A Bald Head And A Strawberry - Hyung Jin Moon
Part 3 - The Search
I searched for months for a single Chinese character, ascending to the holy rock whenever I was home, that could sum up and embody the heart of Hananim. I yearned to find a single character that could be a reference, a point of continual re-entry, into the Divine. I initially thought it was Maum Shim (the Chinese character meaning-spirit, mind, heart) but something was missing.
When Abba returned from abroad, I asked him to share with me what character was most precious to him. I had been waiting for this moment, for this teaching, for this wisdom. I had earnestly searched but found a character that was missing something.
Without hesitation, he wrote a single character (as I asked him to limit it to one). It is a moment, an enlightenment that I shall never forget.
He wrote, Jung Sung Sung. This character, as Abonim explained, was the combination of the characters for world and to become. On further reflection I realized that the left side of the character symbolizing west was word and that the Western Religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were faiths of the Word (Torah, Bible, Quran). The right portion of the character symbolizing east was, to become and that the Eastern Religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Confucianism) were faiths of becoming (primarily utilizing the psychological technology of meditation.
In this single character, right and left, Eastern and Western traditions, were brought into union to form a single, dynamic character -- Jung Sung Sung (sincerity). I realized that without sincerity, heart is just a muscle pumping blood. But with sincerity Hananim's heart and our own would have no duality, no separateness. Without Sung, we would be eternally apart. With Sung, we would be one.
Why is it that I tell this story? Is it to reveal what the most central character for Abonim is? Well, yes and no. In this story there is a dynamic that was the true enlightenment. We all think that it was the character that was the enlightenment but again this is only partially true. Let's look at this story. I went up the mountain to find the character that would represent God, the Way. I searched and searched and searched -- and there exactly was the problem.
What Jung Sung Sung taught me was that, "If you seek, you shall not find, and if you do not seek, you shall not find." It was not about seeking but rather-becoming. It is not about seeking for peace, for then it will always be a step ahead, always evading us. It is rather about being peace -- then it doesn't need to be sought. It is not about finding happiness but rather being happiness. Mother Theresa said, "Joy is not simply a matter of temperament, it is always hard to remain joyful."17 We must become peace, not search for it; we must become love, become compassion, become forgiveness, empathy, understanding, virtue, benevolence, patience, humility, gratitude, kindness, etc. As long as we seek it we will never bring it substantially here to this world. But if we become it, and we must become it again at every new moment, and at every new opportunity, we will tangibly allow the world to become a better place.
In Korean there is a saying, "giving sincerity." This is often used for those who are doing spiritual practices, prayer, meditation, offerings. Why is it in mind-body unity practice that we are giving sincerity? Because in mind-body unity practice we re not speaking about certain virtues, we are practicing to become them. Practicing to be love, unity forgiveness, empathy and living for others.
I started training in the martial arts at a very young age. I quit though, around ten. I had better things to do -- like skateboard and cause trouble. The summer before my freshman year in high school, I once again began, in earnest, the martial arts. I went from baggy jeans hanging half way down my buttocks, to Chinese king fu uniforms. It was quite a shock for my peers, but they knew I was crazy.
I studied with numerous instructors and masters becoming adept in various styles of martial arts. I loved the quest for mastery in the martial arts. I had no time for resentment, or anything or anyone. I hungered for the new technique, the special, secret move that would give me the advantage, the edge, in a confrontation. My whole world began to be saturated by this renewed and consuming passion. I literally thought of nothing else.
I had no concern for status, for black belts and all that other traditional recognition. I just wanted to become a great warrior -- a walking can of danger that if threatened, could deliver extreme devastation. I trained hours on end, creating new exercises to perfect my timing, speed, power. I was always going over techniques in my mind -- one hundred, two hundred times a move, studying each detail from every conceivable angle. I loved it. This was what it was like to really live. I looked at kids in school and laughed at them. I didn't care what they did, as long as they didn't try to start anything with me. If they did, they'd be in trouble. I was cocky, arrogant, and full of pride. I didn't smoke, drink, take drugs, or date. When asked why, I simply told them that it would affect my martial arts. Nobody had a problem with that.
I started high school with, if I recall correctly, a 1.6 GPA and graduated with a 3.33 GPA. I was so obsessed by my own improvement, my speed, my lethal level, that I also developed an enormous ego. My grades were improving as I became more interested in using them to show my prowess, not only in the physical but the mental sphere as well. I was using mental discipline to enhance my self-portrait, to make it more incredible, more impressive, more awesome. Unfortunately it looked more and more like something else -- more and more like the devil.
Behind that door is the Devil
"What is the spiritual path? The spiritual path is one of self-improvement, growing oneself, developing, etc. this makes sense right? Overwhelmingly, the answer is "yes, of course," "definitely," "right." (At least this is what most all say when I ask this question). Unfortunately, his way of thinking and this path leads to becoming the devil.
