The Buddha’s Teachings Offer an Old Path Toward the Future.
Jungto Society’s largest unit of planning is called the 10,000-Day Practice. Spanning roughly 30 years, each 10,000-Day Practice is further divided into units of 1,000 days, called the 1,000-Day Practice. On March 19th, 2023, Jungto Society celebrated the inauguration of the first 1,000-Day Practice of the second 10,000-Day Practice in Seoul, Korea. During the opening ceremony, Venerable Pomnyun Sunim reminded Jungto practitioners that we are on this path not for worldly benefits, but to cultivate a path towards happiness for all. His words embody the vow all Jungto practitioners take.
Here is his Dharma talk translated into English:
“Today is a truly joyful and hopeful day. Jungto Society began the first 10,000-Day Practice in a plastic-covered greenhouse 30 years ago. And now, we are about to begin the second 10,000-Day Practice together with so many Jungto practitioners. What seemed like a distant dream 30 years ago has come true. We could say it’s a miracle we came this far. Like the old saying, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ we Jungto practitioners began the first 10,000-Day Practice with nothing but our aspiration.
Compared to our ancestors who worked to save the country in times of crisis, regain independence when it was lost, and rescue the people who were in pain and suffering, we may have begun in much more favorable conditions.
2,600 years ago, the Buddha left even his dearest friends behind and walked the path toward enlightenment alone in a forest, without haste. He ultimately discovered a way for all people in the world to become happy.
We don’t seek to go back 2,600 years into the past. We look back on the past because the way the Buddha raised questions and searched for answers 2,600 years ago may offer a new path for those of us living in the present. Thus, we say:
‘The Buddha’s teachings are an old path toward the future. Although it was discovered long ago, we find ourselves lost and wandering in the present because we have strayed from the path. Although the path was discovered 2,600 years ago, we need to follow the path to solve the problems we face today. It will enable us to free ourselves from this suffering.’
It is with this mindset that we gladly accept the Buddha as our guide and choose to follow the path he showed us. This is not having blind faith in the Buddha or believing that following his teachings would lead to worldly blessings. We willingly choose to walk this path because it leads to freedom and happiness for all beings in this world.
Although predicting the future is difficult, there is little doubt that human societies will continue to experience suffering. Thirty years ago, it was difficult to predict the emergence of personal computers or smartphones, but people’s suffering remained largely unchanged through the years. Similarly, although it may be difficult to precisely predict the state of human life and society 30 years from now, with only a little inspection, we can see that human suffering is at risk of increasing.
Although the number of people who starve to death due to food shortage may decrease, there will still be people who do. Conflicts will persist in various regions. And the environment will continue to deteriorate, and climate change will accelerate. In times like this, what are we running toward in our lives?
While nations and individuals are competing against one another, we are all facing the imminent danger of the climate crisis. We are addicted and brainwashed by the absurd belief that producing and consuming more leads to happier lives. We need to stop and reflect deeply on whether such a lifestyle truly leads to happiness.
The consumerist mentality that equates a good life with producing and consuming more is driving humanity toward the collapse of its civilization. This mindset leads to feelings of superiority and triumph; it leads to despair, anguish, and inferiority among the many who fall behind; and it leads to various forms of discrimination that render competition fundamentally unequal. While it is important to eliminate such discrimination, we must also fundamentally alter the course that is leading us toward the precipice. What is the point of combating discrimination if we do not change the direction in which we are headed? This is akin to someone protesting that they started late in a race towards a cliff. How can that be a fundamental solution?
The ultimate destination of our current path is our destruction. We need to recognize that we have lost the ability to see the world as it is due to the feelings of superiority, inferiority, victory, and defeat from this path. On this path, there are those who struggle to survive while others abuse their wealth and power. These problems persist because those who abuse their wealth and power are envied rather than criticized. Like slaves looking up to a king in the past, people see the misguided actions of those with wealth and power celebrated in the media every day and feel frustrated because they can’t do the same.
During the feudal period, people born as serfs or lower class felt inferior from birth. Today, society has created another class system where people are ranked and made to feel inherently inferior if they fail to meet certain standards. Why is it that we cannot free ourselves from the slave mentality of feeling inferior for not having more material possessions? Would we be able to solve the problem by focusing solely on advancing our material-based civilization, democratizing societies, or working to achieve gender equality instead of searching for a fundamental solution to the human problem? Is giving everyone an equal opportunity to smoke a cigarette a way to achieve equality for everyone?
Jungto Society began the 10,000-Day Practice to address this problem at a fundamental level. Only when we break free from the consumerism that dominates the current civilization can we preserve the environment, uphold human dignity, eradicate absolute poverty, mitigate relative poverty, and prevent wars. This is the path towards saving ourselves and others alike.
