Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Journey into Zen

Hi dear sisters ...... our handsome prince has been so quiet these days, huh? He's really staying away from the limelight and trying to restore his health. You know, when I read the interview that he gave to the Korea media right after the Tokyo Dome ‘Beauty of Korea’ Event, I got the impression of a very changed man. Yong Joon has become more assured of himself, more outspoken and definitely more aware of his influence on social issues. After spending an entire year researching his book and away from acting, this man seems to have found his calling in life and is earnestly steering his path in that direction.

Quoted from his interview :
"I once was interested in business, but now I am really not interested in it. I've concluded that business is not my way because I can't afford the constraints that it brings me. There are many things that I want to do instead. I don't know how long I will stay as an actor. After that, I would like to become a farmer, then a photographer, and then a ceramic artist."

While I am a bit taken aback by his candidness (and even a slight bit of naiveté) since he is undisputedly the top star in Asia and owner of a powerful entertainment conglomerate, but it’s quite understandable of where this is all coming from. When you think about Yong Joon had spent a whole good year traveling to remote mountains and villages of Korea in search of lost traditional arts. These extraordinary artisans he met not only possess rare talents and skills, but they also cultivate their own unique philosophy about life. Imagine after many nights of heart-to-heart exchange over tea/wine about topics on art, culture and life, Yong Joon must have been enthralled and immersed into this life of external simplicity and internal contentment. A year ago, he left us to search for worthy Korean sights to introduce to the world, now he came back being washed with the morning dews of nature himself.

More quotes from his interview :
“As I’ve written in my book, I think one must gain (i.e. learn) much in order to discard much when you go through the *Moo Moon Kwan 無門關*. One day, when I was contemplating on this subject at home, I felt that the furniture were the owner of the space, not me. That moment I thought, “Someday I should get rid of these things. I should reduce my possessions.” The time might come earlier than I expect. We don't become happier by having more, do we? I think we can stay happier when we live in a more simple way ..... when we feel something is missing. Nowadays, I am exercising on discarding things. (laugh)”

* Explanation of Moo Moon Kwan, 무문관, 無門關 :
It is a book written in Song Dynasty (China) by a monk named Jong So (종소, 宗紹), who recorded the preaches of his master Moo Moon Hye Gae (무문혜개, 無門嵆開). The full name of this book is SeonJong Moo Moon Kwan 선종무문관 (禪宗無門關). It contains 48 major themes that are important in Zen Buddhism. The meaning of '無 (none)' does not mean the opposite of '有 (being, existence)'. The '無' means the absolute level of recognition that one could reach ... one does not even discriminate '無' and '有' if he/she reaches there. The major theme of this book is the pursuance of that '無'.
In many cases, 무문관 also means studying hard in a temple to reach the level described above. YJ used this word in this meaning.*

I am particularly impressed with Yong Joon’s innocence, purity and courage in search of this state of Zen. In p.366 of his book, Yong Joon wrote :
“I once planned that if I build a Korean traditional house, I would go in there with lots of books, lock the door up, and study there for a long time. However, the surprising thing is, the Moo Moon Kwan requires one to go in without anything. No books, no belongings, just your body. I was disappointed. What shall I do without my books? I felt that I have a long way to go to reach that level. I have to learn more to discard myself.”

It’s coincidental that during my recent trip back to Canada (before the Tokyo Dome events), I looked around my house and was totally turned off by how much ‘stuffs’ I have accumulated over the years! By stuffs, I don’t mean anything valuable, but just boxes and piles of toys, books, old clothes, broken knick-knacks that you can’t even name, let alone categorize! Maybe during this move to Tokyo which we only brought along our daily clothes, books and computers (oh oh I almost forgot, I did transport all my treasured BYJ belongings everywhere with me :), that I realize how little possessions one really needs to live on. Our lives are more free and our hearts much lighter here, with minimal physical possessions (if we can resist the fantastic shopping here :) and simpler human relations (haha, maybe because we can’t communicate much). Following Yong Joon’s example, I hope to work on reducing, reusing and recycling most of my ‘stuffs’ when we return home. Achieving simplicity and internal contentment will require more than just discarding one’s physical possessions, but I feel having a calm and uncluttered environment does help to create the desirable atmosphere. Yong Joon ssi, you are a great inspiration, as always. Please take care of yourself and be happy.

source : Maeil Economy Star Today, reporter Cho Eun Yong
translated into English : gaulsan in Quilt, thanks.


Hyds said...

Thanks for a very thought provoking post Jaime. It's truly hard to reach such levelof awareness.
I am working on it. Less is more
;-) I had to return a nice piece of coat the other day thinking I couldn't have a new one every year..hehe it feels good to restrain and enjoy what you already have. Take and have a nice week ahead.


jaime said...

Dear Hyds,

YEs, I think distinguishing what we want Vs what we need is the first step. But how to control the 'want' is probably the biggest hurdle to jump. I applaud you for exercising such self control. Me too, I have yet to learn.

Thanks for reading, glad you enjoy.

love ... jaime

Tamar1973 said...

They say "Less is more". It's so true.

annacronism said...

Hi, Jaime.
What a lovely philosophy; MooMoonKwan. I often get the feeling I am too crowded by "stuff", too. I have already begun to discard some things just to feel less cluttered. I agree with you that Yong Joon-ssi has taught me a great deal in the short time I have been a family member. Thank you for posting this inspiring article. Be well. Anna

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaime and Bae sisters:
Greetings on the first week of the Christmas season, which usually explodes with consumerism.
I admire the state of Zen that Bae Yong Joon has learned from the masters and which he is inspiring his Family to experience.
Yes, minimalism is the secret to happiness and contentment.
I suggest we all read Daisetz Suzuki who introduced Zen Buddhism to the West to learn about the characteristics of the Aha moment. Of course, the more difficult Zen philosopher to study is Kitaro Nishida, whose book must be available in Japan.
Happy reading!
Sarang Hamnida,

jaime said...

