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Flying Towards Freedom
by Venerable Dobeop Sunim
Flying Towards Freedom
by Venerable Dobeop Sunim
My dear friend,
How’s life treating you these days? The newspapers these days all exclaim that the younger generations are discouraged and confused because they cannot find the right path for their lives. As I am walking on the snowy path on Jiri-san Mountain, I could not help but to ask how you are doing. My friend, are you living the life that you always wanted and dreamed of, full of vigor? When you question yourself “Who am I?” or “What is the existence (meaning) of my life?” What answers can you think of? Do you ever wonder, “Why are human beings born and why do we live? What is the reason and value of existence?” Even better, I must ask you “Are you living the life that you enjoy and wish for? Does your life come with security, peace and happiness that we all deserve?”
My good friend,
What is the reason behind your agonizing and painful journey to find the ultimate path? You may answer, it is because of the privileged few hoarding all the resources, due to poor economy, an unfair society, or innate contradictions of capitalism. You may not be too wrong, but I would like to draw a light on something else, something more important. What if an individual, who’s in charge of one’s own life, refuse to let go of one’s dignity by competing with the anti-life and inhumane world? Perhaps, that side of the world does not fit with your dream and the right path has not been revealed to you.
My wise friend,
I am not certain how you are feeling but I believe the latter opinion may be closer to the truth. Why? It’s quite simple. That is just the way life is. That is just the way things are. My experiences tell me so. If you look carefully, it is also true for everyone else’s life. The reason is very clear as well. The world is an enormous place and there are millions of paths; perhaps as many paths as the number of people living on this earth. When a person has a strong determination, one’s path will open up. However, many do not know this or they do not choose to believe in it. The path will indeed manifest itself for the person who wishes to express oneself in one’s own life. Therefore, when someone says he or she cannot find the right path in life, it may be due to the fact that one has not explored the world and life with enough enthusiasm, and more importantly, with an open heart.
My brave friend,
If I may, please allow me to share some of my life with you. I was born into a fearfully poor family in a small village. My father had passed away before I was even born and I barely managed to finish my elementary school. My life was to help out at my family’s small farm. However, one day, my mother said, ‘My youngest child is destined to become a monk. You should be a monk, my son.’ When I read a book about “the great teacher Won-hyo,” I wanted to be just like him. When I shaved my head to be ordained at Geumsan-sa temple, I was only 18. Ever since then, I have been very grateful for my decision and I wonder if any other path would’ve been more satisfying.
You may wonder why I believe so. Well, I don’t have to worry about basic needs of food, shelter or clothes. I do not have a family to support. I am fortunate to say that all the temples in Korea or even all over the world are my home. The international society in this 21st century has recognized the superior philosophy and ideology of Buddhism. Also, what I believe and follow is one of the most beautiful and valuable ideas that human kind has ever came up with. I enjoy my freedom to follow all the goodness and virtues, free of any worldly concerns. Wouldn’t you agree that this is an amazing and exciting path? If one can face the challenge to stay strong and diligent, this may be one of the best paths available to a human being.
My young friend,
I have lived with such a great sense of freedom in the world of Buddhism. First, I studied at the sutra school called gangwon, a compulsory educational institution for monastics. When I was told that meditation is the best way to attain enlightenment, I went to meditate at a Seon monastery and devoted my passion for 10 years. However, when I thought the Seon monastery and I were heading towards different directions, I left to open a school called Hwaumhakrim. This school was built to study the Flower Garland Sutra which is known as the most advanced ideological teachings in the world. However, I still felt something was missing so my friends and I formed Seonwoodoryang to establish and promote a new model for monastics living in the 21st century. Once I was at Silsang-sa temple, I worked on many projects such as reviving the Mt. Jiri movement, forming an ecologically self-reliant community, starting an alternative school, initiating a Life and Peace movement and other socially alternative solutions for the 21st century. Now, I have the pleasure to continue my efforts on making Mt. Jiri a sacred haven where life prospers and peace flourishes. This movement will allow all the Buddhist temples on Mt. Jiri to save lives and ultimately, lead the villages at Mt. Jiri and the rest of the society to fight for world peace continuously.
The reason behind my rather lengthy explanation is quite simple. My humble-self may not have led an admirable life. However, I can say that I was never confined. Based on my own conscience and principles, I had lived the life that I wanted as much as possible! Now when I look back, this has been quite amazing. Without being confined or pressured by aggravating but unavoidable challenges that life may incur, I was able to make my own path and live in complete freedom. I hope you too can find this intriguing and see that there are only a few other paths that may outshine the life as a monk.
Think about it. Wouldn’t you agree that the path of being a monk is a great chance to dance on a stage called life? If anyone would ask me how to live one’s life, I would recommend this path without a moment of hesitation. However, there is a catch. This is not the right path for the faint-hearted, those who wish for something easy, comfortable or mediocre. If you wish to live a true, wonderful and meaningful life and most importantly, if you wish to work for human kind, you should not hesitate and get on board! Our time and our society are eagerly waiting for people with devotion. Many people are yearning for the true disciples of Buddhism. The path is wide open and it will fulfill your hope as well as that of the society’s. I wish you well and look forward to meeting you on this path someday. Take care, my good friend!