The Words of the Buessing Family

Seunghwa, Celebrating Life - An Interview with Reverend Richard Buessing

April 2010

Reverend Buessing is the District 5 pastor for HSA-UWC USA. He lives in Boston, MA with his family

Question: As parents, when do you feel we should we begin to teach our children about the Seunghwa and Won Jeon ceremony itself so that they will know how to prepare for it in the future?

Answer: It all depends on the age of the children. Life is always an education about everything as you grow each day physically and spiritually. As a parent you need to take the opportunities to teach your children about life and death. I grew up on a farm. I saw animals being born and I saw them die. We buried so many dogs and cats growing up because they died of old age, getting hit by trucks, or died at birth. Children have pets of all kinds. When pets die you use it as an opportunity to explain the cycle of life. You begin at an early age talking about the spirit world. You explain the cycles of life by using a caterpillar, cocoon, and a butterfly and other examples in nature.

Also as a parent you teach them a lot about how you react when one of your parents passes away. This is one of the best opportunities to teach your children. If your child sees you celebrate their grandparents' life, they will expect to celebrate yours when that time comes. If you react in a regretful way it might reflect how they may react in the future. Many times young children are close to their grandparents. They are so sad to see them gone. The best way to teach is by example. Our children see almost everything we do in one way or another.

My son had a favorite cat. The cat died in the living room one night so we buried it in the yard behind our house. A couple of days later I was outside and a cross was put up with the name of the cat on it. My young son about 8 years learned it up from somewhere because I never taught him to put up a cross. He must have seen it on TV or saw a graveyard.

It is good to bring your children to someone else's Seunghwa ceremony. Many times I wish I had brought my children to the Seunghwa ceremony of a fellow member. I can't every remember going to a bad Seunghwa ceremony. It is a time to truly honor and celebrate ones life. Everything said is always uplifting. If you don't know the person you 1 really get to know them very well. You leave 1 with the feeling you got to know the person and are grateful for their lives. Every life is connected to God so it tells a story about God's love in one way or another.

Question: What is the difference between a Seunghwa ceremony and a funeral / wake?

Answer: Funerals that I have attended tend to be more solemn, gloomy, and sad. The atmosphere, the clothing people wear, the words by the minister, and the family seem to indicate a day of grief. Our Seunghwa ceremony is highlighted by uplifting songs, (ones the deceased loved to sing). Our ceremony gives the feeling of holiness, sacredness, and peace. Everyone gets a chance to participate by offering roses on the casket. Close friends offer testimonies to uplift everyone including the deceased. It is like a send off of a special friend to a foreign country who won't be returning. It is a heavenly going away ceremony.

Our ceremonies are educational. We have such confidence in the view of life after life (not life after death because we never really die) that people are amazed at our understanding. It is very common for someone to come to one of our Seunghwa ceremonies and say that they never experienced anything like it in their entire life.

Question: What do Unificationists teach about life after death?

Answer: We teach that the death of our physical body is a very natural process. We were meant to die physically. It is like shedding an overcoat that we have been wearing for a long time in the winter and summer has arrived and we should take it off.

There are three stages in ones life. In the womb, in the physical world, and in the spiritual world. The best analogy would be like birth. The baby in the mother's womb is the first stage. It has no desire to leave the environment where everything is provided. Food and nutrients are pumped in everyday. However, you can't stay their forever so the baby comes out into this new world breathing air. It is a different world but the baby after a short while adjusts to its new environment. After being in this new world with a physical body for 70 or 80 years at some time it needs to shed the physical body and gets born again into the eternal spiritual world. The process is like a caterpillar, to a cocoon, to a butterfly.

When we shed this physical body our spirit body which is eternal goes to the spiritual world. In this world everyone who has lived on earth resides there in there spirit bodies. Our spirit bodies have five senses just like our physical body did on earth. We experience that world just like we would the physical world but it is in a spiritual dimension.

Our happiness or joy in the spirit world is not how many material things we possess but our ability to love. While on earth we should have developed our capacity to love by creating God centered families. The more we can inherit the Divine Love of God on earth the better we will be in the spirit world. The best preparation for afterlife is to live a God centered, loving life on earth.

Question: What heart or attitude should we have with us during the Seunghwa and Won Jeon Ceremonies?

Answer: The very fact that there was a Seunghwa ceremony is being held for the individual indicates they have lived a life blessed by God. Their life is not just an ordinary life but a life that lived for the sake of others. They devoted their life to God in one way or another. It doesn't matter what kind of work they did but that they did it based on their love of God and True Parents.