Hi hi tamar,

so true, less is more. I guess it also applies to everything in life - our possessions, our presentation and our words. Please take care!

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi hi anna,

Yes, we seem to start off with just a little bit of this and that, then we need to get containers for these little things, then we get more shelves for these containers, then a room for these shelves and so on and on .... Before we realize, we already have accumulated so much stuff!

To be honest, I don't know how Yong Joon can discard everything. What about the memorabilia of his acting life? what about the letters from his family? what about the precious pictures that he took during his trips? It's all in one's frame of mind, don't you think?

Thanks for writing to me!
regards ..... jaime

jaime said...

Thanks Josephine for introducing these books to us about Zen. Hope you had a warm Thanksgiving gathering.

Yes, it's interesting to see Tokyo is all adorned with Christmas decorations, slogans and events, while there is no holidays and religious implications to Dec 25 at all.

Have a nice week ahead!
love .... jaime

gosijo said...

Thank you, dear Jaime, for sharing your reflections of the changes we are seeing in wuri Yong Joon recently. They certainly make us question our own approach to consumerism and possessions. Even when it comes to our Bae treasures!! Or when we covet his fashion accessories.

You draw our attention to Yong Joon’s words on his waning interest in business. It seems some members of the Korean Press are still caught in the “more like a business person than an actor” mold if we believe Yoo Je Soon’s very recent article in the Japanese Asahi Newspaper (kindly translated by cloud nine in Quilt – Bonjour, cloud nine!). I guess such changes take time.

Another change that seems very recent is wuri Yong Joon’s new realization that pushing himself past his physical limits is not, after all, the best way of doing his very best at all time. I know we’ve admired him greatly for his heroic work ethic. It seems to be a particularly, though by no means exclusively (see also on Protestant Work Ethic), Korean article of faith. At the same time, though, we’ve bemoaned time and again the worries his injuries and ill health, often the result of putting that philosophy into practice, have caused us. I remember thinking when TWSSG finished shooting, “Surely he’ll learn now not to overextend himself ever again. How can anyone not heed the clear messages he was given with his injuries?”

I guess it took a little more, and perhaps the influence of a trusted sonsen-nim or two, for him to come to the conclusion that “This time I have also learned something from the experience. Managing one’s health to not get sick is part of “to exert one’s full strength to do their utmost”.” (Quote from cam’s English translation of snowkin’s Chinese version of the 2009.11.07 SKY Perfect Interview with MC Miyamoto). I’m glad.

Also, I like how he is challenging a related work ethic, namely for people to cultivate the appearance of “working hard” by lingering at the office until late even if they have little to do or have wasted their time during the day so they have to catch up at night. He is quoted by the Maeil Economy Star Today as saying, in reference to the BOF staff, “You know, some people stay late at the office even though they don't have much work to do. They call their wife and say that they have work to do. I tell them to do the work in time and go home early, to watch movies and read books with their wives. I try not to make phone calls to them after 8-9pm.” (translated by Gaulsan and posted on Quilt 2009/10/06).

Meanwhile, let us cherish every encounter, however indirect, we get to have with this amazing man. Let us learn from the wisdom he brings to us and applaud when his very human, very fallible journey bring him the wisdom we may know he still lack.

cecy said...

hi jaime how are you?
Bae our prince always communicating the need to always learn more, the professionalism of his acting career, the handcrafts that the same realizao, lacquer art, much more and more beautiful now meet his own being, with it, with ourselves.
is a wonderful human being who personally has come to change my life for the better ...
thanks, have an excellent week. cecy fondly Mexico.

yudi said...

Dear Jaime,

You know what, I am actually “discarding” these several days. I don’t know why I suddenly felt there’s too much useless stuff in the house and decide to clean it up. Come to think of it, this action might be inspired by wuri Yong Joon’s comments about “無門關”. Living a simple and efficient life has become one of my dreams for a while, however I feel it’s hard to exercise as it needs good planning and discipline. I hope I could do better following in Yong Joons’ steps.


karen said...

hi hi Jaime,

How r u ?? Long time din leave my comment here already.. I am back.
Tks for sharing our Yoon Joon beautiful thoughts with us. Seems like the MooMoonKuan still long way for me to reach the level as I always so tempting to the fantastic shopping as u mention hehee....but I will try to do my best n Yoon Joon will be my example.

I miss a lot of your posting must cathing up soon..Please do take care.


jaime said...

Dear gosijo,

once again, your comments gave us so much to think about. May I use this as a topic in a separate post?

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi Cecy,

I am fine, thanks. Hope you are doing well too. I think that's why Yong Joon has such loyal supporters because he represents the goodness that we all strive for in life. Thanks for coming by and leaving me a comment.

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi dear yudi,

It's so nice to hear from you again. Yes, 'efficient' is the right word! When our environment is simpler, we function more efficiently. Oh good luck with your cleaning up, good for you!
It'll be my turn here pretty soon :)

Please take care in the cold winter.
love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi hi karen,

nice to have you back! how's your trip to Hong Kong? ate and shopped a lot? can't wait to hear about it!

Hehe, I am in the same boat. I have bought so much here that I think I need another room to store all my 'stuffs'! OK ok, I promise not to buy in the next 5 years after I leave Japan! Just kidding :) Please take care!

love ... jaime

Tamar1973 said...

I think there can be a balance between nostalgia and minimalism. I have relatively few "knicknacks" in my house. I call them "dustables" and I don't want them in my house.

OTOH, I have a lot of books, I have bought more books than I have time to read! LOL!