Healing Period

I’m taking this quarantine time to take a breath from all the busy-ness of life. I think it’s been a good opportunity to reset a little bit. When you are caught up in the machinery of every day life, it’s easy to get swept up in that momentum and spend the days without thinking or retrospective.

Nobody can say this pandemic is a “good thing.” But if I believe in the words of ancient sages, it’s the concept of “Se Wong Ji Ma.” There’s no good or bad in this world but thinking makes it so. When something like this happens, or events that give you feelings of rejection, pain, suffering, loss, etc … it’s easy to be flustered, frustrated and feel bad all the time. But from the ancient Chinese story of “old man who lost his horse” … it becomes easier for us to gain perspective. That even the events that happen to us that seem like the worst things that could have happened to us … as long as we stay composed and calm … may have a way of working out or even working its way out in our favor … in the long-term. How that will take shape in this pandemic incident is mysterious to me, and perhaps will take much more time for us to gain perspective into God’s bigger plan. But I do believe in that. All that’s gone wrong during this pandemic … God will make it alright. There must be a reason for this.

Here’s the ancient story of “Old Man who lose his horse” in case you are interested.

There once was a village that had among its people a very wise old man. The villagers trusted this man to provide them answers to their questions and concerns. One day, a farmer from the village went to the wise man and said in a frantic tone, “Wise man, help me. A horrible thing has happened. My ox has died and I have no animal to help me plow my field! Isn’t this the worst thing that could have possibly happened?” The wise man replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.” The man hurried back to the village and reported to his neighbors that the wise man had gone mad. Surely this was the worse thing that could have happened. Why couldn’t he see this?

The very next day, however, a strong, young horse was seen near the man’s farm. Because the man had no ox to rely on, he had the idea to catch the horse to replace the ox and he did. How joyful the farmer was. Plowing the field had never been easier. He went back to the wise man to apologize. “You were right, wise man. Losing my ox wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. It was a blessing in disguise! I never would have captured my new horse had that not happened.” The wise man replied once again, “Maybe so, maybe not.” Not again, thought the farmer. Surely the wise man had gone mad now.

But, once again, the farmer did not know what was to happen. A few days later the farmer’s son was riding the horse and was thrown off. He broke his leg and would not be able to help with the crop. Oh no, thought the man. Now we will starve to death. Once again, the farmer went to the wise man. This time he said, “How did you know that capturing my horse was not a good thing? You were right again. My son is injured and won’t be able to help with the crop. This time I’m sure that this is the worst thing that could have possibly happened. You must agree this time.” But, just as he had done before, the wise man calmly looked at the farmer and in a compassionate tone replied once again, “Maybe so. Maybe not.” Enraged that the wise man could be so ignorant, the farmer stormed back to the village.

The very next day, troops arrived to take every able-bodied man to the war that had just broken out. The farmer’s son was the only young man in the village who didn’t have to go. He would live, while the others would surely die.

The moral of this story provides a powerful lesson. The truth is we don’t know what’s gong to happen — we just think we do. Often we make a big deal out of something. We blow up scenarios in our minds about all the terrible things that are going to happen. Most of the time we are wrong. If we keep our cool and stay open to possibilities we can be reasonably certain that, eventually, all will be well. Remember: maybe so, maybe not.

채근담 Caigentan (from 1590)

Excepts from an ancient Asian philosophy text “Texts from a plain and humble life” Thanks to my friend Jay for lending me his book of wisdom.


부귀영화. 명예. 공적. 너무 밝히면 안된다. 무언가를 완벽하게 이루는 것은 엄청나게 힘든 일이다. 그러니 적당히 이루고 적당히 누리다가 떠나는게 상책이다.
You must not chase after wealth, prestige, achievements … It is extremely difficult to achieve anything perfectly. It is better to achieve adequately, reap adequately and then to leave.

재능과 재주는 가볍게 아무때나 쓰거나 자랑하면 안된다. 시기당한다.
You must not use your talent and skills lightly whenever you want to, or brag about them. You will garner envy. 

간직해두고 소중하게 여기돼 쓸때를 위해 오랜시간동안 축적하고 감추어 두어야한다. 빛이 무너지는 것은 한순간이다.
Instead, you must treasure them and only use them when necessary while holding them inside yourself hidden from plain sight for a long time. It only takes one moment for all the light (attention?) to be destroyed.

너무 세속적인 마음이 되지않고 언제나 바쁜 사회속에서도 고요함괴 도를 닦는 자세를 가져라. 그리고 사회를 떠나있는 초인이 되었어도 도를 닦되 너무 세상과 떨어져있지 말고 미래에 다시 돌아갈 날을 위해서 준비해라.
Do not gain a secular mind and always exercise serenity and the attitude to improve your mental discipline amongst a busy crowded society. And even if you are a hermit that has left society, do keep working on yourself and your serenity but do not be too far distanced from the world, and prepare for the day you return to them in the future.

너무 단백하면 기계적이 되고 즐거움이 없어지니 적당하게 즐거움을 가지고 너무 즐거움만 가지면 덕이 없어지니 적당하게 덖을 기르는 시간을 가져라.
If you are too simple and overly focused on your discipline, your life will become mechanical and devoid of joy. Instead, allow an adequate amount of joy and enjoyment in your life. However, if you allow too much enjoyment only, then you will lose your virtues, so also maintain an adequate amount of time to work on your virtues and improve yourself.

너무 행동과 움직이는 것을 좋아하는 사람은 구름아래에 번개, 바람앞의 촛불과 같아서 불안정하고 꺼져버리기 쉽다. 하지만 너무 가만히 있는 사람은 죽은 재와 말라버리는 나무처럼 된다. 가만히 있어도 힘차게 물아래에서 움직이는 물고기가 되야되고 많이 움직여도 마음속에 부처님같은 고요함과 안정이 있어야 한다.
If you overly enjoy action and moving too much, you will be like a candle in front of a stormy wind under the clouds, unstable and easy for your light to be vanished. However, if you stay too much in one place and don’t do anything, you will be like dead ash or a dried up tree. Even if you stay still, you need to be like a fish that’s diligently swimming under the waters, and even if you move actively, you need to have the serenity and stability of a Buddha inside your mind.

사람의 마음은 태양의 움직임과 같아서 아침에 떴다가 저녁때 변한다.
A person’s heart is like the movements of a sun; it rises in the morning and then turns away in the evenings. 

그들을 감동시켜서 많이 사랑받을 것을 추구하지 말고, 그냥 오해당하지 않고 원망다하지 않게만 해라. 그래도 큰 성공이다. 

Do not chase after earning their love and approval by moving their hearts. Just to prevent yourself from being misunderstood or hated is enough. That alone is great success. 

사람들의 인정, 너무 추구하지 말아라. 그들의 노예가 된다.
Do not pursue society’s approval too much. You will become their slave.

모든 악마는 사심에서 나온다. 너 혼자서 생각하고 있으면 악마가 속삭인다. 번뇌속에 악마가 있다.
All evil comes from your own mind. If you keep thinking by yourself, the devil will whisper. In your mental rumination, there is evil.

욕망, 편견, 오만심, 자만 … 이런 것들이 너를 악마쪽으로 데려갈 것이다.Greed, judgment, arrogance, pride … those things will take you toward an evil direction.