowed to myself to spare no effort in supporting her in her work. It occurred to me that I should go see her that day and make a full bow to her. So I left right away for the Seon Center, without even having breakfast. When I got there, Mr. Lee, Unsu told me to wait a moment. It seems that earlier Kun Sunim had told him I would be coming, and that he should make sure breakfast was prepared for me! So I sat down and had breakfast before going to see Kun Sunim.

In those days, Kun Sunim would gather with members and answer whatever questions or concerns they had. That day there were about twenty people with her, but when I arrived, she told them all to leave us alone for a bit. After they’d left the room, she said to me, “Why don’t you offer a full bow to me today.” “Yes, that’s what I was thinking as well,” I replied. After bowing to her, my heart was so full of emotion that I had to look away at the ceiling for a long time to keep from crying. I still remember this as if it were only this morning. That was how my formal connection with Kun Sunim began.

You could say that there are several episodes that led me towards becoming a student of

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Daehaeng Kun Sunim

Kun Sunim, but it was much more. I’m sure it’s the same for other members as well. If you were to ask those who have the deepest connection with her what the source of that connection is, I doubt anyone could explain it. It’s not something that you can stick a reason onto. It’s just that the more time I spent with Kun Sunim, the more I listened to her and saw her in action, the more I wanted to be around her. Who she was as a person, her essence, and her universe, as it were, was just so vast and incredible. There’s no way someone who isn’t at that same level can begin to truly know her depths.

Both Tanho Sunim and Kun Sunim were disciples of Hanam Sunim. You, too, were very close to Tanho Sunim as well. Could you speak a bit about how you came to be so close, as well as the connection between Tanho Sunim, Kun Sunim, and Hanam Sunim?

I first met Tanho Sunim in the late 1960’s in my role as the head of a youth group. It was a fairly elevated group, and we invite distinguished scholars, artists, political and economic specialists, and so on, to give lectures. We would select those who were known for their good character and who were the at the forefront of their field, with plenty of time for questions and discussion. This was how I met Tanho Sunim. He was not only an outstanding Buddhist scholar, but he also a very deep Seon practitioner who thoroughly understood the sutras. I’d been working for the National History Compilation Ministry, and had a lot of opportunities to meet Tanho Sunim. So I often arranged for Tanho Sunim to give us talks on those topics. Tanho Sunim paid a lot of attention to us, and even gave us the name “Ikseong Group”[roughly, “ripened essence” – translator]. We were nearly all Buddhists, and wanted others to be able to experience Tanho Sunim’s teachings, so we worked hard to set up Dharma talks for him in the large cities. We would arrange the facilities and publicity, and take care of all the ground work that went into preparing something like that.

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We took many trips with Tanho Sunim to famous temples throughout Korea. He would explain the history and talk about the important things that had happened there, and would give us a Dharma talk as well. And every time, he would talk a little about Daehaeng Kun Sunim. He described her as a truly outstanding practitioner, and if she would come forward and start teaching, it would be an incredible blessing for our entire country. Whenever Tanho Sunim’s travels took him in the vicinity of the Anyang Hanmaum Seon Center, he would always stop by to visit her. He would take us with him, so we too were able to meet Kun Sunim from time to time.

There was a famous laywoman who took great joy in being able to offer meals to outstanding sunims, and the sunims always enjoyed being invited to her home. She also invited our monthly group quite often, and quietly provided us with financial support as well. Even when he was invited there, and

someone else’s guest, Tanho Sunim would praise Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s qualities! Every time we met him, he would talk about her. It was obvious that he wished very deeply for Daehaeng Kun Sunim to start teaching.

