10,000-Day Practice, Special Dharma Q&A for Happiness School, Harvesting Cabbages from the Vegetable Gardens
December 10, 2022
Hello! A new day has dawned at Dubuk Retreat Center. Today is the first Saturday after the completion of the 10th 1,000-Day Practice.
At 4:30 am, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim began his day with the live 1,000-Day Practice. After the ringing of the bell, the Yebul ceremony, Words for Practice, Repentance, 108 bows, and sutra reading, Sunim gave a Dharma talk.
“I thank you for consistently practicing every day, even if the 1,000-Day Practice has already been concluded.
When we work, there is a beginning and an end. There is, however, no beginning or end in our lives. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, each of these is just a day. But it was decided that a certain day of the year is to be called the last day of the year. From the beginning to the end of a year is 365 days—a long time—but the end of a year is carried over to the beginning of the next year. The universe is the same. If I keep walking forward until I reach the end of the Earth, I come to the same point where I began walking.
Practitioners practice consistently, without caring about the beginning or the end
After we are awakened, we will see that there is no beginning or end in the world. And a closer inspection of something that appears to have a beginning and an end at first glance reveals that its beginning is its end. But, from a common-sense perspective, it’s very difficult to realize that the beginning is no different from the end and that the beginning and the end are not separate. It’s the same as telling someone who is looking at the sun rising and setting that the sun actually doesn’t rise or set and that the phenomenon is caused by the rotation of the Earth. It is hard for those who actually see the sun rising and setting with their eyes to accept that our perception of the sun rising and setting is an illusion.
“When the Buddha was awakened after six years of searching for the truth, he realized that everything he knew was an illusion. In other words, after discovering that everything is created by the mind, he realized that there is no reason to suffer. For an awakened person, it’s easy to understand this truth, but for an unawakened person it’s very difficult. In the same way, not smoking is very easy for non-smokers but extremely hard for smokers. And not using drugs is very easy for non-drug users but extremely hard for drug addicts.
Practitioners should live their daily lives without caring about the beginning or the end. The beginning or the end of the 1,000-Day Practice, the beginning or the end of the 10,000-Day Practice, the arrival of today or tomorrow, all of these are just processes. The beginning and the end are constructs created by the mind. When we truly know this, we won’t be swayed. Then we can reach the state of suchness where there is neither beginning nor end, neither going nor coming, neither nothing to do nor nothing not to do. This is how we should live. Then we will reach a state of equanimity.
On the other hand, in our daily lives, when we work, we make preparations before beginning and before ending. And so, in our daily lives, we go through the process of preparing for work, starting it, proceeding with it, and finishing it. In terms of practice, there is no beginning or end but in terms of working, there is a beginning and an end.
Since we’ve set the aspiration of ‘Creating Jungto (Pure Land),’ we begin and end each 10,000-Day Practice in terms of work and also allocate time to review what we’ve done and prepare for the next in between. But in terms of individual practice, there is no difference whether it is the beginning period, the end period, New Year’s Day, or the last day of the year. Every day is just a day. Whether the sun rises or sets, whether a good thing or a bad thing happens, whether we eat or answer the call of nature, they are just part of a day. In this respect, practice should be done consistently, whereas when we work, we should prepare for it, start it, proceed with it, and finish it well.
Time to complete the work we’ve been doing while simultaneously preparing for our next work
Now is the time to complete the work we’ve been doing while preparing for our next work. If we feel exhausted, we need to take a rest. But we shouldn’t forget that it’s important to complete our work properly. Although the 10,000-Day Practice is completed, we need to examine if any improvement or enhancement needs to be made and prepare for our next step based on this examination.
In this sense, this interim period is a time to review our previous projects and prepare for our next projects. I hope you use this period constructively by reflecting on your practice, completing your tasks properly, and preparing for what is to come.
During this interim period, our Pilgrimage to India and other events are scheduled, so the live 1,000-Day Practice broadcasted every Saturday will be temporarily on hold. I hope you continue to practice diligently every day, as you’ve done until now, even though there will be no live-streamed practice until 19 March next year.”
