Oct. 20, 2021

A meeting for the compilation of Jungto Dharma Book and a Dharma meeting

Hello! Morning has broken at Dubuk Jungto Retreat Center.

After the morning practice and barugongyang (a formal monastic meal), Venerable Pomnyun Sunim went up to the field at the foothill. Before going to the field, he made a scooping tool.

“Let’s make a dipper with a long handle to scoop up liquid fertilizer.”

He cut a stick with a sickle and connected a large plastic bowl at one end. Shortly after he arrived at the field, agriculture team haengjas (trainees) arrived with liquid fertilizer in a truck.

Winter vegetables are to be planted in the field from which we harvested sweet potatoes the day before yesterday. Today we are going to spray all-natural, organic liquid fertilizer on the field before planting vegetables. Various organic materials have been fermented in a large plastic barrel for about a year for organic farming and the fermented liquid has been diluted to the appropriate concentration. When we opened the lid, it smelled awful.

“Ugh, it stinks!”

We put on plastic raincoats in case the fertilizer spattered and the smell permeated our clothes.

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim used the dipper he made to scoop up the liquid fertilizer and pour it into watering cans.

“This sort of dipper was used to scoop up dung in the past.”

Despite the stench, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim smiled as he scooped up the liquid fertilizer. While he was filling the watering cans, the trainees applied five sacks of organic fertilizer to the field.

The weed mats piled up in one corner of the field were spread out to dry in the sun.

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim continued to fill watering cans with liquid fertilizer while the trainees carried a watering can in each hand to spray it evenly over the field. The work continued for a while because the amount of liquid fertilizer was substantial.

At last, the bottom of the barrel appeared and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim said,

“This is the last batch. Let’s clean the watering cans and basins with water.”

After tidying up the scattered hoses and tools, we left the field.

“Good job.”

When we arrived at Dubuk Jungto Retreat Center, the Dharma teachers who had arrived from Mungyeong Jungto Retreat Center in the early morning were ready for a meeting on compiling the Jungto Dharma Book after finishing their communal work.

The meeting began at 10 O’clock sharp. First, the Buddhist philosophy team presented the results of their study and discussion on the Noble Eightfold Path. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim listened attentively as they presented the lexical meaning, quotations from sutras, philosophical meaning, and excerpts from “A Day in the Life of Venerable Pomnyun Sunim.”

After lunch, the social philosophy team gave a presentation on various interpretations of the meaning of harmony and justice based on the Buddha’s teachings and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s Dharma talks. A passage from the Majjhima Nikaya was especially memorable and there were questions and answers about it.

[Ven. Anuruddha:] “This, lord, is how we are living harmoniously, cordially, and without dispute, blending like milk and water, looking at one another with eyes of affection.”…” Here, lord, whichever of us returns first from going to the village for alms lays out the seats, sets out water for drinking and using, and sets out the refuse bucket. Whoever returns afterwards from going to the village for alms eats the leftovers — if there are any and if he wants to — and if not, he throws them out in a place where there are no crops or dumps them into water without living beings in it. He puts away the seats, puts away the water for drinking and using, puts away the refuse bucket after having washed it, and sweeps the meal hall. “Whoever sees that the drinking-water jar, using-water jar, or rinsing-water jar [in the bathroom] are low or empty refills it. If it occurs to him, ‘It’s too much for me,’ he calls another by waving — using hand signals — and they refill the drinking-water jar or using-water jar by joining hands. But we don’t for that reason break into speech.” And every five days we sit together for the whole night to discuss the Dhamma. That’s how we remain heedful, ardent, and resolute.”

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.Sourced from the edition at dhammatalks.org Provenance, https://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/ati/mn/mn.128.than.ati.htm

The Dharma teachers freely asked Sunim questions. One of them said she was impressed by the sangha culture at the time of the Buddha, in which assignment of tasks was not necessary.

“While reading the sutra, I wondered about the phrase, ‘looking at one another with eyes of affection.’ It means whoever returned first made preparations and whoever returned afterwards cleaned up and all these were done without a word. However, in our case, each of us performs his or her assigned task, so the assigned tasks are performed without a problem, but we don’t do the things we are not assigned to, even if we arrive early. We just think,’The one who is assigned to the task will do it.’”

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim talked about how the practitioners lived at the time of the Buddha and the things we need to learn from them;

“When you live in a community, it is better to do things as stated in the sutra rather than assign tasks. Whoever arrives first does things first means the following: for example, practitioners who arrive first for an event prepare the place, such as cleaning up or laying out floor cushions. And those who arrive afterwards clean up after the event. This means that when practitioners gather together, they do things smoothly and voluntarily, without being told what to do. I think it is most fair for those who arrive early to prepare for the event and those who arrive late to clean up after the event.

“But what happens if those who arrive early have to prepare beforehand and clean up afterward as well, and this practice continues? If those who arrive late continue to leave without doing anything, everyone will arrive late naturally. Then it will be difficult to prepare for meetings, so tasks are assigned.

“But the sutra describes a way of life that doesn’t require the assignment of tasks. Those who return first do the necessary preparations and those who return later do the cleaning, and the whole thing is done smoothly without a word. If others do the preparation, you do the cleaning. If things are done like this, there is no need to tell people what to do to make sure things run smoothly.

