So my name is Grace Song, and I was born in Toronto, Canada, so my parents immigrated in the 1970s. And so I grew up there and I was born into a one Buddhist household. My dad was a very devout one Buddhist. My mom was a Presbyterian. But she also she was about a hybrid, a one Buddhist and a Presbyterian. But we grew up very much surrounded by one of his teachings, which was represented in our house. There were scriptures everywhere, but I really, I think, got a very good taste of one Buddhism when we went to trips to Korea during the summer. So my parents would work really hard. They would, you know, accumulate the ticket moneys and then we’d go there in the summer to meet my dad’s teacher and to get to receive training. So, you know, I’ve been a well-worn Buddhist all my life, but I wasn’t actually a devout follower.
So one of them is basically changing the services, so Sunday services, for example, in Korea, are very much centered around diamond talks and less on meditation. But here in the West, people tend to want to sit longer. So even the Dharma services have changed a lot, and even services between one Buddhist temples are a bit different. They have their own style. Like, there are certain aspects like our chanting or prayer. Those are very similar. But each temple, if you go even online, they have their own style. So very much even the language use the terminology. When it was first translated, many Western said, Well, we don’t really understand that term or we don’t understand that expression. So there’s been a lot of revisions in terms of like, how do you make it more relevant and easy to understand? So definitely the translation part was very important and also ritual, definitely use of space in in East Asia and Korea. It’s very much mostly like pews. And then there’s like a stage and an altar with the teacher there. But in many circles here in the West, you have a kind of a circle like even the use of space is very much not hierarchical. But, you know, we’re in this together as a community. So you have that as well. And even hymns are, I mean, popular in Korea, not so popular here in the West. So I know that I think there’s going to be a new movement here of how do we bring the arts, how do we bring, you know, things such as music into our services that will maybe resonate with different, different people? The next one, I’m about to say, is more bit controversial. So I don’t know if you want to add or I don’t know this is I mean, but so people ask because right now, the females in one Buddhism all have their hair a certain way. So it’s like split in the middle and in the bun. And that was very traditional in Korea. It’s a sign of chastity or taking the vows. However, when I decided to ordain one of my conditions was, well, I’m not going to do my hair that way. I’d like to just have the freedom to do my own style since this is my body. And so it had to go through an approval process when I was a student and in Korea. And so at that time, I was the fourth headmaster and they approved it. So I was the first North American to be allowed to just wear my hair in this way. And also, I don’t wear the traditional clothes that the females do. So there is this also movement that’s coming up right now of, well, what about the clergy, where the attire for those who are ordained, especially females? How do we make it so that, you know, it suits that that person’s body type, for example, and not everyone wants to wear the traditional Korean dress or the uniform? Of course, it has many benefits as well. And I have respect for those who wear it. However, here in the West, perhaps we have to be more diverse. So that’s another aspect. I think that’s being being introduced.
Well, in terms of my father’s death, the biggest teaching for that, for me, was from harm can come grace. So when I when he passed away, I thought, Oh my goodness, everything’s going to be, it’s ruined. It’s ruined. Everything would be crap from now on, it’s all suffering. But when he passed away, some really interesting changes started to happen, and one of them was my relationship with my mom, right? So I was not that close with her, but after he passed, we became closer. You know, I start to see a part of my mom I had never seen before. You know, her strength, her independence, her faith. She was always very overshadowed by my father, who was much more of like a patriarchal figure in our family. And then my relationship with my sister, like we were very close, but we came even closer. So I said, Well, my goodness, out of harm there can become grace, right? So I want to celebrate that. I’m celebrating the passing of my father. Meaning thank you for all that you’ve done, but also celebrating, wow, these new relationships. So when something really bad happens to me, I always think to myself, OK, from this home, what is grace is can arise. Right? So that always gives me hope. And for me, the Dhamma, even just reading the words from masters, ha. It’s like so healing, just getting their wisdom, and not just from one Buddhism. I read the scripture from other Buddhist tradition, even non-potable with traditions, but so grateful for those words of wisdom and words that come from very authentic words from experience. Right? And then I could feel their love. Like, they’re like, Listen, we want you to be happy and we want you to live the best life, and we’re going to do everything we can to provide you with these teachings that I can feel that love and compassion, you know, brighter than the Sun. And so that, to me has is a huge like pillar, you know, in my practice, just the dharma words, you know? And sometimes I listen to it, sometimes I read it, you know, and then I just reflect on it, right? And I think that if people ask me, why are you still practicing it? I’m like, because I’m feeling a little bit of changes, right? Even my mom and my sister do like, Oh my god, thank goodness you found this path because you’re changing and you’re getting better. Thank goodness. So feeling those changes, I think, is huge for me is seeing, you know, things that used to trigger me or upset me so easily. Now we’re able to just at least pause and just say, OK, I’ll just let that one go. That’s OK, you know, or instead of, you know, always feeling like the victim. It’s like, No, let me take some radical responsibility for this, right? And then I planted the seeds. So having that, even that small awareness has really made me into a a happier person, not such an angry person, which was me when I was in high school, very angry and pointing the fingers outside myself. OK. The practice is really say no going, where it’s going, where it’s right, and you can’t carpet the whole Earth and make it perfect. So go inwards and get those tools to help you navigate through, you know, life that can bring suffering sometimes. And so I asked my teacher one day I said, You know, I’m getting so much grace from all these teachers. How do I give back? How do I give things back? Those my question like, how do I? And all? He said, he’s like practice like actualize the teachings in your life, and that is the greatest gift you can give your teacher. So he said, everything that matters, which is instead in the scripture, you practice that you actualize it. That is the greatest thanks you can give to to your teacher.
