A Meeting with Religious Leaders and Wednesday’s Dharma Meeting

Dec. 20, 2023

Hello! Today, a meeting of religious leaders for national reconciliation and peace is scheduled. It snowed heavily in Seoul all night. The whole world has turned white. 

After morning practice and meditation, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim headed to the Peace Foundation at 7 am. When everyone, including pastors, a priest, a bishop, and a supreme leader, had arrived, the meeting began with breakfast. Before starting the meal, Reverend Kim Myung-hyuk led a prayer. Sunim skipped breakfast due to his enteritis. 

After moving to a conference room, they earnestly began their conversation. 

They started by watching a video showcasing the turnover ceremonies of elementary school classrooms and schools for children with special needs held during Sunim’s visit to Mindanao in the Philippines last week. 

▲ Click to view the video

After watching the video, each of the faith leaders shared their thoughts and feelings.

“The video brings back memories of my childhood when foreign countries built schools, provided school supplies, and even offered snacks. We also received significant help from aid organizations abroad.” 

“It seems that Sunim’s actions vividly illustrate the practice of love beyond religious boundaries. Although Aikwangwon in Geojedo is a Christian foundation, Sunim has consistently supported them. Moreover, even though the majority of people living in the Philippines are Catholics, Sunim extends his assistance to them as well.” 

“Ven. Pomnyun Sunim is the one who endures the most hardships; perhaps because of this he is the happiest. I think Ven. Bulsim Domun Sunim must be truly happy to have a disciple like him.” 

“I am also very proud to have monthly meetings with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, who is engaged in such admirable activities. In fact, he is doing the things that we should be doing on our behalf.”

Upon hearing their joyful comments, Sunim responded with a smile,

As Sunim requested, Reverend Kim offered an opening remark. 

“I earnestly wish that we, too, can help the needy just as Ven. Pomnyun Sunim helps those in the Philippines.” 

When Sunim said “Hallelujah,” the reverend replied with a smile. 

“‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Amen’ have slightly different meanings. Amen translates to ‘I think so, too,’ while ‘Hallelujah’ conveys ‘Thank you for allowing me to serve you as your servant.’”

After warmly exchanging greetings, they began their conversation on the issue of peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

Each of them voiced their opinions and a discussion unfolded. Bishop Park Kyeong-jo then shared the outcome of his conversations on the peace issue with other religious leaders over the past month. 

“I had personal conversations with other religious leaders. Most of them expressed deep concerns about the situations on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East. Everyone agreed that we should release a statement urging the relaxation of tensions and the achievement of peace.” 

However, given the upcoming general election scheduled for April 2024 in Korea, it was decided to scrutinize the matter of releasing peace messages more carefully.  

Following that, Sunim expressed his concerns about the intensifying conflicts between Korea’s governing party and the opposition party. 

“It appears that there is little we can do; we can’t stop the tide of the world.”

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula are intensifying ever more, the massacre in the Middle East continues, and the war between Russia and Ukraine has become protracted. Voicing their deep concerns about the current situation, they engaged in conversations for two hours, striving to create a ray of hope. 

After the meeting, Sunim escorted the faith leaders to the first floor entrance and then headed to Seoul Jungto Center to participate in Wednesday’s Dharma meeting. 

At 10 am, the Dharma meeting was live-streamed for the members of Jungto Society who were online in their respective video conference rooms. Today’s Dharma meeting was intended to wrap up the year.  

First, the president of Jungto Society delivered an opening remark for the Dharma meeting and a member of the Geoje Chapter made a presentation exemplifying their initiatives aimed at benefiting local communities over the year. 

“As part of our local environmental initiatives to combat the climate crisis, Gyeongnam Division decided to abstain from using plastic bags and purchasing plastic materials for a month. When we visit markets to buy groceries, we often encounter items neatly packaged in plastic. To implement our initiatives, I brought a container to buy fish and asked the shopkeeper to put the fish in it. Initially seeming annoyed, she eventually complied as I gathered courage and held out the container. This experience bolstered my courage. 

“Our Chapter and Division decided to conduct a campaign at Goseong Market. We prepared a survey board to elicit citizen participation, practiced a dance to publicize our activities, and live-streamed the event. We also interviewed several shopkeepers for the live-stream. 

“If we continue and expand our campaign, a system of offering discounts or coupons to container users might be established someday. Eventually, it will become natural for people to carry containers when they go grocery shopping. Currently, all groups of Geyongnam Division have adopted the campaign, ‘Gather courage to hold out a container.’”

Afterward, we dedicated some time to sharing our thoughts and feelings  in the chat window about concluding the year. Many people expressed gratitude. 

Then, with three prostrations, we requested a year-end Dharma talk from Sunim. 

Sunim began his Dharma talk by commenting on the presentation of Goeje Division’s environmental activities. 

Next, a video showcasing Sunim’s visit to Mindanao in the Philippines was played, and Sunim explained the activities JTS has undertaken there. Over the past 20 years, JTS has built numerous schools in indigenous areas and conflict zones occupied by Muslims. While watching the video, many viewers wiped away tears and were visibly moved. 

Another video was shown that highlighted the various activities carried out by members at practice sites across the nation. 

After that, Sunim shared his thoughts on how we should wrap up the year. 

The two criteria for reflecting on the year

As we engraved Sunim’s Dharma talk in our hearts, the year-end Dharma meeting concluded with the recitation of the Four Great Vows. Subsequently, members of Jungto Society engaged in various programs to bid farewell to the current year in the video conference rooms of their respective chapters.

A cold spell has gripped the nation, bringing daytime temperatures below minus 10ºC. In the afternoon, Sunim took care of various tasks indoors. 

At 4 pm, Sunim headed to the Peace Foundation and had a two-hour meeting with the members of the Planning Committee. After the meeting, Sunim returned to Seoul Jungto Center, proofread a manuscript, and attended to other tasks before concluding the day’s schedule. 

Tomorrow, Sunim will discuss issues of peace on the Korean Peninsula, the conflict in the Middle East, and the Ukraine-Russia war with experts on North Korean issues in the morning, and spend the afternoon attending to other tasks indoors.