I guess it was somewhere around the Yaksu district of Seoul, when Tanho Sunim had been invited to give a talk. I’d driven him, and as soon as we had finished, he asked me very sincerely to help Daehaeng Kun Sunim in any way I could. “If there’s anything you can do for her, do it. With your help, the Buddhist community of Korea would gain a great teacher.” I guess he felt I could do something because I was involved in a great number of social organizations. For example, I was the president of the Korean Federation of Martial Arts, and had been responsible for setting up and organizing several very large Dharma talks for outstanding sunims. [What’s unspoken here is that Mr. Park was very active in society. He was actually fairly famous, had a lot of connections, and knew how to make things happen.- translator]

Tanho Sunim had asked me for help, but I really didn’t understand who Kun Sunim was or what she was teachings. From time to time, I’d been to see her and told her about employees of mine who were sick (and they then recovered), and as time went by I began to get a sense of something much deeper. Nonetheless, my background was science and academic studies, so all I could think of was to examine her Dharma power and the mysterious things that went on around her. I was so ignorant! I started recording all the cases where someone had come asking for her help, and what the results were. On weekends I’d follow up with all the people that had come to see her because they were sick or had some other problem [In these early years, Kun Sunim was first widely known for all the basically miraculous cases of healing and other help that had happened to people who had visited her. In nearly all cases the disease or other problem would disappear or substantially ease. – translator]. I’d record exactly had been wrong, what she had said, and what the outcome had been. The more I looked, the greater the impression she left with me. Finally, after I had followed up and confirmed that all of these amazing things had really happened, I gathered all of the people I worked with and was associated with, and we all went to see Kun Sunim. Here was someone they all needed to meet.

Previously, you talked about how Tanho Sunim had such great expectations for Daehaeng Kun Sunim, and how he asked you to help her in anyway you could. Why do you think he had so much hope that she would become a great leader of Korean Buddhism?

Well, Tanho Sunim was very clear in his belief that Buddhism needed her. He felt that the Korea had become the center of the world’s Buddhism. Buddhism had basically left India, and had died out in China with the rise of communism. That left Korea as one of the few countries where Buddhism was still practiced devoutly. He felt that Korea’s Buddhism needed to become very strong (in order to support Buddhism around the world.) For that reason, he spent most of his life translating the sutras, providing commentaries on them, and studying and teaching Eastern philosophy. So you can see that even though he was famous for his work as a scholar and practitioner, and despite Kun Sunim being a woman (Korean men of his era would have tended to look down upon women – translator.), he had great belief in her and her ability to help all beings.

Hanam Sunim (the first patriarch of the modern Jogye Order) first ordained Daehaeng Kun Sunim (around 1948). Afterwards he quietly gave her ordination certificate to Tanho Sunim, and said, “This child will become a great field of blessings for Buddhism. Guide her well.” Tanho Sunim kept that certificate through the Korean War and for the next thirty years. He was very diligent about staying in touch with Kun Sunim, and helping where he could. (Nonetheless, life for Kun Sunim in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was still very hard.) In 1980, Tanho Sunim came to the center and brought out that ordination certificate and gave it to Kun Sunim. It was then that she decided to go forward and teach again within the traditional Buddhist establishment. Tanho Sunim and I were also close, and he readily agreed to help when I had an idea that involved him. For example, for years he taught classes at the Seon Center about the Flower Ornament Sutra and its meanings. As you might know, he was quite famous, so for an ordinary, small center to host a lecturer like him was unthinkable. It was a big deal, and brought a lot of people to the center, where they had a chance to encounter Kun Sunim’s teachings.

Could you talk a bit about what things were like at the Seon Center after you came?

There was a large group of us who came to the Seon Center. We were like a family, spent most of our time there, and tried to live according to Kun Sunim’s teachings. The center’s membership began to greatly increase, and more and more people began to sense how special Kun Sunim’s teachings were. The construction of the old Dharma Hall, which is now used by both the Science and International Culture institutes, reflected this profound energy, this fragrance that seemed to pervade everything. Everyone just gathered together, and it was like, “Okay, you come up with the blueprints. You come up with the sand and gravel, and you’re in charge of getting the cement.” Back in those days, it was incredibly difficult for ordinary people to borrow money from the banks, but the president of the lay member’s group, Kim Young Su, who passed away years ago now, was head of a bank branch and arranged a loan for the Seon Center. Everything just clicked and happened so smoothly. The building didn’t have any flaws, and is so well built that we can still use it forty years later without any problems at all. (This is unusual in Korea, where buildings from this era were often falling apart after just thirty years.)

