Marriage, the Starting Point…

(The following lecture was given by Ven. Pomnyun at a wedding ceremony)
Today, these two people are happily getting married. It would be wonderful if their love for each other lasted for ten, twenty or thirty years. However, among all of us here, how many of us are keeping our wedding vows?

“I take thee - to have, and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part…”

At your own wedding, you made a promise when you said that statement. What has it been like trying to keep that promise? When was the last time you thought, “I cannot stand my spouse?” When was the last time you had some kind of conflict with your spouse?

Some of us who live with marital conflicts may feel regret. They may ask themselves, “Why did I get married? If I knew it was going to be like this, then I would not have gotten married.” These people can just get a divorce. However, since they took their vows in front of so many people on their wedding day, they will be reluctant to do so. Also, they may have had children during their time together. This will be another factor that will sway them to not get a divorce.

As these conditions continue to convince the couple that they cannot get a divorce, the resentment that they have for each other could grow. At first, they may fight and try to change each other. However, they will eventually give up trying to change each other and find ways to stay married. The problems that they had with each other before will be passed down to their children. Conflicts will begin once their children go through puberty and will continue until the couple dies. This is life.

On our wedding day, we say we are so happy and we envy no one. However, as life goes on after the wedding day, we start to say that we envy monks, even thinking that, “the life of a monk is looking good right now.” This is a problem. If you envy the life of a monk then you should have become a monk. Why did you get married and now envy the life of monk? There is a reason why life is an endless cycle of suffering. I will tell you that reason today, so that this newlywed couple does not follow a similar path.

If all of you have gotten married because of your love for each other, what was going through your mind at that time? We date many people and evaluate what they have. We measure things such as financial stability, educational background, social status, personality, and health because there is an unconscious motive within us of wanting to get something beneficial out of a relationship. We have no intentions of becoming the losing party. Therefore, we search and search to find the perfect match. If we live using this selective and egocentric mind, then eventually fights will break out in the relationship. Each spouse only gives 30%, but wants 70% in return. However, this also means that you will only get 30% of the 70% you expected. Thus, many married people feel that they are being shortchanged and furthermore, have doubts about their marriage.

If we do not have an egotistical mind, then how will the marriage be? If we are at least less egotistical to some degree, then how will it be? “I want to help this person for the rest of my life because their health is not good.” “This person is poor, so let me support them.” “This person has a temper, so let me help them be calm.” If we can have this type of generosity, then we are capable of marrying and living with a complete stranger with no problems. However, if we only think about how we can benefit ourselves, then we will end up marrying the wrong person. A long time ago in Korea, people got married without knowing who they were marrying, but they lived okay. At the time, women thought that marriage was like death. However, once they got married, they realized that their lives were okay and lived a satisfactory life.

These days, people expect too much out of marriage. Once they are actually married, they realize that it is not as great as they once thought and they become regretful. Many start to regret right after marriage. For some, such feelings begin even before their marriage. During the planning process for the wedding, some brides and grooms end up having big arguments, see their differences and clash with each other. I have seen some, who at this point wanted to cancel their wedding, still go through with their marriage because their planning was already in progress.

However, these two, who are getting married today, met at the Jungto Youth group and, since they have learned the Dharma, they will be firm in their dedication to each other. The most important thing is to get rid of the egocentric mind. Both spouses should think of what they can do for the other. “I should behave in a way that helps this person think that I am beneficial to their lives.” If you think like this, then there will be no problems in your marriage.

All the people who are here today likely have encountered failure a few times so when they see a loving couple, they might feel jealous. They might think, “Why are you so afraid of your spouse? It seems like you are the weaker link, you should not live like that. You are such a wonderful person. You can do better.” They are slowly encouraging you to be a fighter. They might clap their hands today, but starting tomorrow, they are going to be encouraging your fights. You two should never listen to these words. They are words coming from people who do not like to see others happier than themselves. State firmly that you intend to only think about each other and how to be more helpful to each other, no matter what your family and friends may think. Do not make a scene of wanting a divorce after having children. Are you willing to do it? Should you be a beneficiary or benefactor? A benefactor, at times, seems like they are the losing party. However, in reality, a benefactor is actually a winner. You have to be a firm believer of this.