I think the challenge also, as I progress, is to always be self-reflective because I think we can fall into that trap of I know it now. You know, I know it now. And so kind of beginning this arrogance and we call it the intermediate stage where it’s like, no, you feel like you no longer need a teacher , right? And so our teacher would always warn us against that to say, just tell yourself I’m in the intermediate stage. So that way, you always know that there’s more to learn. So he would say to me, You know, the moment that you think, you know, everything, that’s your limit, and that’s where you stop. But when you think to yourself, Oh, wait, there’s the don’t know, no mind, then it’s you open up the possibilities and you have all the space to learn and to grow. So just always keeping that in mind, it’s like, OK, am I getting to that stage of I know everything and you know, or am I keeping the I don’t know mind the curious why the mind of inquiry? Right? Beginner’s mind. So I think that’s something that could be act as an obstacle as someone progresses on the journey and starts to learn and experience certain things. And so that is an obstacle. And also, when you start doing something, the comparing mind can start arising, too. So I’m mindful why is my calling, not as mindful? So our students used to say that when I was teaching at a seminary, one student, his item of mindfulness was, you know, in Korea, you take off your shoes before going to the Dharma Hall, so he would turn his shoes so that when you exit, you can just lift your feet right in and it is always straight. And so that was his item of mindfulness. But then he noticed that other students were not doing that. So he’s like, Oh, you know, I’m mindful. Why aren’t they mindful so that mine too can come up the, you know, the attachment to Dharma? Right? Mm. So just being aware of that to the attachment to it?
Well, I asked the members, why do you come right? And they always say the the common answer is the community like I loved when I first came here, I felt welcome. You know, and I think that’s one of the strengths of one Buddhism is that we try to to really welcome whoever comes through those doors. There’s welcoming like whatever your background is, doesn’t matter. You come, you know, this can be your spiritual home, too. So I get that a lot that they’re like, I like the community. I like that it’s not just a temple up in the mountains, it’s here in the city. And so that’s why we don’t have any particular, you know, building style or architecture of of of what one Buddhist temple would look like. one was temple could be just a building like an office building with one floor, or it could be a wooden temple or so there’s no one cookie cutter type of one Buddhist temple. It could be. And that’s the whole point is that anywhere where there’s a teacher and a dorm or friends and a community, that’s a temple with the Iran Sun symbol. So I think a lot of people say community, the OnePlus community, and also that it’s very practical tradition. The teachings is they say, Well, I’m I’m actually taking the practice and I’m applying it in my life. It’s not something just theoretical or it’s not abstract. It’s very precise and rational and logical. So I can follow it along and and feeling transformations little by little. Definitely. I mean, we I mean, the beauty of one Buddhism is that so anyone? Everyone is welcome. The question I always get is I’m a I’m a Catholic. Can I be a one Buddhist too? Yes. You know, yes, we’re here to support each other’s practice. So we have people who are just one Buddhist members and they’re, you know, they come. Some come once. Some come several times. Some come every week, you know, so they’re consider our one Buddhist members who are not interested in any sort of leadership, but they want to deepen their practice. So they’ll come, they’ll get the guidance. And that’s why community is so important, because it’s the community that helps us to support our practice. It’s our dharma friends and dharma teachers who can answer our questions. And if you especially are having a difficult time to someone to listen. Yeah, I know it’s a good question. So every time Temple is different, but definitely they have regular services and now they’re offering it like a hybrid. Some a lot of the temples are now going in-person and also online. So there are the regular temple services, but there are a lot of study groups and study groups based on a particular text or our scriptures. And then they’ll have different, you know, different groups, depending on the member’s interests. So not necessarily related to scripture. It could be art therapy, it could be yoga, you know, moving meditation and also retreats. Definitely, retreats are an important part of one Buddhist training. We call it fixed term training, which means, you know, you have a designated time and a space to do the training, and it’s an intensive jazz focusing on the training. And it could be, you know, a few days or a week or a few weeks. And the whole point of that training is to prepare you for the real retreat, which is our life. So that’s called the daily training. This is fixed term, and unless daily and the daily training is supposed to again prepare you for fixed term training because you have you did your practice during your your daily life. You have questions. You know, you have certain parts of your practice that you feel you’re getting weaker will then come to the fixed term training and start again and start cultivating those abilities.
