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“Friends on the Path” is a social welfare foundation of the Jogye Order. This foundation raises funds to give to volunteer groups or uses the funds to help those less fortunate in society. This foundation is comparable to Unification Church’s “Good Neighbors” or the Christian foundation, “World Vision.” Friends on the Path prepared a templestay for the unemployed. This templestay was not a way to find a job for the over 40 participants, rather to find the “True Self.”
The theme was “happiness.” This theme was created with the understanding the intense unhappiness that comes with being unemployed in the Korean society where a job is a must to maintain basic human needs of housing, education, and medical care.
After an hour of introductions and a briefing of temple etiquette, the first lecture began at 2 p.m. The lecturer was Ven. Gou, the renowned monk. He is well known for his wisdom and is considered a Seon (Zen) master. The topic of his talk was how to find true happiness. The main idea of his talk was that true and lasting happiness cannot be found outside of ourselves. He said, “Buddhism helps us find the inner treasure chest. And what is the treasure? It is us who are looking, listening, and feeling in this moment. We forget this and look for true happiness outside, where it cannot be found.” He continued, “We need to change our thinking. If the management treats the workers like benefactors, there will be harmony and the company will prosper. Actually, in a company the workers and costumers are indeed the benefactors, and not just objects of profit. However, we don’t think like that. We become depressed because of the rigid thinking that stems from misunderstanding and wrong ideas. Therefore, whatever unhappiness we might have experienced and whatever happiness we may experience in the future is all determined by our own free will.” The talk ended with a hearty applause from the templestay participants.
Kwanseonmu experience to relieve stress
When we have Right View, we have self-confidence
Mind is happy having tea with venerable monk
A young woman who came with her boyfriend said, “The monk’s remarks were easy to understand and really made an impression on my heart. It made me feel like working in the Buddhist community.” Likewise many of the young participants expressed interest in working in the Buddhist community. A young man, who said he spoke English and Japanese well, said that if the opportunity arose he would like to work in publicizing or guiding templestay programs.
After the speech by Ven. Gou, Pak Hee-seong, the assistant director explained the principles, method, and meaning of Ganhwaseon (Korean Zen practice). It was a lively time with many questions by the participants. Pak asked the participants, “Who is the one leading around this corpse (our body)? We’ll give a lifetime free pass to the Cultural Center for anyone who can solve this question.” The next morning Gong sun-ho said, “I didn’t sleep a wink trying to solve the hwadu (question), but I’m very happy because I solved it.”
The first night after dinner everyone did 108 bows while stringing a bead after each bow to complete a 108-bead mala. The next morning, after rising at six, the participants did work practice (ulyeok) and ate breakfast. Thereafter they learned Kwanseonmu for their health, which were perhaps not so good due to the stress of not having a job. Ven. Beopchan led this practice, which uses breathing and posture as the focus. He said, “If we can give up the bad lifestyle of stress, alcohol, and cigarettes and commit to a positive attitude; a right view will appear and our lives will change to a life of good health and great self-confidence.”
Thereafter, there was a lecture called, “Korean economy and my outlook.” After lunch, the participants went to Magoksa Temple. The next day, there was a closing lecture by a monk and the templestay was finished.
Kim Mo, who left his job in Seoul because of the difficult commute from Daejeon, said, “After only hearing about tempestay, it’s much better than I thought it would be. It’s too bad my wife couldn’t come. I hope in the future there would be an opportunity to attend with my family.”
Templestay department head Pak Chan-jeong said, “The program was constructive and the response from the participants were very positive. We hope to do more templestays for diverse areas of society.”