Seeking after the light of Buddha(1)
My first relationship with my master was the time when he cured my sick body. When I said I wanted to make a reward, he told me not to do it to him, but to give it back to the world.
"Do I reward the world? How?"
I noticed that It meant I should help him what he did for the world.
There are lots of people in the world who say they do good things. By the way, We do not know how much they do good things until we confirm what they do.
My master said that he was a true man and taught conscience and courage through seeing what exists in the world. I wondered what thing is a good thing. I wanted to directly see what kinds of things could be good for people in the world. Eventually, I became involved in my master's journey, and I could learn a great love to give blessings to people from him.
The first destination of our trip was Bangkok, Thailand. We were originally planning to hold a public lecture in Bangkok. However, the communication with the public in Thailand in English was almost impossible. It was not easy to get an interpreter in a short time, either. After all, we chose to go to India to do more. We arrived in Kolkata late afternoon. Although we stopped by several hotels, they were not suitable for us. We decided to go to Buddha Gaya by night train. We booked train tickets from a travel agency. We went into crowded Kolkata station. After a while we were able to ride the night train to Gaya. The train was a bed-car, which did not ensure security, so we were on the night watch in groups of two by turns. We arrived at Gaya station in the early dawn. We stayed at the railway station until the day broke.
Dirtiness and annoying mosquitoes made the fatigue of travel worse. I wish I could sleep for a while. It dawned. We got out of the station with my backpack on my back to go to Bodh Gaya. I loaded my luggage on a Rickshaw (three-wheeled motorcycle) and barely got on the load. It took more time to get to Buddha Gaya than usual, because the tire was flat on the way. However, I could enjoy the freshness of the dawn.
Again, we had to look around for accommodation in a strange place. I said hello to strangers in order to find people who needed teachings. Bodh Gaya is a tourist attraction which is famous for Buddha's supreme enlightenment. The interesting thing was that all the temples were built by foreigners except Main Temple. The magnificent Chinese temple, the Japanese temple with a large Buddha statue, the Thai temple, the Bhutan temple. It was small, but there was also a Korean temple. I was worried about what effects the temples have had on the neighborhood.
Bodh Gaya was the place where my master had visited several times. So lots of people greeted him while we walking on the street. I had a lot of talks with Tifanka we hired locally. Although I participated in my master’s work as an interpreter on impulse, the responsibility that I had to bear was very burdensome. It was like I used up all my English, so I often did not know what to say. I understand both Korean and English, but as I stammered continuously, my master snarled like a thunderbolt.
"You are ruining everything!"
My master’s angry voice made me feel harder. After dinner with Tifanka, I was scolded again for the interpretation. I cannot forget what my master said for Tifanka during the interpretation.
"Do not give any fish to Indian people, but teach them how to catch them. This interpreter came here to learn this way of work with $ 2,000."
I was impressed by this statement, but throughout my walk from the restaurant to the hotel, my heart was just as frustrating as the darkness around me. I finally started to cry and cried for a long time. I went to sleep with the hope that I would be better tomorrow.
Main Temple in Bodhgaya is the place for honoring Buddha’s enlightenment. It is not big but is crowded with tourists. Some people were bowing down to a Buddha statue on the straw met. I was worried about if they might get a slipped disc. We happened to meet a monk from Bhutan at the hotel. He said he assumed a high position in Bhutan Buddhism and would go back to Bhutan in the afternoon. An old monk, one of his companies, said he had time to meet us and suggested having a meeting in the next morning. We met him at the Bhutanese temple but he could not speak English so had to hire a local interpreter who could speak both English and Bhutanese. My master said to him.
“What do you do to attain enlightenment? What do you learn and what do you usually teach people?”
“I learned meditation and can reach enlightenment through meditation.”
“Nobody has become an enlightened being so far through meditation. People say Buddha was enlightened while he was meditating under the bo tree but you do not know how it happened. The reason why he did meditation was that there was nothing he could do. Nobody can be enlightened at all by meditation. Although flowing water in nature remains clean, standing water decays.”
He was unwilling to believe in what my master said. My master said.
“You have done meditation but you did not attain the enlightenment only to make you ignorant and develop a disease.”
He asked what kind of disease he developed.
“Heat is rising in a cartilage of your spine. The cartilage is pressed down due to the heat during meditation. It gives you pain and troubles in nerves of your legs, which makes your leg numb. If you want real enlightenment, I will make not only pains but diseases become extinct.”
He said he would cure his diseases through meditation for himself.
“Then, why haven’t you cured them yet? I will cure them right now which you haven’t cured yet.”