Well, in terms of like just in death, what I’ve seen with teachers like elders in terms of the topic of death, for example, I remember my teacher who passed away many years ago when I was a student, she said, You know, what’s your priority? And I said at that time, I was a grad student. So my study shows, yes, because you’re a student, she was my priority and I was like, Oh, because I she was retired old was like, Oh, what is your party like? Be there and be like, available for us. So she goes, No, she goes, I’m preparing for death. She goes, I’m packing my bags. She goes, I can’t, because she was physically uncomfortable. She goes, I can’t physically be there to help, you know, or to, you know, to to go to certain events. But she goes, I do it through prayer. Yeah. So what they taught me was, you know, there is a world that we can see with our eyes, but there’s also something a world that we can’t see with our eyes, but we can tap into it, you know? So she said, I support I try to support the community through prayer. But she was really preparing for death, and that to me, was beautiful because I didn’t see her out of fear of death. It was just more like, OK, this part of the cycle of life. And so I’m preparing for that. And so she prepared everything like she even prepared. She started giving away her things, you know, and she knew exactly when she was she was going to pass around that time. So by the time she passed away, we went back to her room and there was like hardly anything left. But they said, Take whatever you want, right? But she didn’t have much, you know, she did. So I always feel like they’re like the true minimalists, right? It’s like they know exactly what they leave with, you know? And yet, you know, the money they always give to the public for a public war. So it’s a beautiful life like I was. I always think to myself, I love to age like that. I would love to pass away in that way, you know, and we didn’t give her like a burial. We have a certain we have a cemetery, one with a cemetery, but they cremated in a certain way where you just kind of spread it in the soil. There’s a certain method that they use. So you just return and there’s no particular place she’s in. It’s just in the Earth. And then there’s like a kind of a tablet where they put their names. And so I was like, Oh, that’s beautiful this, you know, returning this, returning, coming back and is returning to the elements. Mm hmm. So, yeah, we definitely do it for the nine day deliverance service. We do the 49 day delivery service, and there’s also a whole chapter in our scriptures about passing the transition of our spirit. You know, so even teaches you what to do when someone’s on their deathbed. You know this step like that. So we’re very much about, you know, this is a natural part of our life, you know, and that helped me when my dad passed because I saw that is OK at. I felt like through that 14 day that we’re that we’re helping to support the guidance of the spirit to the next life. So that brought me comfort. I have.
I would say with the Dharma, I think especially in the West, especially when I work with students, is this idea that Dharma is just really when you google up Buddhism or meditation or practice, it’s always in a seated posture on a cushion. It has to be in a certain posture. And so I’m always trying to dispel that idea of the Dharma is in a certain form, has to be abreast. Dharma is everywhere. And in when we’re in action or when we’re at rest, everything, even our mundane activities are can be a dharma. It could be. It’s part of our practice, even eating, you know, we see that a lot in our practice, right, the eating or the speaking, and we think it’s just so trivial. We don’t have to focus, but that is actually very important. You know, so walking those are the especially the parts where our mind goes all over the place. Right. But Dharma is really life and life is dharma, and dharma is not something separate in a sacred place. It’s everything that we do, you know, so when people hear that like, oh, tired, they like tiring, I’m like, Yeah, it’s it’s it’s everything that we do. Yeah, but it’s it’s great because with constant training, it starts to become second nature. So something that took so much effort before and it had required so much energy. And you know, when we started honing that ability more and more, it’s like you just becomes more used to notice and more observe and be be more aware. And then they were saying, just don’t just know it, awaken to it. Because if we just believe something, if we know what we forget, right, we forget Mother Nature. So we just treat the nature, however we abuse it. Someone who is truly awakened to that grace, we call it grace. They will know the cause and effect. They’ll know if I do, this is going to harm Mother Nature, you know, or it’s going to harm that other person. So they’re very careful, even with their thoughts, even with their speech and then their actions very, very careful.
