The Words Of Hyung Jin Moon
Interview of Rev Hyung Jin Moon by Kyunghyang Newspaper
December 12, 2007
Kyunghyang is a national daily South Korean newspaper
Hyung Jin Moon: I am called a main pastor, but now I focus on church services and also twice a week my wife and I visit families. But my primary concern is the content of church service.
Kyunghyang: During the service on December 1st you were installed as the pastor of this church, right?
Yes. And on the 9th we had another service.
Kyunghyang: What did you speak about?
Well, I talked about how important it is not to let go of the inner happiness, joy and confidence. In our life we should have a mentality of affluence and not a mentality of scarceness. We should learn how to come to win-win solutions with people. Simply speaking that's what the spirit of affluence is.
Kyunghyang: I know that you are interested in Oriental traditions, particularly in Buddhism. I am curious about that. I'd like to use this chance to ask you many questions particularly about this. As far as I know you studied various world religions including Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam and you visited holy sites of various religions. I also know that you practiced martial arts. Nevertheless, shouldn't the Unification Church be viewed as a religion based upon Christian foundation?
Yes, it was greatly influenced by Christianity, particularly by Protestantism.
Kyunghyang: But weren't you in the world too different from Christianity? What do you think about it?
I began to study Buddhism when I was in Harvard. At one point I lived together with Tibetan monk, Lama Wangdu.
Kyunghyang: With who?
Lama Wangdu. He belongs to Gelugpa, the same branch of Tibetan Buddhism as Dalai Lama. I'm also a close friend of Ven. Ilmi. Now he received his Ph.D. from Harvard.
We met every Wednesday, had tea together and even slept in the same room. At that time I felt strong interest in Buddhism and about oriental culture. Seven years ago, when my elder brother Young Jin passed away I started asking many questions about life. It was then that I got interested in religion. From the childhood I was raised in Christian culture, so I naturally wanted to understand oriental world too. I met many monks, meditated together with them. I am very friendly with many of them even now. Sometimes I go to visit them.
Kyunghyang: What Buddhist temple do you go to recently?
I'm very close to Ven. Misan, Buddhist leader who got his Doctorate Degree from Oxford University.
Kyunghyang: Did your father, teachers or people from your surroundings oppose to your involvement with Buddhism and your studies of Buddhism?
Since the culture in the Unification Church is pretty close to that of Christianity, back then, seven years ago I did struggle a bit, because Church members saw that I completely shaved my head, started wearing grey Buddhist monastic robes and using the Buddhist rosary, so I heard quite a bit of talking going on around me.
Kyunghyang: Do you mean disapproving talks?
Well, people were saying something like: :Did he go against his father?" Even I thought at that time, I'm going to be banished. I'm dead now. Interestingly enough Father never scolded me in any public setting.
Moreover he always encouraged me in front of church members. Through this I realized that he was protecting me. Through this experience I started seeing Father differently. When I thought, "Now I'm dead," he just supported me and continuously encouraged me to study and this is why I'm very grateful to him. So, I went on to study Buddhism and oriental philosophy. Honestly speaking, it is then when I became a Unification Church member. Before that, even though I was born in this tradition and heard a lot of Biblical stories I didn't have a clear identity as an Unificationist.
I can frankly say that. I was simply born in this tradition. However through the experience I have just described I realized that my father wasn't simply a pastor of one denomination. He truly respects various religions and it is in accord with his teachings.
When I saw that I really appreciated that. I'm still very close to many Buddhist monks. There is absolutely no discrimination. No one told me that since it is another religion, I shouldn't touch it. Actually I'm very grateful to Buddhism.
Kyunghyang: You are talking about religious faith, but aren't there many worries about leaving the church?
You mean about members leaving the church?
Kyunghyang: Yes, there must have been some worries that you might be converted to another religion.
Yes. Some people around me worried about it.
Kyunghyang: To me your statement that it was then that you became the Unification Church member sounds paradoxical.
Where, do you think that Buddhism and the Unification Church meet? What do they have in common?
My father for 50 years has been teaching about the necessity of mind and body unity. This is one of his core teachings. In the Unification Principle we have a concept of the Three Great Blessings. First of them is achievement of individual perfection, the second -- perfecting one's family and the third -- realizing dominion over all things.
I really pondered a lot about how to achieve that individual perfection. And our church members do too.
How to train one's personality? One particular reason why I got interested in Buddhism and Taoism is because of their practice of spiritual training, training of mind and body through meditation. My father really spent a great deal of time during the last 50 years teaching about this.
Kyunghyang: So, you mean this is part of teaching of the Unification Church; a big part?
Father always asks Church members, Raise hands those of you whose mind and body are united!
Kyunghyang: So, you said you had met Master Peopjeong, Dalai Lama, Ven. Misan and other Buddhists … Maybe I'm repeating myself, but what are the strong points of Buddhism from your viewpoint?
In my opinion it is a teaching about impermanence
Yes, I think this is a very important wisdom. I realized it when my elder brother passed away. That's how I tell my story to my Buddhist friends. Jesus lived in poverty from his birth, right? His life was difficult, even finding daily bread was difficult.
