Friday, March 17, 2006

why, dammit, WHY?

Newly-minted sramanerika Soen Joon (a.k.a. Andi) writes in response to a comment on a recent post of hers that she'll never be fully assimilated in Korean society no matter how hard she tries-- this being in contrast to American assimilationism, where different cultures and ethnicities get woven into the overall fabric. Her response is a touching read (full disclosure: it's positive in tone, and about more than just the assimilation issue), but I wanted to focus on this particular part of it:

I'll probably still get stares and eager, if a tad aggressive, questions about my choice to come to Korea (and now, to become Sunim).

When I attended Hyeon-gak sunim's Korean-language dharma talk a few weeks ago, Hyeon-gak was asked, "Why did you choose Korean Buddhism?"

Hyeon-gak's response was simultaneously curt and priceless:

"Why am I drinking this coffee? Why is my bowl here and not there? Why are you Korean?"

The answer might not mean as much when it's being parroted by someone else, but Andi, if someone asks you why you decided to become a nun in a Korean order, I'd advocate making Hyeon-gak's response your own.



Anonymous said...


does that mean that the beautiful and intelligent Andi could not marry anymore?

what a waste.

Kevin Kim said...


You'd do well to follow Andi's blogs to see how and why she arrived at the choices she did. I fully support her decision to go for nunhood and see nothing wasteful about the path she now walks.

I'm sure Andi gets the "what a waste" comment on occasion... not many people these days can relate to monasticism. But at the very least, her choice should be respected and appreciated. As her tradition might say, she's doing this for you.

(next time, gimme a name!)

Anonymous said...


I didn't mean it that way.
Andi's choices, must, of course, be respected.

I just wanted to say that Andi is beautiful. I saw some of her pictures in her old blog.

Anonymous said...

and oh, if I may give an unsolicited advice

it would be better if you could provide the 한글 version to those Korean words

like sramanerika if I look it up in the dictionary (myquickfind)

it returns:

SRAM short-range attack missile.

Kevin Kim said...

Andi's blog posts and comments contain the hangeul and hanja versions of many Buddhist terms. I avoid writing in hangeul on my blog because many of my Stateside readers have not set their browsers to read hangeul.

Also: try this link for more terminology in multiple languages. I've found it very useful.