Well, no, I’m just thinking of my teachers who I feel are, you know, I wouldn’t know if their way because I’m not working, but when I look at them, it’s like the most like the teachers that I felt lived in a way awakened or aware life for the ones that looked so human. They were just that person that looked just like your grandmother. You will know they’re just your grandfather. But they were just so there’s no facade. There was nothing. They weren’t trying to be somebody. They were just being them, you know, and you just could feel it. And so I feel almost like the the the awakened ones are the most human and just the most normal or like nothing special, just but. So, but you can tell something’s different. You know, there’s something different about how they live their life. And I, you know, so I remember in San Francisco there was my father’s teacher was in San Francisco and in Korean, there’s an honorific form of language, so you speak an honorific to the elders and then to the younger you just some more casual, informal. But this teacher and he was a lot older and I was an elementary school student. He would talk to me, the honorific right. And so that I still remember that day because I’m like, Wait a second. Why? Why? So it’s almost like he’s saying, Well, you’re Buddha, too. Like in that at that age, I felt because all the other ministers and my parents even and just talk to me casually. But he was the one that treated me like very respectfully. And so I was like, even that back then I was like, There’s something different, you know, there’s something different. And you know, there was that one time when we were all watching soccer again, these are men with sticks to my memory. I was still young. We’re young or watching a soccer game. And it was that intense moment was like a penalty shootout between Korea and like another country. So everyone’s like wants to create a win. But then at the moment that that last person who was supposed to shoot, you know, the ball to get that penalty shot that would have won that would have determined the WHO wins the bell for the dinner started to ring, right? So he got up to the remote. He turned it off. He’s had a good time to go for a dinner. But I remember like what? You know, like how can you how can you not? So he was like just very detached, just like I was there to announce dinner time. But all of us were just so attached and clinging to that. So I still remember that moment. And just that idea of being very fluid and very non attached and just being there. OK, well, that’s that. But now we it’s time for dinner. So again, I was like, Something’s different. What is that you? So just seeing that those feeling those moments and seeing how they lived, like not wasting anything like even gum wrappers, you know, on the gum wrappers on one side, it’s me white. On the other side, it’s like the design. So one of the teachers would, you know, he would collect all the gum wrappers, anything he could clip into this memo pad, you know, things like that where I’d seen like, Oh my goodness. So not wasting. And so I said, Oh, when you get to that point when you truly understand cause and effect are you do live differently? You know? So I hope to strive in that direction. Fortunately, I’ve seen models of it. It’s just that I haven’t gone there yet.
I mean, different when Buddhism is really about like going inward, inward and becoming one with yourself for the greater purpose of going outward out and become one with others. We’re very much about public service. That’s a huge, you know, your personal practice, but it’s because we where you would like to take our mind and be able to bring more compassion and peace to this world. So very much being engaged is a huge part of our our movement of our tradition. But again, it’s also individual personality. There’s certain people, you know, ministers or leaders who are preferred at the temple, which is a huge role too, and just doing their teaching and their study groups within their temple with their members. And then you have other teachers who like to to to go out to local universities and, you know, to do that role. So it’s I think it’s a combination of, you know, one’s personality, but definitely it’s we have that opportunity, which has been wonderful. So for myself, my vision for this institute, for this one institute is very much of getting out there, of really connecting with people in our community, right? Not being insular, but really seeing, Hey, you know, there is this institute and we are providing these wonderful services. You can come here or we can go to your center and offer our meditation or taichi or cheek on our acupuncture. And so master sort the sun and many of our teachers said, you know, we have healers of the mind, but we also have healers of the body. And so this institute is really is trying to show that be a model of saying, we’ve got healer of the mind with the one Buddhist studies and then you got the hills of the body through acupuncture. And the beauty is, is that we all work together. So acupuncture faculty and myself, we work together to create programs that help both departments. And so I’m excited because we have the space now, so we have senior homes, for example. I’d love to invite them for like qigong, or we could take a bring our teach over there. We have Centennial. We have a school education teaching mindfulness to the teachers, and the teachers can then teach the students. So there’s so much work to do. Right? But to go into a little bit more about the spiritual, the arts, my vision is really to bring creativity and spiritual spirituality together, you know, through dance, through visual arts , through music. one of the projects that I’m working on is meditation and music, so I have several artists that I will invite to do live music. And then myself or other teachers, we do the guided meditation. So it’d be kind of like a whole performance. And so people, we invite people just say, you know, settle in, let me start with a guided meditation and then and then I’ll ask the artist to play the music so they just get this full experience of music and meditation. So that’s a project that I’m working on right now.
