Pages InformationWriter Jogye Date04 Mar 2016 Read2,248 Comment0
Introduction to Ganhwa Seon
Chapter 1. What is Seon (禪 Jp. Zen)?
3. The Path towards Peace, Stability and Happiness of Our Mind
Depression of People in the Modern World
People these days are fatigued and frustrated with a lot of desires unsatisfied. Advancement of civilization made everything ever more convenient; however, concerns and worries never end. Both adults and children, in their own way, suffer from anxiety, anger, impatience, frustration, jealousy, betrayal, loss, hate, loneliness and isolation, so they cannot feel comfortable even for just short period of time.
Let us take a look at what is happening around us. Almost everyone, whether he or she is an employee, employer, teacher, student or housewife, is unhappy about where one is standing, suffering from unsatisfactory life. The richer we get, the more we become in pain, greedily eager to accumulate more. Meanwhile, those with less fortune are frustrated as well, arguing others have far more than they do even though they have enough. In addition, unavoidable conditions of life, such as the fact that we grow old and die one day, make us feel devastated. Even if the advancement of modern medical treatment ushers in the era of longevity without diseases, it has its own limitations. Could longer life expectancy guarantee that human beings live more than 150 years? As Ven. Gyeongheo (1849-1912), one of the leading Seon masters in Korea, highlighted, our lives are like the lantern light right in front of the wind. In addition, being obsessed with immortality is not desirable.
Pains of diseases and death are severe; however, the weight of life pressures us more painfully, prompting us to be adrift with frustration. According to one online survey, 88% of the respondents answered that they felt serious depression, pointing out that stress in their daily lives is the biggest reason. Perhaps it could be safe to say that most people in the modern world are suffering from depression to some extent. Why? It is probably because the weight of life is unbearable. That is why our lives are hard and tiring.
The ways to relieve depression include working out, enjoying hobbies, hanging out with friends, drinking and dancing. However, these could be temporary relieves but cannot provide us with fundamental healing, only repeating vicious cycle of momentary stability and following depression. Furthermore, root causes are only accumulated without being resolved, leading to severe consequences upon catalyst moments. Suicides of celebrities or top students at prestigious schools demonstrate depression could bring about tragic results.
Why do those who enjoy seemingly perfect life and popularity take their own lives? Is it because they don’t have enough money? Or they are not good at what they do? Or not good looking enough? It is not easy to comprehend the reasons from ordinary perspective. More exactly, it is because they suffered inwardly, being unable to withstand the weight of life, rather than due to external conditions. More fundamentally, unsatisfactory, desperate, rushed and anxious feelings lead to the tragedy. In this situation, they can no longer appreciate joy of life or hopes due to oppressed mind, but just end up feeling stressed out and sad.
Enlightenment, Rest, Peace and Joy
Then how can we enjoy genuine happiness, liberated from anxiety and oppressions, while maintaining relaxing and peaceful state of mind in our everyday life? The fundamental solution lies in discovering and awakening to the true self. When we are enlightened, nothing can limit us or hold us back as our mind becomes boundless and is not framed by anything.
Resting our mind and maintaining it tranquil and calm opens up the genuine path to inner peace and happiness. With this peaceful mind, we can have relaxing moments to reflect on ourselves and look around us, not in a rush at all. In addition, wide and deep exploration broadens the scope of our lives, which never leaves us behind or in the wrong direction, as if we ride a bicycle against the wind with arms wide open, while enjoying fresh fragrance of wild flowers and conversations with people around us. Then, we feel time slows down or even stops. As such, we are able to live fully, truly appreciate our lives and engage in deep contemplation of things around us. Every day is a good and peaceful day.
Meanwhile, those who in a rush get anxious and agitated even with slight delay. They get easily sick and tired of anything, annoyed and angry when something is not suitable to them. They become greedy to gain more in a faster fashion to calm down their nervous mind. However, not everything can go in their favorable way. Greed cannot be satisfied unlimitedly. That’s the way it is. But they get angry and suffer from pains when their demands are not met. This can never be a happy life.
Then how can we rest our mind? How can we become like awakened masters who have nothing to worry about? It is possible by taming our agitated mind in a rush and obsessed with one object through hwadu and deeply reflecting on ourselves, as if we tame and rein in the ferocious ox of our mind. This way, we can immerse ourselves into tranquil mind, which can lead to restful and relaxing state. Then, our behaviors are not awkward but natural, with well-rounded mind and therefore no confrontations. Even in the face of difficult reality, we are not at a loss, don’t aimlessly wander around but carry on well-balanced life like the wind not caught by anything.
However, this relaxing and peaceful life does not mean doing nothing or slacking off, even far from irresponsibility for the world around us. Rather, calm and resting mind with no anxiety gets everything done so thoroughly, rightly and swiftly like a flash of lightning. Even juggling with numerous tasks simultaneously does not make us at a loss but relaxed and peaceful. This is the way we can live truly happy everyday life.
* Please note that this writing is an excerpt from the book, "Introduction to Ganhwa Seon" published by the Bureau of Dharma Propagation and is contained in the spring 2016 edition of the Lotus Lantern magazine under Buddhist Culture Section on page 18~24.