Just like this, if two people have a harmonious mind, then the wife’s health will be well balanced physically and mentally. If the wife’s mind is very calm, she will be connected to a calm energy when she becomes pregnant. This will allow her baby to also be calm. However, if she becomes nervous, she will connect to a nervous energy that will transfer to her baby. The mind of the mother at the time of “conception” can determine the virtue of the baby. Therefore, the mother’s attitude at the time of “conception” is very important. Often times, we have a mindset of being the beneficiary in a relationship, which causes us to transfer a crooked attitude. Most of the time, we do not think about the importance of conceiving a baby with purity and devotion. Instead, we tend to conceive a baby without careful planning. This causes us to miss a good opportunity to provide good prenatal care. Conceiving babies without careful planning will make it hard for them to be virtuous.

Marriage should be beneficial to both partners. As for children, the most important growing period for them is their first three years of life, which starts from the time of their conception. As parents, we should be in a harmonious and calm state of mind for our children. However, in reality we typically start to have conflicts in our marriage around the same time period when conceiving a baby. When we think, “I cannot live with that man” or “I cannot live with that woman” and start having an attitude of staying in the marriage just for our children’s sake, a new rebellious mindset will form in the marriage and transfer to our children. This rebellious mindset will display itself within our children when they go through puberty.

When the children start becoming rebellious towards their parents, the parents often assume that external influences, such as their children hanging out with the wrong crowd, is causing their children’s change in attitude. However, this is not true. The seeds we plant are what we will harvest. The same is true for our children. What we have planted into their unconsciousness during their early years is what will sprout out of them. For those of you in the audience who might have had children who are rebellious, you might need to reflect back on the past and see if you need to let go of any pains that you have transferred to the other people in your lives.

You two who are getting married today, if you want to have children, then you should live in this manner. Both of you should consider each other as the number one priority in this marriage. The second priority should be your parents. The third priority should be your children. If you set your priorities in this manner, you will have a harmonious household. Afterwards, you should return back to your community. If so, then even if you have financial hardship, you will live happily. Even if you live in a house on the verge of collapse, you will live happily. Even when eating just bread and milk, you will live happily. We live our lives to be happy and not suffer, right? If you are blindsided by money, power, selfishness or a stubbornly egotistical mind, then marriage might not be for you. Please keep this happy mind you have today continuously until death and if you want to continue having it until your next life, then please keep what I said in mind. If you live this way, even if you do not choose to live a monastic life, you can attain nirvana.

When Bringing up Babies

In the past it was said that women had no one but their husbands to rely on. It was also said that if their husbands were not good enough, women had no choice but to depend on their children. But life has proved this untrue; neither of them could be rely upon completely. Accordingly, husbands and children came to be called ‘enemies.’ Women once considered husbands and children as ‘bundles of joy’, but they became ‘bunches of trouble.’ Is this because enemies from women’s previous lives are born as their husbands and children? No. It is because one’s own actions inevitably produce such a result. Those who are married should be responsible for their choice. Those who do not take responsibility for their choice will have trouble and conflict. To avoid such consequences, one must reinforce his or her sense of responsibility, and adapt to the people around them.

When your child makes trouble, you may ask yourself “who does he take after?” You are practically spitting on your own image. He of course takes after you. Being the stubborn troublemaker he is, who do you believe he is just like? You cannot attribute all faults to his teachers, friends, or mentors. The root of every problem begins with you. You should have a sense of responsibility, and willingly face any consequences. You have to reflect on your own life, and if you want to see improvement, you’ll have to analyze your life in depth. Husbands and wives should adjust to each other. In the case of problems with children, mothers should recall their own history. Mothers are usually the nurturers; in terms of appearance kids may look like both their mother and father, but mentally kids resemble their mother 90%. In other words, children absorb the emotions of those who nurtured them; if a grandmother raises a child, it takes after her, and if a father does, it takes after him.