So people will ask, well, why is it one Buddhism, right? Why is the Buddhism there? And our founder very clearly said might after reading the Diamond Sutra, after reading a different scriptures of different traditions. He wrote the diamond, citron said, shouting in a Buddha already enlightened to what it is that I’m experiencing. So although I’ve not met, Buddha shocked me to Buddha. He’s my teacher. So that is why we have Buddhism as as in our title, because we are basically teaching about the mind, not just about the mind, but how do we use our mind well in this modern age with this advancement of scientific civilization? Everything is advancing so quickly. The material world. But how can we balance that with the spiritual practice? And so it’s really about especially in Buddhism working with the mind. How do you know your mind? How do you use your mind better so that you not only benefit yourself, but that you can be of service to other people ? Because that is the Buddhist teaching of interconnectedness that we obviously don’t live on our own. But even in this very moment, there are so many causes and conditions that allow us to sit here right now. So how do we live a happy, meaningful Purpose-Driven Life? And that is part that’s one of the teachings of one Buddhism. Can you maybe explain a little bit more or like you said in the history, and I read a little bit about, oh, about this? Right, right. Just a little bit of that in the sense of like, you know, how the lineage has evolved into the West . I mean, you start in Korea and there’s, you know, there’s certain reasons why there isn’t images of the sort of life again, like because I deference and get it what I was reading that I read and I appreciate that. But this kind of get exalted causality. This isn’t a different flavor of Buddhism. Oh, yeah. Like, yeah, there is in images of the Buddha. And why is that? Yeah. What are some of the other, you know, key features of why Buddhism? Right? So that’s one of the key questions we receive is why is there not a Buddha statue in the temple and what is the circle mean? And to put it simply, the circle is the symbol of Buddhas and weaken the mind awaken one, which is also what we call our original nature. So that gives me a lot of hope, because if someone said Buddha Head is only available to a certain group of people with a certain, you know, characteristic, then I say, Well, what? Why practice? But here the circle is saying, all of us have this original nature. All of us share this. We have the same original nature as the Buddha, same original nature as master citizen. And so they’re saying it through the practice that you can awaken to that. So in our temple, we have places of worship. In one Buddhism, we have just this a very simple circle. So when we bow to it, it’s it’s a symbol of your original nature, but it’s also a symbol of interconnectedness. You know, we have what’s called the four-fold. Grace is the grace of heaven and earth of nature. Parents, fellow beings and laws. And these are all of the graces. We need to exist right in this very moment. So it’s giving gratitude. It’s a gratitude. Practice is huge and one Buddhism. So this symbol is also saying that since we all share this original nature, you treat everyone as a Buddha. Right? We can go to temples and ask for forgiveness and, you know, say, Well, my colleague is giving me a hard time. Please make them stop and I’ll give you money and I’ll give you food. But what this the circle is saying? Go to the direct Buddha. That person is a Buddha as well. Make a direct offering to that person. So it’s a very trying to be very realist, realistic tradition and saying that, you know, you’re the blessings in the suffering that you receive, you get directly from all these Buddhas around you. Mm hmm. So let me just from a more specific. So you meant just, oh, oh, that’s OK, that’s OK, that’s OK. Don’t worry about it. Yeah, don’t worry, it happens all the time. Uh-Huh. Uh-Huh. Um-Hum. one of the kids who maybe share some of the other nuances in terms of the practices. But what the court will say, you mention gratitude. Oh, you bet. The four graces. Yeah, I know. Is there more to that in terms of what you know in terms of? I mean, that’s going to lead you to the practice as before entering why Buddhism is there and how? Oh, yes, OK. And yeah, so I would definitely get into that. But I guess, you know, maybe from the, you know, let’s take take this step back. one of the, you know, sort of more high level questions I’m curious about is the sort of organizational structure of one Buddhism in the West. So because I was really shocked when I saw this thought as like, Wow, this is like huge in terms of what I see with most of the Sundays. I’ve been to people’s homes very small. And somehow, how you know, one Buddhism has it established in the West in terms of the way it, the way it provides, I guess, an education and a community to the sort of members from that level like this because I don’t know. Yeah, OK. So when Buddhism starting Korea in 1916 in southwestern part of Korea and really at that time when I talked to teachers elders, they would have thought it was crazy that it would become international at that time was just Korea. But we have what’s called a head dharma master, which is kind of like the pope is similar to that. But they they play the role of a kind of the leader. But it’s it’s also a very democratic process of how they’re selected. But the vision of of founding master citizen is, he said, we have the central headquarters in Korea and this is where they make all the important decisions. However, he said, we eventually have to have headquarters in every country because every country is different, different culture, different language, you