However Buddha lived in a royal family, but he didn't feel any satisfaction, so finally he left his home.
When he went out he met a sick person and a funeral procession and so forth. So, he realized that even though previous 28 years of his life looked good to him, the reality was different.
Actually I understand this situation better and here's the reason why. From my childhood I have been living near New York and New York is a great city. The church there was in a central position. Frankly I couldn't go out so much. We always lived only in that little East Garden property. Because of security concerns we were always accompanied by bodyguards, so we couldn't simply ride a bicycle or go to visit our friends like other kids do.
So, I can understand Buddha's life more, because I also could not get out of my house, but once I did, I saw that there is suffering and distress; so I got this realization about impermanence. Particularly when my brother Young Jin passed away, I realized that our life can at one moment finish.
Kyunghyang: Impermanence is also a kind of realization?
Well, I don't know if it was a realization, but I felt that this understanding was very important. Once we frame our human life like that then we inevitably start to treasure things like human relationships or our family because we don't know when we are going to leave them. It's not that I focus on death, but this realization made life look beautiful in my eyes.
I don't have a negative outlook, rather I value each life's moment. I meditate every morning at 3:00 a.m. and then I make 100 full bows. After this I go out to clean the yard of local pediatric hospital. Our life is impermanent, so each its day is precious. If we forget about it, we can forget the value of our life and that of other people, so the training is very important. So, I go there every day to pray and remind myself about it.
Kyunghyang: Are these 100 full bows a ceremony of the Unification Church or is it a Buddhist ceremony?
My parents also did it.
Kyunghyang: Is there such ceremony in the Unification Church?
Kyunghyang: You have studied several religions, so what, do you think, are the common points of their teachings, the common points of not only Buddhism, but also Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism and so forth?
We can see many common points particularly if we study religious ethics. Patience, mercy, a loving heart, compassion, a desire to understand others -- religious teachings on these virtues are amazingly similar.
Also, all religions teach that a person should change himself or herself to a certain degree, to get more mature. One should mature and change. We can say that this is a common point. Of course, Christianity teaches about Heaven and hell, while Buddhism says that there are several levels of heaven, it teaches about previous lives. There are many differences!
Kyunghyang: And yet teachings are similar?
Yes, core teachings have a lot in common.
Kyunghyang: You have many siblings, but you are the only one among your brothers and sisters who chose the path of a pastor. Did you decide on becoming a pastor after studying various religions and spiritual training?
What process did you come through to come to this decision?
My choice to study religion was quite natural. I have many Buddhist monks and Catholic priests among my friends, so since my friends were in this world, I naturally went in this direction. I don't feel that I became different because of my life as a pastor. My schedule changed a bit, I became busier. In this sense my life changed, but my morning training is still same as before. Well, another difference in my life is that now I have to speak to Unification family members much more.
Kyunghyang: Who do you have to speak to -- members?
I mean church members. In our church we call fellow church members family members.
Kyunghyang: Since now you are not just training alone, you don't have many quiet hours now, do you?
Yes, as a pastor I don't. In our church we have such thing as a 21-year course. Father told us that when we set our direction in life and make plan for the future, we should design a 21-year course. I heard these words a lot when I was a child. So, when my brother Young Jin passed away, I set up my 21-year course consisting of three 7-year courses.
Using our Divine Principle terms this corresponds to stages of formation, growth and completion. Speaking simply, in our doctrine there is a concept of a 21-year course. You can view it as a way to perfection consisting of formation, growth and completion stages -- 7 years for each stage. You can find it in our teaching. During the first 7 years I shaved my head bald, but not that 7-year period finished, so I started to let my hair grow again.
Kyunghyang: Do you sometimes get attacked as a member of heretical group? What is social perception of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification?
Well, I don't know exactly. If you look in the Internet, it is about half and half.
Kyunghyang: Do you mean positive and negative responses?
Yes, it looks like it's half and half. Some people consider Rev. Moon a patriot, while some think he is a heretic or Satan. It seems to me that opinions are quite mixed.
Kyunghyang: What do you think about it?
What do I think? Well, there are always many opinions, you know. Whenever there is a public figure, there is usually no single opinion about him or her. Everybody thinks differently, so people can have different views on any person.
Kyunghyang: Does that mean that you don't regard it seriously?
Simply there are different points of view. Each person has different view. Of course, we see that there is much negativity. It's quite possible. At the beginning of all religions there was a significant amount of negativity towards religious founders. It was true in case of Jesus and his disciples; Buddha was driven out of his village, Mohammed faced opposition and had to flee Mecca, didn't he? Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church was imprisoned. Bahaullah, the founder of Baha'i Faith which occurred in Iran was also jailed. So, founders of new religions or new teachings were always persecuted. So, judging by the history I see it as something usual.
Kyunghyang: In university you majored in religious studies. Will you please, as a religious scholar, evaluate Rev. Moon?
