Weeding in a Rice Paddy, and a Meeting of Lead Jungto Practitioners

June 26, 2023

Hello! Dawn has arrived at Dubuk Jungto Retreat Center. 

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim had planned to weed a rice paddy from early this morning, but unfortunately heavy rain poured down, disrupting his plans. Sunim adjusted the schedule and decided to head to the greenhouse instead. It had been quite a while since Sunim last visited the greenhouse and many weeds had grown. Sunim asked the trainee in charge of agriculture,

“How come so many weeds?” (laughter)

“We’ve been harvesting potatoes for the past several days. In addition, there were many other tasks that we needed to address.”

“I’ll weed as much as I can before I have to leave for the meeting of lead Jungto practitioners.”

Sunim focused on weeding, all the while listening to the sound of rain echoing inside the greenhouse. At 7 am, he concluded the morning work to attend the meeting of lead Jungto practitioners, although there were still plenty of weeds left to tackle. 

After spending two hours in the meeting, Sunim stepped outside and noticed that the heavy rain had begun to taper off after 10 am. 

“The rain is only drizzling now, so we can begin weeding in the rice paddy.”

At 11 am, about 30 people assembled at the rice paddy, including the agriculture team trainees, Munsu team members, and participants of the 100-Day Pabbajja Program who came to the retreat center for their final training.  

A while ago, agriculture team trainees planted rice seedlings for an elderly woman in the village, as per her request. A machine was initially used for planting and subsequently some empty spots were discovered, which were later replanted manually. Now, the elderly woman is worried about the weeds growing in the rice paddy, therefore, we decided to weed the paddy for her. 

On arriving at the rice paddy, everyone put on their boots before entering. Sunim, who was wearing a raincoat, chose to wear stockings instead of boots because the boots tend to come off easily, but walking barefoot in the rice paddy can be painful. Seeing Sunim in his stockings, the trainees burst into laughter.

“You should have done better so that I wouldn’t have to look like this.” (everyone laughed)

The elderly woman’s rice paddy is divided into three sections, totaling about 6,000 square meters. Two of these sections needed to be weeded. Sunim, along with the agriculture team trainees and Munsu team trainees, began weeding the larger section. 

Many of the participants of the 100-Day Pabbajja Program had never weeded before and some of them had never even stepped foot in a rice paddy. The agriculture team leader demonstrated how to differentiate between rice plants and weeds. 

Despite her demonstration, it was still difficult for the participants to tell the difference. They decided to learn as they weeded. 

Before long, their clothes were soaked with sweat. Sunim took off his raincoat. He was wearing a dark “Korean Minutemen for Peace and Unification” T-shirt, knowing that working in the rain could damage regular clothes. However, the ongoing drizzle didn’t impede their weeding progress. 

The plucked weeds were rolled up and buried in the soil, or tossed outside the paddy. Sunim tossed the weeds he had collected, one fistful at a time. He scraped the soil to prevent the weeds from taking root again. 

The participants of the Pabbajja Program finished weeding quickly. However, some weeds remained in the section they had worked on. But no one blamed them as it was the first time weeding for many of them. They moved to the section where Sunim was weeding and continued their efforts. 

Fortunately, the rain didn’t get heavier until the weeding was done. They completed their work earlier than expected. 

“Thank you all for your hard work.”

The agriculture team and the participants of the Pabbajja Program continued weeding in the lower section of the rice paddy. Meanwhile, Sunim and Musu team trainees went to the elderly woman’s dry field, where she was waiting with steamed potatoes. 

The dry field also had many weeds. She had planted perilla seeds between rows of green onions, and a lot of weeds were growing where she had planted the seeds. Although the elderly woman told Sunim and Munsu team trainees not to weed, they started to do so, and collected the perilla seedlings. 

While weeding, the rain began to pour. The elderly woman came out of her house holding a cane. 

“My goodness! Sunim, please stop.”

“Yes, I will.”

But Sunim didn’t stop and continued weeding until only green onions remained in the field.  

At 4 pm, Sunim and the trainees finally stopped working. The elderly woman kindly let them take the perilla seedlings, so they brought the seedlings with them to Dubuk Jungto Retreat Center. 

Sunim took a shower before joining the online meeting of resident Dharma teachers at 5 pm. Afterward, Sunim spent the evening proofreading manuscripts and attending to other tasks before completing the day’s schedule. 

There was no Dharma talk today, so a question posed at the Talk Concert held in Ulju-gun county office last week is introduced here.  

I am feeling quite stressed because of a coworker

“I am feeling stressed because of a strange coworker, and I’m worried that this stress is affecting my relationship with my husband and child at home. How can I overcome the stress caused by interpersonal relationships?”

