First uploaded in Korean on 2015.08.01
Dharma Talk: Ven.Pomnyun Sunim
Record in Korean: Lee, Jungil
Translation in English: Rei Yoon
1. On the second day of the closing-practice of the summer retreat, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim gave a Dharma talk. He especially commended the staff of the Jungto Society for having diligently and faithfully practiced for the last 22 days. They were volunteers for the Jungto Society where the members served between 3 to 30 years.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim listened to the wrap-up speech of every members. He praised the participants for their great effort during the retreat and gave a Dharma talk as below:
“I am very touched and impressed by what all of you have said about your experience of the retreat. It reminds me of how the Buddha always said ‘Well done. Well done. Truly you are good’ when praising his disciples. I was delighted to hear such worthy words. I felt that all of you now have a clear understanding of what it means to take refuge in the sangha, or the community.
You would fully understood the sayings ‘I take refuge in the Buddha’ or ‘I take refuge in the teachings of the Buddha’ but not really grasped the meaning of ‘I take refuge in the sangha.’ But today every single one of you said that you thank the companions around you and that you were greatly encouraged by the diligent manner in which your companions were practicing. This means that you have realized yourself – not by mere knowledge but through experience – the teaching of the Buddha when he said that ‘companions are everything in your practice.’ Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, ‘Since companions are so important, is admirable friendship at least half of the holy life?’ The Buddha replied, ‘Don’t say that… Admirable friendship is actually the whole of the holy life.’ Now, you have understood this through your own experience.
Many of you said that ‘not just companions as individuals, but this community as a group of us’ is absolutely precious. This is the meaning of taking refuge in the Sangha. All of you voluntarily made up your mind that you shall ‘take refuge in this pure Sangha of practitioners devoted to moksha and nirvana.’ Nobody told you to do so, your words tell me that you have already made up such mind. I can tell that you have fully taken refuge in the three jewels of Buddhism. If to date, you had only taken refuge in the Buddha and the teaching, then today, you have fully taken refuge in the Sangha. Now you are true Buddhists.
All Buddhist lay followers who seek to practice toward moksha and nirvana must take refuge in the three jewels of the Buddha, the teaching and the sangha; and practice the three studies of precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. That you are reflecting upon yourselves to repent means that you treasure the precepts. That you are maintaining mindfulness means that you have learnt to value Samadhi. That you are starting to understand how the mind works means that you are slowing gaining wisdom. You have become true practitioners who are devoted to the tree studies. Do not pray to some outside beings or rely on somebody but instead make sure that you are determined to become the ‘master of your own destiny.’ That is why you have become true practitioner.
Until now, you have been under my lead in your practice, but now, you people have formed a community. Over 10 years ago, many people said that the community in Mungyeong meditation center would fail unless I myself come down here and play the central role. But I was not in a situation to come down here. So I told the dharma instructors to go to Mungyeong without me and form a community by themselves regardless they succeed or not. So the dharma instructors quit all administrative work and went to Mungyeong. Now it has been 12 years. Before, these people did not work in the same office so it was difficult for them to become one. So the first 3 years were very difficult. However, with the passage of over 10 years, a community has formed. Before, there was a gap between the dharma instructors and the staff but now that gap has almost disappeared. All of us are just members of the community.
Our first goal is to ‘become a person without suffering, a free person that can contribute to the neighbors and the world.’ This goal is quite clear. The second goal of ‘form a practicing community that is pure and unified’ can also be said to have started. Before, there were some people among the retreat group that could not yet join the practicing group. But now, it seems that almost all of them have become practitioners. Some, due to remaining karma, might still feel unsure, but the big goal, I believe, has been quite well-established.
Building a large temple is not something to celebrate. Increased members in Jungto (Pure Land) Society are also nothing to celebrate. The formation of a sangha, a living and practicing community, today is truly something to celebrate, something important in the history of our society.
Even after I am gone, you will be able to maintain the purity by always discussing together. Are you as individuals strong enough to continue the practice separately? This, I believe, we are still short of. So please practice together and then do it alone. Do not practice involuntarily or dependent on others; do it by your own will. Only when it becomes crystal clear in your mind that ‘this path, only this path is the way to happiness and freedom’ will each and every one of you become an individual sangha.
Individually, you are not worthy of respect as a sangha, however, as a group, you are able to fulfill the role of a sangha. In the future, each and every one of you must be strong enough to be a separate sangha. The Buddha also said ‘go alone’ when you depart to spread the teachings. The reason is because the Buddha was certain that even alone, his disciple was strong enough not to be contaminated by the worldly defilements.
So be prepared. Even if you were to be sent somewhere in the world tomorrow, you should be able to sow the seed of teaching and take root. Do not rely on the currently established system of Jungto Society. Be prepared to go anywhere in the world where there is nothing. You must be able to keep your life at peace. You might have to rely on the locals for living but still spiritually you have to radiate compassion and help them. The locals will be interested in the teaching and some will take refuge in it. If you have to work in a shop for living, your boss shall become a practitioner. Customers that come to your shop shall become practitioners. This is how copies of the Jungto Society shall be made all over the world. If you are in India, make an Indian model. If in North Korea, make one that suits the North Korean environment. If in China, build one for China. This is how much capable you should be. Continue to practice to strengthen yourself. Be ever clear about what the Buddha had intended to do in this world.
You are at the starting line now. You have set foot on the path of the saints. You have the right direction. You will fall many times. But always remember that you have set one foot in here. Have pride and do not give up. Your karma may lead you astray but always come back and continue practice. Once again, I thank and congratulate you for your diligent practice. Such practice will be of great joy and fortune for all the members of the Jungto Society and all the living beings.”