If you are a mother raising a child, no matter the adversity, you should be able to protect your child. When a baby is in physical danger, its mother guards it from dangerous things. If there’s any potential threat, mothers should protect young children by calming them down. But moms don’t always do this, and get angry in times of hardship. Not only do they get upset but they can also impart negative attitudes onto their children. They may say “your father is a bad guy” or “you know how troublesome your grandma is.” Like this, they lament and complain about their lives, which results in their children resenting their father and grandmother. As the children’s minds develop in such a manner, later on such negativity will turn back to their mothers, and thus cause conflict between mother and child. It’s not that mothers intended for this to happen. They were merely lamenting over their lives when they found nobody on their side, looking to their children for support, but then ended up with the retributions.

Children grow as they receive influence from the surrounding environment. If they live under Korean parents in Korea, they become Koreans; if they live with Japanese parents in Japan, they become Japanese, and in America they become Americans. Physically, kids are affected mostly by genes, but mentally and culturally they are most affected by the society in which they spend their early years. The influence of the type of environment can also be seen before birth; e.g. if a mother thinks of having an abortion due to conflict with her husband, a fetus in her womb will live in constant fear. If this is the case, it develops a mistrust of the world. Who could the child trust after it felt the threat of death from its own mother? Naturally, the child will react defensively. It builds barriers against the world. In the case of a baby that is brought up by a mother who is easily irritated, the baby will inherit the mom’s irritability as its karma. For example, hearing Korean, a baby will speak Korean; being fed Kimchi often, will likewise make it develop a taste for Kimchi; being raised by an easily-irritated person will make the child the same way. Everything is formed like this. Therefore, babies bear resemblance not only to their parents’ appearances but also to their personality and temperament.

How can siblings, raised in the same family, be so different? It is similar to how we differ today from who we were yesterday. People change; those living the newlywed life are different from those three years after marriage. Couples who were happy as newlyweds but developed marital conflict later on have an easier time with their first child rather than their second one. Similarly, those couples who began with conflict as newlyweds but improved their relationship over time have more success with their second kid rather than the first. Look closely at your children; I am not talking about who does better at school. Examine your children’s personality or their traits. Their character takes after you and the environment which you created. Think about it this way; conflicts caused by selfishness in marriage not only affect you but also your children who grow with the resulting conflicts. Isn’t this undesirable? Therefore, it is significant to realize how causality works. When you get married the consequences of any conflict come from the married couple, which is then passed onto your children and will eventually return to create conflict between you and your children.

If you intend to have a baby, be fully prepared to raise your baby properly. First of all, before giving birth, what is important is the process of conception or “the moment of conception.” A long time ago, in Korea, the mother-in-law would choose a lucky day and time for the couple’s conception and would ask them to pray for the moment. This means that in the past, conceiving was not the result of sexual pleasure but for the purpose of conception itself. This way, mothers intending to have a baby put every effort into conceiving. They saw babies as the result of their devotion and felt grateful for them. If a couple has sex for pleasure and as a result, have a baby, it becomes the residue of the couple’s desire or pleasure since babies are, in some cases, unwanted or unplanned. Therefore, if you want to have a baby, you need to pray. It is significant in what mind you will conceive. This explains why a special day was chosen for conception in the past. The date itself was not important. The critical aspect was the couple’s devotion to conceiving. There’s a big difference between babies born “out of luck” and those born after sincere prayer. The same mother and father can give birth to a very different baby all dependent upon how they conceive.

If you are pregnant, you should make sure to practice prenatal care so that the fetus stays healthy and peaceful in mind. You too, should keep a good, peaceful mind. For a pregnant woman, the fetus is like her tiniest cell. When this cell grows enough, it becomes the size of a sesame seed. Even so, it is still dependent on the pregnancy, and cannot exist independently. Even when the fetus has formed its face, it is still a part of her body. All nutrition is delivered to the baby through her body. If she were to get upset after eating, she may have indigestion. Likewise, your irate feelings are then transmitted to the baby. If the baby, with its fragile nervous system receives a severe trauma, it can go blind or deaf; the pregnant woman’s emotions can even have such a severe impact on the fetus as to weaken its heart.