know, different way of living. So you need to have constitutions that are relevant to that audience. So this year, we established the very first headquarters in the United States. So we’re in the process of creating a constitution that is suitable for the West here because we encounter so many different differences. People say, Well, that’s that’s the way you do in Korea, but it’s different here. So we’re in that stage right now of establishing a new way of teaching a new way of governing in the West, but without forgetting the roots which are in Korea. So we’re always, always going to have that relationship between the central headquarters and Korea. However, there is also an independent part that’s forming that will help for the edification of one Buddhism in the United States. So it’s very much now it’s the United say headquarters are going to be formed in other countries eventually. Right. So in terms of education, we do have a very formal way of ordaining Korean what we call common names, which is someone who’s devoted to teaching the one Buddhist dharma. And right now, we have two undergrad graduate degrees in one Buddhism in Korea, right? So it’s one Wong University and young fans are not there. So for those who want to be ordained, they would go through that formal undergrad training and then enter a graduate school, either in Korea or here at the one Institute, so you get to select. So that’s why we’re the only one institution Buddhist Education Institute in the West right now. And then after that, you go do that training that you go through ordination. Now the difficulty or the challenge that we’re encountering here in the West is that many people can’t devote full time to the ordination path because as of now, our ordination path requires you to live in a communal setting. Right. People have families. They have a job. So we’re now trying to open a lay leader, a lay leader track. So these are people who, you know, I want to be ordained as a lay teacher, but I can’t totally leave everything behind. And, you know, join your communal settings. So this is in the works right now of what are the criteria for that, for that path. And I just want to add with teachers like even masters. So to send the founder of one Buddhism, when he he wrote the scriptures himself. And what I notice is that he has a certain formula that he he uses. So he never says, do it. He doesn’t say do it. He’ll explain the reasons why. And then it’s. Invitations, so so now that I’ve explained why we need to practice is up to you now. So I always appreciate that it wasn’t always like, you have to do it because I say you have to do it. So my teachers would always say, don’t just memorize what I tell you. You try it out yourself. If it doesn’t work, ask. And keep testing it out. So that point of inquiry, I think, and not blind faith was very important to me in order for me to really dove into this tradition.
Yes, that is the formal practice, like we say, OK, if you want to just make it simple meditation and rest, meditation and action, so you are there at rest or you’re in action. So meditation at rest is really the formal practice and we focus on it had more of a Daoist tradition, but on the lower abdomen. And the reason why he chose master suite design chose the lower abdomen was he wanted to work with our health as well, not just the mind with our health. So what happens is when you place your awareness lower in the lower abdomen and you start breathing from your lower abdomen are watery and dry. We have watery and fiery energy. The watery energy goes up kind of cools the area that because we’re always thinking so, cooling down this area and bring down the fire energy here. So you’re circulating the two energies that we have in our body. So it’s supposed to be good for your health, good for your body. And and also we have chanting meditation. So these two practices or the core practices to really help sell the mind right and chanting practice is huge, especially if you’ve been thinking and working all day. It’s hard to just sit all of a sudden quietly and just to focus. So the chanting is really about the practice of returning to your original mind through sound, focusing on that sound to help you just come to one mind. And once you come to one mind, then you can just transition into silent, seated meditation. All right. So that’s meditation at rest, which is supposed to prepare us really for when we are in action. So that awareness on our breath is to help us hone the awareness when we are moving. So, for example, you know, when I’m doing my work just to be able to concentrate single pointedly and whatever it is that I’m doing so, concentrating on the task at hand. Really, that is the meditation in action. And then when we have a difficult moment, meditation and action is that act of pausing, for example. So as someone says something, something to me that triggers me, then it’s just stop. OK, right? It’s like, let me respond and not react right away. Right? So having that power, that power of mind, so we call it power, the power to pause, the power to concentrate, you know, and even the power to rest rest requires also that has put everything down. And that’s what I’m I’m working on right now is I realized I don’t know how to rest, truly rest, you know, just to put all the to do list down and just rest my body. Mm-Hmm. And so that’s a practice as well. I think for me, it’s like the anxiety, the the getting down, the negativity all through thinking. And it’s and then I find that when I’m when I’m more concentrate on my meditation, the thinking just subsides a bit more, which reduces anxiety, stress, right? So helping people to realize that a lot of our anxiety and hardship comes from the unnecessary thinking and attachments that we have.
