Seeking after the light of Buddha
The In-Yeon(因緣) with my master who I traveled with for about a month began with his curing me when I was sick. I wanted to reward him for his treatment but he told me to reward not him but the world.
“Reward the world? How?”
It meant my helping him with what he was doing for the world. There are lots of people who say they do good things but I couldn’t believe in what they said before I directly identified how good things they were doing. The master who I met said he was a true person who saw what is in the world and taught conscience and courage. I wondered what his good things were like. I wanted to see for myself how he can be helpful to the world with his good things. This point made me join his travel and came to learn the great love to bless people from him.
The first visit was Bangkok, Thailand. The plan was to print a leaflet and hold a lecture for the public. However, it wasn’t possible because they didn’t speak English and it’s not easy to find a proper interpreter in a short time. We decided to move to India where there were more things to do. As soon as we arrived in Kolkata in the afternoon, we looked around to find a hotel, only to fail. We determined to go to Budhgaya by night train. After buying tickets at a travel agnecy, we hurried to the train station which was very huge and where there were numerous people. It took a long time to find our train for Budhgaya. Our cabin was a sleeping compartment but we couldn’t sleep because of the poor public order. A two-member group was on a sentry duty by turns. The arrival at Gaya station was too early in the morning so we had to stay in the train station until dawn broke. The mess and mosquitos made me feel I was in India. ‘I wish I could sleep jus a little bit.’ It got bright soon and I shouldered the knapsack to go to Budhgaya. Loading all the luggage onto a auto-rickshaw, we managed to get on the luggage. The drive had hard time change a flat tire on the way. We enjoyed fresh air early in the morning and finally got to Budhgaya.
Once again, we had to look around for accomodations in the place where nobody was waiting for us. We had to repeat collisions with strangers to find those who want teachings. Budhgaya, one of tourist attractions in India, is famous for Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment. The interesting thing was that all the temples were foreign temples except for Main Temple. The Chinese temple built in grand style, the Japanese temple with a huge Buddha statue, the Thailand temple, the Bhutanese temple. There was a small Korean temple. I wondered what kinds of effects the temples have on Indian natives.
Master has visited Budhgaya many times before, so some people seemed to know him. Walking on the street, lots of people said hello to him. I had a long talk with Tipangka who was locally hired. I joined this travel in an ungarded moment as an interpreter, which made me feel burdened too much. As if my English is used up, I didn’t know how to interprete many times. Although I understood both Korean and English, I often stammered. Master seemed to lose his patience with my bad interpretation and scolded me.
“You are spoiling this travel.”
Master’s angry voice made be much harder. I was scolded again after I interpreted for the conversation between my master and Tipangka during dinner. I would never forget the two things my master said.
“Don’t give fish to Indian people but teach them how to fish. This interpreter paid two thousand dollars and joined me for this tralve in order to learn this law.”
I was moved but I felt heavy on the road from the restaurant to the hotel just like being in the total darkness. I cried for a while. I tried to sleep in the hope that the next day would be better.
Main Temple in Budhgaya is the place for honoring Buddha’s enlightenment. It is not big but was crowded with tourists. Some people were bowing down to Buddha on the the straw met. I was worried about if he 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 meet him at the Bhutanese temple but he couldn’t speak English so had to hire a local interpreter who could speak English and Bhutanese. My master ask him.
“What do you do to attain enlightenments? What do you learn and what do you usually teach people?”
“I learned meditation and can reach the enligthenment through meditation.”
“Nobody has become an enlightened being so far. People say Buddha was enlightened while he was meditating under the bo tree but you don’t know how it happened. The reason why he did meditation was that there was nothing he could do. Nobdy can be enlightened at all by meditation. Although flowing water in nature remains clean, standing water decays.”
He was unwilling to believe in what Master said. Master said.
“You did meditation but you didn’t attain the enlightenment but made 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 make your leg numb. If you want the 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’s the way it goes. He doesn’t know what is so he keeps making troubles. There is nothing I can do for him.”
We left the place after Master. Those who were bowing down in Main Temple and those who were doing a strange ceremony held my eyes for quite a long time. Master explained about Buddha’s teaching with an example. As seen in nature, if standing water remains for a long time, its quality changes and poison is formed. No matter how good truths are, as time goes by, they can change into poison.
