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Gou Sunim of Seoam Hermitage, Gakhwasa Monastery, Mt. Taebaksan

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Gou Sunim resides alone at the Seoam Hermitage at Gakhwasa Monastery, near Chunyang in Gyeongsangbuk-do province, which is widely recognized as one of the most superior inland locations and is called the ‘eye of Chunyang.’
 
Gakhwa Monastery is considered to be a practice ground of immense geomantic power. It stands just 100 li below the southern peak of Mt. Taebaeksan, and is flanked on either side by the main mountain ranges to the east and west. After visiting the site, Tanheo Sunim gave it his highest praise and described it as “a site where five dragons are vying together for a wish-fulfilling gem. Even if human beings tried to create such a site, it would be most difficult.” Currently at the Taebaek Seon center in Gakhwa Monastery, there are about thirty cultivating monks in meditation retreat who are practicing 15 hours a day for 15 months.
 
In the scorching heat of the afternoon sun on the last day of July, our crew members visited Gakhwa Monastery and witnessed those cultivating monks laboring in the front yard of the main dharma hall during their work-period. We thought to ourselves, “One sweats doing nothing on a day like today, but these monks are working hard. They are definitely extraordinary monks!” With this thought in mind, we bowed three times to the Buddha image in the main dharma hall and then climbed straight up to Seoam hermitage. After climbing for about 15 minutes into the mountains toward the left of the main temple building, we were able to reach the cozy and peaceful spot where the hermitage is located.
 
We proceeded to the hermitage to meet with Gou Sunim, and then presented him with the following questions.
 
Please tell us how you came to ordain as a monk.
Why would you want to hear stories about the past? My personal history is nothing extraordinary, so let’s talk about Buddhism, instead. I don’t even have much experience in doing extreme cultivation practices, such as constantly sitting without lying down (changjwa burwa) or “ferocious” nonsleeping practice (yongmaeng jeongjin). I am just an ordinary monk with nothing special to show.
 
I ordained at Sudoam hermitage in Cheongamsa monastery. My ancestors lived in Seongju in Gyeongsangbuk-do province for a long period of time, but my grandfather moved to the neighboring town of Goryong, where I was born. In 1961, when I was twenty-six, I was suffering from pulmonary disease, so I sought a temple where I could rest and recuperate, and ended up ordaining. I wasn’t like other monks, who were motivated by their aspiration to gain enlightenment. Since I was seeking a temple deep in the mountains, I ended up at Sudoam hermitage. The abbot then was Beophui Sunim, who also served as my ordination sponsor (Eunsa Sunim).
 
Please share your experiences studying in the lecture hall (Gangwon).
I studied the Awakening of Faith from Gwaneung Sunim at Yongjusa Monastery, the Diamond Sutra from Gobong Sunim at Cheongamsa Monastery, the Diamond Sutra and the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra from Honhae Sunim at Namjangsa Monastery in Sangju, then finally went on to the meditation hall to practice chamseon (Seon meditation).
 
You mentioned that you went straight to the meditation hallafter mastering sutra studies. Where did you do your first meditation retreat? From whom did you receive your keyword (hwadu), and what were the environments and your fellow meditation monks like?
After studying the Diamond Sutra, I was inspired to practice chamseon. I was twenty-nine, then. So, I attended the meditationhall at Myogwaneumsa Monastery, where Hyanggok Sunim was the meditation master (josil). Among my fellow practice monks were Hwaran Sunim and Giseong Sunim. Hwaran Sunim, whom I had met earlier at Sudoam hermitage when he came to do his recitation practice (gido), was very happy to see me and took good care of me. During those times in Seonmeditation halls, monks and laity sat together, with the monks in the center of the room. Hyanggok Sunim gave me my hwadu, which was “Not the mind, not the Buddha, not a thing. What is it?”
 
While you were staying at Bongamsa Monastery from 1968-9, you reestablished a Seonwon there, which became the foundation for today’s special meditation hall. Please share your experience with us.
Ten monks from the meditation hall at Gimyongsa Monastery in Mungyeong went over to Bongamsa Monastery with the common goal of establishing a practice site like those that existed during the Buddha’s time, where the Sangha could practice together and discuss and decide together all matters relating to their monastic lives. Beopnyeon Sunim from Baengnyeonam hermitage and Jeonggwang Sunim, who is the head of the Seonwon, remain there still today. Mubi Sunim, who was the head of the education department, used to visit, too. The first abbot was Jiyu Sunim, who today is the meditation master at Beomeosa Monastery. In reality, though, the actual work was mostly done by myself, because I was the head administrator. When we first started, there was no congregation room in the monastery, so we each practiced separately in our own rooms. When I turned forty and returned there after spending a season at Beomeosa, the congregation asked me to be the abbot. I refused and fled, but the congregation got the Headquarters of the Order to appoint me as abbot by writing and submitting a false resume for me. So, I had no choice but to reluctantly accept the position of abbot.
 