In the university we used the book on world religions. There was a textbook called Living Religions. And in the chapter on new religions significant attention was given to the Unification Church. Objectively speaking, there are not so many cases of religions which reached such a level of growth during their founder's lifetime.
Many religions built their foundation after the death of their founder, but there are very few which could do it within founder's lifetime. Christianity also was growing during 300 or 400 years following Jesus' crucifixion. So, even that textbook established the fact that my father built big foundation during his lifetime. Even the fact that he worked together with President Bush objectively testifies that he is quite successful as a religious leader.
Kyunghyang: Did you think about it when you decided to follow this religious teaching?
Well, it happened naturally.
Kyunghyang: And then later you realized that it was correct, right?
Yes, I didn't take this path because I had some plan. I naturally started to study religion. First I studied oriental religions and through this I began to appreciate Christianity. Then when I combined the two, I found some parts that were already there in the teachings of the Unification Church. Then I looked at my own tradition with new eyes. I firmly believe that we must study other religions and work together with them. Then we can understand our own tradition.
Kyunghyang: Can teachings or doctrines of the Family Federation change or are there unchangeable truths?
There are volumes of my father's speeches. As it happens with religions, the longer they exist the more differing interpretations of their teachings occur. Actually this is the reason behind the creation of various denominations. So, I think varying interpretations of the Unification Church's teaching may appear in the future.
This is my opinion as a student of religion. However some core teachings of my father -- even though they may change still depending on how we manage our life.
Kyunghyang: Do you mean to say that core teachings cannot change, but some "peripheral" teachings can?
Our core teachings may be interpreted differently, but their core is very solid - like teachings on God or family. Teachings on family, peace, Blessing …
Kyunghyang: I tell you the reason why I asked this question. Rev. Moon didn't study Buddhism or other religions before he founded the Unification Church. But since you studied them, maybe you will want to correct some parts of teachings of your church in the future?
Well, until now we didn't have a tradition of meditation, but I do use meditation and my father knows about it. He knows that I teach meditation. In this sense our church is changing. Even though we didn't use meditation so much, now many members want to try it.
Kyunghyang: Oh, you are talking about church members. I got a bit confused.
Hyung Jin means that main principles of Rev. Moon's teaching cannot be changed. The core will not change ... but style or culture of worship can change.
They are already changing. That's how you can understand his words.
Kyunghyang: This church in Chungpa-dong used to be Rev. Moon's headquarters, right? So, there's even some talk going on about you being your Father's successor. What do you think about it?
You should ask this question to my father. No one else knows the answer to this. I just want to do my best and that's it.
Kyunghyang: Do you use quotations from Holy Scriptures of other religions during your sermons? For examples Buddhism has texts conveying sayings of its patriarchs. Do you use these sayings in your sermons?
Yes, I do. For example, once I shared the story of Angulimala from Theravada Buddhism.
The name of this person -- Angulimala -- means garland of fingers. This is famous story in Buddhism. When one child was born it was prophesied that he were to become a saint if he took a path of goodness, but if he took bad path, he were to become a murderer.
Unfortunately he became a murderer. Whenever he killed a person he would cut his or her finger and add it to his garland. When he saw Buddha he also wanted to kill him, but Buddha told him to stop. His words were so powerful, that Angulimala stopped and from that point on he started a new life.
So, I told this story during my sermon to show how powerful our words can be. If we keep scolding our children, these negative seeds are sown in their souls. Later these seeds can become a great burden for them. Our words have such power. That's how I used the story of Angulimala.
Kyunghyang: I heard you're using VIP as a catch phrase. Are you still doing this?
Kyunghyang: Did it become some kind of personal philosophy?
In English VIP stands for Very Important Person, but we interpret it as Victory, Illumination and Peace.
Since I'm the last child in our family from my childhood I wasn't scolded so much by my father. The only things father gave me was love. Since I grew up feeding on that love, it became my goal to convey the love I received from my father to all church members.
Father says that God does not judge us. Each person becomes his or her own judge, so I just want to convey to people the love of my parents and do everything in positive way.
Kyunghyang: Rev. Moon is an old person and in the future the Unification Church will have to be led, transformed and developed by younger people. What do you think about the future of your church?
There's one point I'm impressed about. Compared to other religions our church is still in its baby stage.
If you compare the Unification Church with religions which have 2.500-year history, we are still very young. So, we need to respect other religions with longer history. I think it's very important. At the same time I feel that members of our church are getting more mature. Many of them are raising their families, training their mind and body and it seems that this culture is gradually spreading in our church now.
I feel the hope that we are going to become more mature as we go on. Also, I always tell our church members to look objectively at what we could achieve within the lifetime of our founder, then we can truly say we are successful. Therefore I feel even more hopeful. I'm telling this to church members and I sincerely feel so - we have hope!
I also feel that it's important to not just maintain our church, but also to build good relations with other religions. I personally made good friends with Buddhist monks and Catholic priests. We are friends for a lifetime. I can't separate myself from them, so isn't it better to live together in harmony?