I was a novice, I start as a novice, which is really difficult, I would never do it again. It’s one year. I don’t regret it, but I would not do it again because it’s tough. It was really I had the privilege of, you know, exploring. I had the privilege of of working at a local temple in Korea when I was in Korea. I was able to experience that and also I started a meditation group in Seoul. And this was not. I called it one circle community, not WVON, but Oni. And I wanted to create a community at that time, which was open to everyone and anyone, and I would invite other religious leaders to come talk about their tradition and break the stereotypes. You know, our ignorance. And then eventually that group started to expand, and I started to just invite other guest speakers of different like the artist and directors and documentary filmmakers and comedians. It just it really expanded to be just a cultural and spiritual meditation community. So I had that experience and also just being really involved in different circles like interreligious dialog circles. You know, my movement right now, I’m kind of getting more interest in social justice issues. So I see myself evolving in terms of my interest and my focus. So before it was very much about community meditation, and I still have that interest. But now it’s more going in the direction of interreligious dialog and also around Buddhism and social justice because I feel that that’s seriously needed in our society. It’s not just individual liberation, but really collective liberation. And I just feel like working together is extremely important. So that has been my focus these past few years. Right. And I think another thing with one would especially ordain is that we don’t have a cookie-cutter if you’re an ordained minister, you have to do this. You know, it’s like, you know, depending on your talent and what you can offer to the community so could be in construction or it can be in acupuncture or can be just in teaching or in the temple or a Buddhist chaplain. So it’s very diverse in that sense as well, which I think is very important to.
And so if somebody asked me, what’s the practice, what’s one Buddhist practice? The first thing I’ll say is that is timeless and places son, which means timeless. Place this meditation to really get to know who we truly are. So it means that we’re not. Practice is not just on the cushion is not just in a particular Dharma hall, it’s in every moment in every place. The question is how do we do that? And so this is when when Buddhism has a very clear, rational, scientific, almost logical path to to achieve that. And so we’ve called, we call it training. It’s not even practice, it’s training, meaning repetition, doing it over and over again from the morning to the night. So so we have what’s called the three fold practice of cultivating our spirit of inquiry into human affairs and universal principles and choice and action. So you’re taking the 24 hours and you’re making that your practice so early in the morning is a great way to cultivate the spirit through meditation or through chanting right. It’s like the reset button to prepare you for the day ahead. And then during the day, it’s about concentration in action, like focusing on whatever it is that you’re doing. Inquiring, asking questions. Doing good work. So that’s the daytime. And then in the evening where things start to quiet down again. Again, it’s cultivating the spirit of through either your chanting practice or journaling. It’s taking inventory. Really like, how was my day? What worked, what didn’t work and how am I going to live tomorrow? So it’s through the journaling practice that we we set intentions. And this also repentance is like, if I did something that I, if I heard somebody give me space to forgive myself and forgive the other person, you know, so there’s that time as well. And then you so you’re preparing, you’re doing a reflection and then you’re preparing for tomorrow. So there’s the cycle. So every moment is not just a moment of practice, but everywhere we are is like a living scripture. So master took us and we said to the scripture is not just in the book. This whole world is your living scripture. You have so much to learn just by observing, just by meeting people. So, so don’t forget that scripture as well. He’ll say that. I mean, we do also have prayer, and that’s what this thing matters. Which isn’t to say, you know, we have self power, we have other power. But you know, the moment that you’re born and you someone has to receive you, right? So the moment that you’re born, you always have yourself power. You have other power. So for us, when we offer prayer, we have that prayer. It’s like we are tuning in to the other powers of the whole universe, you know? And prayer can be done anywhere at any time. If I am having a difficult time to send out, it doesn’t. Please just give me support or guidance. You know, you’re just sending this out to all things the universe, not to a particular duty. It’s just all things. Or, if I, you know, do something great offering a prayer of thanks of gratitude for, you know, if I did something wrong. Forgiveness, please let me do better next time. Then we learn from this mistake. All right. So it’s always the self, the other power that comes together. And that’s why benefiting myself, I ask. That’s why I have to benefit myself and others. It’s very easy for practitioners to always say, I got to benefit others. I’ve got to give to others. No, you got to nurse yourself to that’s there’s a give and take. That’s very important. That’s huge. It’s like self power, other power always there in every moment. So even here right now, when we when I say other power, it’s like the air that I’m breathing