After accepting the position, I thought of ways of building a Seonwon where the whole congregation could gather together and practice. Because Bongamsa did not have too many lay members, we were in no position to carry out such a project. Then, one day, the chairman of Ssangnyong Group, Mr. Kim Seogwon, came and spent a night at the monastery. The following morning he asked me if we needed anything, and I replied that we needed a Seonbang (Seonmeditation hall). He asked me what it would cost to build one, and due to my lack of knowledge about construction, I said about ten million won. Soon after, he sent me exactly the amount I requested. With that money, I was able to build a spacious 172m2 sized Seonwon, which was what we most needed at Bongamsa at the time. When the construction was finally finished, other monks came to visit and saw the building, and they were all surprised that it had only cost ten million won. They said that a building like that would normally cost around twenty to thirty million won to build. So the new Seonwon was built; and, as we gathered there and practiced together, gradually dharma regulations were established, along with a solid practice environment.
 
Tell us a bit about your teacher, Seoam Sunim.
Seoam Sunim was a person whose ‘speech and actions were in congruity.’ Because he received a modern education, he had a good sense of contemporary trends. He was someone who practiced the living dharma. He delivered dharma talks in simple language, but added much humor, which made them a lot of fun! He was extremely personable and addressed everyone respectfully. He never talked down to me. He instructed us to read often the Letters of Dahui. At the same time, he was a great cook! I think that, because he went to Japan to study as a young man and had to take care of himself, he naturally become a great cook. In those days we made rice over a burning wood flame, so it was very easy to ruin it, rendering it inedible. If I went out to make rice over a wood flame, he would chase me away and make it himself, saying that he was the expert. Seoam Sunim taught Buddhism through his everyday life. He instructed us that we must practice even while doing such chores as farming, cooking, sewing, etc. During everyday activities, he taught with his whole being. These days, it seems to me that such traditions have long disappeared.
 
I heard that while you were practicing alone at Dongam Hermitage at Gakhwasa, you had a spiritual awakening while reading the chapter on “Samadhi and Prajñā are Nondual” from the Platform Sutra. Could you share your experience with us?
One day when I was practicing alone at Dongam Hermitage, I happened to across a phrase from the chapter on “Samadhi and Prajñā are Nondual” in the Platform Sutra, which said, “Even when your concentration and wisdom become one, it still is not the Way. After coming together as one, they must then mutually interpenetrate.” After reading this, a certain kind of impression occurred that was different from understanding or experiencing something. I was able to understand what it meant to “take a step off the hundred-foot pole.” You might say that my spiritual perception opened. I was able to understand the fundamental principle of all existence, but it was a different experience from breaking through a hwadu. At the time, I was practicing “tracing back the radiance and counterillumination,” which is one of the meditation methods of the early Seon school. In the Letters of Dahui, one third of the text is dedicated to discussing this subject. After having this experience, I came down to Seoam hermitage and read carefully through the discourse-records of the patriarchs and other Buddhist teachings, such as the “Complete Enlightenment” Series by Minjok Publishing. Thereby, I came to realize that Buddhist scriptures—whether they are the teachings of the Buddha, Early Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism or the Seon School—all possess all but a single principle, which is never contradictory. What the Buddha attained is the “middle way and conditioned origination” (中道緣起), and I was convinced that all the schools of Buddhist thought that developed afterward are explications that center around this principle. I might say that I, too, have mastered all the systems of Buddhist thoughts through this principle. Thereafter, I decided to concentrate on my hwadu again in order to experience true awakening. 
 
One will understand what one’s own awakening experience means; one must not be attached to any realm. Seon master Zhaozhou lived until he reached the age of 120. When others asked him the secret of his longevity, he would simply reply, “You live your lives under the control of time, but I live my life with time under my control. Then, every day becomes a good day.” When the Seon master Mazu Daoyi struck a person who asked him, “What is the Buddhadharma?” he was urging the person to awaken. In this way, the Seon school emphasizes the awakening experience. The Seon school does not distinguish between what is real and what illusory, or between ordinary person and saint. It simply teaches that we originally can become buddhas and explicates the real world.
 