“The same goes for taking off shoes before entering a room. Those who enter first should leave their shoes nearest to the entrance and take seats in the front row first. When the meeting is over, those who are sitting in the last row should leave first and put on their shoes. Placement of shoes should be like this so that shoes don’t get mixed up and finding shoes is easy. At a temple, there should be no need to say, “Please take seats in the front rows first.” But when I attend events, I often see people who arrive first sit at the entrance. They do this in order to leave first. So we have to tell people: ‘Please take seats in the front rows first.’ The seats in the back row near the entrance should be left unoccupied so that those who arrive late can sit quietly without disturbing others. But people don’t follow this principle because everybody thinks only about themselves. Voluntary observance of such principles is sangha culture.“

“You’ve always emphasized that sangha culture should take root in our community, and as I was reading this passage, I thought, ‘Aha!, this is the sangha culture Sunim talks about.’”

“Those who start the 100-Day Chulga (pabbajja) program and new members of the sangha should learn the sangha culture first. They are taught other things first, so it is difficult for the sangha culture to take root. First, those who start the 100-Day Chulga program and new sangha members should be taught the sangha culture so that it becomes second nature. Second, existing sangha members should act as role models for new members. Then new members will acquire such practices naturally. Unless the existing members practice what they teach, the sangha culture the new members learn will remain as knowledge and not become a way of life.

“And the next part of the passage was also interesting: ‘Whoever returns afterwards from going to the village for alms eats the leftovers — if there are any and if he wants to — and if not, he throws them out in a place where there are no crops or dumps them into water without living beings in it.’”

“It describes the way to handle leftover food. It means that when we throw away food, we should do so in such a way that it doesn’t kill trees or plants. We should throw it away in a compost pile or in a place where there is no living organism. If we throw it away on grass, grass will die. The reason we empty the offering bowl (a bowl to collect a few grains of rice from each barugongyang participant to offer to hungry ghosts) onto a stepping stone is for the birds to eat the rice comfortably. If the grains of rice are hidden in a thicket of grass, it will be difficult for the birds to find them. There is also a rule for throwing away water. If the water is hot, it could harm small creatures, so hot water should be poured onto gravel. It is because sand and gravel contain little food and few bugs live there. Therefore, a rule has been laid down; hot water should be poured onto gravel.”

As the questions and answers between the Dharma teachers and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim continued, one of them told a story she remembered from a book she read long ago.

“I was once moved by a story in a book about Ven. Ananda. According to the book, the Buddha’s ten principal disciples, the most honorable elders, were at the front and at the back when the monks walked in single file. This means that when the sangha moved, the elders protected its members at the front and at the back. It is the same when wolves move, a leader at the front and a leader at the back protect the pack. Just as the strongest wolves watch out for the rest, the elders in the sangha were models for the rest. It is said that when cleaning, they were the first to do the cleaning yet they didn’t show off. They did the same for cleaning up after an assembly. I think the sangha culture was established naturally as the monks saw how the elders behaved.”

It was heartwarming to know what kind of culture a community of practitioners should establish for themselves.

The questions and answers continued until 3 O’clock in the afternoon, when the meeting ended. The Dharma teachers bowed three times to show their gratitude to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim for answering their questions for hours.

At 4 O’clock, an online conference of resident Dharma teachers was held. They asked for Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s advice on various issues, including ways to operate Dharma meetings, revisions of objectives for the 10th 1,000-Day Practice, training programs for Dharma teachers, and CCTV installation at Mungyeong Jungto Retreat Center, and then held votes before closing the conference.

At 7:30 in the evening, the live stream of Wednesday’s Dharma meeting began. About 400 Jungto Society members accessed the live-stream and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim started the meeting with opening remarks.

“Jungto Society’s motto is practice, donation, and service. Those who practice the three virtues of practice, donation, and service are called practitioners. ‘Practice’ is freeing oneself from suffering and living happily by removing delusions. ‘Donation’ is sharing one’s possessions to improve the lives of other people. ‘Service’ is sharing one’s talents to benefit others. In Mahayana Buddhism, such practitioners are called bodhisattvas.

Jungto Society members engage in practice, donation, and service

“Jungto Society members aspire to attain enlightenment on the one hand and to live a life that benefits others on the other. One aims to ‘attain enlightenment’ for oneself. This means one seeks to live a free and happy life through practice. At the same time, one aims to live a life that benefits others, which is called ‘liberating unenlightened beings.’ We donate and volunteer to liberate unenlightened beings. Jungto Society operates under this motto.

“So, what should you Jungto Society members value most? Jungto Society has a religious element called Buddhism, culturally. It also has logical and philosophical elements. Studying Buddhist doctrines at Jungto Dharma School means studying the philosophical elements of Buddhism. However, when you become a member of Jungto Society, the most important thing is practice, the experience of becoming free from suffering. Jungto Society’s goal is to live lightheartedly and positively under any circumstances by reducing negative emotions, such as nervousness, anxiety, concern, worry, fear, sadness, distress, anger, irritation, hatred, and resentment, and by increasing positive emotions.