After giving a Dharma talk on today’s sutra reading, Sunim finished the live-streamed practice.
The residents of Dubuk Retreat Center had balu-gongyang at 6:40 am after cleaning the area each was assigned to. Sunim gave a talk after the meal.
As the year is drawing to a close, Sunim commended them for their hard work throughout the year and talked about our vision for agriculture and recycling.
“Since the 10,000-Day Practice has been concluded, I guess each of you is thinking about your future course of action. I hope you make a decision on this after we talk about our vision for the future during the sangha retreat scheduled for next week.
Vision for agriculture and recycling
At present, Jungto Society doesn’t give a lot of weight to agriculture and recycling, but they are very important if we think about the climate crisis and the future. These projects can be disseminated to Southeast Asian Buddhist countries. We do farming and recycling for the purpose of self-sufficiency, but we also need to make preparations to disseminate our organic farming knowhow to Southeast Asian engaged Buddhists. Dubuk Retreat Center can be utilized as the headquarters for farm tours and agricultural technology transfer. The same goes for recycling.
Organic farming is related to the necessary food imports from Southeast Asia. And we need to research ways to export surplus recycling materials to Southeast Asia. It’s very important because developing countries can improve their quality of life at a lower cost and in a more environmentally friendly way instead of using the Korean model of development.
We need to experiment and explore many options, such as utilizing volunteers, organic farming, utilizing unused land, and recycling waste materials. Instead of using all your energy for farming, I hope you can engage in research to find alternative ways to procure the basic necessities for human life.
When we held the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) conference, the participants from Southeast Asia were particularly interested in agriculture and recycling. This is because these are the projects they can copy and implement in their countries. They can’t produce any immediate results in the improvement of human rights, for instance. The concrete projects they can work on in their respective countries are the eradication of poverty, agricultural development, and recycling. I hope you can reflect on your future course of action in consideration of this vision.”
After the balu-gongyang, a video conference with the Planning Team for the Pilgrimage to India began at 8:00 am. Sunim and the team members checked and reviewed the detailed plans for the programs to be held at the 10 most important pilgrimage sites.
At 10:00 am, a special live Dharma Q&A session for the participants of Happiness School was held. It was organized to resolve any questions they might have while taking the course and to introduce them to the next courses.
While 2,900 participants were connected to the live-streamed talk, Sunim welcomed them and engaged in conversations with them. Five of them raised their hands and asked Sunim questions. One of them asked for advice on the way to control her impulsive overspending habit.
I can’t stop my impulsive overspending habit
“I’m an ordinary wage-earner. I used to save some money each month and live frugally, but these days I’ve been spending money like water. I feel momentarily happy when I spend money, but as soon as the moment passes, I feel hollow. When my account balance approaches zero, I feel anxious and think, ‘I shouldn’t do this,’ but I can’t stop myself and spend money again.
At such moments, two thoughts come to my mind simultaneously. My first thought is ‘Let’s enjoy life while I can’ because I can’t picture myself having a good future by saving money little by little; my second thought is ‘My life will be harder if I keep doing this.’ And when my account balance approaches zero, I feel anxious. How can I stop overspending and impulsive spending? How can I be joyful and happy without spending money?”
“I live joyfully and happily without spending a lot of money. I do spend money, but I give it to the needy or spend it to help others and rarely spend it on myself.
These days, I do things necessary for the world with the money you donate, but I used to earn money to cover all the necessary expenses. When I was a junior high school student, I delivered newspapers and did part-time work to make money. After graduating high school, I worked as a teacher at cram schools. Even while I was working to make money, I worked for the fun of working and mostly ate cheap food that cost less than a dollar. So people asked me what I did with the money I earned. But I could live happily without spending money. So, when I was young, a friend used to ask me,
‘The reason why people make money is to do fun things like drinking, smoking, playing go, chess, or card games, dancing or singing. You make a lot of money, but you don’t do any of these, so what do you live for?’
