Beopjeong Sunim’s Dharma Talk 2008 October
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I hope everyone has been well. Recently, due to the clear weather, being alive feels renewed, grateful, and fortunate. Due to the continuous beautiful fall weather, my life has become joyful for many reasons. Especially, when I hang clothes out to dry, the poem called “Blue sky day” by the poet Seo Jung-joo automatically comes out of my mouth.
“On this blue sky day, the brightness which hurts my eyes, let us miss those to be missed. There, there the place where the flowers grew, the green has faded to fall colors. What will you do when the snow comes? What will you do when the spring comes again? On this blue sky day, the brightness which hurts my eyes, let us miss those to be missed.”
When I quietly recite a poem like this, my mind becomes spacious and joyful, and I have new appreciation for living. When I read poems on clear autumn days, my mind becomes very quiet. The spirit of our language is alive in poems, which are like crystals for languages. Likewise, the beautiful face of our language clearly appears. Although our lives may be busy, may I suggest to be sure to read a poem from time to time.
Recently, our surroundings are filled with tiring and irritating news. The financial crisis, the exchange rate situation, slumping of funds and stocks…all the news we hear makes us very depressed. From one to ten, all the news is related to the economy. Those who have promised to save the economy have not only not saved the economy, but there is great confusion in the midst of the up and down economy.
The first thing out of people’s mouths is the economy. However, we must ask ourselves, is our happiness commensurate to our possessions? Those who have a lot, are they that much happy? Moreover, those have little, are they unhappy? We must ask ourselves this kind of question. We cannot measure our happiness and unhappiness solely on external conditions. Although we may have a lot, if we do not know the way to live, we will be unhappy. Although we may have little, if we know the way to live, we will be happy.
The external situation is not everything in life.
Happiness and unhappiness does not only depend on external circumstances and conditions, but on the way we accept things inwardly. We can say that happiness and unhappiness depends on our attitude on life. If we get carried away by the current state of affairs, we will become very weak and powerless. The external situation is not everything in life. We talk a lot about the economy, but economy is not everything in life. If we look inwardly, there can always be a positive, beautiful, and fragrant realm. However, if we pay attention only to the visible reality and the current news, our life will become listless. When we become caught by outside conditions, we are unable to awaken our potential and possibility. Like this, life becomes tiresome and difficult.
If we examine the way our forefathers lived, our children have a lot to learn about how to live. There was a man named Jang-hon who lived in Seoul over 250 years ago. He lived in a shabby house below InwangMountain . There, he wrote “My life’s wish,” in which he delineates one by one the ideal life, which he dreamed of and planned. The most impressive part was the eight kinds of “great blessings,” which he said to possess.
Of Jang-hon’s eight blessings, the first was being born during peacetime. Second was living in Seoul. Third was being able to have received an education. Fourth was understanding language for the most part. Fifth was living in a beautiful natural environment. Sixth was owning 1000 plants and flowers. Seventh was having a friend with whom he got along well. Eighth was possessing a good book.
Jang-hon said his happiness was that he could read, and he had a good friend and book, and that he lived in nature. This is truly pure and plain happiness. After reading this, I reflected on my own blessings. First, I have a teacher, and a few books to keep me company. Even living in the mountains alone, I have good energy and want to renew myself everyday, because of the support of these few books. Second, when I feel hungry or worn out, I have tea to drink. Tea is the white border around my life. Third, there is music, which gives suppleness to my rigid life. In addition, I am delighted and grateful for the fact there is a vegetable garden, which awaits my hands. Books, tea, music, and the vegetable garden are grateful things, which supports my life from withering away.
“The fresh air by the riverside and the bright moon above the mountain…when listened for, it is sound. When looked for, it is light. No one stops me from possessing it, nor will it exhaust from use. This is the infinite treasury of nature.” From “Jeok-byuk-bu” by So Dong-pa.
Suicide Only Contributes to the Self-destroying Karma
These kind of natural wonders are all around us. However, not many of us know how to enjoy the fresh air and bright moon. Rivers and mountains originally have no owner. Those who can appreciate their sight and feel are the owners of the rivers and mountains. It is because we only look outside that we are caught by external conditions and traps, and we do not discover these things (natural wonders).
There are many who take their own life in this wonderful age. More than 30 people per day cannot overcome that day to commit suicide. It’s never something to be proud of, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lists with the highest per capita suicide rate.
There’s nothing as precious and valuable as life. This life can only be lived once. Yet we throw aside such a life. Even at this moment, countless patients are tied to respiratory machines to live a few more minutes of life. It is a disgraceful act to cast aside this magnanimous life. To take one’s life never relieves one from suffering. Death is not the end, but the beginning of another life.
Suicide creates “self-destroying karma” which chains us to Samsara. Ultimately, suicide only contributes to the self-destroying karma. Everything we see, hear, or say becomes karma. This can never finish all at once. Like the law of inertia, this becomes habit and karmic force, and then to karmic residue.
Anyone can have the impulse to commit suicide. However, as time passes we would discover the reason is that we could not free ourselves from the chains of anguish. Suffering does not last. If there are clear days, there will be cloudy days. Our lives are always changing, not static. Not only external conditions, but our thoughts also change. Even a sense of hopelessness, which seems like will never end, is only temporary.
Even those who were ready to cast aside the world by suicide, if they could have broken free from their temporary desperate trap to see widely everyday life with a clear head; they could have broken out of their extreme view to have started their life anew with a wider perspective. They could not break free from the extreme view of “only this way,” to commit an unthinkable act. None of us must fall victim to temporary thoughts. To say again, nothing is fixed, everything changes.
Do not try to resolve difficulties alone
Do not try to resolve difficulties on our own. It is difficult to break free from our narrow fixed ideas. We should talk with a close friend. If not, we should find a church or temple to release our burdens. The doors to churches and temples are always open. Religion exists to resolve such problems. If we were to meet a good friend or teacher before committing suicide, we would not arrive at such an unthinkable conclusion.
After a person lives out his life, he must change his body. Whether we are a Buddha or a Buddha’s grandfather, no one lives forever. By a passing extreme impulse, if we were to throw away our body, it may appear that there would be a better life. The reality is that the residue of that karma follows us into the next life. This is what is meant by karmic force. We must always know how to appreciate the fact we are alive.
We live like this to share this appreciation with the world. I hope everyone has wonderful fall season.
This Dharma Talk is a summary of the talk given on Octorber 19 at Gilsangsa Temple by Gilsangsa Temple’s former spiritual director, Ven. Beopjeong.