First uploaded in Korean on 2015.08.01
Dharma Talk: Ven.Pomnyun Sunim
Record in Korean: Lee, Jungil
Translation in English: Rei Yoon
2. Sunim gave another teaching by telling the story of how he explained the concept of “Middle Way” to a member who had asked him during the break-time. “So this person had to hand over the work to his successor. The predecessor thought that she should get out of the way quickly if the successor was to pick up the new job. So she met the President and told her that it would be best if she were to stop working as soon as possible. But the President did not agree. She said that the replacement was not ready to stand alone yet and asked the predecessor to help the successor. So this person stayed longer and helped the newcomer with the work. But later, she found that she earned a reputation of ‘sticking his nose in other person’s work.’ She felt this was unfair. After all, she helped the newcomer because the President had asked her to do so. This is what I told her.
I see that you are feeling unfairly judged because all you did was to follow the President’s advice, but in return, you were regarded as someone intervening in other’s affairs. It is logical that you think ‘why does the President change her words, why does she have a double standard?’ But think of it in the President’s position. At first, the President was worried when she heard that you were quitting. She thought ‘the newcomer is not ready yet… you should help him more.’ But later, when she examined the situation, the newcomer said that she was not comfortable with the way you acted. That is why the President said ‘you seem to have intervened too much.’ This may seem contradictory, but for the President, she only said things that were true in each situation. At first she thought it was necessary for you to help. But later, she heard that you were making the newcomer uncomfortable. He said this when she thought this, then she said that when she thought that.
I am the same. When I saw this house first time, I said ‘it’s not built well’ then I lived for a while then said ‘it’s a well-built house.’ (Laughter)
Why do we change? At that time I saw that, this time I saw this. That is why. People are like this. How should I act if I were to avoid being regarded negligent or intervening? This is the middle way. But this is not accomplished by my doing something. If I helped but if the other person feels it was an interference, then it is interfering. If I left for the good of the person, but the person felt that I was being negligent, then it is a negligence. It is impossible for me to receive what I desire.
Then does the problem lie in the other person? No. The fundamental problem is that I have a desire within me to have things as I want. Help him if the President tells you to help. Step back if the person says you are over-doing it. Step up again if people blame you for being negligent. Step back if you are seen as intervening again. Adjust like so then you will gradually avoid being regarded either negligent or intervening. That is how you approach the middle way. There is not a fixed rule for seizing the middle way. Even if it were something that only I were involved, it is difficult to accomplish the middle way. If it is something other people are involved, it is much harder. Even if I pursue the middle way, if the other person says ‘you are indulging in pain’ then that is how you are regarded. If the other person says ‘you are indulging in pleasure’ then that is how you are seen. Don’t try to be perfect. That thought itself is another desire.
If your companion says you are too slow, then you should walk faster. If he complains you are too fast, then slow down. If again he wants you to go faster, you should speed up. You should accept this kind of things as normal. At first, the President asked you to help, so you helped. If the other person said you are meddling, then you should step back. If the newcomer says ‘why don’t you help me?’ then you should help again. If again people say ‘you quit long time ago, mind your own business’ then it’s time to step back. All this should be comfortable. It is not an objective fact of whether you are intervening or neglecting; it is impossible to satisfy all the different and changing desires of other people. Do not make discriminations; do not make complaints. Just say ‘oh, is that how you feel?’ and adjust. Adjust little by little and then after some time, less people will be saying bad things about you. Gradually the reputation of you being either negligent or intervening will die down. That is how you reach the middle way.
People sometimes praise you; sometimes do not. People sometimes say you are intervening; sometimes do not. What you should do is to respect them and just say ‘is that how you feel?’ and keep adjusting and find the middle way. This is difficult for you because all of you have too strong a view. You want things your way. Middle way is what suits the situation. But if you insist your view and say that that is the middle way, for others, that is just another extreme.
Do not be oversensitive about what other people, other companions, dharma instructors, friends, juniors or seniors say. Just say ‘is that how you feel?’ and accept it comfortably. Do not ignore completely but also do not accept it too seriously. It is same as the teaching ‘During meditation, do not stretch out your legs but also do not withstand the pain.’ Accept what others point out to you and make adjustments. After some trial and errors, your rigidity will soften. Same in meditation. You first thought your mind was at ease, but after you go deeper you realize, ‘I see that I was quite rigid before.’ You see, this is how subtle it is to define middle way.
There are forty people here. Middle way in here is to adjust between all forty views. If you listen too much, you will fall into an extreme. If you listen too little, you will also fall into an extreme. The middle way among you will change, continue to change whenever there is a change in a thought in one of you. Forty opinions will never gather into one uniform consent. Thoughts of the forty people will change at morning and night. It will be different in different places, times. One person’s thoughts will also keep changing. You see, as the factors change, so do the people’s thoughts. This is dependent arising. Originally there was nothing but things will come to be according to time and space. When time changes, it will change. When space changes, it will change. You have to understand this in principle, then through practice. That is how you approach middle way.
Being appropriate, being neither excessive nor deficient, being neither this nor that, how difficult is that? It is extremely difficult to explain in words. You have to experience it; the more you experience, the more flexible you become.