November 29, 2009

Dharma Talk from Zen Master Dae Bong Sunim

Well, I got a chance to hear Dae Bong Sunim give a Dharma talk the other day. It was a on a Korean Army base in Seoul. I was told the facility was like the Korean Pentagon. The audience seemed to be filled with current and former higher ranking Army officers. I understand that they have a strong relationship with Dae Bong Sunim’s headquarter temple Mu Sang Sa.

Since I am not Buddhist, it was quite interesting to listen to Dae Bong Sunim. He gave his talk sitting cross legged on the alter. BTW, I would have a hard time sitting like that for a couple of hours...I can’t imagine giving a speech and trying to maintain composure at the same time.

His speech was translated into Korean by an attending monk. Not sure all the nuances were passed along, but for once, I could understand! The audience seemed to enjoy it very much. He gave a great story about a Korean martial arts instructor being confronted by a gang of motor cycle riders in Chicago. And how the instructor talked them out of shooting him and into becoming his students. Great stuff...embellished maybe...but still comes back to the importance of controlling oneself instead of trying to control others.

Know thyself...can you really answer the question: Who am I? If you really concentrate on the question...could you answer? Good luck...I think Dae Bong Sunim has been working on it for a life time.

But knowing you can never get a full answer...the road traveled while trying to understand is rich and adventurous. I find it simple to memorize how to behave from dogma, but challenging to understand who I am when I am the only one who can answer.

Beyond the philosophy, I was struck by the similarities with a Catholic mass. It was very ritualistic, not unlike what I am used to. It did not seem foreign, but I always look for similarities when trying to make sense of a new situation.

They even had a choir...a very talented and disciplined one at that!


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