Ode to a True Saint

These my final reflections on the coming/going of my precious Dharma sister, Myong Hae Sunim (Ming Hoi), who died last weekend in a horrific car crash in Lithuania. I lived with her in Hwa Gye Sah temple beginning in 1996, and she was one of the finest human beings I have ever come to know: naturally pure and clear and natural and true. We wickeder monks mocked (amongst ourselves) her preternaturally pure and clear deportment and flow: We often said that she was the living prototype for those stories of ancient Catholic saints that one reads about in books. But she was never showy about this, or in the least bit self-aware of any sort of quality or holiness: it was only us, the damned, who noted these things and played with them. These video impressions are the only things that need to be said about this so-untimely passing, for all practitioners.. (A shorter version of this video will be released on Instagram…) (Thank you to Daniel Kapelian and Jang Jiu OMA Space Seoul for the visual/aural scape of these reflections which I designed.) Here is the super-attenuated version of the above that I prepared for Instagram’s hyper-shortening module:

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In the Holy Assemblies

In 29 years as a monk, most of it in Asian temples, I have had the honor to participate in Dharma assemblies like this… …and assemblies like this: Buddhism is a pretty vast thing.

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Leaving Summer Kyol Che at Su Dok Sah (’06)

I passed several retreat seasons at Jeong Hae Sah temple, on the high ridge way up above Su Dok Sah, which is my Teacher’s ancestral temple in Korea, and so my own. Su Dok Sah is the legendary home temple of Kyong Ho Sunim (鏡虛 禪師: 1849–1912) and Man Gong Sunim (滿空 禪師: 1871–1946), two of the most significant pillars of Korean Buddhism in the 20th century, and perhaps in its entire history. On the last day of retreat, as the small community was dispersing in the ten directions until the next retreat season, a very humble and devout Korean man (and professional photographer), Jeon Jewoo, asked the temple if he could be permitted to document the end of the traditional retreat season, with his lens. After consulting with the community, the elder monk agreed. (It had never been permitted before, at least at Jeong Hae Sah.) The man took shots of various aspects of the last day there. He later sent me these cuts, from his vast pile, documenting my leave-taking of the temple. After this retreat, I never attended practice at Su Dok Sah ever again.

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Basis

Why are all sane people changed, purified, transformed, or at least settled down from any disturbing mood, when they are out in “nature”? Why is this experience so medicinal, in peel,es across cultures and times, and justly celebrated in every art that has ever been created? Because, in nature, people sense that they are in the presence of “something” (even an experience, as “something”) which has no separate “I.” There is no ego there, whatsoever. After spending their lives contending with the forces of other people and their “I”s, and constantly needing so much energy to navigate through that, every single day of their lives, to be in the presence of “something” which has not one iota of anthropic mind, there is only great release, full letting go. There is no “I” in the natural world. And yet if you try to explain the Buddhist insight into the non-existence of “I,” people freak out or think it is some impossible concept to grasp. Something that needs retreat upon retreat stacked up to penetrate through. But it’s as near as the front door to one’s own house. And yet — it’s even closer. It’s right where you are.

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