Why do we choose to walk the path where one lives and one dies, instead of the path where we all can live together? In the end, this path will lead to our downfall. Before climate change became an imminent threat, it was difficult to see that the endless pursuit of desires leads to destruction. It is like mistaking the temporary high from drugs as eternal happiness.
Our practice is not separate from the issues of world peace or overcoming the climate crisis. To solve these problems, we must have a profound understanding of the world. We must recognize that the world is not a collection of individual entities. Instead, all beings are interconnected. We must all know this truth. Once we realize the interconnected and interdependent nature of all things, we will understand that winning in competition is ultimately similar to shooting ourselves in the foot. Rather than striving to win in competitions, we must strive to achieve balance and harmony. Our lives are interdependent on one another. When we strive to share what we have rather than monopolize resources, we can be more mentally relaxed, socially peaceful, and better able to preserve the environment.
In truth, even if we just let the people be, they will eventually come to a harsh realization. However, in the process, many will suffer and die tragically due to their ignorance. Both the poor and the rich and powerful are to be pitied because they can’t break free from these values. By the time people realize where the path leads, it will be too late to turn back. If one tries to stop on the edge of the cliff, they will only be pushed off by those who follow.
We must foresee this crisis and break away from the massive current. No matter how many people walk in that direction, we must refrain from taking the same path if it is not the right path. We must stop them with a lion’s roar and help them break free by asking them where they are headed. Practice is breaking free ourselves. Spreading the Dharma is breaking others free. Social engagement is getting the entire crowd to stop running toward the cliff.
We must possess a humble attitude that sees all people as equal. We need to stop feeling empowered from wealth or status, discriminating against others based on their gender or skin color, and acting servile or arrogant due to status. Even if we have wealth, we need to live modestly and share what we have with those in need. Of course, it would be ideal to have a systematic approach to distributing wealth where it’s needed, but the reality is, power always leans toward representing those with wealth and status. Therefore, bringing about such social change is very likely to be a long process. The fundamental solution lies in voluntarily embracing a humble way of life and giving back to society regardless of wealth, status, or honor. This is the mindset we need for our own happiness, for social peace, and for overcoming the climate crisis.
The goal of the second 10,000-Day Practice is to find solutions to the current problems of our civilization or prevent it from deteriorating. In other words, if we cannot find solutions, we must try to stop the situation from getting worse. If we can’t stop the deterioration, we must at least slow it down. We have gathered here today to work on these issues. Reviving Buddhism without addressing these problems has little significance. What good would it do to revitalize Buddhism when we offer no solutions to these problems? Saving people and helping them break free from the cycle of suffering is Buddhism. The Buddha’s teachings are about liberating all beings from suffering, not about increasing our influence or building large temples.
It is from this perspective that we set the direction for the next 30 years. We must contemplate what it means to live as Korean citizens and as members of the global community over the next three decades. Today’s opening ceremony is where we take the vow to contribute to solving humanity’s problems, however small our impact may be. We must not be content with just knowing this path but truly become people of action. We must diligently practice to save ourselves, spread the Dharma to let others join us on our path, and live humbly and modestly, yet confidently.
The movement to overcome consumerism must begin with young people. They should refrain from using disposable items, consume fewer goods, and create a culture where flaunting wealth with expensive clothes and cars is viewed as more shameful than enviable.
You are among the rare few in Korea, truly one in ten-thousand. Although we begin as one in ten-thousand today, if we can spread this vow to 1% of the population in 30 years, and later to 5%, we can truly change the world. If Korea moves towards a new civilization, the world will take notice. This can lead to the next step in human civilization.
So far, Korea has made its presence known on the world stage through its manufacturing industry and then through pop culture and entertainment such as music, dance, and TV shows. The path we must take from now on is one of social engagement that opens a new future for humanity. Although we are a minority today, we must become the guiding light of this world and present a new path that can save humanity. When people look back in a hundred years, they should be able to assess that we lived with a vision of a future where all beings are happy.
It is not entirely up to us to determine how much change we can actually bring about. Being attached to results often leads to greed. All we need to do is do our best. There is nothing else we can do. However, what we can determine now is the direction we want to take. We must set the right direction and work diligently towards our vision. That way, our future generations may look at us and earnestly say that we worked toward a sustainable future 50 to 100 years ago.
I ask everyone to actively participate on this path. Even if you cannot afford to spend much time or energy, I ask that you just stick with us so that we can see a bright future together. Let’s march into the next 10,000 days with energy and resolve.”
Interested in learning about Buddhism or joining the Jungto community? We offer online courses designed to teach the original teachings of the Buddha twice a year. For more information, please visit our website.
Venerable Pomnyun Sunim also hosts a Live Dharma Talk each month where you can ask any questions to Sunim. Please visit our website to find out more.
▶️ Read the original Dharma in Korean: https://www.jungto.org/pomnyun/view/84183
▶️ Watch Sunim’s Dharma Talks on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@VenPomnyunSunim
▶️ Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jungto.society/