What is Buddhism?
When someone asks me this, I reply by asking back, “Why would a man of aristocratic birth (yangban) try to become a slave?” We are all originally buddhas. When the Buddha attained enlightenment, he realized that all existence manifests through conditioned origination, whether it is sentient or insentient, material or formless. Hence, those who perceive conditioned origination will perceive the dharma; those who perceive the dharma will perceive the Tathagata. Hence, to ask “What is Buddhism?” is like asking “Where is Seoul?” when one is standing right in front of the presidential Blue House in Seoul. Past Seon patriarchs used to yell at or strike those who asked them such questions, in order to urge them to awaken from their own illusions and to perceive themselves correctly. Ultimately, the Seon school’s emphasis is that we are all originally buddhas. All sentient beings are originally buddhas. There is no distinction between buddhas and sentient beings. If one distinguishes between what is real and what illusory, between buddhas and sentient beings, then that is neither Seon nor Buddhism. Thus, in order to awaken to the fact that we are originally buddhas, we engage in such practices as keeping a hwadu and Seon combat.
 
It is said that the Buddha became the ‘Enlightened One’ by realizing ‘conditioned origination.’ Hence, this is the core tenet of Buddhism. Would you explain this theory in simple language?   
What the Buddha realized is the law of conditioned origination. Afterwards, he often talked about this realization, so people might presume that this is a concept the Buddha created. However, conditioned origination is not something the Buddha created. Long before the Buddha came to this world, the law of conditioned origination existed, as it still exists after his birth. Hence, the Buddha told others that the law of conditioned origination is not his creation but a fundamental law that always exists. 
 
Later on, when early Buddhism actively researched the theory of ‘dharmas’ (elements of reality) and branched out into 18 to 20 different schools, various theories on conditioned origination also developed, mainly the contradiction between whether dharmas exist in reality, or not. At this time, Nagarjuna appears on the scene with his theory on the ‘middle way,’ and revived the Buddha’s realization of the ‘middle way of conditioned origination.’ The tenet of Mahayana Buddhism is ‘the middle way of conditioned origination,’ as it is in the Diamond Sutra and the Heart of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. In other words, it is the theory of ‘emptiness.’ For instance, if you refer to a ‘house,’ there is nothing that exists in reality as a ‘house,’ but only the constructed assembly of various building materials, such as lumber, bricks, etc. If you were to deconstruct the house, only these construction materials would remain, not an independent entity ‘house.’   
 
Seon is a school of Buddhism that most precisely inherited the fundamental teachings of the Buddha, the ‘middle way of conditioned origination.’ The dharma to which the Buddha awakened was conditioned origination and Tathagata, which are comprehensive truth, reality, and actuality. Anything that contradicts this principle is false and illusory. Hence, Seon is the school that extinguishes completely false illusions. This is why you often hear that Seon masters yell and hit in response to people’s questions. Linji Yixuan’s active tradition also started with this custom. Thus, conditioned origination is an inevitability that is based on truth. It is not an understanding motivated by a certain purpose; rather, our existence itself is conditioned origination. It is life’s purpose as well as a purpose-driven life.
 
What kind of benefit can Buddhism provide to the present generation? 
Though transcending past, present, and future is the Buddhadharma, if one lives one’s life according to the ‘middle way of conditioned origination,’ every day becomes a good day. Though the Buddha took a passive approach of not being attached to any situation and adapting to reality by perceiving it as is, he also took a proactive approach of completely debunking all false traditions or systems. He practiced egalitarianism by getting rid of the caste system of ancient Indian society and personally acted three times to prevent war. He was a complete revolutionary against what was false, yet he was different than his contemporaries who only advocated their own ideas while denying those of others. Instead, he led a revolution motivated by peace and compassion. He tried to proceed in a better direction that would benefit everyone. Not basing himself on anger and hatred, he practiced superior ways that were good for all. Hence, we must understand that he completely revolutionized the world by moving in a direction that would benefit everything in existence.
     
People often say that Buddhism is the ‘dharma of cause and effect.’ What is ‘cause and effect?’ 
Through the coming together of cause and conditions, a result occurs. Often we say, “Good cause, good result, bad cause, bad result.” Cause and conditions are all conditioned origination. When you perceive conditioned origination, you realize that nothing has any real substance. Hence, “good cause, good result, bad cause, bad result” will both be transcended. In other words, by perceiving the Buddhadharma, which is the ‘middle way of conditioned origination,’ one will perpetuate the ultimate wholesomeness that transcends wholesome and unwholesome. If one perceives things with the view that nothing has any real substance, then that is the world of ultimate wholesomeness. Once that practice becomes everyday life, then, by transcending cause and effect, every day becomes a good day.
 