“Sitting for a long time for the enlightenment is like water being stagnant. No matter how must they tries to help people, if they don’t think highly of the teaching it is worse than not saying it.”
Our next visit was Varanasi. It took 7 hours to go from Budhgaya 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. In Varanasi university, another of the famous things, we could have the chance to have a meeting with professors and students of Department of Philosophy. There seemed to be several Korean students in Department of Philosophy but no Korean students were present at the meeting. Although lots of Korean studetns are studying overseas, I wonder what they are learning. The professors and students who gathered in the dean’s office were very hospitable. Master said.
“Today you are very hospitable this much and show 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 gain this wisdom, I have to compare my wisdom with the wisdom you have. I am going to ask you a question. People at this meeting are professors and students in 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 wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t understand what he said at all. It was really hard to interprete. 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 is. I make efforts for the endless study in order to know correctly what is.’ It is right to answer like this.”
Everyone at the meeting was very delighted to hear that. Nobody tried to refute it. However, I couldn’t help being surprised. India 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. Master went to meet a priest to ask for learning about love. A priest welcomed us gladly. He seemed to think we were foreigners. Master asked.
“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. Master took and 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 didn’t gather the poor and didn’t take care of them, either. 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 didn’t bring very good thing to the world. Anybody can do those kinds of things. In actuality, among them, there are lots of people who make troubles. We have to look into these kinds of things in more detail. Then, which do you think delivered true love to the world?”
He said he couldn’t answer the question.
“In order to understand how you see things of the world, is it all right for me to ask you a few questions you can answer?”
“What is the answer of 2 plus 2?”
He said the answer is 5. Master said, smiling.
“Schools don’t teach like that. Religions are worse than schools. In schools, they teach obviously the answer is 4.”
“I grew up in 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 didn’t have money. One day, He got a fifty-pound perm but didn’t 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 whether something is good or bad. If a person is poor, we have to verify first. People say easily that we have to help a man because he is poor. We have to know why he is poor. Even though he is working hard and tries to save money, is he still poor? Or is he poor because he doesn’t work and wastes money? Those who don’t work and waste money don’t need money but enlightenments. If we ask a rich person to take care of all the poor people in the world, how hard the rich person will 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 work. It is the key to solving the social problems to make people live well through their work.”
We moved to Sarnath. To meet Samdhong Rinpoche, we visited his office. He had a number of colleges and discples and a strong influence on Tibetan people. Luckily he was in his office. He seemed to have heard of Master from one of the professors. He alread knew about us. He welcomed us courteously and listened earnestly to what Master said.
“Nobody has revealed the way to the enlightenment in the world so far. I will talk to you about the way to the enlightenment. Then please tell me that, if it is correct, it is correct and that, if it is wrong, it is wrong. How can a human being attain the enlightenment? For the enlightenment, first there must not be falsehood. Second, the person have to see what is. Third, owing to big conscience and courage, love must happen in the person. Is what I said correct or wrong?”
He said nothing. Master kept saying.
“This way I have been traveling to be helpful to the world. During all my travels until now, people haven’t understood me well and there has been nobody that offered a glass of water properly. Nonetheless, the reason why I have been traveling to India, UK, Thailand, USA, and African countries to look for people is that I believe that my enlightenment is helpful to their lives. If you can help me with what I am doing, I will help you back. Although to save you, a Rinpoche is much more difficult than normal people, I will help what you want occur to you. Certainly, I promise you. What I want you to do for me is to find those who have firm willpower and can help other people with great conscience and courage among your Tibetan acquaintances and to send them to me. If so, I will enlighten them and send them back to Tibet, who will save Tibetan people’s lives. Will you accept my proposal?”
Rinpoche said he would do so. On the next day, we want to Gorakhpur station to go to New Delhi. We knew that it’s not easy to get tickets without making reservations so we went directly to the stationmaster. Showing him messages with photographs, I emphasized that Master is a great man who had lectures in I.I.T. college, Neru University, etc. Saying that we had to go to New Delhi because of an important meeting, we created a disturbance in his office. At first, he looked very embarrassed but he ordered one of his subordinates to find our tickets. Even though he struggled with his computer for a while, there were no seats for New Delhi. We booked the tickets for the closest station near New Delhi and waited for a long time. After all, we changed the plan and rented a jeep.