He suspected that I secretly hung out with other people because he thought that living without that kind of enjoyment was difficult. (Laughter)
But ask a non-smoker. Smokers wonder how they can live without the joy of smoking, but we can live well without smoking. They wonder how they can relieve stress without smoking, but we can relieve stress without smoking. Drinkers wonder how they can do business without drinking, but there are people who conduct their business successfully without drinking.
Coffee drinkers wonder how they can live without the joy of drinking coffee and tea drinkers wonder how they can live without the joy of drinking tea, but we can live happily without drinking coffee or tea. Tea culture is a big part of Buddhist culture and many monks drink tea, but I don’t have any tea accessories or drink tea. I also rarely drink coffee but I live all right. People talk about the joy of married life and the joy of raising children, but I live well without experiencing that kind of joy.
I’m 70 now, but I smile more often than you. I think that your youth is an incredible asset. Would you trade yourself, who is in your 30s, with Pomnyun Sunim, who is a little famous but in his 70s?”
“Even if you have nothing, I’m willing to trade myself with you if you want to. You should know that you have a lot by simply being young.
The joy you are seeking is the joy obtained by satisfying your senses, like taste and touch. Such joy is called ‘pleasure.’ You are pursuing pleasurable sensations.
Since I returned to my hometown, I occasionally meet friends from my elementary school days. They used to drink, go to karaoke, and smoke 15 years ago. But now they are in their 70s and they drink a little and only one or two of them smoke when we get together. I asked them why they have changed and they said that they are not physically fit enough to indulge in such pleasures anymore. Everybody is concerned about their health. Does that mean their lives are joyless? It doesn’t. We can have fun without having to resort to pleasurable sensations. I can vouch for this because I’ve experienced it.
‘Should I enjoy pleasurable sensations and end up having no money left in my bank account?’
‘Should I save money little by little?’
You seem to agonize over these two choices but we can’t say which choice is better. Your parents will probably tell you to save money little by little. This choice may be better from an ethical standpoint. But my point of view is to ‘live as you please.’
A classic example of people who enjoy the present are Latinos. Many people in Latin America live happily day to day without worrying too much about property or houses. On the other hand, many British, Germans, and Northern Europeans work diligently and live according to their plans. However, we can’t say which way of living is better. You can choose whichever way you like and live accordingly.”
“I want to control my excessive buying habit, so I wonder if there is a way to control it.”
“If you think you spend too much money, just stop spending it. If you drink a bottle of liquor at a time, reduce it to half a bottle. If you drink two bottles, reduce it to one bottle. If you don’t know that you are drinking too much or if you think that drinking a lot is okay, it will be difficult to change your habit. But if you know that you are drinking too much, what you need to do is to reduce the amount you drink. If you know that you drink too much but you can’t control your drinking, it is an illness. You need to receive medical treatment.
If you know that you need to stop but can’t, nothing can help you. I can teach someone who doesn’t know, but there is nothing I can do for someone who knows but can’t carry out what they know. Most people say that they know but they can’t do what they know, but the fact is that they don’t know. Your subconscious mind says, ‘I should have fun when I am young because I won’t be able to have fun when I am old.’ Although your conscious mind says, ‘I should stop this,’ you keep spending impulsively because your subconscious mind says, ‘I’m only young once and if I don’t have fun now, I’ll regret it later.’
Therefore, don’t stop at your account balance reaching zero, spend until you have a negative bank account and have bad credit. That’s one way. Having bad credit and living on the street while drinking is one way to live. It’s all the same whether you live this way or that way, so enjoy to your heart’s content.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Have you decided to have fun?”
“No, after listening to you, I think I can think more clearly.”
“The way you can’t stop spending while saying that you should is the same as a smoker who keeps smoking while saying that he shouldn’t. It’s not that he knows he shouldn’t smoke but he can’t stop. When a desire to smoke arises, his subconscious mind says, ‘What good is it to live long without smoking? It’s better to smoke and die early.’ At the moment of smoking, his subconscious works like this, so he can’t stop. After the moment passes, his conscious mind says, ‘I shouldn’t do this,’ ‘Smoking is bad for my health.’ But at the moment the desire to smoke arises, he thinks, ‘It’s all right to die.’ This is called getting trapped.
