Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter sunrise and Hwagye-sa

I'm imperiously declaring the weekend over, so here's a blog post fo' yo' ass.

I woke up at 4:30AM on Sunday and took a cab to Beot'igogae Station. Got there at exactly 5:38, which gave me just enough time to do the 40-minute walk to the top. I made good time-- I think it took me only about 37 or so minutes.

The morning was damn cloudy; all was grey. Luckily, there was a large map at the mountaintop, and I was able to find east, but it didn't help: the sky hid everything. No sun. Just progressively lighter shades of grey, uniform across the sky.

On the way up the mountain, I passed a fallen motorcycle, its lights still blinking. The cycle's rider wasn't anywhere to be found. I suspect it was some drunk asshole who took a spill. Idiot. He's lucky he can still walk; maybe that was some sort of Easter miracle.

As I neared the top of the road to Seoul Tower (which was closed to cars at that time of day), I heard an old but familiar sound blaring through distant speakers: an audio recording of an exercise tape-- the kind where you hear scarily patriotic-sounding music playing while a martial gent counts off reps for whatever exercise you're doing. A couple minutes later, a stream of older folks started walking past me downhill; they'd finished their exercises and weren't bothering to wait for sunrise.

The top was silent when I got there. Some old folks were still there; I was impressed, because I knew they must have gotten up much earlier than I had in order to reach the top. I was surprised to see that there weren't groups of Christians doing outdoor Easter sunrise services, a common tradition in the States.

I enjoyed the silence, the cold, and the clouds for a few minutes, then started back downhill, accompanied by birdsong-- magpies and other native birds, including a bird whose song sounded a lot like a human whistling.

As the sun got stronger, the clouds began to burn away, and the rest of the day was bright and warm and gorgeous.

After going home and changing clothes, I hit Hwagye-sa with a friend around noonish and we sat ch'am-seon (zazen*) for 90 minutes, then listened to a dry dharma talk on a subject rather relevant to recent experience. Here's a snatch of text from the Korean Zen master (Ya-eun? --not sure) whose writings were the topic of discussion today:


No matter whether you hear good things or bad things, do not let yourself be affected by them. Being praised when you lack virtue is truly shameful, while having your faults shown to you is a wonderful thing. If you are happy to see your faults, then you will surely correct them, while if you are ashamed of your lack of virtue, then this will spur you on to practice more diligently.

Don't speak of other people's faults, because eventually it will return and harm you. If you hear harsh speech or rumors directed towards someone else, look upon them as if someone was slandering your parents. Your criticism of someone else today will become criticism of you tomorrow. All things are impermanent, so whether you are criticized or praised, there is nothing to be happy or upset about.

Right now, I'm thinking this applies to me and to someone I know. We're both very critical people; neither of us is particularly diplomatic. As Easter messages go, it's a good one, and I admit it's hard to put into practice, especially when I'm still feeling such anger toward this person. I suspect my "friend" would admit this, too.

*If I'm not mistaken, the Sino-Korean term that literally translates as zazen is jwa-seon, not ch'am-seon. Jwa-seon simply means "seated meditation." Ch'am-seon (I'll check on this to be sure) is a Zen-specific term in the Korean tradition for such meditation.


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