“Can you tell me why you find your coworker strange? What specific behaviors make him stand out as strange?”

“He only thinks about himself and doesn’t care about others, which makes everyone hate him. He is really stingy and reluctant to share expenses when they arise. The situation is particularly hard for me, especially since there are three of them in my department.”

“Saving money is a good habit. If your husband pays for meals or tea for others, people will say that he is a good person. However, from your perspective, would you consider him a good person? If a husband or wife tactfully saves money on meals or tea when outside, wouldn’t it be a good thing from the family’s perspective?”

“It would be a good thing for the family.”

“Then, why do you consider your coworker to be strange? He isn’t a problem.”

“While saving money to a certain extent is good, he does it excessively.”

“When you mention ‘to a certain extent,’ there isn’t a fixed standard. The standard you apply is only your own. Let’s consider this scenario: you’ve dined out with your coworkers 10 times. If one of your coworkers covers the bill once while you cover it twice, you might see him as stingy from your perspective. However, from the viewpoint of another coworker who pays for five out of 10 dining experiences, she might see you as stingy. It’s simply because everyone’s standards differ. We can’t label your coworker as truly stingy, even if he might appear that way to you. He is just different from you, not a strange person.”

“I see. It seems that he has a personality that doesn’t align with mine and those of other colleagues.”

“There is a method we usually use to assert that we are right during a conversation. We say things like, ‘Ask anyone on the street,’ or ‘Ask anyone in the neighborhood.’ However, this approach can allow the majority to perceive the minority as strange. Around the world, minorities have faced discrimination through this approach. Determining who is considered ‘strange’ can’t be determined by majority votes alone. For instance, when the majority believes in Christianity while the minority follows Buddhism or vice versa, the minority is often perceived as ‘strange.’ Similarly, during the late Joseon dynasty, Confucian scholars regarded Catholics as strange. They even went so far as to consider Catholics lower than animals, resulting in their persecution, as they believed that offspring should have ancestral rites for their parents. However, were those Catholics strange people? Or were they simply different from those who followed Confucianism?”

“They were different.”

“Likewise, is your coworker strange or simply different from you?”

“He is different from me.”

“In the world, could there be people different from you or not?”

“There could be.”

“You may feel stressed if you consider someone to be strange, however you might not be stressed if you simply view them as different from yourself. They may have different religious beliefs, value systems, political inclinations, nationalities or genders, but these differences do not make them inherently right or wrong. Will you still feel stressed even if you maintain this perspective?” 

“I won’t, but the fact that he doesn’t do his work also adds to my stress.”

“Are you the owner of the company? The lack of effort from your coworker might be an issue in the eyes of the owner, but as a coworker, why should you be concerned?” 

“Because I have to do his work in addition to mine.”

“What if you end up doing more work? Wouldn’t it be selfish if you don’t want to take on his workload? Not doing your work isn’t the only selfish thing; refusing to take on others’ workloads is also selfish.”

“However, he also causes harm to others.”

“Couldn’t that be just your perception? While we can say that he works less than you,we can’t necessarily claim that he causes harm, can we? We can say that he works less even though you both receive the same pay. However, if someone who works even less than him joins your department, he wouldn’t be considered a problem. This is because working more or less is purely relative.

“His working less than you and paying for meals less often than you means that he is different from you. Everyone in the world can’t be the same. If you believe that everyone should believe in Christianity and ask someone to come to church multiple times, you will feel stressed if she doesn’t come to church. Similarly if you believe that he should be the same as you when he is different, you’ll feel stressed. However, if you accept that the two of you are different, you won’t feel stressed. Simply acknowledge it as, ‘He works less than I do.’

“Actually, your coworker performing worse or working less than you places you in an advantageous position for a potential promotion. This is because not only you but your colleagues and superiors are also observing his performance. On the other hand, if you work with someone who consistently outperforms you, it may be disadvantageous for your own prospects. I think you are not smart. (laughter)

“All of your coworkers performing slightly worse or being lazier than you is much more advantageous for your chances of being promoted. If you don’t feel stressed by acknowledging that you and your coworker are different, you won’t end up taking out your frustration on your husband or child when you come home. Your stress comes from feeling angry but trying to hold it in. You are having a hard time because you are suppressing your anger. Typically, Koreans can’t hold in their anger more than three times. They tend to explode on the third occasion, saying, ‘This isn’t the first or second time. You’ve gone too far!’ Following such an outburst, conflicts escalate, so they regret it and repent. Then they hold in their anger again. Holding in anger is difficult, so they explode again. This repeating cycle of holding in and exploding and repenting isn’t practice. Holding in your anger only leads to stress. 

