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Ven. Jeongbong only ate roasted grain flour (misut-garu) for three years while practicing in a cave on the mountain to the back of our temple, Hongseowon. The cave was very damp and Ven. Jeongbong worried that the misut-garu would get wet. He wrapped it very tightly in plastic. However, there were certain animals that would always find the misut-garu. These animals were mice. There wasn’t much misut-garu to begin with and these mice would some how find the food and cut through the plastic. They would eat the misut-garu, spill it, and leave.
For the first year, Ven. Jeongbong began an indirect war with the mice in order to protect the misut-garu. He tried hiding it in deep corners or wrapping in multiple layers. However in the following year, Ven. Jeongbong figured out a way to live in harmony with the mice. In the fall, he would collect mountain berries and in the winter he would offer them to the mice. During meal time, Ven. Jeongbong would open the misut-garu bag, without fail, the mice would come out. Then, he would take the berries in his hand and the mice would come onto his hand to eat them happily.
After coming out of the cave and living here at Hongseowon, Ven. Jeongbong continues to feed the mice. He says it is because he felt sorry for not sharing the misut-garu in the first year of his practice at the cave.
Picture: Food plate for the mice
Ven. Jeongbong leaves the food for the mice in the washroom. The reason is that our washroom has walls made from rocks stacked on top of another. He discovered mice live in the gaps between the rocks. Sometimes a snake or cat, looking for mice, is found in the washroom. Up until now, the mice live happily, cleverly fending off the dangers and eating the food left by Ven. Jeongbong. When we give a mix of rice, beans, or crackers, the mice will carry them off without dropping a single grain. When the mice run out of food, they wait and wait until in frustration they will make a mark on the bar of laundry soap. Mice are very intelligent beings. To think that they remind us of their hunger by leaving a noticeable mark on the soap we use everyday—is quite remarkable.
In our temple, we have many residents who eat from the same pot—ants, mice, cats, birds, and even the passing-by neighborhood dogs. Although, we don’t have much to share, when we do, we feel more abundant. What grows when shared? It is our hearts.
Picture: Soap with mark left by hungry mouse