These days in our society, the number of divorces is increasing, as conflicts among different status groups are growing ever more intense. Even these conditions would be improved if people understood conditioned origination. What is more, if we were to reallocate the military expenditures of all the nations of the world, we would be able to save everyone who is dying of starvation and more. All these unfortunate situations are results produced by false value systems.
 
Within ourselves, we must find the beauty that is ultimate wholesomeness, which leaves behind all dichotomies.
 
What is a religious order? These days, many people, including many Buddhists, are disappointed with the Buddhist order and the monks when they witness the conflicts that occur within our sect. How can we explain this situation to others?
Seeking ultimate wholesomeness is not intended just for the individual; rather, it should also be extended and practiced at the levels of the family and society. The Buddhist sangha is an organization where monks gather together to live and practice such a principle. It is a place where ‘I’ is discarded, and where instead a life free of conflict or controversy is cultivated. On this earth, there is no other public organization that is based on such a superior principle and has the long history of the Buddhist sangha. In that respect, the sangha is a treasure in human society. It is truly precious. This is what the Buddha originally intended to be the principle for this sangha. I believe such a principle and model are not at all insufficient when applied to running a nation or a business. By learning well the principle of the Buddhist sangha and then applying that knowledge to societies and nations, I believe all confrontations, conflicts, arguments, and wars would disappear.
 
However, our order, the Korean Buddhist sangha, has various problems. This is a result of a lack of understanding of Buddhism. Some monks’ value system is erroneous because they seek things outside themselves. Though their physical bodies are in the sangha, their minds are outside seeking the values of the secular world. Since their thoughts and actions are based upon their subjective calculations, there are continual conflicts. As a result, they quarrel with each other by splitting themselves into two different groups: one that wants to preserve control, another which wants to gain control. This phenomenon exists because they do not understand the principle of Buddhism, ‘the middle way and conditioned origination.’ Their behavior is not in accordance with Buddhist teachings, which has caused our order to become something of an embarrassment. 
 
However, we should not try to conceal our problems or pretend that they do not exist. If we do, then we will never find a resolution for these problems. Hence, we must reveal our embarrassing problems, for only then will we become aware of them and gradually manifest a healthy resolution to them. In my opinion, there must be a comprehensive movement to revive the moral values of us as monks, which advocates, “To seek outside of ourselves is not Buddhism; seeking power, wealth, and reputation is an attachment. Let’s change our moral values by looking within ourselves. We need a firm belief that, if we understand the Buddhadharma, the middle way and conditioned origination, then every day becomes a good day, as that state is eternal freedom, joyfulness, and ultimate wholesomeness.” We must clearly help monks who are in conflict to realize that their behavior is not in accordance with Buddhism. In that respect, education is absolutely essential.   
 
Next, in order to rectify our order, we must get rid of our practice of electing ecclesiastical officials, especially through expensive electoral campaigns. Spending so much money to elect our officers is completely wrong.
 
The Association of Seon Practitioners (Seonwon sujwa hoe), the committee of practice monks within the sangha, must contribute toward the transformation of the sangha by advocating correct moral values and religious cultivation. I really hope they can do a good job. They must become a model and example to emulate in order to revive the spirit of the sangha community. Meanwhile, there are an increasing number of monks who have moved overseas, who are doing good work with a meaningful purpose. If this sort of phenomenon becomes a general movement, then the sangha will improve.
 
What is ordaining or ‘leaving home’ as the Buddhists call it? I am curious about your thoughts on the proper relationship between ordained monks and the laity. 
From the standpoint of an ordinary individual, it might seem that there is too much disparity in the relationship between ordained monks and the laity. From the standpoint of inner values, however, this is not in fact the case. In the Diamond Sutra, it states, “Even if one donates riches as many as the sands of the Ganges, it still would not be as great as transforming oneself inwardly by understanding the Buddha’s conditioned origination, thereby making every day a good day, and sincerely practicing it.” What is more, to relate this truth to others after one’s realization is even more superior and meritorious. Thus, do not pay attention to the faults of individuals in the sangha, but instead perceive the Buddha’s principle of the community, the spirit of the sangha, as the ‘three jewels’ of the Buddha, dharma, and sangha. Then, there is nothing that can pose a problem. What is more, how can there be any subject-object distinction among those who live their lives by putting into practice their values of making every day a good day by transcending time and space? Would they make such a distinction between the sangha and the laity? Hence, this is the way we should look at the relationship. Instead of looking at the sangha from the standpoint of ordinary individuals, perceive its spirit and see it as an assembly of dharma practitioners.
 
