The path without suffering

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

The Korean master Seon (Zen), the venerable Pomnyun Sunim (Buddhist monk) wears many hats: Buddhist monk, teacher, author, environmentalist, and social activist, to name a few. As a highly respected Dharma teacher and tireless socially engaged activist in his native South Korea, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim has founded numerous Dharma-based organizations, initiatives and projects that are active around the world. Among them, the Jungto Society, a volunteer community based on Buddhist teachings and expressing equality, simplicity of life and sustainability, is dedicated to solving modern social problems that lead to suffering, including the degradation of environment, poverty and conflict.

This column, shared by Jungto Society, features a series of highlights from Ven. Pomnyun Sunim's writings, teachings, public lectures, and regular live-streamed Dharma Q&A sessions are accessible worldwide.

The following teaching was given in Toronto on September 16, 2023. This article is the 16th in a special series drawn from Ven. Pomnyun Sunim's Dharma Tour in Europe and North America, her first overseas tour since the pandemic. Entitled “Informal conversation with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Come talk about life, wisdom and happiness”, the Dharma tour took place from September 1 to 22, 2023, in 21 cities: six in Europe and 15 in North America.*

Do I know if I'm greedy?

Q: I have lived in Canada for about 10 years. During the coronavirus pandemic, I ended up spending a lot of time alone. At the time, I often experienced emotional turmoil, but I was greatly healed thanks to Ven. The teachings of Pomnyun Sunim.

I am currently trying to maintain a mind that is not disturbed by my surroundings or circumstances. The most useful information I got from Sunim'My teaching was that I needed to be self-aware. I have tried very hard to be aware of my true feelings, such as whether I am greedy, whether I try to take only good things, whether I blame others for my problems, and whether I avoid responsibility. of my choices.

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: This is not awareness.

Q: Oh, is that true?

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: Of course not. What you are describing are thoughts and actions that occur so naturally that there is no need to be conscious of them. At your level, it is natural to be greedy and it is also natural to blame others. In fact, it's not just you; they are all humans. Even if there are only minor problems, they blame others, try to follow their own desires, and are stubborn. It's a natural human tendency. You want to say, “I’m not a saint, so isn’t it natural for me to act this way?” Is it correct? (audience laughter)

Q: Yes, it is. To a large extent, I think so.

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: What you're saying is like asking, "Am I human or not?" We do not use the term “awareness” to describe this type of self-inquiry.

When you ask yourself, “Am I being greedy right now?” when desire arises, it is a subjective thought and not true consciousness. The truth is that I suis currently being greedy. The truth is that I suis think from my own point of view, act according to my own nature and blame others.

True consciousness is a objective recognition of one's state of mind, such as recognizing: "I am currently being greedy", "I am blaming others at the moment", or "I am thinking from a self-centered point of view".

Ask: “Do I blame others? while blaming others at this time cannot be called correct conscience. When you think, “I am blaming others right now” and realize that such a thought is occurring, this can be called awareness.

Q: This is a valid statement. So I also defined myself as a person who blames others.

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: Well done! From now on, when you blame others, you must immediately recognize, “It’s my fault.” Instead of tormenting yourself with futile thoughts about events that have already happened, you should train yourself by momentarily noticing the thoughts that arise in each moment by saying, “I blame others” at the very moment you blame others. Just like you would quickly catch a fly with chopsticks, picking up on the negative emotions that are arising in your mind right now is the essence of awareness.

How should a practitioner view someone who is stingy?

Q: However, I have also found myself applying this thought to others. Especially when I see someone who isn't aware of it, I find myself thinking, "This person is being stingy right now, but they're expressing it this way to hide it." » In this way, I become aware of the state of others. As a result, I came to recognize that everyone is greedy and began to have no expectations of anyone I met. Is it okay to look at others this way?

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: If you understand that you are a person who thinks from a self-centered point of view, you must also recognize that everyone else does the same. However, we often accept self-centered thinking in ourselves while criticizing others for their self-centeredness, saying things like, "You are selfish." Yet it is entirely possible for others to think from a self-centered perspective as well. What's the problem with recognizing this?

When someone else is angry, recognizing it as “This person is angry” is awareness. Saying: “Humans are beings who get angry” is not awareness. There's nothing to be angry about. So when I get angry, I acknowledge it: "I'm angry right now," and then I ask, "Why am I angry?" and I discover the cause, which can help anger arise, cease and gradually disappear.

When you see someone else's anger, you need to understand that there must be something that made that person angry. However, telling that person, “There is no reason to be angry” or “When you are angry, look at yourself,” will be like a dagger. The Buddha's teachings can be good medicine when applied to oneself, but they can become poison when applied to others. Therefore, the perspective of practice should always be to apply the teachings to oneself.

