Feburary 15, 2016 – Q & A Dharma Talk Session in Incheon

First uploaded in Korean on 2015.2.15 (Morning)
Delivered by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim
Record in Korean: Lee JunGil
English Translation: Rei Yoon


The 1st Q: “Had I not met you, I would have lived without any thought or meaning until my end. I thank you for awakening me. I was always curious about the third phrase of Bo Wang Sam Mae Ron (The Samadhi Treaties of the Treasure King) which states “Do not expect that your practice will be free of obstacles. If there are no obstacles, your learning will be in excess.” I do not understand what this “learning being excess” means. I would think that the more you learn the better. Why would you assimilate this desire to learn – which is positive – with other negative desires such as greed?”

What the scripture is actually saying is that you should watch out so that you don’t fall into this disease of “I know everything.” If you are diseased with this illness, you hear nothing and see nothing. I’ve heard from advisors to the President. They say the same no matter whomever it may be. If one becomes the President for just one year, the person will not listen to anyone. At first, a novice president would say, “I do not know of diplomacy, North Korea, the economy; I need to listen and learn.” But just after one year, the President will act as if she/he were the greatest authority in those fields.


Why so? Once you become the President, you get daily reports from the intelligence agency. This information is truly rare and premium. So that after a year, the President believes that she/he knows the best in the world. That is why senior advisors say, “You have to finish educating the president before he/she becomes president. Because after coming into office, the president will not listen anymore. Presidential candidates promise to respect their advisors, but they do not keep their promises once they are elected. This is not because they are bad people; they have become diseased with the illness called “I know everything.”

You tell the same thing two times to a person; the person would say “I know.” Tell one more time and the voice is raised “I know!” Repeat again and she/he will shout “I said I know! What is your problem!?” Is the person saying that she or he knows, or saying the other person to shut up?

“To shut up.”

If you are caught in the idea that you know, you just hate to listen. That is what is meant by “learning is in excess.” That you have obstacles in your mind means that you can be wrong and be in need of more learning. You can see that obstacles actually help you in your spiritual growth.

It is easier for people of high position to be diseased with this illness. That is why people of legendary success stories particularly fall easy prey to this. Those who have succeeded with their bare hands tend to not listen to others. These people whose learning, knowledge, confidence are in excess will precisely fall because of that. If you lack in something, you will be always cautious. If you are successful, you won’t listen.


It is same in casino. You make money once or twice in the beginning; and that success is the shortcut to failure. This is what is meant by “learning being excess.” If you have no obstacles, no deficiency, no imperfection, you are easily diseased with “I know everything” and that will seriously obstruct your practice.”

“I understand. Thank you.” (Applause)

The 2 nd Q : “I had once been really devoted to Jungto Society activities. Now I no longer want to do that work. I just like meditation and doing 108 prostrations. The problem is that Jungto Society staff keep calling me to come back to volunteer; that makes me uncomfortable.”


If a staff member called you to come to volunteer again, that is what that staff person wants. You decide if you will work or not. Jungto doesn’t even pay you, why should you feel obliged? Do not be bothered by those people. Volunteering is what you do as long as you desire. At the same time, volunteering is something you do as a practice even if you don’t like it. Anyway, it is something for you to decide.

A point I want to make is that whatever it is that you do, if you regard it as a practice, it becomes a practice. That is why in Jungto culture, there is a saying that ‘you have to work as a secretary at least once.’ Secretary is a seriously difficult job. From above of you, all sorts of orders come down. From beneath, members will keep complaining. So you report to above that people are complaining and receive this very unpleasant response: ‘Can you not take control?’ So you are kicked around by both above and beneath, and finally you decide to resign. You see, this position of secretary cannot be undertaken without the strength of mind within you. Do not only look at the aspect of yourself being stressed from the duty; look at how all the stress and difficulty is making you stronger. Spend three years like that and you will have a power in mind like never before. That is why it is not only meditation that advances your practice. Those who work voluntarily in an official position become remarkably strong.

It is true that Jungto Society depends on your volunteering to be sustained. But it is also true that absence of one or two of you makes no big difference. At first it was only me anyway. Even if all of you resign, I will continue alone. (Laughter)


So I advise you to work and volunteer as if it were your practice. But still, do not do it if you do not want. Do not keep and grow a grudge in your mind. If there is hardship, accept it as an opportunity for you to grow. That is why when I hear your complaints I do not care. I know that after some time all those complaints will be gone. (Laughter)

I myself was very immature in the beginning; made many mistakes when young. It was not on a silky path that I arrived here. If I have one strength, that is persistence. I never gave up. It is not that I did not fail that I could continue. It is because I never gave up. Because people look at me in my present state, they tend to think that I was some kind of genius or superman from birth. That is not the case. (Laughter)


So how you were born, how you were in the past, are all irrelevant. What is important is to make tomorrow better than today; to improve under the given conditions. Whether you are divorced, have a broken leg, traumatized in childhood, all do not matter. If you have a problem, be happy with that problem. Do not let that problem destroy your happiness. Say you do not have an arm. Why should that deter you from being happy? Can you not live without an arm? No. you can still eat, write, do all sorts of things. What is past, what cannot be reversed, you should let go. That you are alive is the most important. You are alive. Do all sorts of things that you can. Do not grudge about what you cannot do.

Fifty years ago, in our mothers’ generation, they had their husbands killed in the Korean War, had to run away from home from the communists, raise a dozen of kids alone, make a living. They went to market to sell whatever they had, managed to eat although more often starved. But still they lived without despair. Are we, our generation, much better off than that? What keeps holding you back? Why are you unhappy? You see, the problem is how you see things.

I know that some of you look at how I live and genuinely feel pity for me. But you see, I am always happy because my role model is the Buddha. When I compare myself with him, then things are never unsatisfactory.

Wherever I sleep, it is better than beneath a tree; whatever I eat, it is better than begging for food; whatever I ride, it is better than walking. I can sleep in the airport, in a bus or whatever, but still that is better off than the Buddha’s bed. I understand people telling me ‘you shouldn’t sleep here, it’s bad for you.’ But I disagree. I have been all around Afghanistan, to all these dangerous places. Then, you see, sleeping in an airport cannot be so ungrateful. In an airport, you have benches, water and toilet.

So with what you compare with is important. Don’t keep comparing your situation with the best of situations. If so, even if your income goes from 30 thousand to 300 thousand dollars, you will still be unhappy. Bring down that level of expectation. There is no reason you cannot be happy. There is only one thing you need to do. Change your mindset. If not, happiness will forever be distant. Let us try that. Okay?”

“Yes! I will.” (Applause)

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