Practicing Even More Diligently Than When My Teacher Was Here – Part Three
An interview with Hye Hong Sunim of the Washington DC Hanmaum Seon Center. This is part 3 of 3. This interview first appeared in Hanmaum Journal, in issue #78, November/December 2014.
Sharing Kun Sunim’s Teachings with the World
Daehaeng Kun Sunim once said, “My teachings have to go abroad before they can find a home in Korea,” but I’ve tended to think a lot about the “going abroad” half of things. There are a lot of different ways of making her teachings available to people outside of Korea, but I’d guess that books and mass media would probably be the most effective. Along those lines, she said to come up with something that could be used as a college textbook.
The Hanmaum International Culture Institute has been working to publish translations of her books abroad, but I wonder if we could do things like the temple stay program we’ve had with English teachers from the Fulbright program. Many of them return to their countries without having much interest in Kun Sunim’s teachings, but there are some who stay in touch and ask for advice about how to apply these teachings to the things going on in their lives.
This is just a small example of this, but one person who was going to Harvard was curious if their library had any of Kun Sunim’s books, and when she realized that they didn’t, she started looking into how she could donate books to their library. People at other universities have done the same thing.
If we want to help spread Kun Sunim’s teachings in Korea by also spreading them overseas, then it would seem like working with foreigners already in Korea would be a perfect opportunity. Small beginning lead to big things. The temple stay program at the Gwangmyeong Seon Center for the Fulbright teachers happened because of two Fulbright teachers who happened to wander in to our Jeju center. Just that one little connection had a huge impact.
It turned out that when the Fulbright teachers first come to Korea, they receive six weeks of training in teaching methods and Korean culture, and at that time, they were doing it at a university just a short drive from our Gwangmyeong Seon Center. When we offered to do a temple stay program for them, around 50 of the 70 students were interested in participating.
So we developed a 2 day program with sessions about the basics of life in a temple, history, meditation, the daily ceremonies, meals, and other arts and crafts related activities. The reaction was quite positive, with people interested in a winter program as well. We’ve had it every summer since, but there’s always a bit of uncertainty because the Fulbright program itself is always changing. That said, it’s always been a wonderful experience for even the sunims, and I hope we can do more things like this.
One of the things I remember Daehaeng Kun Sunim emphasizing when I became a sunim was that she wanted us to learn to drive, use computers, and speak English, because as she said, those were all skills a person needed to fully function in the modern world. At the time, her words didn’t really sink in, and I soon forgot about them. Then I started to meet the Fulbright teachers and had to speak with them in English. Now, I’m studying English much more diligently than I ever did when I was in school! (Laughs.) That said, I think it’s more important than ever that we as sunims work to spread Kun Sunim’s teachings in the greater world.
Take Your Inner Light as Your Guide
To be honest, I was reluctant to give this interview, because I feel like I have so many shortcomings. But then the thought suddenly arose, “But it’s not about putting ‘Me’ forward, is it?” Every truth and principle is rolled up in that: There is no fixed, unchanging thing or aspect. It’s all flowing and changing.
Even though I’m speaking here today, in another instant, I’m someone else. The person people are reading about is already gone. Whatever we see, whatever we hear, everything we think about others – if we can just let go of that as soon as possible, then misunderstandings disappear, bad feeling disappear, conflicts that might grow into hatreds disappear, enemies disappear, and we can instead live brightly and freely.
This is true for those within our families, as well as those we don’t even meet in person. If we can use our minds like this, then all our connections with other people become better, and the world itself becomes brighter.
When I think about Daehaeng Kun Sunim, I often find myself crying. Despite this, I probably miss Kun Sunim less than the sunims at Anyang who got to see her every day. I think that’s because I always had a sense of connection to her, even though I was far away. And that sense of connection hasn’t changed. But, when I read her teachings and think about them, I’m struck by how profound they are, and that I always have such a teacher within me, and then the tears start.
What Kun Sunim said about having to take our inner light as our guide really stuck with me, and Kun Sunim’s Dharma talks show me how to better do that. So I find myself reading them more than I did when she was physically here. I spend more time pondering them and reflecting on what she taught about how to understand myself, the world, and how to fully live as a human being.
I hope that no one will think that spiritual practice has become harder now that Kun Sunim isn’t here. The past and the present are exactly the same. Nothing has changed. There’s no difference in spiritual practice. Things only seem different because in the past, Kun Sunim was spreading a big net, gathering people and holding large events. Now all of those people have settled down. They know what they need to do, and are quietly getting on with it. Because things are more quiet, they seem different, but nothing fundamental has changed.
It all comes down to you doing the practice. To you working at relying upon your foundation and entrusting with what’s confronting you. Perhaps there’s a sense that we have to work harder than when Kun Sunim was sitting next to us, but even then, everything came down to us doing the practice. I hope you will all work hard and taste the experiences that arise from your efforts. Thank you.