Even if you talk at length about your wife, I wouldn't give you any advice on how your wife should behave. Indeed, it is very likely that you are trying to apply the teachings of the Buddha to your wife. In this case, the Buddha's teachings can become a dagger. Speaking based on the words of the Buddha can act like poison. Therefore, you should always apply the Buddha's teachings to yourself.

Likewise, if certain teachings are consistently misapplied in a societal context for the purposes of personal psychological healing, this can lead to distortion of Buddhist teachings. “Whether the world is upside down or not, don’t get involved. Focus only on your own mind; » if you interpret it this way, Buddhism will turn away from social justice. This is why many criticisms are leveled against Buddhism. However, the Buddha himself did not take this approach. He has spoken and worked extensively on social justice issues, such as gender discrimination, class discrimination, and war and conflict. Unwanted side effects arise because methods of healing inner wounds are repeatedly applied outwardly.

Likewise, you must also apply the perspective of practice only to yourself. This perspective should not be applied to others. When your wife is angry, you need to empathize and say, “My wife deserves to be angry. Honey, I'm sorry. When you feel angry, you should ask yourself, “Why am I angry? » and see it as your own problem. You should not try to receive an apology from the other person. They must therefore be applied differently.

Q: I understand. THANKS.

The path without suffering

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: When two people get married and live together, they have different tastes, habits and values. So, to avoid conflict, you must recognize these differences. Recognizing these differences means respecting others. Treating others like a king is not respect. Understanding is having a mindset such as: “It could be like this from this person's point of view. » Understanding is loving. Love without understanding is violence. You could call it love, but most of it refers to desire. You try to do things your way and you call it love. If you recognize everyone's differences and think, "That might be so from this person's point of view," you won't feel angry. However, this doesn't mean you have to agree with everything the other person says.

Since you got married by mutual consent, there is no problem in divorcing again by mutual consent. It is not because of any sin in your past life. Moments ago, as I took the stage, you all clapped and shouted, “Venerable Pomnyun Sunim!” Even if you admire me like this, after this Dharma lecture is over, we must part ways. Does such separation cause suffering? No, this is not the case.

Even if a couple breaks up, it is better to break up like this. Even if your parents die, it's okay to separate like this. You love each other but you can break up. Why do we have to become enemies when we break up? If you and I break up today, will we become enemies? Conversely, just because we love each other, should we always meet? We can love each other even if we don't meet, right? Likewise, even if you break up, it can be done without suffering.

The very essence of attachment lies in thoughts such as: "If I like someone, we absolutely must live together" or "If I don't like someone, we absolutely must stop living together." It's not that there should be no dislike or liking, but there should be no attachment to having what you want achieved.

The goal of Buddhism is not to become a person as impassive as wood or stone. If you have desires, go ahead and pursue them. However, don't worry if things don't go the way you want them to. The reason why suffering arises is due to the individual's attachment to the idea that "things must be the way I want them to be."

Likewise, suffering does not arise because of a breakup. If you understand that you can break up, you won't feel any pain even if you break up. You all know that no matter how much you love Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, you can't live with him. That's why it doesn't hurt even if we break up. When you leave this room, you might feel a little sad, but as soon as you open the door and walk out, all regret disappears. This way you can break up without suffering.

Just because you emigrated to Canada doesn't mean you will automatically be happy. Just because you import soybeans from Korea and transplant them to Canada doesn't mean they will become kidney beans.

To be happy, you must understand the principles of the mind and manage your mind. Managing your mind does not mean controlling it; that means you are always aware of your state of mind. You will then be able to live without suffering: you will be able to face death, separation and failure without suffering.

It's not serious

Fri. Pomnyun Sunim: I went through a lot of twists and turns to get to Toronto today. But in hindsight, it becomes a rather interesting experience. There were several dramatic moments, but all have now become memories. So now I have more stories to tell. But if I had to arrived here today, even after going through all these twists and turns, it would have been a little disappointing. However, looking back, I recognize that it very well could have happened that way.

Some of you here today have come from far away and even driven five hours. If this Dharma conference had been canceled, you would have felt a little upset. But when you look back after 10 years, it really doesn't matter. Even if this Dharma talk had been canceled, what would be the problem?

This is why, if we look back, nothing really bad happens in life. It's full of various twists and turns, and what we're facing right now we have the impression it's a big problem: it's a big problem if you come out of the conference room and the road is blocked; It’s serious if you can’t shake my hand; it's bad if you want to take a photo with me but you can't; it's a big problem for all sorts of things. We live between what is important and what is not. So if you can figure out what could appear like it's a big deal actually to it's a big deal, you can live freely every day.

I hope you can live your life with such freedom.

* Dharma Sharing: Ven. Pomnyun Sunim will give first in-person teachings in Europe and North America since the pandemic (BDG)

**Buddhist monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim receives the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

Leave comments