‘Is there anybody waiting for us in New Delhi?’
Master said he would meet the yogi he met during his last visit to India. I checked in a hotel, threw my back away onto the bed and ran around to find the person. Finally, we could find him at a temple of zen Buddhism in South New Delhi. He introduced the leader of zen Buddhism to us and gave the address in Vikaner. Once again, we had to spend two days on a jeep during the seven hudred kilometer distance to Vikaner. During a long distance car travel in India, it’s hard to find a proper toilet. Almost all the gas stations didn’t have toilets. When I couldn’t find a toilet at one gas station, I visited a house and politely asked if I could use the toilet. The landlord smiled awkwardly and indicated the field.
“Yes, you can use it.”
As soon as we arrived in Vikaner, we had breakfast. I was a wreck because I couldn’t wash and the tiredness made my eyes keep closing. Master saw me walking weakly behind him and pressed me.
“Pinch your thigh and be alert.”
The first temple we visited wasn’t the place where the leader dwelt. When we arrived at the temple where he was, a public rally was being held. As we were waiting in the hall, people gathered around us. The leader told us to sit down and tried to start lecturing. Master said.
“I am not here to listen to what you say. I am a tathagata. I am the one who has come to convey truths to people here and teaches truths.”
One of the disciples of the leader said his teacher was also the enlightened being, after listening to what Master said.
“What have you enlightened yourself about?”
The leader didn’t give an obvious answer. Master said.
“Being enlightened means seeing what is. If you can see what is, I will ask about what is. What is the answer of 5 plus 5?”
He said the answer could become either 10 or 15. Even elementary students can answer the question but the leader of a religion didn’t answer correctly. What on earth are the disciples learning from the teaching? They didn’t know about anything correctly. The leader didn’t try to make eye contacts with Master and were talking about what is irreleveant at a loss. Why can’t people answer Master’s questions properly? I expected that religious leaders could say something great. Their words and behavior made me disappointed. What kinds of things are religious leaders doing? My mind was heavy all the way to New Delhi.
We moved back to Thailand again. I had to face the heat of Bangkok in the state of catching a cold due to November rain. I visited famous universities and introduced Master to them. A number of people showed interest in the message with the introduction about Master and the lectures in many famous universities worldwide. We could arrange Master’s lecture in Culalongkorn university with the help of the chancellor. Thirty to forty people including professors, students, and the public were present at the lecture. They listened to the lecture attentively and silently. Most of them were interested in the enlightenment so Master mainly gave the explanations about the enlightenment.
“The perfect enlightenment comes from emancipation. That is, the enlightenment is from the complete loss of karma. If you continuously listen to the one who sees, you can accept truths and stay away from grudge after all. The state of being free of all the attachment and grudge is called nirvana, which is also expressed as the state of attaining the spiritual peace. When these kinds of people die, they can be born in Heaven. When all the karma is burnt down or disappears completely through love, asceticism, etc., emancipation can be reached. In the state of emancipation, anguish and delusion cease to exist, no hatred arise, and five desires can’t tie up the one who has reached emancipation.”
After the lecture, we went to the temple where the first teacher of the king. Although he has met Master before, he was too old to remember Master. When we entered his room, he told us to revere the statue courteously. We bowed down to the staute but Master said hello to him. As he couldn’t speak English, an extra interpreter was needed from English to Thailand. When Master talked about the enlightenment, he said.
“The enlightenment can be attained through meditation.”
“It is definitely impossible to attain the enlightenment through meditation.”
He didn’t say anything more due to Master’s dignified words and just told us to come back later, being self-conscious.
When we visited the second teacher of the king, there was a Buddhism event. He seemed to be a busy person. However, his attitude toward us was courteous and earnest. He felt sorry about not having a talk for a long time and said that he hoped to meet us again at our next visit to Thailand.
We came back to Korea from one month travel. Through travel, Master helped me to experience what is happening in the world and to confirm it for myself and taught me to understand it. The reason why the travel with Master is really important is that I have become aware that the good life people hope to get is possible only through the realization of the ingorance. Remembering his hard time of trying to breaking people’s ignorance, I am reviewing the great feeling of this travel.