First uploaded in Korean on 2015.2.16 (Evening)
Delivered by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim
Record in Korean: Lee JunGil
English Translation: Rei Yoon
Questioner: I wish to consult about my 21-year-old son. Our family moved when he was in grade 10. During his grade 11, we learnt that he had no friend at all in his school life. We tried to get him to consult with experts but he just would not open up. He did not study at all. He simply said there was nothing he wanted to do; did not wish to go to university, but instead, he wished worked in his uncle’s company as a factory worker for 6 months.
But now, I think it was me and my husband’s fault. We pressed too hard on him, saying that since he is over 20 years old, he should become independent. He did become independent and lived separate from us for three months. We thought all were well. But he stopped working and used up all the money he had saved. When he went broke, he simply asked us for money. I have recently learnt of this fact and am heartbroken. I brought him back home, but now he is indulging in video games. He has no passion, no will. I do not know what I can do for him. Also, I do not know how I should understand him.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: That watching your son makes you heartbroken means you are not mentally strong enough. Eat with him if he eats; go out with him if he wants to follow you; leave him home if he wants to stay. He is not causing any harm.
Questioner: Yes. But still, I am distressed.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Stop seeing your son as the source of the problem. Be faithful to your own practice. That you shall be in composure means you have been liberated.
Questioner: Should I just let him be if he was traumatized for some reason? Would time solve the trauma?
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: If you are in agony because of your son, then you are not a practitioner. As a believer, perhaps you should pray to Buddha to change your son. (Laughter from the audience)
But is it not true that you actually want your son to suddenly change to study hard, to go to a famous university or to get a decent job? You say that is not the case. But would not your stress decrease if he does so?
Questioner: My point is that my son seems to be having a tough time. I just want him to overcome it.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: But you said YOU are in pain. That is YOUR problem. You are not realizing that. You are simply asking the Buddha to grant your wish, your wish of ‘bless my son.’
Questioner: I want to be peaceful. I think that will help my son become peaceful.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Aren’t you a parent? How can you be peaceful when your child is in such a circumstance? Would it be all right only for you to be peaceful even when your child is in a dire situation? How funny. Due to lack of practice, the wrong words come out.
Your words are confusing, you are not sure of your thoughts. You sound like bureaucrats. (Laughter from the audience)
Your son does not become better from your suffering. I am not saying you should not even care about your son. I am saying it is because you are attached to your desire – your desire for your son to be this or that, to become this or that. That is why you are in suffering. In other words, you are unhappy because your desire is not being delivered, not because your son is unhappy.
You said you want to see your son happy. There is nothing wrong about that. But why is it the case that because you do not see your son happy that you yourself become unhappy? That, again, is greed. You want the world to be like this or that.
Questioner: I tell myself that I should not give stress to my son, but I find myself keep urging otherwise. I keep saying things like “don’t just stay at home, let’s go out” or “you are already 20 years old, you should at least earn your own spending money.”
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: If you believe such questions as yours help your son, keep doing so; but if they are not helpful, then you should stop. In essence, you are worried about your desires – not about your son. You are too much caught up in your own agenda. But you are a mother. You should and can think and act purely for your son.
Questioner: I understand. One thing is that my husband’s family members are all devout Christians. When I talked about my son, they all tried to convince me to go to church. For the whole night, they kept urging me to believe in God.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: That’s right. I also told you to be a believer. Why did you choose to become a practitioner which you are unfit for? Go to church right away and ask God to fulfill your wishes. (Laughter from the audience)
Questioner: Actually I had been a churchgoer for 10 years. But I find it hard to accept their doctrine.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: That’s because you are being punished for switching religions. (Big laughter from the audience)
Questioner: Should I go back to the church?
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Go back if you wish. You thought I was going to stop you, right? (Laughter from the audience) But from talking with you, you seem to be a believer and not a practitioner. There is an important difference. Jungto Society is open to people of any faith, any religion. We neither discriminate nor intervene. We are a group of practitioners, not believers.
Questioner: I was actually thinking whether I should go back to church with my in-laws. (Laughter from the audience)
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Go and believe, if you desire. There is nothing difficult about that.
Questioner: My conscience would be uncomfortable about going back to church.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: That you are uncomfortable, again, tells me that you are not a practitioner. A practitioner is free to go where she/he wills. She/he can go to the church as desired. Go to church if you find it attractive. If your son gets better from it, then keep going to church. If not, you can always come back to Jungto Society. But I do believe you would have to keep your membership alive while going to church if you are thinking of returning. (Laughter from the audience)
Questioner: I will do that.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Yes. Go on and do that.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Can you be not stressed regardless your son stays home or not?
Questioner: I think I will need practice.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Do so right away. Be peaceful yourself first, then observe your child. Love and worry for him. ‘What is wrong?’ ‘Why does he behave such?’ Go see a doctor; or find a way to take him to the doctor. Don’t keep being stressed out by clinging to your thought that ‘I have to take him to the doctor.’
How does a baby learn to walk? At first, you need to hold hands, give support; and then you let go so that the baby can walk on its own. Treat your son just like this. Parents rarely get frustrated because the baby does not walk right away. Try this method and that method; if it works, it’s good; if it doesn’t, find another method. That you are in distress is YOUR problem, it has nothing to do with your son. Imagine if your son had his two legs amputated or became mentally ill, a problem such as you now have will no longer even be a problem. It is because you think, define, and endorse this to be a problem that it really becomes a problem.
Your son does not become violent and destroy furniture, does he? Your son does not beat you up when stressed, does he? Start thanking just for that. Be thankful that so many worse-case-scenarios have been avoided. Gradually your complaints and anger against your child will decrease. Children who decide to stay in the room generally decide to come out after 3 years. If the mother is a sincere practitioner who maintains calmness, the child heals faster. Don’t be overly ambitions. As a practitioner, the first thing you should do is to make yourself free of suffering.
Questioner: Thank you.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: What do you do if you are not at ease despite wanting to be? That is always the problem, isn’t it? (Laughter from the audience)
That’s why you should search for the reason for suffering. Observe how suffering arises. Then you understand. But even if you do understand, because your mind has acquired a pattern, a cycle, a habit, it is very hard to change. That is why we practice.
When faced with suffering, believers will go to all sorts of places, teachers, gurus, objects to pray. They pray that their suffering be alleviated or their wish be fulfilled. That is the typical behavior of believers. But we are practitioners. Is it not a great thing that there is a path open for you to be practitioners as a layperson?
In the past, if you wanted to be a practitioner, it was the norm to abandon your family and shave your head. Now you do not need to do that. Please value this precious opportunity that has been opened for you. Do practice diligently. Thank you.