In life, we have many moments of getting trapped like this. When someone threatens to kill us with a knife, we usually say, ‘Please spare me,’ but in a moment of anger, if someone threatens to kill us, we take off our jacket and say, ‘Stab me, stab me!’ In the moment of being trapped in your anger, you are too mad to see anything. Similarly, in the moment of getting caught up in the desire to eat something or harass someone sexually, it doesn’t occur to you that you will go to jail for acting on your desire. You go blank.
Animals are the same. When a rabbit is hungry in winter, it bites the bait despite the danger of being trapped. It is the same as a fish biting the bait on a hook. Although biting it will kill the fish, nothing comes to its mind at the moment of biting. Killing one’s own child, husband, or wife in the heat of marital conflict is the same. In the heat of the moment, the mind goes blank and focuses only on the anger. That’s a symptom of madness. When the moment passes, regret comes because they can’t understand why they did it, but in the heat of the moment, they couldn’t stop themselves.
Just like a smoker gets caught up in the desire to smoke, when you are trapped in the desire to buy, thoughts on your account balance or future disappear and you only have the desire to buy. If you think you shouldn’t go on like this, you shouldn’t justify your desire. You have to quit impulsive spending cold turkey. When I was young, I actually set a goal to live without buying anything for a month, and it was possible. I hope you try it, too.
‘I’ll eat what I have or freeload and I won’t buy anything.’
Set a goal like this and stick to it. At first, it seems impossible but actually it is possible. Eat the food you have and walk distances under 4km. If your workplace is far, buy a monthly transportation pass. Even if you own a car, don’t drive it for a month, and don’t use cash or a credit card. Live within the boundaries you set and skip meals if you don’t have food. If you set a goal like this and stick to it for a month or two, you will see that you can do it.
Jungto Society has a program called ‘No spending for a month.’ Some participants give up in a day, some in two days, and others complete the program successfully. I fasted for 70 days. Compared to fasting, not spending money is easier. How can not riding a car or not using credit cards be compared to not eating? If you want to stop impulsive spending, you have do so like this. Challenge yourself to overcome your addiction to spending.
And if you analyze yourself psychologically, you will see that you have frustrations. So go to a doctor and have a medical examination. For people who experienced frustration when they were young, controlling spending isn’t easy after they grow up. It is a sort of mental illness. It is a mental illness like alcoholism.
If you think you can’t control it on your own, seek medical help. Practice is self-cure. To cure yourself, just quitting overspending isn’t enough. You have to stop spending altogether for a month. You have to be resolute about treating this illness even if you have to skip work. How hard could it be to change this habit when fasting for 70 days is possible?”
“If you don’t want to live so seriously, it’s all right to think, ‘Let’s have fun.’ You always have that option.”
“This is the first time I’ve learned that it’s an illness to keep doing something while thinking ‘I shouldn’t.’ As you said, I’ll stop spending for a month and find fun amid it. Thank you.”
“How far is it from your home to work?”
“An hour by car.”
“Then it will be difficult for you not to spend any money on transportation, are you willing to take a month off work?”
“That will be difficult.”
“What’s the use of saying things you can’t put into practice right away? Make a plan that you can carry out. Set a plan to live without spending money for a month. Figure out how much it will cost to commute from your home to work and get a transportation pass that covers your transportation expenses, and don’t take a taxi even if you have to walk. You can overcome this problem only if you have the perspective, ‘If I don’t have any money, I will either not go to work or walk to work, there are no other options.’ Things that make it difficult for you to stick to your plan will surely happen. You have to overcome them. If you make excuses and don’t stick to your plan, all your efforts will be in vain and you can’t eradicate your karma.
If you want to cure this illness, take leave from work for a month and don’t buy anything. If this is not possible, stay with a friend who lives near your workplace and walk to work for a month, or spend no money for a month except for the cost of commuting. Drink only tap water without buying bottled water or coffee. Set a principle like this and stick to it.