Therefore, the mind you have and the food you eat can determine the health of your baby. So if you get angry often, smoke, and drink, you will ruin the health of your baby. In the past, pregnant women were told to avoid funerals and tragedy because when they see such things, they get gloomy and depressed. They were talked out of indulgent behavior and unhealthy food, in order to keep a clear, bright mind, all of which to influence their babies.

A mother-in-law wanting to have grandchildren can make life difficult for her daughter-in-law. A husband, though wanting the best for his baby, will distress his wife by drinking and coming home late. No matter what, the mother has the fundamental responsibility of taking care of her baby. Her first priority should be protecting the baby no matter what happens. In order to do so, she has to cultivate her mind so that she can become free of whatever her mother-in-law and husband may say. She has to ensure that any stress she gets from the outside does not affect her baby. In the meantime, all of the family members around her should see to it that she is comfortable and well provided for.

After giving birth, the mom should raise the baby until it becomes three years old. No matter how hectic her life might be, she should raise the young child up to the age of three. She should even quit her job to rear her baby. However, right after giving birth, mothers will often leave their babies with hired help, for the sake of their own lives, work, and egos. Who can those babies that are left to and raised by hired people trust? Mothers’ selfishness will create this misery. Do you still wish your baby great fortune even with such selfishness in your mind? Mothers of the past could not always feed and dress their children adequately due to material shortages, but their devotion to raising their children was second to none. Nowadays, kids are left to others not because of a lack of resources but because of mothers’ jobs and careers. This is wrong. No matter how reputable the job a mother may have, say, a medical doctor or judge, etc., she has to take a maternity leave and dedicate herself to bringing up her baby until it turns three. Dedication here does not simply mean being nice to the baby. It means attaining a Bodhisattva-like mind while being at peace. Therefore, when pregnant, you have to listen to Dharma lectures a lot for practice; in addition, a few days’ rest after giving birth should be followed by continuous Dharma practice so that the baby can grow well. At the very least, you have to give up some part of your life for the sake of your own child.

Therefore when getting pregnant, it’s important to have a discussion with your husband. For the first three years, at least one parent should give up their job in order to stay home and live under one income as a family. If money doesn’t suffice, you may discuss moving to a smaller apartment. However, for most people money comes first before the child; a bigger car and a bigger house are more important. The child that should be valued most in the world becomes an afterthought because of money. If this is the case, how can the baby develop self-esteem? No matter how the world treats it, shouldn’t the baby be treated best by its own parents as the most precious being in the world? Oftentimes parents cannot do this, so they try to compensate for their lack of respect for their kids with expensive clothes and food. This causes children to remember their parents only as people who provide for them. With such images of their parents engraved in their minds, children end up demanding more from their parents. This is not the fault of the child. In order to raise a “good” child, which doesn’t necessarily mean a person who will become president but rather a person like a Buddha, you should cultivate and attain the mind that loves and respects your child. This mind translates as love to your children.

We pray to Buddha seeking his blessing. What is the true meaning of Buddha's blessing?

Questioner: We pray to Buddha seeking his blessing. What is the true meaning of Buddha's blessing?

Ven. Pomnyun: There is a tendency to believe that receiving Buddha's blessing means the fulfillment of a wish by virtue of Buddha’s infinite power. For example, one may attribute fulfillment of the wish to become pregnant or having a son to be a blessing. How should we pray to obtain such blessings from Buddha? We need to pray with all our heart and to the extent that the heavens are moved. You cannot expect to move anyone, let alone the heavens, if you indulge in food, wear fine clothing, sleep long hours, and do everything you desire to while you pray. Your prayers will not be answered. How can you tell whether or not the way you pray is enough to move the heavens? You can feel it in the response from people close to you. If a wife’s prayer moves her husband or a husband’s prayer moves his wife, then such prayers will touch the heavens. Such a sincere prayer changes people, so that a wife’s prayer can change her husband, while a husband’s prayer can change his wife. This kind of prayer by the parents can also change the nature of your children.