‘He is different from me.’

‘He doesn’t perform well.’

‘He works slowly.’

“If you view your coworker in this manner, you won’t feel stressed. Last week, I hosted monks from Southeast Asian countries for a week-long tour around Korea. From a Korean perspective, this could be frustrating, because they never hurry and always move slowly. Taking this tendency into account, we planned our itinerary to allow plenty of time, but still we continued to fall behind schedule. For instance, it took about 30 minutes for 30 people to use the restroom at rest stops. Nevertheless, these are merely cultural differences. 

“I run a school and a hospital in a Dalit village in India. Once I asked the Indian staff, ‘What kind of people do you need most for the school?’ They responded that they needed someone who was skilled with computers and could speak English. Somehow, I managed to find someone who fit that description. During my recent visit to the school, I informed them that a new Korean staff member would be joining them. They asked me, ‘What kind of person?’ And I replied, ‘What kind of person do you want?’ However, they seemed hesitant to answer. So I prompted, ‘Didn’t you want someone who speaks English and is skilled with computers?’ After a while, they finally said, 

‘We wish for someone who doesn’t become angry easily.’

“From the Indian perspective, all Koreans become angry easily. Why is this? It’s because Koreans tend to have a more impatient and fast-paced temperament. On the other hand, Indians tend to work at a slower pace, consequently when Koreans observe the working style of Indians, they feel frustrated. As a result, they unwittingly become angry. However, when asked about their anger, Koreans will deny it. People are different like this. 

“Acknowledging another person’s differences is respecting that person. Even in a marital relationship, the couple need to acknowledge each other’s differences. Respect doesn’t mean seeing the other person as superior, but rather acknowledging the other person’s differences. We need to accept differences in religion and gender as well. Having a disability doesn’t make someone inferior. Physical disabilities can be overcome with the help of technology. For instance, if someone has no arms or legs, they can use prosthetics. And advancements in technology can further improve the lives of those with visual impairments. We should view inconvenience as something that can be improved, rather than a sign of inferiority. The color of one’s skin is just a variation of skin tone, not a sign of inferiority. Similarly, height differences are merely variations in physical stature. Acknowledging differences is what respect is all about. To show your respect to your wife, husband, boss, or subordinates, you should acknowledge that they are different from you. 

“The next step is to understand that from the perspective of the other person, their actions might be justified. If you can comprehend that ‘From the owner’s position, she could act that way,’ ’Considering my husband’s standpoint, he could act that way,’ or ‘From my friend’s viewpoint, she could act that way,’ you will find yourself feeling more at ease. This doesn’t necessarily imply that the other person is right. But by listening to their side of the story, you will come to realize that there are valid reasons behind their behavior. You might be baffled by your coworker’s reluctance to contribute to meal or tea expenses, but engaging in a conversation with him could illuminate the situation. While his behavior might seem excessively frugal from a general perspective, it could be influenced by his upbringing, or a financial need to save money, or other compelling factors. If you understand his circumstances, you won’t find his behavior strange, regardless of how he behaves. 

“To summarize, the first step is acknowledging that everyone is different. The second step involves understanding that another person’s behavior may be justified from their perspective. By following these steps, you won’t feel stressed. If you’re not stressed, you are less likely to take it out on your family. When you are angry, suppressing it can be more harmful than expressing it. This is because if you hold in your anger and let it out after suppressing it three times, it will erupt unexpectedly. In such instances, others might even question, ‘Is she crazy?’ If you feel uneasy, it’s better to express it in a lighthearted manner. For example, if you feel uneasy about something your spouse said, you might say, ‘Honey, I’m feeling a little uneasy hearing you talk like that.’ Instead of placing blame, communicate your state of mind. There is an old Korean saying that goes: ‘A good woman is scary.’ A good woman appears to be good not necessarily because she genuinely is, but because she avoids complaining. In reality, good people often experience significant stress. When their stress reaches a breaking point, it can become uncontrollable. They might seem perfectly fine on the surface, then suddenly leave home without explanation. Understanding the workings of our minds allows you to interpret someone else’s behavior as ‘She is different,’ or ‘She has her own reasons.’ If you have this mindset, who is the one that doesn’t get stressed?” 

“I am the one that doesn’t get stressed.”

“Therefore, is acknowledging that he is different from you and understanding him for his sake, or for your own?”

“It’s for my own.”

“By adopting this mindset and not feeling stressed, both your work life and home life will become more comfortable.”

“Thank you.”