After being involved in social activism for a while, I went back to a temple and worked as a manual laborer for three months to restore my initial resolution. During that time, I spent no money. When you set a goal, you should stick to the letter of your goal. Don’t make excuses like ‘This can’t be done.’ You have to stick to the principle even if you can’t go to work because you can’t spend money. You even have to endure paycut or criticism to be able to overcome it. When you fast, you feel that you are going to die. At such times, you have to think ‘It’s all right to die’ to be able to overcome it. If you give in, you won’t be able to handle life’s challenges, which will cause self-torture.
If you engage in self-torture, you will think, ‘I am the problem.’ But there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t have to think that you are the problem. You just need to choose between coming to your senses after spending money until you have a negative bank account and quitting overspending right away, and there is no problem with you. If you, however, really want to do it, you should set a principle and do it right. As you keep making attempts to no avail, you end up tormenting yourself.
Everybody is whole as they are. So there is no problem with anyone. But people are greedy and want to do things and when these don’t turn out the way they want, they feel they are not good enough.
‘There is no problem with me as I am.’
You need to have this perspective. Then you can cure your illness.”
In addition, participants asked the following questions.
– I’ve been married for 12 years and my relationships with my parents, my husband, and my child are all difficult. My husband and I couldn’t communicate and he left home. Why have I become like this?
– It’s been two years since my divorce. I was granted bi-monthly visitation rights but my ex-wife doesn’t honor them. Is it best to wait for the child?
– My short-tempered husband uses verbal and physical violence when he’s angry. My son meets women through online chatting and gets robbed of his money. How should I live from now on?
The conversation lasted more than the scheduled two hours. With a promise to meet again, the Dharma Q&A ended.
Right after lunch, Sunim began to work outside. Today, he harvested the cabbages that remained in the vegetable gardens and salted them. The kimchi he had made with the members of sangha was too spicy, so it was decided to make less spicy kimchi. Cabbages were harvested first.
Forty-six heads of cabbage were harvested from the two small vegetable gardens. Several cabbages that were not fully grown were left to be harvested later for side dishes.
After harvesting the cabbages, Sunim trimmed them. A trainee removed the damaged outer leaves before handing it over to Sunim, then Sunim cut the trimmed cabbage in half and cut its stem slightly. When the cabbage was cut in half, we could see that the leaves were packed tightly.
The trimmed cabbages were soaked in brine, sprinkled with salt, and placed in large containers.
The undamaged outer leaves were set aside to be used for wrapping kimchi.
After cleaning up the area where the cabbages were trimmed, Sunim headed for the vegetable gardens. He sprinkled fertilizer, sesame dregs, and ash evenly on the ground and mixed them with the soil.
He also sprinkled liquid fertilizer made from urine evenly.
“It doesn’t smell at all, it must have been fermented really well.”
Sunim spotted coriander when he was about to mix the sprinkled fertilizer with the soil in the vegetable garden at the back. He harvested it first. There was enough to fill a wash bowl. After harvesting the coriander, Sunim broke up the soil and leveled the ground.
Then Sunim made a fire in the furnace and trimmed the coriander.
Sunim continued to trim the ingredients to be used for kimchi seasoning.
“What should I do now?”
“We just need to wait for the cabbages to be properly salted.”
“Anything to do in the fields?”
“The ponytail radishes in the lower field need to be harvested”
“We need to harvest them before the weather gets too cold. Let’s go to the field.”
Sunim went to the field and harvested the ponytail radishes.
“My, it’s only as big as a finger.”(Laughter)
The radishes harvested at the back of the field were bigger.
Sunim harvested all the radishes.
It was already dusk by the time all the radishes were harvested. Sunim proofread manuscripts and took care of other things that needed his attention before completing the day’s schedule.
Tomorrow, Sunim will harvest cabbages and take them to Jungsaengsa Temple, where Ven. Domun Sunim resides, in the morning, make kimchi, and give a Dharma talk for the Weekend Meditation Retreat Closing Ceremony in the afternoon, and then lead the live Sunday Meditation in the evening.