"What! No! What is that bald man is talking about?" I usually jokingly tell people after they hear this, "Now you think the bald man is absolutely crazy." But kidding aside, why is this the path to the devil? I thought it was the spiritual path. I thought I was going to improve myself so I could be a saint.
This is the danger of the spiritual path. It is so very subtle when you are dealing with the mind, heart, emotions, psychology, consciousness, spirit. Just a little ignorance, one little misunderstanding, one flawed assumption, can lead you to a very ugly place without you even knowing.
I see many people, Unificationists and non-Unificationists alike, believing they are following the spiritual path. Whether they are planting trees, feeding the homeless, or praying, they are confident that they are becoming a saint. "I pray for ten hours a day!" "I fed fifty homeless people!" "I've done service work for one and a half years! I've created so much value, everyone should be grateful!" some boast.
Unfortunately because they believe the spiritual path to be one of self-improvement, there is self-aggrandizement, arrogance, and a blind self-righteousness that can arise, and yes that is correct and can grow. This arrogance is also self-assured, meaning it has thoroughly convinced itself of its contribution to humanity, to history, to the movement, to the world and tacitly implies a sense of self-acknowledge greatness and pride (the likes of which all people would immediately realize if they truly understood, of course).18
This is the arrogance, pride, hubris that the devil exhibited before God (seen in various traditions). This is one of the most fundamental flaws of the spiritual path. It is the human tendency to see the spiritual path as one of self improvement. Unfortunately that path leads one to become more ego-centric, self-absorbed, and very self-obsessed.
Thus, as a result, there is an attempt to prove oneself, show how great one is, to boast of ones goodness. Judgmental competition, fear, suspicion and mistrust are the by-products of someone that is, unknowingly or knowingly, trying to display his / her greatness. This kind of person, filled with fear, shaky confidence, and a very large ego (which is a self-composed delusion) is one who can not make real unity, truly exist for the sake of others, truly and fully love another, or be happy -- simply because that kind of individual is so psychotically obsessed with the precious ego that he / she has taken such effort into improving, growing, developing.
This is hard to face at first. It is very unpalatable. It was to me as well. We immediately feel very uncomfortable and very defensive. We suddenly see all the armor, walls high-towers, barricades that we have created and thus see how frail and naked we actually are. Our sense of greatness provided a sense of security, confidence, pride, but now it is shattered. We stare at our distorted reflection in the mirror that is now broken and we tremble, seeing how scared we actually are. It is gravely frightening to see.
However nobody said it was going to be easy. The spiritual path is raw. It is rugged. It is brutally honest. We are not as great as we thought; not a confident as we thought; not as God -- like as we thought. Its landscape is thorny, dense, and full of deadly pitfalls. But we must know what the jungle is before we try to pass through it -- at least that is my opinion.
Facing up to our mistaken assumption, we can begin to be freed from the path of ignorance. We can thus find, and not just find but, become the spiritual path. The spiritual path is not of rowing larger, but rather of going deeper; of letting ones self go, of surrendering before God, of emptying oneself of oneself, of dying and being born again. Surrendering oneself fully before the majesty of Hananim's goodness is where true freedom is.
It is here that we can connect with God, the Original Mind, and our innate divine goodness. But there is a catch. If we think that it is our own goodness, our own power, there is the ego working to get bigger again. We must remain vigilant in curbing the tendency to self-aggrandize.
By truly relinquishing ourselves of ourselves (our hatreds, angers, greeds, etc.) we can truly be free. We can be free from the clinging, grabbing, wrenching hands of the ego and our natural heart of warmth, compassion, love, and humanity can shine forth. Here we can provide the clean foundation to begin the path to deepening all these natural good and loving tendencies, and allow the Divine to truly manifest in and touch this suffering world.
If indeed the ego that I am always trying to advance, improve, grow and expand really did exist as a tangible, separate, concrete entity, then the more we delved into the ego the more apparent it should become -- the more "ego-ness" we should see. But what happens when we look deeply? We see that we are a combination of many things -- of thoughts, emotions, mental states, physical parts. The notion of a concrete self breaks down, our notion of a concrete ego appears to us as it really is -- a combination of many things, including, fear, lack of real confidence, insecurity, compensation for underlying feelings of inadequacy, attempting to prove to our self the greatness of our self.
One minute we are confident, then someone else walks in the picture and we are immediately threatened and without that much confidence. We immediately label him an enemy, a competitor, someone better or worse than I. We exist in a neurotic, almost pathological obsession with our ego-self. We must defend it at all costs! It must be preserved!