All of this was possible because of Kun Sunim. I’m pretty good at evaluating others’ ability and what they are capable of, but watching Kun Sunim lead the Seon Center, I realized that her ability is vastly beyond what is considered humanly possible. This stood out as I watched all the ways Kun Sunim was teaching us, and how she always knew exactly what was needed. At one point, she even smashed the Buddha statue with a large hammer in order to teach us. Because we were still ignorant (and saw the Buddha statue as something outside ourselves) she got rid of it. For a while, she put up a large drawing of a circle where the Buddha statue had been, and another time she put up a big painting of the word for Buddha(). For a while, she only put up the base for the Buddha statue (which was shaped like large, open lotus flower.) She was doing all of that in order to teach us to rely upon our foundation, Juingong. She was so full of unconditional love for us. Our visits always caused her to laugh and smile a lot; those were such beautiful days! After a while, though, I would stay in the back of the room so that others could experience the joy of being around her.

As I understand it, you were also involved in the politics of the day?

In October 1979, President Park Chung-hee was assassinated, and in December, General Chun Doo-hwan led a coup d’etat and seized power. In the suppression of dissent that followed, Buddhist temples and leaders were heavily targeted. At that time I formed the International Association of Buddhists, and invited the Buddhist elders of Korea to come and talk about what could be done. They asked us (the International Association of Buddhists) to help protect the Buddhists of Korea from persecution by the Chun Doo-hwan government. With that in mind, I formed a political party and got involved in politics. We did a lot of things with the goal of putting pressure on the government. For example, we organized a large protest that involved many of the temples and churches of Korea. On the same day, through the country, all the temples and churches throughout Korea began to strike or ring their bells. (Large Buddhist bells are struck from the side with what is essentially a wooden log.)

There are still many people who fondly remember the late office manager, Lee Jae Hyung. Not only did he work incredibly hard on behalf of the Seon Center, he was also a wonderful and outstanding person. Everyone’s hearts broke when he died so young. I’d guess you must have been close to him?(Mr. Lee Jae Hyung passed away on January 21, 1990, at the age of fifty. He had gone into Seoul to prepare for that day’s Dharma talk, and it had been snowing heavily. On the way back, a car coming down a hill slid on the snow into the oncoming lane and hit Mr. Lee’s car, killing him instantly. Even Kun Sunim was surprised and heartbroken by this.)

He really did do so much for the Seon Center. Many people don’t know this, but before he came to the Seon Center, he worked as my assistant. I’d seen what a great person he was, and asked him to work for me, but he refused, saying that he was already working for someone he considered his teacher. Well, I knew who his teacher was, so I went and visited him. His teacher was nearly seventy then, and I said that I’d come because he had taught his student so well. Both Lee Jae Hyung and I were young, I said, and I talked about my plans for starting a large Buddhist movement. I explained that it would be a lot of work, but I knew that Mr. Lee would make a great contribution, and so I asked that he send Mr. Lee to come work for me. For two years I begged him for the use of Mr. Lee, until finally I was able to hire Mr. Lee. The first job I had for him was to take over as President of the International Association of Buddhists. We later worked together in the political party I formed. Later, when I left, I used my connections in the Department of Education to arrange a lecturer’s position for Mr. Lee at a technical college. He politely but firmly declined, because he too wanted to come work for the Seon Center. He said that he wanted to study under Kun Sunim, and become a true person and live joyfully.