Even from the standpoint of the laity, wouldn’t they be more apt to seek internal truth themselves if they believe that the value of such a sangha of practitioners is greater than riches as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? Therefore, the laity should also pay homage to the sangha community that seeks internal truth. However, if the laity does not highly value the sangha, then would they be able to arouse their thought of enlightenment? Even for their own practice, then, they need to consider the sangha this way. Hence, the Buddha referred to the ‘three jewels’ and he chose the character bo (寶), as in treasure, to represent the sangha.   It is that precious! If one understands the value of the sangha, it will not only assist one’s own spiritual cultivation, but one’s potential for happiness will increase.
Is there a concept of right livelihood in Buddhism? These days, the majority of people spend most of their time at their workplaces. In work relationships, there are your superiors and your subordinates. In many of these relationships, we often face the predicament of having to hurt and abuse each other. Please advise us how we can handle these work situations better.   
If one understands well the principle of conditioned origination, one will then discover the values and meaning of one’s work. A recent statistic suggests that four out of five employees are dissatisfied with their workplaces but continue to work there because they have no other choice. If 80 percent of employees go to their jobs only as means of survival, then aren’t their lives truly miserable! Reading this figure, I felt so much pity for the stress these workers undergo. I’ve heard that Korea has the highest imported liquor sales in the world. I, then, realized that this tremendous work stress causes them to drink so heavily, even downing boilermakers.
 
When we seek all our values externally, we set our standards according to various external conditions and think, “My salary is too low,” or “I can’t get a promotion.” However, the person who seeks values internally will realize the greater value and meaning of his work. During the Buddha’s time, he even helped garbage handlers to find value and meaning in their work. There is no high and low in people’s professions. If one realizes the indiscriminative mind and the substanceless state, which is emptiness, then one will not discriminate or distinguish between good and bad professions. If a person views his work with an ‘empty mind’ that is free of substance, then he will discover the value and meaning in his work. Then, such thoughts as protecting ‘one’s own people’ will disappear along with all confrontation and conflict and, with an empty mind, people will support and cooperate with each other, thereby experiencing much gratification and joy. One will then find real meaning in one’s work. 
 
For those who have discovered such meaning, others who confront them do not become their objects of anger or hatred, but of compassion, instead. If someone mistreats you, you should still not react unwisely by getting angry, and then criticizing and mistreating him. If you did, it would make him even angrier. Hence, even if someone mistreats you and makes you angry, you must arouse the thought of protecting yourself. This is perseverance. We do not persevere by simply enduring ill-treatment, but for the sake of protecting ourselves. How, then, do we protect ourselves? By realizing that ‘I’ has no substance and neither do the concepts of I, person, or sentient beings. We must maintain such a view.  
 
In this age of unlimited competition, when people exert so much of their energy to advance in their jobs--trying to achieve their goals by employing all kinds of illegal methods or by competing extensively to defeat others--they will certainly become exhausted and receive tremendous stress. However, if one works by discovering the values and meaning in his own work, then he does not compete limitlessly, but rather, progress limitlessly. One thereby becomes an expert in one’s field and receives much recognition from others. While developing oneself, one does not discriminate between superior or inferior professions. By acknowledging the values of others, one progresses and becomes a person who lives well with others. When there are more people progressing, the workplace, the society, and the nation all improve. This is how we must practice.   
 
Hence, it is of utmost importance to understand the ‘middle way and conditioned origination’ and move toward ultimate happiness, which is free from any concept of subject and object. If we attain the state of ‘no substance and form is emptiness,’ then two become one as well as equal, and one will no longer discriminate. This state of equality is not a place without purpose or of nihilism; rather, once the discriminating mind disappears, incredibly bright wisdom is simultaneously made manifest. Bright wisdom is what early Buddhism refers to as manifesting knowledge, wisdom, brightness, and radiance. In Mahayana Buddhism, we describe it all together as manifesting ‘the bright radiance of knowledge and wisdom.’
 