Our attitude is that we are honoring and burying them with the love and heart as one of our brothers or sisters. As a brother or sister we want to show them our respect and gratitude for the great life they have lived. It is good not to have any concepts about the one who passed away. You might think you know someone but usually you don't. During the ceremony things always come out that change your entire image of what that person was all about. I always go away with the feeling that if I could only live a life like this person.

Question: What part does the Seunghwa and Won Jeon ceremony play in our transition into the spirit world/our life in the spirit world?

Answer: It makes the transition so much easier. No one wants to be alone in this world or the next. We want to be surrounded by people we love and those that love us. Our Unification Church community is composed of all of our families and brothers and sisters we have come to love and cherish our entire life. There is no better way than to be uplifted by the prayers, songs, words, and heart of those you love. The Seunghwa is a celebration of ones life. The person is being honored for the life they have lived. It is the biggest gathering for you that you will probably ever have in your entire life.

I can remember the ceremony for Heung Jin Nim at Belvedere. We were all lined up waiting for True Parents to arrive. When Father and Mother got out of the car many of our members who were lined up to the front door of the house were solemn and tearful. Father said, "Why do you look so sad, don't you believe in the spirit world?" Then we all started singing, "Song of the Garden".

Question: In your opinion as a pastor, would you say we as Unificationists should reflect on our time of transition into the spirit world (our own Seunghwa) when we think about how we will live our lives, what we want to leave or establish here on earth, and what kind of eternity we will have?

Answer: The majority of us never reflect on the fact that we are going to die. We can talk and lecture about the need to prepare for the afterlife but the way we live our lives on a daily basis seems like we are never planning to die. One of the main reasons is that because in essence we are spiritual beings so that side of us never thinks we are going to die. However, as you get older when your body begins to slow down than it dawns on you that sometime you are going to die. When you see your father die than you think that this is also your future. This is why it is important for three generations to be close because we can inherit everything through the living examples. We bury our parents than we know we are next in line for the cycle of life that God prepared us. I think it is good to reflect on our life everyday. We need to be conscious of how we are living spiritually and physically, how we treat others, do we harbor resentment or hatred, are we truly in love with our spouse and our children, and did we do anything for the sake of humankind.

Sometimes I read the obituaries in the newspaper. I am interested in what is written about people when they die. One time I had our members at a workshop write an obituary about themselves. In other words how would you like to written up in the local newspaper or church bulletin if you died. It does make you think about how you are living your life.

Ideally, we want to leave behind the legacy of love. We want to be known as someone who loved others regardless of circumstances. We should leave behind the Parental heart. We should love others as we love our own children. We know how far we will go to help our own children. However, would we go out of the way to sacrifice everything to love someone else's children as our own? That kind of love will guarantee your future generations of great success regardless of the hardships you might have gone through while on earth.

In terms of the afterlife and eternity, I always think of the Bible quote, "What you bind on earth you bind in Heaven". This sums it all up. You are what you are. If you are a good person you will be a good person in the afterlife. If you are a selfish person you will be a selfish person in the afterlife.

True Father describes it so clearly in the Peace Messages. He says our life is like a tape recorder where everything we have done is recorded. We cannot hide who we are in the spirit world. In the physical world we can hide behind our physical bodies but in the spirit world there is nothing to hide behind.

When we hear those words we all get worried because we are not these perfect beings. However, God in all his love and mercy wants us to change so he and his children can be liberated. As our Heavenly Parent he will guide us even in the spirit world. It is just a lot easier if we resolve things on this physical world.

I have been a church leader in some capacity for over 35 years. I have been present at many Seunghwa Ceremonies and Won Jeon Ceremonies, I have presided over or spoken at least 10 ceremonies, and I have visited funeral homes with church members to make arrangements for their spouses or children.

Even though the fundamentals of the Seunghwa ceremony are the same in terms of procedure I would say each one is unique. They are unique because of the individuals involved. If someone is old we expect them to die. If someone dies early because of a rare disease or an accident it is not the same. Ideally, we should bury our parents; they should not bury us. When children die first as with the case of some of True Parents children it cannot be easy. It has to be the most painful. In that case we cannot over do the celebration side of the Seunghwa ceremony. We have to be very sensitive to the situation of the family and their heart. It is okay to grieve for close family and friends.

True Parents have a most remarkable way to give glory to God. In every difficult situation they make it a special offering to God. They turn something that is difficult into a victory for Heaven. It is because of their unity and heart to their Heavenly Parent. 

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