“I hope we reaffirm this goal once more during this Dharma meeting. Accordingly, when Jungto Society is mentioned, a modifier ‘A community of practitioners’ always follows. We should say ‘Jungto Society, a community of practitioners.’ Therefore, if you are a member of Jungto Society, you must practice, donate, and volunteer.”

Next, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim thanked Jungto Society members who had volunteered at the main temples and practice sites during the previous weekend.

After watching videos of the volunteers working at the main temples, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim started a Dharma Q&A. Three people who submitted questions in advance asked questions and had dialogues with him. One of them asked what she should do when she feels irritated by her child going to bed late , or does not brushing her teeth before bed.

I get irritated when my child doesn’t go to bed early

“Having a good night’s sleep is very important to me. If my 11-year-old child hasn’t finished brushing her teeth when I am about to go to bed, I rush her into brushing her teeth and I’m all on edge until she finishes and lies down on the bed. At first, I maintain my awareness, ‘I am becoming irritated,’ but as time passes, I often lose my awareness and get angry. And the next morning, I feel sorry for getting angry. I think I should let go of my attachment to sleep, what should I do?”

“Does your child sleep in the same room with you or in a separate room?”

“Because of our current financial situation, we have only one bedroom, so she sleeps with me. But I think that next year she should have her own room or I should go to bed whether she’s in bed or not.”

“Do you work?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then how about you have a talk with your child? Set a bedtime schedule whether it is 10 or 11 O’clock and have a talk with her.

“Tell her: ‘I have to go to work in the morning, so I have to go to bed by this time. If you move around after that, I won’t be able to sleep and it will be difficult for me to work. We are a family, so let’s cooperate with each other so that we both can live comfortably.’

“You need to talk with her and ask for help repeatedly. I think it would be better for you to ask for her help and say: ‘I’m having a hard time, so can you do this for me?’ instead of intimidating her by saying, ‘Don’t do that.’

“What should you do if she still doesn’t change? Regardless, you shouldn’t become angry at her or scold her. She is 11 years old and in 4th grade, and at that age, she might get hurt emotionally if you are angry with her. She will reach puberty soon. If your relationship with her continues like this, she won’t listen to you and will rebel against you when she reaches puberty, and then you will have a bigger headache.

“So talk with her in a way that addresses your hardship. Keep telling her about your hardship. She doesn’t know what kind of hardships you are going through. You only scold her and feel irritated with her without telling her why you are angry, so she might hate you because she doesn’t know your situation.

“Tell her about your situation and ask for her help. Even if she doesn’t cooperate, it is not good to become angry or irritated with her. She might promise to cooperate but not keep her promise, because she doesn’t know. Even if she acts like that, do not press her, ‘Why did you break your promise?’ Ask for help even if you have to ask 10 times. You have to deal with her under the premise that she doesn’t know.

‘She acts like that not because she is bad but because she doesn’t know.’

“Think like this and teach her repeatedly, and if she fails to do so 10 times, teach her the 11th time. But when you teach her, do not say, ‘Do this for your own sake.’ Instead, tell her,

‘I understand your situation fully. But I am really tired now. We can’t afford to have a room for you now. I have to go to work early tomorrow morning, so I have to go to bed now. This is our situation, so I would appreciate your help.’

“Try to ask for her help repeatedly. If you become angry or irritated, she will feel hurt emotionally and your situation will become worse in the future. If you let her have her way, she will become inconsiderate; on the other hand, if you scold her, she will be hurt emotionally. So you need to improve her behavior, but do so wisely.

“You have to choose wisely how to deal with your child. When children behaved badly during the Joseon period, mothers resorted to sometimes spanking, but they also used other methods to discipline their children. For example, when a child didn’t listen to his mother, she told him to get a rod and hit her on the calf with it.

‘I should be punished for not raising you right. It’s not your fault, it’s my fault.’

“The child cried as he hit his mother and he changed while crying. This is one way. I am not saying that you should be beaten by your child. I am saying that forcing something on someone brings only temporary results. Your child will change only if she realizes your hardship or her heart is moved. So, just as you are appealing for my help, tell your child about your hardship honestly and ask for her help. How about telling her: ‘If I can’t sleep well tonight, I’ll have a hard time tomorrow, so can you help me?’

“You reasoned with me kindly and now I understand how I should deal with my child. Just as I appealed for your help, I will tell her about my hardship and deal with her wisely. I am deeply moved by your advice. Thank you.”

There were other questions.

  • According to a newspaper article on Oct. 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that the main enemy of North Korea is war itself. I am curious to know your thoughts on the current situation of North Korea and prospects for inter-Korean relations.
  • I’ve been distressed for two years over $2,000. I’ve hired a labor lawyer for industrial accidents but I am troubled by his fee, which is too high in my opinion.

After the questions and answers, the Dharma meeting ended with Four Great Vows. It was already past 9 O’clock in the evening. Outside, the full moon was shining brightly over the yard.

Tomorrow, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim will go to Bonghwa Jungto Retreat Center and meet guests and take a walk with them along the canyons of the upper streams of Nakdonggang.