In the Seon school, the saying, ‘Mountains are streams, streams are mountains,’ refers to the reason why we need to live together with one other. The saying, ‘Mountains are mountains, streams are streams,’ refers to each individual’s independent existence, in which one progresses according to the values and meaning in one’s own work.   Independence and coexistence mutually interpenetrate, assisting people to actively live their lives dedicated to the middle way. Sŏn is not a designation intended only for special people. It applies to all beings and all phenomena. It transcends time and space, and is thus eternal.
You seem to be critical about today’s Korean Buddhists who practice the faith for the sake of wealth. Please tell us how to resolve this situation.
Even if a person gains wealth through religious practice, the good fortune one receives is only subjective, since his happiness and unhappiness will continuously interchange and repeat. Isn’t Sakyamuni Buddha the person who possessed all subjective happiness? Yet, he left his position as the crown prince. What was his motivation? He wanted to pursue the ultimate happiness that transcends time and space. In order to pursue ultimate happiness, one must not seek externally outside oneself. Instead, one must seek the truth within. One who looks inside moves closer to ultimate happiness, while taking in all external values. He does not give up external values. Hence, one can still achieve ultimate happiness, while taking in external wealth. This is ultimate happiness.
 
During the Buddha’s time there was a layman named Anathapindada, who was very wealthy. Since the Buddha taught ‘no form, no self, and no possessions,’ he grew concerned and asked the Buddha, “What should I do with my wealth?” The Buddha replied, “You may accumulate more.” The name Anathapindada in Chinese means “Donor to Widows and Orphans,” which refers to a person who helps neglected and lonely people. The Buddha told him that he could accumulate more wealth, since he understood clearly that helping others is in return helping himself, and vice versa. This is the way that a person can attain something greater. Just because the Buddha emphasized ‘no possessions,’ he did not mean for us to discard everything. The ultimate happiness to which the Buddha referred is the perpetual happiness that transcends time and space. This is the reason the Buddha recommended that we pursue the happiness of liberation, by perceiving even birth, old age, sickness, and death as truth.
 
How can people of our generation study Buddhism systematically?      
First, one must have right view. Right view means to have the ability to understand all phenomena according to the ‘middle way and conditioned origination.’ Right view is the first item listed in the Noble Eightfold Path. Without it, the remaining seven cannot be attained. Hence, the Eightfold Path begins and ends with right view. Knowledge of conditioned origination appears, too, only when one initially attains right view. With the ‘middle way and conditioned origination’ as the basis for understanding, we can come to understand all being, including our own. 
 
In order to reach this state, we must perceive and understand the principle that existence occurs through conditioned origination, as the Buddha himself perceived. To understand conditioned origination, know its value, and finally to exert one’s effort in experiencing it is spiritual cultivation. When the Buddha and other spiritual mentors were alive, they became living paragons for other people. Observing the Buddha and these spiritual mentors, people were inspired to emulate them. During generations without a buddha or such mentors, however, we have no choice but to rely on the dharma instead. To rely on the dharma, we first must understand the dharma. Observing spiritual mentors and gaining understanding is of course one way of understanding the dharma. For instance, we say to ourselves upon seeing a spiritual mentor, “I want to become like him.” The aspiration to become “like him” indicates that we already have some understanding of the dharma, which is the substance of the dharma the Buddha discovered. Whether we attain right view through observing spiritual mentors or by perceiving the dharma, this understanding is right view. Once right view is established, our moral values change. Once our moral values are completely transformed, we then become liberated from all the suffering in the world.
 
In modern society, however, many people believe that if they live their lives in such a way, they will be disadvantaged, be treated like fools, or be isolated. That is only a result of their lack of right view. Ordinary people’s understanding of Buddhism is only a misconception. Since the actions of those who have attained right view are wise, instead of seeing only what is near, they perceive far and wide, thus benefiting all the public. They benefit themselves as well as others; hence everyone benefits in the end. When this practice advances, they transcend time and space and are able to live their lives usefully, like true human beings, without the attachments to ‘I,’ ‘others,’ ‘sentient beings,’ or ‘life force.’ When such people work in society, they function well and become leaders of their organizations. Thus, being concerned about being ill-treated by others or being treated like a fool is only a misconception that those who have not attained right view have; through mere conjecture, they falsely believe that Buddhism means being unconditionally nice, conceding, and sacrificing to others. However, Buddhism is certainly not that. In some respect, Buddhism is about learning ways to love ourselves. To love ourselves is to love others and give them assistance; to love others is to love ourselves. This is what Buddhism teaches, not sacrificing oneself for others. Ordinary people often presume that living a pure life means to be sacrificing to others and to accept ill-treatment. This is the reason they misconstrue Buddhism. 
 
Right view involves correct perception. By establishing right view, we perforce will transform our moral values.

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