Korean master Seon (Zen) 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 many Dharma-based organizations, initiatives and projects that are active across the world. Among them, the Jungto Society, a community of volunteers based on Buddhist teachings and expressing equality, simple living and sustainability, is dedicated to solving modern social problems that lead to suffering, including the degradation of the environment, poverty and conflict.
The following article shared by the Jungto Society is part of a series of notable highlights from Ven. Pomnyun Sunim's writings, teachings, and regular live Dharma question-and-answer sessions, which are accessible worldwide.
Previously, people aged 60 and over were considered seniors. The retirement age was therefore set at 60 years. However, 60-year-olds today are as healthy as 50-year-olds a few decades ago. Since people are now in better health and have a longer life expectancy, it may be necessary to increase the retirement age by around 10 years. However, there is one condition. As there is already a shortage of jobs, there will be fewer jobs for young people if the retirement age is pushed back, so work sharing is necessary.
For example, let's say someone is 58 years old and has reached retirement age in their company and their monthly salary is $5. If the company were to raise the retirement age but had to continue paying the same salary, it would have to bear a greater financial burden and would not be able to hire many new employees. Additionally, as employees age, they gain wisdom and experience, but inevitably lag behind in their work pace and technological expertise. In this case, it is possible for the company to continue to benefit from the accumulated experience and knowledge of older employees by keeping them in employment but at a lower position and lower salary. For example, if the person at retirement age is a department head, they could hand over their position to a junior employee and assume the role of advisor or steering committee member, with a lower salary of $000. . When he hits 3, he could further reduce his working hours to just three days a week on a monthly salary of $000. In this way, the company can effectively use its skills and experience without too much financial burden.
As people age, they should let go of their stereotypes and preconceptions about different jobs. A person can work as a security guard after retiring from a department head position. When our society teaches that all professions have the same value, people can respect an ex-CEO all the more when he retires and works as a security guard in the same company, and not despise him. Similarly, a retired headteacher, instead of spending his time doing nothing, can volunteer to help young teachers prepare lessons or teach a lesson once a week. If we can allocate work appropriately, lowering wages and working hours for certain positions, we can create a system that helps older workers stay employed and earn money without overworking themselves.
In today's society, older people are treated like they can't do anything, but if you look around, they have a lot of work to do. In our community of Jungto practitioners, we find that when young people make kimchi or bean paste, it lacks flavor, but when older women do it, it is delicious. Since the physical labor involved in making these foods is too taxing for older practitioners, they can share the work with younger practitioners and work harmoniously as a team. When young people do the heavy lifting and the old people offer advice on combining condiments or salting cabbage, the work can be done very efficiently.
Even on a farm, all produce, like lettuce and cabbage, seems to thrive in the hands of old people, but doesn't do so well under the care of young people. Therefore, if the older people plant the seeds and tend the crops while the younger ones undertake the more laborious tasks, they can achieve harmony. When people can work this way, even octogenarians can play an important role.
If you travel in the countryside, you will see old men working like strong young men. When people are young, working in the city seems sophisticated while farming in the countryside seems outdated. However, those who work in the city are forced to retire at a relatively young age, while retirement does not exist for farmers even if they reach their seventies. Farmers can keep working as long as they can. Therefore, instead of relying on their children in their old age, they are able to send their children the produce that they grew even in their eighties.
As people age, they stay vibrant when they stay active and stay useful. Elderly people in poor and destitute countries who must continue to work have their eyes full of life, while those in the United States, for example, who sit quietly on public benches or rocking chairs do not have the same vigor and vivacity. Living in physical comfort without much to do is not necessarily a good thing. On the contrary, it is beneficial for the mind and body to stay active, whether weeding in the fields, cleaning the house or doing volunteer work.