Miracles occur when people are deeply moved. In other words, extraordinary things can happen when people’s unconscious is affected. Knowledge changes the conscious world, while sincerity affects the unconscious world, which in turn alters the autonomic nervous system. As a result, even incurable internal diseases may be healed. Externally, as people are moved by the person who is praying, their collective energy can bring about miracles. People think this is Buddha’s blessing. However, it is merely a small part of Buddha’s blessing, and it is within the cycle of samsara, birth and death. There is an infinitely bigger blessing, the one you can receive by taking refuge in the dharma which leads to enlightenment - freedom from the cycle samsara.

If you like someone, it is you who are happy. If you help someone, it is you who feels joy. These are immediate blessings. When you do good deeds, someone may love you or help you in the future. This kind of blessing requires time to materialize, so it may occur after a month, a year, or even a hundred years later. It may even be realized in the next life or a couple of lifetimes later. Is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere also the hottest? No. The hottest day arrives about a month later. Does a room heat up instantly as soon as the heater is switched on? No. it takes time for the room to get warm.

We tend to think of worldly good fortune as the only kind of the Buddha's blessing. However, the true blessing bestowed upon us by the Buddha is the realization that we become happy when we understand and love others. Let's assume that you are digging for gold in a gold mine. During the process, you may dig up silver and copper as well as gold. Even so, the first priority is to collect gold. It would be foolish to gather silver and copper before gathering gold. Of course, once you have collected all the gold in your bag, then you could put in as much silver and copper as you need.

As Buddhists, we should always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is reaching nirvana. This blessing consists of attaining enlightenment by taking refuge in the dharma. There are some extra rewards that come with it – the worldly blessings. They are unimportant, though they are the only kind of blessing that sentient beings or ordinary people seek. If you attain enlightenment, you will be able to experience permanent joy and happiness. When you reach this stage, all suffering disappears and you reach nirvana.

Question: I heard that anyone who sees Gwanseumbosal (Avalokiteshvara) in his dream may receive a blessing. Please tell me about this blessing.

Ven. Pomnyun: I will first tell you the story of how Gwanseumbosal (Avalokiteshvara; Bodhissattva of Mercy; manifestation of all Buddha’s' compassion) came into being. In his previous life Gwanseumbosal lost his mother at a young age. His father soon remarried but he dearly loved his two sons from his previous marriage. This fact made the new wife believe that she and her children would receive little inheritance in the event of her husband’s death. Thus, when her husband went on a long business trip, she took her step sons to a deserted island under false pretenses and left them there. Unaware of their stepmother’s intentions, it didn’t occur to the boys to look for her until it began to grow dark. When their stepmother did not answer their frantic calls, they finally realized that she had abandoned them.

They became filled with hatred for their stepmother. They called out to their father for help, but he could not hear them, being so far away. They then came to resent their father, lamenting over the fact that their father had married such a wicked woman who brought them this great suffering. They then cried out for help to their dead mother but of course there was no answer. The children then began to hate their dead mother, blaming her for dying and leaving them motherless. I think we would all behave this way if we were in such a situation. When your life is hard because you lost your parents early, you would blame them, wouldn’t you? When a woman leads a difficult life with her children because her husband died young, she would resent him, wouldn’t she?

Although the children desperately cried out for help, nobody answered and before long they were on the brink of starving to death. Usually, when people find themselves in a desperate situation, they tend to harbor hatred for whoever caused it. By that reasoning, the children should have been filled with resentment toward the stepmother who deserted them, the father who did not answer, and the mother who had died too early.