In our lives we may know someone who is very quick to point out flaws in everyone else. They walk, thinking that the world is the problem. Unfortunately people such as these are filled with anger, resentments, lack of confidence and self-hatred. Because they are so dishonest with themselves, they are probably the least confident individuals. They may put on an aura of confidence but behind resides a child, comparing his toys with someone else's, wailing so as to attract attention, putting others down to feel self-justified. Of course if we look honestly, we will realize that we ourselves do these things very often, as well.
When our confidence and sense of self-worth is stemming from something as volatile as this ever-fluctuating amalgamation of things that we call self / ego we can see how tenuous that confidence, that sense of self-worth, is. All it takes is one word that challenges our defenses, our sense of security, our sense of solidity, accomplishment, all it takes is one change in our emotional state, or mental state (as it inevitably will) to destroy and supplant that sense of self-confidence with over whelming doubt.
But how is it that we can truly be self-confident? Well first we must understand that self confidence does not mean ego-confidence -- as we saw how tenuous that was. True self-confidence only comes when we can connect with the true self, the Original Mind, God. In simple terms it means to deepen the qualities of our natural and innate warm, compassionate, loving, caring, empathetic heart.
When we truly surrender ourselves -- completely let our ego-selves go; all our wants, greed, hatreds, preferences, resentments, selfishness -- we can stand emptied of this constantly changing self. We can be feed from the imprisoning nature of the ego / selfish-self, and can allow our naturally good, loving, compassionate mind to shine forth. Here we can rest in peace. This is our true self -- the self that naturally feels empathy for others suffering from disease, pain as well as mental torments.
If we are always diligent in emptying our egos we will naturally clean off the dirt from the Original Mind. If we only focus on our self, then a bad hair day, one argument, one critique or criticism can completely overwhelm us -- something so insignificant becomes magnified into a world impending doom. But if we care more for others, which is the natural inclination of the Original Mind, then we can be freed from this distortion and the suffering it generates. If we embrace in our heart, include in our vision the suffering of another, one bad hair day is not the end of the world.
Our natural predisposition to love and help others is the true source of mental stability. We are truly secure, as we now can rest in the loving nature of our Original Minds. Only if we truly submit, surrender, let go of our ego-self, can our Original Mind, or Hananim, shine froth with radiance and power. If we let Hananim fill us, by emptying ourselves of our selves, then we can go deeper into the heart of Hananim, become close -- die so we can be born.
Back to school
After I transferred to Harvard, I began taking seriously the philosophical, religious, psychological and scientific spheres of study. In furthering my studies I have come to even a greater depth and appreciation of Hananim -- seen in all faith, God, Tathagathagarbha, Allah, Nibbana, The Dao (Way), and even scientific discipline -- quantum, etc. Whether it is the belief in a cosmic energy, or God as omnipresent, or a belief in the goodness of all, these, I realized were all different ways to explaining The One and His realness.
We inevitably derive unique labels for The One just as we are all unique, but this should not be a source of division, and difference. Just because some call The One, God and some call it Absolute Emptiness, or Allah, or Higher Power, doesn't mean we should see those as representing different camps or groups. We should not place ourselves on one side of a line and place others on the other side. In fact, the line should not even be there. We are not adversaries.
I remember asking a Christian, "Describe God to me, in detail."
He said, "He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
"Okay," I said, "but describe Him, in a detailed explanation." "One cannot, He is indescribable -- beyond expression."
I then went and asked a Buddhist monk of fifty years, "Describe Absolute Emptiness for me, in detail."
He said something like, "it is like a light of bliss, an aura of enlightenment."
"Okay," I said, "but describe it, in a detailed explanation." "One cannot, It is indescribable, and beyond expression."
In terms of individual theologies there are dissimilarities between the religions, even sometimes contradictory views. But we mustn't confuse religions, which occupy a definite time in the span of history, to Truth which does not. Even in our lives, religion comes after birth. But Truth, something which all religions attest to, has no definite timeline. It has always been there.
Fundamentally all major religious traditions have the same potential to make somebody a deeper, more loving, and more human person. The unique qualities of each religion are special and unique like individuals on this planet. Whether we describe God in apophatic or cataphatic terms (via positive or via negative in negative terms as not this or not that or positive terms such as is this or is that) the religious traditions unequivocally point to Transcendence. There may be various traditions but the fundamental message of love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, understanding, etc; remains.
It is really an issue between theme and variation. The themes of serving others beyond oneself; the preciousness of physical life; life after death; being more forbearing, honest, reflective, forgiving, compassionate, etc. are themes that are essential to the teachings of all major religions. In the theologies, mythologies, tales and rituals there may be great variation. But we must remember that the themes under girding these variations compel people of the respective faiths to live a life of loving, caring and helping others.
This is a great hope, in fostering true cross-cultural, inter-religious appreciation and tolerance. It is my belief that dialogue among religions is one part of the peace process. However, dialogue alone is not enough. We must be unity. Thus, I believe it essential for people of faith, to experience, to practice with, and to express devotion with others from various religious backgrounds.