Mr. Lee was the person who really laid the foundation for the center as an organization. When he first came with me to work at the center, there was no office manager, so he took over the job on a temporary basis. He brought an old army cot to his office(because many days he was working so late, that rather than going home, it was easier to grab a few hours sleep in the office before the office opened for the day’s business.) For the first six months he worked next to the much younger office employees, helping take care of the regular office work.(He was ignoring the customs of age and status, and just helping out where needed.) He was so down to earth, and treated everyone with the same warmth. As his job evolved, he supervised the design and construction of the original office building, and was always checking up on every single thing to make sure nothing was left undone.

For over ten years, until the day he died, he never took a day off. He organized and oversaw all kinds of projects, including the ceremony book we use, Kun Sunim’s version of the Heart Sutra, and the first books put out by the Seon Center. He would listen very carefully to what Kun Sunim wanted do, and then work tirelessly to make that a reality. Although he did all of those things incredibly well, what really made him special was how he looked after and took care of people. Whether it was Kun Sunim, regular sunims, or laypeople, he was equally friendly and warm to them all. He got along with everyone, laughed, and had such a bright heart with everyone he met. He would warmly greet others first, (ignoring the custom that, as a higher status person, ordinary members should greet him first.) He was such a special person. We really lost a great pillar of our center when he passed away.

As I recall you were the person who was really in charge of things for many years, but around 1990 you began transferring all of your responsibilities to younger people.

Yes, by 1992 the Seon Center was well established, and the sunims had enough years of practice that they were able to look after the laypeople as well as oversee the key jobs at the center. It seemed like there was nothing else for me to do, and that I should stay away so that others would feel free to take care of things as they saw fit.

Also at that time I was having a lot of problems at home. The main reason was because I’d always lived without any particular concern or worry about money. That was why I was able to accomplish so many things. However, after several decades of living like that, I hadn’t saved anything. Further, after twenty years as a civil servant, I retired and was given my retirement money in a lump sum. (In Korea, nearly all retirement packages are paid out in one lump sum.) About that time, I’d been thinking that the International Association of Buddhists really needed to have a newsletter. We didn’t have enough money for one, so I gave my entire retirement package to the president, Lee Jae Hyung, and told him to start a newsletter with it. Well, to say my wife wasn’t happy about this would be an understatement. She really let me have it. “Have we really been married all these years?! You gave all that money to start a newsletter instead of using it for us? Do I have to have Lee Jae Hyung ask you to me give money for our use?! I don’t care how important it is, did you really just give away our entire retirement money without a word to me?!” She barely spoke to me for the next six months. (Laughs sadly.)

I went and saw Kun Sunim and told her that I thought it was time for me to stop coming to the center on a daily basis. She asked me if that was really necessary, saying, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything at all. Even if you are there like a folding screen, you’ll still be doing great work.”(A folding screen doesn’t do any activity, but in Korea they usually display profound writings. So even though they don’t do anything, they can inspire everyone passing by.)

So that’s pretty much how things went. I still spent most days at the center. Looking back, I suppose you could say I’ve been a temple guardian, or perhaps the temple gatekeeper. Not the kind that tosses out trouble makers or peddlers, but one who guides forward those who are seeking to discover their true essence. To be able to serve and learn from a teacher like Daehaeng Kun Sunim has been a source of indescribable blessings. It’s like I’ve had two lives: one before I met Kun Sunim, and one after. I often think about how much my life has changed since meeting her. It’s so incredible; words just can’t express all of my gratitude.

Previously, you said that you felt your life started over when you met Kun Sunim, and that it felt like she was always watching over you. Would you talk some more about this?