However, in the moment of desperation, the older child, rather than vowing revenge on those people who caused his fatal plight, thought of the people who may be in a similar situation with him. The child realized he had not been able to hear people’s cries for help until that moment. He became conscious of the fact he himself had ignored people’s cries of suffering that went unheard. At that very moment, the boy decided to become a person who hears the cries of people in predicaments like him and help them. In his moment of great suffering, the boy understood the suffering of others because of his own, repented his past of indifference to the adversities of others, and vowed to help people in desperate situations in the future.

He vowed that if anyone were to call his name, he would become aware of his or her suffering and alleviate it. As his wish to help others grew, his ability to understand people’s suffering and his power to aid them grew. How is it possible for him to help so many people? He has a thousand eyes and hands. He can see everything and help everyone. You may think that a thousand is not a large number, but in the old days, a thousand represented an infinitely large number. That is, a thousand hands and eyes symbolized omnipotence and omniscience, respectively. Thus, Gwanseumbosal can be said to be an omniscient and omnipotent being. Consequently, when we call out to Gwanseumbosal in our times of hardship, he knows what our problems are and always helps us.

How then should we pray to Gwanseumbosal?

Let me tell you a story. A woman whose son was in prison prayed to Gwanseumbosal with all her heart that her son may soon be released. Her prayers were answered, and her son was released from prison. Not long after, however, he was killed in a traffic accident. This example teaches us a lesson about how we should pray to Gwanseumbosal. Rather than praying for her son’s release from prison, the woman should have prayed, “Please, let my son be happy wherever he is.” She should have prayed to let him be released from prison if that was beneficial for him or let him remain in prison if that was good for him. It was her prayer to get her son out of prison at any cost that ultimately resulted in his death.

Often, our prayers invite disaster. This is because we pray for good fortune when we have not done any good deeds and resist accepting any retribution for the bad deeds we have committed. If a person receives good fortune without having done any good deeds, a person who has done good deeds will not get the merit he or she deserves. This is no different from stealing. Also if someone who has done a misdeed runs away to avoid the consequences, someone else must pay the price. Many people pray they can go to heaven or for good things to happen to them without accumulating any good deeds. Such prayers go against the principle of causes and conditions.

Having the mind of a bodhisattva means you are willing to accept the retribution in place of the person who has done the misdeeds, because the retribution may be too great for him or her to bear. Also, it means you are willing to share your good fortune with others who have none because they haven’t done any good deeds. Those who share their fortune rather than steal it and are even willing to take on the responsibilities of others instead of shirking away from their own are bodhisattvas. People who have such a mind would look wonderful in the eyes of the Gods. Even I would like to shower them with good fortune. If they refused to accept it, I would follow them and make them accept it. This is why I repeatedly emphasize that you need to do good deeds and be considerate of others. If you do so, good fortune will come to you naturally.

When we pray to Gwanseumbosal, he accepts the retribution in our stead and shares his good fortune with us. This is what Gwanseumbosal vowed to do, so your prayers will always be answered. Even if you don’t see any results right away, you shouldn’t say, “It’s no use praying.” You need to believe. You must have a good reason for praying to Gwanseumbosal, so pray with heart and sincerity. Only then will you be showered with his blessings. However, most of you cannot hope for Gwanseumbosal’s blessings in the way you are praying. You may be doing your best, but may be unaware that you are praying in a way that invites disaster. You need to pray with all your heart while thinking, speaking, and behaving in a way that attracts good fortune.

Why I Fast: An Interview with Korean Monk Pomnyun

Half of the population of North Korea doesn’t have enough to eat, according to 55-year-old South Korean Buddhist monk Pomnyun, who has been fasting since May 26, 2008.

Why I Fast: An Interview with Korean Monk Pomnyun

New America Media, Q&A, Jeong Taesoo, Posted: Jul 29, 2008

Editor’s Note: Half of the population of North Korea doesn’t have enough to eat, according to 55-year-old South Korean Buddhist monk Pomnyun, who has been fasting since May 26. Pomnyun, the 2002 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed the Asian Nobel Prize, was interviewed by Korea Times-San Francisco editor Jeong Taesoo.