Some people visited him at that time. He said he would be busy and asked us to meet again in a few hours. When we visited him again after finishing other business, he was teaching other monks weird postures. It seemed like an awkward religious ceremony.
“That is the way it goes. He does not know what exists so he keeps making trouble. There is nothing I can do for him.”
We left the place, following my master. Those who were bowing down in the Main Temple and those who were doing a strange ceremony held my eyes for quite a long time. My master explained about Buddha’s teaching with an example. As seen in nature, if water remains still for a long time, its quality deteriorates and poison is formed in it. No matter how good truths are, as time goes by, they can deteriorate into poison.
“Sitting for a long time for the enlightenment is like stagnant water. No matter how much I try to help people, if they do not think the teachings important, it is worse than I did not say it to them.”
Our next visit was Varanasi. It took 7 hours to go from Bodhgaya to Varanasi. The train stopped for more than 30 minutes for repairs. Numerous people and vendors were passing by through the narrow corridor. It was completely like a market place.
We arrived in Varanasi in the afternoon. Varanasi is especially famous for trickery and silk. At Varanasi university, which is another one of the famous things in Varanasi, we could have the chance to have a meeting with professors and students of the Department of Philosophy. There seemed to be several Korean students in the Department of Philosophy but no Korean students were present at the meeting. Although lots of Korean students are studying overseas, I wonder what they are learning. The professors and students who gathered in the dean’s office were very hospitable. My master said.
“Today you are very hospitable this much and are showing your interest in what I say, so I would like to give you a good present in return.”
They were delighted with it.
“My present is wisdom. In order to help you gain this wisdom, I have to compare my wisdom with your wisdom. I am going to ask you a question. People at this meeting are professors and students in the Department of Philosophy. Please tell me the definition of philosophy you are teaching and learning, in a way that I can understand easily. After listening to what you say, I will give you what I think you need.
A middle-aged professor indicated the dean and said.
“Only the dean can answer the question.”
The dean’s explanation was rambling. Although it was true that my English was not good enough, I could not understand what he said at all. It was really hard to interpret. My master smiled and said.
“What are you talking about that long? Simply I will inform you of the definition of philosophy. If you are asked what you teach, anwer like this. ‘Philosophy is the study which reveals what exists. I endeavor to study endlessly in order to know correctly what exists.’ This is the correct answer to answer.”
Everyone at the meeting was very delighted to hear that. Nobody tried to refute it. However, I had no choice but to be surprised. Indian universities are famous for the high levels of philosophy but no professors in one of prestigious Indian universities are aware of the definition of philosophy!
There is a huge redbrick catholic church in Varanasi. We went to meet a priest to ask for learning about love. A priest welcomed us gladly. He seemed to think we were foreigners. My master said.
“Do you have love in your teachings? If so, how do you learn love?”
He said love is in the bible.
“What does the bible say love is?”
He said that love is for the rich to take care of the poor by giving money or materials. My master took an example for him.
“Recently, one and a half million people gathered in front of a woman’s dead body. In the past, only two persons stood in front of a man’s dead body. They were his mother and a prostitute. The first one was Mother Teresa and the second was Jesus. Jesus neither gathered the poor nor took care of them. Jesus taught people. Mother Teresa asked people to make donations and gathered the disabled and the poor to feed and teach them. Even so, it did not bring very good things to the world. Anybody can do those kinds of things. In actuality, among them, there are lots of people who make trouble. We have to look into these kinds of things in more detail. Then, which do you think delivered true love to the world, Mother Teresa or Jesus?”
He said he could not answer the question.
“In order to understand how you see things of the world, is it okay for me to ask you a question?”
“What is the answer to 2 plus 2?”
He said the answer is 5. My master said, smiling.
“Schools do not teach like that. Religions are worse than schools. In schools, they teach obviously the answer is 4.”
“I grew up in the UK. I would try to help a poor friend. I tried to give him some money or clothes but he was always complaining that he did not have enough money. One day, He got a fifty-pound perm and did not like it. He spent thirty pounds to straighten the perm. After all, he spent eighty pounds. When I asked him why he did so, he got angry and told me not to interfere with him. Was what I did good or bad?”
“We must not determine in advance whether something is good or bad. If you think a person is poor, we have to check it up first. People say easily that we have to help a person because he is poor. We have to know why the person is poor. Even though he or she is working hard and tries to save money, is he still poor? Or is he poor because he does not work or wastes money? Those who do not work or waste money do not need money but enlightenment. If we ask a rich person to take care of all the poor people in the world, how hard will the rich person become? This is wrong. The way to solve the matter of poverty in the world is good teachings and work. It is to teach the poor how to work. It is the key to solving social problems to make people live well through their work.”