For the first forty years or so of my life, I did whatever I wanted to. I lived very carelessly, and finally I paid the price for that. I had very high, untreated blood pressure, and finally I suffered a stroke and collapsed. Over the next ten years, I was very weak and had many difficult times, but the whole time Kun Sunim was looking over me(even though he hadn’t yet met her). As well as receiving electro-stimulation therapy, I was also taking drugs for anxiety(probably barbiturates). Frighteningly, I become addicted to those drugs. Also, they were extremely expensive, and much more than I could afford on a civil servant’s salary. I tried everything I could, but I was unable to break my addiction. One time, I arranged the use of a room at a temple so far in the mountains of Kangwon Province, I couldn’t even climb up there. I had to hire someone to carry me. I planned to stay there until I overcome my addiction. I threw away all of the drugs I had, and told my family and friends to stay away. And still I failed. However, after I came to the Seon Center, Kun Sunim unexpectedly, and very firmly, told me to stop taking those drugs. I went ahead and tried, and this time I was able to quit them! It was like a miracle. My health recovered, and I was able to help people who were looking for something more in life. Not only did she help me become healthy again, she also helped me resolve several areas in my personal life. Among these, I used to command quite a bit of power, and through Kun Sunim’s help, I was able to let all of that go.

Back before I came to the Seon Center, Tanho Sunim said something that made me think a lot. In general terms, he knew about my life, my political connections, and what kind of a person I was. “Director Park, go and study under Daehaeng Kun Sunim. Under her you can fully develop and learn about this vast world of mind. Through going to the daily ceremonies and practicing the precepts, meditation, and wisdom, or through putting the six paramitas into practice, if you attain pranja wisdom, you’ll be able to attain the four great wishes of a human being. These are to win without fighting, to be noble without needing a title, to be rich without seeking out money, and to be holy and enlightened without having to do anything. On the surface these seem silly don’t they? To win without fighting actually sounds a bit cowardly, doesn’t it? Can a person really be part of the nobility without ever holding a high level title or job? To be rich without seeking out money sounds a bit like a beggar’s philosophy, doesn’t it? And to be divine without doing anything sounds a bit like someone who is already a Buddha, doesn’t it? Not much use to us ordinary people, no? Yet if you go study and practice under Daehaeng Kun Sunim, you’ll realize what all of these mean.”

I’d always had a quick temper. When I practiced martial arts, I fought my way to the presidency of the Korean Federation of Martial Arts, and organized large competitions as well. The “Beggar King,” Kim Chun Sam, was even my older “brother.”(Kim Chun Sam was famous for setting up orphanages after the Korean War, and later for his support of environmental movements, but he was also known for his fighting ability. At this time in Korea, land, wage, and social justice disputes were often settled by gang-like fights between the different groups. The only way to win a conflict like this was to have the most and best “fists,” ie, fighters. Because there was no effective legal recourse at that time, without these, your side would utterly lose. What is obvious to Korean readers here, is that Mr. Park was also someone like this. When he first came to the Seon Center, temples in Korea, and in particular nun’s temples, had problems with fake monks trying to move in and take over the temple. Essentially unorganized gangsters, they would move into the Dharma hall or the courtyard, and demand money or try to force the nuns out of the temple by threatening them, preventing them from leaving or returning, and so on. The only way to deal with them was to forceably throw them out. For that, you needed strong men. This is one of the ways that Mr. Park’s youth and martial arts groups were helping temples throughout Korea, and one of the things he helped the Seon Center with.)

When I was young, I was what they called a “fist,” and didn’t do a good job of living up to my true potential as a human being. It was Kun Sunim who helped me get a handle on my temper and who helped me live uprightly, according to the Buddha-dharma. Cutting off your connections with people can be really difficult. It’s not too hard to break away from old school friends, but it is truly hard to let go of your connections with people whom you’ve fought together with, and whom you’ve built up a deep relationship of loyalty and mutual aid. That I was able to give this up and come work at the temple, and so learned to live with joy, is all due to Kun Sunim.