This is very difficult, of course, as we inevitably bring our prejudices and biases. Thus the task is for religious peoples to become more aware of these tendencies and prepare a heart of common brotherhood and acceptance towards others of faith. This does not mean we throw away the moral values of our tradition, but it does mean that we more firmly resolve to find the points of unity rather than of division between our other brothers and sisters.
In the modern world, divisions between ideologies have led and are leading to wars all over the globe. Christians killing Christians in Northern Ireland, Jews, Muslims and Christians murdering one another in Israel, Hindus and Muslims killing each other in India, and the slaughtering continues. In such a world, many can become quite skeptical of religion, in fact, they can say that it is the problem!
But this analysis is not thorough enough. Most often political and ethnic undercurrents enhance religious conflicts. Religious fanatics can and have used religion to justify killing and the like -- but this is only one side of the coin. How many killings were deterred, avoided, or stopped because of the teachings of religions? The teachings to "love thy neighbor," to "take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of the other," have guided and benefited mankind for centuries.
In my opinion, religions although they seem like the problem are paradoxically the only chance this world has to actually realize peace. It is within the core of religious teachings that we are compelled to love, to care for others, to empathize, and to learn patience and forbearance. The core message of religion is to allow people to become more loving and humane. Could you imagine a religion that explicitly teaches to kill, rape, and steal? This would be hell.
Abonim frequently says that in an ideal state of existence, religion would not be needed. I do not believe this to mean the destruction and oppression of religious traditions, as that would simply be a repeat of the evils of communism. It may, however, mean that we may find ourselves as more similar to each other than different regardless of what "religion" we are a part of. It may be speaking of a fundamental awareness to see the goodness (the Original Mind) in people. It may require us to go beyond our denominational mindset and see each other as brothers and sisters of a common humanity.
We are all interconnected in a glorious network of quantum energy packets, of hopes and dreams, of desire to find meaning and be happy in life, of experiencing suffering, of making mistakes, of reaching for the stars, of wishing for peace of mind, and maybe to find and become one with The One.
Those close to you know your little imperfections: the way you scratch your head or, the way you attempt to dance, or whatever. These are the things that make us laugh with tears of joy, when you are away. There is an incredible feeling of comfort and solace, in knowing that another human being can give him / herself fully over, without fear of judgment or getting made fun of. We can reminisce on how they were free to exhibit themselves fully, without restraint, to us because they genuinely trusted us. This liberating trust is what is needed to make religions come together, and transcend their respective theological positions. I realized that systems of faith were unique ways in communicating the same belief a belief in something greater than ourselves.
We believed we could get to the moon, so we did. We believe that life will go on, that we will have happiness, and that we will find true and everlasting peace and joy. Aren't these objectives something that we can achieve, or get closer to, if and only if we first believe it to be possible? Isn't it belief -- in something like life, or even the inevitability of sadness or suffering that can many times be the antidote to our daily struggles?
You know, I had my ups and downs in life and I wrote a reflection I got through meditation in my journal. It reads:
Life is but a wink. It goes by unnoticed. Being mindful, our lives can become meaningful and not meaningless. Bask in the infinite glory that is that wink. See it through its infinite stages. Feel and become that wink. For if you do not, that wink like so many others, will be lost forever.
This thing we call life can be so precious, so enriching. It is just a moment in eternity, a glimmer in an expansive dimension of time, but one that is so incredibly worth it. That moment is an eternal moment. It is one moment in all of eternity that is even more precious than eternity itself, because you got to experience that moment. When I think about this, I am exceedingly grateful.
Realizing my own mortality and the evanescence of life paradoxically makes me more appreciative of life. It makes my good byes, and my hellos, more meaningful. It makes my wife, our children, their laughter and our stumbles together more meaningful. It makes my parents, my siblings, my teachers, my mentors, the world, more meaningful. It makes The One more meaningful.
In short, I realize that everything precious to me will no doubt leave me one day. So while they are here I'm going to try to nourish them with every ounce of my effort. I will not wait till death to look back and say in regret, "I should have paid more attention," "I should have gone up to the, attic and found that soul of mine," "I shouldn't have wasted my life away with anger and resentment, " -- "I should have had more life when I was living."
Ultimately, all of us are going to pass on, and many times we live to die. But all of us, without exception, are dying to live. Don't waste a moment. Don't let it all pass you by. Don't let it get away. Find it. Go up to that attic, with all that baggage hanging around up there. Sort it out. Make amends. Make peace, be happiness, and let that soul fly freely into the glorious heart of love.
We all make the choice. We all decide. We are responsible. Once we accept that, we can begin to choose life...
Life is but a speck of sand in a Desert of Eternity... Make sure it doesn't get blown away by the Winds of your Mind.