I’m trying to write a foreword for our latest English collection of Dharma talks, and happened to take a look at one of our earlier books. (Okay, I couldn’t think of anything good to say, so I looked at an older book for inspiration! Lol.)
It turns out that the foreword was actually quite nice just on its own, so I decided to post it here. The book it’s from is advertised as Dharma talks about children, but that’s only a portion of the contents. The overall talks are a great teaching for anyone, regardless of age or whether or not you have children.
(from the Foreword)
One day I happened to meet Daehaeng Kun Sunim as she walked out into the main courtyard of the Seon Center. There were two or three young children playing there, chasing each other and yelling with abandon. They probably lived in the neighborhood, and had found a wide-open space for their games. But they were being kind of noisy in the heart of the temple, and one of the sunims with us grumbled about it.
But Kun Sunim spoke up, saying, “I think it’s beautiful.”
Even now, twenty years later, I still remember this.
It showed me an aspect beyond the surface, the noisy kids, beyond the temporary disruption, and nudged me towards a more complete picture. For play is a sign of healthy kids. It’s good for them, and it’s a pretty good world where kids have the time and energy, and safety, to run and shout.
There’s an expression in Korean, that when the headwaters of a stream are clean, the water downstream will be as well. It flows from the top. If the parents are working diligently at entrusting everything to the fundamental, awakened true nature within us, which is also the connection we all share, then as they get a sense of this, their connection with their children opens up and becomes more vibrant. The children in turn respond to this, and as this energy flows back and forth, parents have a better sense of what they need to be doing.
Thus, while Daehaeng Kun Sunim often encourages parents to teach their children about this practice of relying upon our foundation, she spends most of her time talking with the parents, encouraging them to work on their half of things.
To be honest, there’s only so much parents can do. Children come into this world with their own personality, history, and karma. As any parent can testify, beyond a certain point, you can’t really make children do much. Yelling and threatening are always temptations, but even when they yield results, everyone involved is often left feeling a little terrible.
Instead, as we begin to discover the light within us, our own inherent teacher, then we begin to get a better sense of the situation, and how to respond effectively. We begin to see what we can do to help bring forth this light in others. And as our own light begins to shine forth, children too begin to sense this. They learn from how we respond to them, but they also learn from how we treat others and how we respond to the things that come up in our life.
In addition to the need for parents to work on their own spiritual practice, Daehaeng Kun Sunim also answers questions in these Dharma talks about prenatal care and education, and specific issues between parents and children. Because fetuses and young children are changing so rapidly, the positive influences they receive at this time are magnified throughout their life, so to her, this was an excellent opportunity to help deepen a child’s potential for spiritual growth.
When the energy of our own fundamental Buddha nature shines bright, then it can automatically connect with and support the people in our lives. And as children experience the taste of this energy, that becomes a standard, an idea of what’s possible, and so they don’t easily fall into dark paths. And while the topic of this book is children and parents, this is also true for the people around us.
When our hearts and spirits are bright, that light shines on everyone we encounter. And while we’ll likely never know the effects of this, just by being in the world, we can be a source of hope and compassion for others, whether they be our children, parents, or just passing by on the sidewalk.