Famine is estimated to have killed 2 million people in North Korea since the 1990s – nearly as many as the 2.5 million people reported killed during the Korean War.

Link to Original

Vo.1 "The Essence of the Practice"

Questioner: I have studied the Buddha’s teachings for 5-6 years, but I still find it difficult to exercise control over my mind. Recently, I retired from a company that I was with for 20 years and opened a restaurant. Among the Buddha’s teachings, Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani (Dharani - Great and Magical Spell) is one of my favorites, so I chant it while I am working at the restaurant.

However, I’m interrupted when I have to greet customers. I feel I ought to chant the Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani without any interruptions, but I fail to do so when a customer comes into the restaurant. I reproach myself for losing concentration so easily. I would like to remember to chant Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani continuously no matter how busy I am. How can I do so?

Ven. Pomnyun: There are two ways. First, I would like to emphasize that the essence of the practice is to be awake here and now. In your case, when a customer comes into your restaurant, you should concentrate on greeting the customer cheerfully. If you are unaware of the customer coming into your restaurant, it means you are not awake.

In your current situation, to be “awake” means warmly greeting the customers who come to your restaurant, carefully preparing the food, and promptly serving that food to the customers. You need to be awake to each and every action you perform. That is practice. Chanting Gwanseumbosal (AvalokiteĊ›vara), Jijangbosal (Ksitigarbha), or Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani, by itself, is not practice.

When you drive, you should concentrate on your driving. Since you own a restaurant, giving your full attention to running a restaurant is practice and the way to succeed in your business. Your practice and business are not two different things. If you neglect to pay attention to the customers who come into your restaurant or greet them halfheartedly because, for instance, you are chanting Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani, it is neither good practice nor the right attitude towards your customers. If you are constantly torn between practicing and operating your business, you cannot do well in either of them.

That is why when you wake up early in the morning to pray, you should focus solely on chanting Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani. All kinds of thoughts occur while you chant. Simply be aware that any thoughts that arise are illusions, and you should let go of them. Do not dwell on thoughts such as, ‘Why do these illusions arise in my mind? Why can’t I concentrate on the Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani?’

Thoughts arise in the mind unconsciously, so you cannot control them at will. You shouldn’t let yourself be bothered by them. Simply concentrate on Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani, whether illusions arise in your mind or not. When you go to work after the daily morning prayer, you should give your complete attention to running the restaurant. Greeting your customers warmly when they enter the restaurant and putting your heart and soul into the food preparation are all part of the practice.Second, we chant Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani or other sutras so that we won’t be hindered by external conditions.

If you are chanting, you should only say, “Gwanseumbosal” whether other people criticize or praise you and whether customers say the food tastes good or bad. Also, once you have begun chanting Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani, you need to keep on doing it, and prevent yourself from being hindered by external conditions. You should not be distracted by other things because nothing else is important while you are chanting Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani.You can choose between these two options. If you decide to concentrate on chanting Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani regardless of what people say, you should chant it all day long whether your business does well or not.

Then you simply need to accept the consequences, whether you earn a lot of money or not and whether the customers compliment or criticize you. This option is to practice this way without being hindered by external conditions. The other option is to be awake to the situation at hand. That is, you can focus completely on what you are doing at each and every moment, being fully aware of your mind and the external conditions. One option is not better than the other, as they are both good. Since you have your own business, it would be better for you to be awake to your current situation. I suggest you chant Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani early in the morning with deep concentration for an hour.

During the rest of the day, focus your attention on running your restaurant in the same manner as when chanting the Shinmyojanggu-Dae-Dharani. Thinking of your son, for example, or worrying about something else while working at your restaurant is comparable to being beset by illusions while chanting. Having a clear mind and concentrating in the present are no different from chanting.

Questioner: Thank you for your great answer.

Sunim: How do you know if my answer is any good? (laughs)

Questioner: The moment I met you and saw your gentle expression and demeanor, I decided that I would like to be just like you. Do you think it’s possible?

Sunim: (laughs) Since you are my guest...Yes, it is possible. (laughs)