Wednesday, June 07, 2006

religious exchanges 3

Soen Joon Sunim (a.k.a. Sneem) had given me a huge substantive reply (see previous exchange here). My response to it was woefully inadequate. Our exchange picks up at my "thank you."

May 21, 2006. Me to Sneem:

Thanks. But more important, how's yer achy HAID today?


May 21, 2006. Me to Sneem (again, this time having realized my faux pas):


Holy crap, I just reread the short email I just sent. Damn-- I didn't mean to sound dismissive of that treasure trove of information you gave me! Good Lord, how long did that take to write? I deeply appreciate it, and will do some research along the lines sketched out by your email. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And rest yo' head.

Pax and hapjang,


May 21, 2006. Sneem to me:

Heck, no problem! I laughed when I read the short version. I can't remember how long it took me to write the email--a sure sign that I enjoyed doing so. By the way, I looked through the Digha Nikaya, the Buddhist glossary, and a manual of Abhidamma, and none of them had a definition of what makes a sentient being a sentient being--although the Abhidhamma manual had a depressingly precise list of "consciousnesses." So if you find an answer, let me know: now my curiosity is piqued. This is one of the foundations of Buddhist ethics (from my practical standpoint), and while an inconclusive answer won't hurt my practice any, it's puzzling when you think about it: why on Earth isn't there an easy definition of sentience? I'm sure it's buried in there somewhere. I may email the monk who runs Access to Insight (an American Bhikku in CA) with this question.

As for the head: not so good. And now the fact I've been chowing pain killers on a daily basis has caught up with my stomach, and "so-gae-ga appai-yo." Crud. My teacher diagnosed me with "sanggi," a common ailment among Zen practitioners who don't keep their energy in their dan-cheon (literally, "up-energy," sang + ki). So I've been told to repent for my karma that's manifesting right now (and rejoice that another karma seed has ripened), and to keep my energy lower. Always good advice, that one. Thanks for the concern. If it doesn't get better I'll have a CAT scan or a head x-ray or whatever it is they do when they take a look at the inside of the cranium.


May 22, 2006 (the next day). Me to Sneem:


re: sang-gi problem

I've heard it said that many martial arts tend to encourage so-called "clavicular breathing," which gathers energy more in the chest than the abdomen (for punching, swinging weapons, etc.). Is haedong komdo like that? A lot of percussive martial arts are that way (e.g., taekwondo). If so, the answer might be to counter that with some t'ae-geuk-kweon (a.k.a. taijiquan), which distributes ki more evenly and returns the focus constantly to the danjeon. Or some other internal martial art, like hapkido.

(The Western side of me thinks you just need rest and the right pill.)

Thanks for trying to look that sentience problem up. I'll do my own searching and might even blog on what I discover.

It's possible that I might be able to stay at Smoo for longer than 3 years. There's a chance that the whole "maximum of 3 yrs at a university" thing is aimed primarily at actual professors who are here on a different visa than the standard E-2 instructor's visa. If that's the case, I might stay at Smoo long-term. I mention this because I've been weighing the possibility of having my entire library shipped from the States to here. If that happens, my current digs will be buried in books, but it might be worth it for me to have them all around. I've felt like a large chunk of my brain has been missing for years-- ever since 2002, in fact. This in turn will mean that I hope to write and present some academic papers here in Korea, perhaps getting published in an academic journal. Hell, it's probably easier to do here than in the States, so why not start building a portfolio?

OK... back to the grind (said Kevin as he furiously lapdanced for the sake of all sentient beings, whatever the hell they might be).


Folks with whom I correspond (and there are a few of you!) may have noted that I tend to write at length. Answers are often given point-by-point, and in some detail. Yeah, it takes time. Luckily, I type fairly fast. One way around the time-consumption problem, I've discovered, is to add a new category to my Google Gmail labels: "Unanswered." This takes the pressure off me to answer every email I receive immediately. Simply by labeling a given email "Unanswered," I allow myself to let some time go by. Then, when the urge hits, I check the "Unanswered" category and chip away at the list of emails at a modest pace.

I also spend a lot of time writing blog posts, which takes a good chunk of time as well. This isn't tragic for me: not being a very sociable person to begin with, I can spend days or even weeks in relative solitude, if I so desire. My free time is devoted to cooking. This week I started my Namsan hikes again (I've been doing them from roughly 10pm to midnight), so I guess my free-time activities also include long walks-- something I should have been doing from the beginning.

More religious exchanges later.


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