“It’s challenging for me because my husband doesn’t shower regularly.”
2023.9.5 Overseas Dharma Lecture Tour (5) Paris
Today Ven.Pomnyun Sunim is lecturing in Paris, France, as part of his international lecture tour.
The guesthouse FIAP Jean Monnet would offer both accommodation and a lecture hall.
At 7:00 p.m, the Dharma Q&A started, and the audience welcomed Sunim with a big round of applause.
Although the lecture hall was designed to accommodate 100 people, about 140 people showed up. Most attendants were young, and the audience became noticeably younger since the pandemic.
Sunim started the session by discussing the climate crisis, sustainable development, and the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle through his experiences visiting Bhutan. Fifteen people preregistered their questions, and ten could converse within 2 hours and 30 minutes.
As the lecture was close to the end, a woman cheerfully raised her hand and asked Sunim the last question.
It’s difficult to handle my husband’s infrequent showering.
“A couple of years ago, my husband and I got married. Unfortunately, he lost his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since he is home every day, I have started to notice some of his bad habits that I was not aware of before we got married. The most difficult habit to deal with is his poor personal hygiene. Even in the hot summer weather, he showers only once a week and during the winter, he showers only once in ten days. It is quite challenging to share the same space with him. Although I love him, I would like to change this habit of his, but he does not seem to care to change. Most of the time, I try to be understanding, but sometimes it really upsets me. I even tried to threaten him by saying that I would not cook for him if he does not shower regularly, but it did not work. Do you have any advice for me?”
“I don’t see any issue here. Wouldn’t you agree that your husband is doing something positive? In this time of looming climate crisis, he’s taking a bold step to cut down on energy consumption. Taking a shower every day consumes a lot of water, soap, and energy, which can be costly in the long run.”
“You sound like my husband.” (Audience Laughter)
“I recently had a conversation with Korean parents who had emigrated to Germany. They expressed concern for their son, who is currently in middle school. According to them, their son only wears old clothes and shoes as he doesn’t want to contribute to the climate crisis. He has also started showering less frequently. A similar concern was shared by another mother in Düsseldorf, whose child was also in middle school. Her child had started eating simple meals and wearing minimalistic clothes to contribute to the fight against climate change. While the child’s actions were commendable, the mother was not entirely supportive.
In my opinion, we need more people like these children, who are willing to make sacrifices to save the environment. The Buddha renounced his throne and left the palace even though his father and wife didn’t understand his choice. And his story continues to inspire people even today.
Regarding your husband’s habit of showering less frequently, it’s important to note that he hasn’t done anything wrong. He hasn’t cheated or indulged in excessive drinking. Instead, his habit of showering less is actually contributing to saving water, soap, and energy. So rather than threatening him by not cooking, you could try and be more proactive by cooking even more delicious dishes for him.”
“Well, it seems like my husband’s habit stems from laziness rather than thinking about the environment. “
“Even if your husband’s behavior is due to laziness, the outcome of caring for the environment is the same. So why is one behavior tolerated while the other isn’t? Ultimately, it seems that the issue lies not with your husband’s behavior, but with your personal preference. It appears that you do not want to live with someone who does not take regular showers.”
“Wouldn’t this habit harm his health?”
“Even if it does, it is the consequence of his own choice. His choices shouldn’t be the concern of yours.”
“He doesn’t brush his teeth before bed! His dental health will suffer.”
“When I was young, I couldn’t afford toothbrushes, and we only bathed once a year, on the day before Lunar New Year. As a result, my skin cracked and bled, and I had scabs all over my body.
However, I learned that our skin can naturally clean itself. If you don’t bathe for about a month, your skin will start to peel, like tree bark. I remember in the winter, when I took off my clothes, white flakes of dead skin would fall to the ground like snow. When I swept the room, I would see more dead skin cells than dust.
Likewise, animals stay clean without bathing. As part of a cycle, their bodies produce oil, which causes dirt to fall off naturally. In certain regions like Nepal or Tibet, it is common for people to apply oil to their skin instead of bathing regularly. This oil forms a protective layer on the skin, which allows it to withstand exposure to the sun during the summer months.
Infrequent showering isn’t necessarily a problem. The issue isn’t that your husband isn’t showering enough. But I do understand that it’s not your preference that he’s not taking showers frequently.”
“It’s difficult to live with.”
“It seems like you are trying to make your partner conform to your preferences, which can be a difficult task. Instead, you can try to adapt to your partner’s habits. I understand that living with someone who doesn’t take regular showers can be a challenge, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a problem as it doesn’t harm anyone. On the other hand, showering too frequently, such as three times a day, can be a problematic behavior that raises environmental concerns. If your partner’s hygiene habits are causing an issue during bedtime, it’s important to discuss that with him. However, it’s important to remember that having different habits is not necessarily a problem. Your husband is not the problem, it’s just a matter of differing habits, and it’s important to respect each other’s habits and let others be the way they are. If you really can’t stand your husband, it may be worth considering separating from him.”
“I don’t want to be separated from him.”
“It appears that you only want your partner to alter his lifestyle to suit your preferences. Even though you dislike his showering habit, you still want to remain together. Therefore, the only choice left is to modify his behavior. Doesn’t this come across as authoritarian and dictatorial?”
“Then Should I control my feelings?”
“I don’t think it’s necessary to suggest controlling your feelings about your husband’s infrequent showering habit. In my opinion, many skin conditions can be caused by harmful influences on the skin, such as showering too frequently or poor dietary habits, among other factors. Historically, people didn’t use chemical soap as much and their skin was fine, which suggests that our skin is designed to handle some dirt naturally. Therefore, your husband’s infrequent showering is not a significant issue.
Furthermore, from an environmental perspective, your husband’s showering habits are beneficial. Instead of being critical, why not approach him with appreciation for his efforts to reduce water usage?”
“I will consider him to be a good-hearted person and value his choice.” (Audience Applause)
The audience burst into laughter while listening to Sunim’s answer, and the questioner was also visibly delighted.
“The great Buddha wore discarded rags, ate alms, and slept in the forest or under trees. Did he take baths? The Buddha we admire bathed far less than your husband, maybe a hundred times less. But you take the Buddha great, why?”
“That’s true. I will remember that.”
Seeing the questioner’s heart lightened, Sunim also smiled brightly.
As the lecture concluded, Sunim gave his closing remarks.
“It’s common to perceive some issues as problems when in reality they might not be. Every experience we have is a reminder that we are alive. This is what life is all about: we make connections, we part ways, we find work and experience happiness, we lose jobs and feel sad, we have gains and losses.”
“In the grand scheme of things, what we perceive as problems are not actually problems. In a game, there are moments when we are ahead and moments when we fall behind, and that’s what makes it a game. If one player always dominates, others will lose interest and quit. To keep the game interesting, there must be times when I fall behind and others get ahead. Such challenges keep the game going.
When living in France or Korea, there are unique benefits that can only be enjoyed there. If we accept this as part of life, we can live freely anywhere. We can simply say, “Wow, that was my experience today,” and move on.
Through these talks, I gather an incredible amount of data by listening to your concerns. I doubt anyone else in the world has as much data on life’s problems as I do. In the future, data will be the most valuable asset, which is why I host these talks for free. In fact, I should thank you for providing me with so much valuable data. (Laughter)
With this perspective, I hope you live a happy and meaningful life in France.
The lecture concluded with a round of applause.
The Dharma Q&A will be held in London tomorrow.