When I think about what my karmic connection with Kun Sunim has meant to me, I suspect that even if I lived for a thousand more years, I wouldn’t encounter a more blessed connection than this. This isn’t just flowery words or over-enthusiastic praise. Not only has she freed me from being an invalid and helped me to recover my health, she’s watched over me the whole time, and brought joy back into my life. How can you ever repay this kind of love and help? If I had been more adept at spiritual practice, I might have been better able to look after Kun Sunim and the other sunims here. I really wish I had been able to do a better job.

As one of the senior members of Hanmaum Seon Center, what would you like to say to the members?

It’s hard for me to even express what a blessing it is for everyone to have created this karmic affinity with Kun Sunim. It really is so precious. Emptying myself of “I,” becoming humble, upholding the precepts, respecting the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), practicing diligently, attaining pranja wisdom, and becoming one mind all together awaken us to the living reality that we are sharing the same life, the same mind, the same body, and working as one – sharing and receiving whatever is needed. The joy of this is beyond measure.

However, Kun Sunim’s acceptance, compassion, and teachings are so vast, I sometimes think that we often forget the most basic things. When we have a job or task to do, the power and authority needed naturally comes with it. It’s easy to get caught up in the work, and to become opinionated and self-important. In the midst of that, we lose sight of what is truly important (ie, spiritual cultivation and becoming one with our foundation.) So as our power increases, as the number of people who work for us increases, we have to work that much harder at being humble. As we are in charge of more and more people, every single day we have to repent, and repent some more.

Even regular laypeople need to do this. When we come to the temple, we bow before the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). In a sense, even by coming to the temple, we are lowering our fixed ideas of “me” and “I,” and returning to and relying upon the Three Treasures. Bowing is merely the outward manifestation of this attitude. So what does worshiping really mean? It means tasting the profound fragrance of the Buddha’s teachings, and returning to the one place all the karma that we have created through our bodies, speech, and thought. This is the deep meaning of worshiping or taking refuge. This is why if you go to other temples, they first teach you rules and etiquette. Of course, here we don’t do that, because Kun Sunim teaches us to rely upon One Mind first and foremost, and if we do that then we will naturally keep and uphold everything that needs to be kept and upheld. All we have to do is practice diligently. She focused on teaching us the most fundamental, core things. Because she taught us such fundamental things, we also have to work much harder than people who go to other temples. We have to work harder and uphold the basics much more diligently than others. To aspire to greatness while unable to uphold the most basic things only brings shame upon yourself and Kun Sunim.

When we see each other, we should put our hands together and bow to each other. Please don’t think lightly of this. Smile and greet each other cheerfully. When you’re cheerful, it spreads to others. Don’t hesitate to bow to others, for if you do, you won’t be able to truly know them. You won’t be able to become one with others. How then could you communicate, how could this very deep, fundamental mind freely go back and forth between the two of you? In this situation, problems and misunderstandings easily arise. An essential point about Kun Sunim’s teachings of One Mind is right here.

I’ve heard that you’ve recently been ill and in the hospital. How’s you’re health these days? Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. To close, what would you like to say about the future of Hanmaum Seon Center?

I don’t have a single worry about the future of the center. The sunim’s here are outstanding, and everyone practices diligently. They’ve all absorbed Kun Sunim’s teachings, so I think the future of the center is extremely bright. Some people say that I was the one who helped set up the Seon Center and look after Kun Sunim, but I truly have been just a doorman or greeter. Kun Sunim has no need of advisers or counselors. She sees everything from the perspective of the Dharma, and so has no problem finding people able to handle particular tasks. It’s as if she has a treasure map, and all you have to do is just follow the map. Of course, there have been some people who lost sight of the map in their desire for the treasure, and so went astray. However, Kun Sunim knew I was someone who was concerned about not doing that, which is why she chose me for the jobs she did. This is how I’ve spent the last thirty years.

It’s been a wonderful Spring, hasn’t it! With just the right amount of rain. I look forward to seeing you all around the Seon Center. When we meet, lets smile and bow to each other. Let’s all work together to create a bright place that will nourish everyone who comes here. Thank you.

 

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