right now, even the ground that I’m on right now. Just, you know, your presence, fellow beings, you know, all of this is I depend on that. So in terms of the air, how do I give back to other power through, you know, through through treating and being respectful to Mother Nature, to giving things, you know, to fellow beings, making a Buddha offering, thanking you for coming out and making this trek all the way here to do this interview, right? So it’s always recognizing that I’m never alone in this very moment that there’s so much involved, so having that awareness is very important. Patients, I think a lot of people want like, oh, overnight, if I just do this practice five minutes, I’m going to get it. I know it takes time, but it’s just like a muscle. Like, I always use the example. It’s like L.A. fitness for the mind. Like, if you want to get muscles, you need to work out right, you need to work out. It requires time, effort and pain, you know. So the same with the practice, but it’s less obvious. Sometimes with physical, we can look in the mirror, really start seeing changes. And she’s like, Oh, it’s working with the mindset. It’s very subtle, but it really requires a commitment and. Consistency and dedication. And in order for us to grow that, there has to be some kind of spiritual vow. Why am I practicing? There has to be that. Why? Like, what’s the point of this if we don’t have that, why? So really sitting with, you know, what is your why? You know, and for myself, the why is really, you know, I was called an assist in this lifetime to, you know, reach as much as I can to Buddha Hood and also to help and support others on that path. Right? And so when I reflect on that vow, that becomes my mode of motive force, right? To say, OK, so that is my calling. So the work that I do, I always have to reflect on that. What I’m doing right now is that fulfilling what it is that I was that I vowed to do right? And so my teacher would say, when you sit on the cushion, you know, you feel like you’re not, you’re just sitting there, you’re not doing anything, he goes. But every time you purify your mind, you’re purifying the universe. So in that really struck me because sometimes I feel like I’m not making a difference. That means sitting on the cushion. I’m just sitting. He goes, No, but when you focus, we focus on the tension, the lower abdomen. He was at the center of the universe. So when you when you focus and you really put that intention, there is that change that you make. Yeah. So really realizing, Oh wow, we are all like we each and every one of us are the different parts that make this whole. And that what we think and what we do does make a difference. Yeah. So that it kind of motivates me to practice, right? Mm hmm.
You know what, it’s before I would have thought a sacrifice, but now is like happily sacrifice, meaning that it’s a sacrifice. I realize it made me a happier person. You know, so people are like, why aren’t you married and like? And and now when wisdom open that women can get married if you’d like to. But for me, I realized my energies. You know, I’m really focusing on the practice, and the path has made me a happier person. So that’s been my priority. I guess that’s, you know, so it’s no longer a sacrifice before it was a sacrifice because everyone else was doing it, and I should be living like that. But I left all of that to do this. But it’s not like that anymore. It’s changed with age, too. I think age also helps you get older and you get into a certain routine. But I was hard in my twenties. I must say it was just it was such a different path from all my friends right there. Like, You’re white, you’re you’re Buddhist monk. I got you to shave your head and they have the stereotype. So no, no, no, you know, I’ll still be here doing the practice, but very much finding a lot more happiness as time goes by, you know. So at this point, I don’t regret coming, you know, choosing this path. And it’s very different from other people’s, even my lifestyle and that. But I think my friends now they understand me more. Back then they were like, What do you do? Or I hate communal setting. What? But now they’re calling me the like, OK, can you? Can you officiate my wedding or can you direct me to a meditation center? Can you pray for my son and daughter? So it’s totally changed now. And now that meditation has become more popular as well, and it’s all in media, that’s also helped to dispel this. You know, there’s something superstitious practice or.
The teacher, I’ve been blessed with, some really good teachers and the teachers will always say, have many teachers, and this is one of the things that I’ve always found very appealing about one Buddhism, they said, you know, don’t just have one teacher but have several, you know, and I’ve and I’ve had that experience where, you know, with certain issues, I go to this teacher and when I have certain relationship issues, I’ll go to this teacher academic issues. I go to this teacher and they give me such different perspectives, but they all want me to go in the right direction. So I think the teacher role, especially when Buddhism is no one to connect you to other teachers, so could master suite the or Buddha. You know, they are never the ones who say, I’m the teacher. You know, they’re the medium, they’re say, and I’m here to direct you to guide you, but I will not order you to do something, for example. That’s in my experience, right? So the teacher role to me is someone who’s a guide, but what gives you the space to figure it out on your own as well? Right? So they’ll kind of give you direction, but they may not say, Well, you have to do like this, right? They’ll give you the hint and say, now you make the decision. That’s been my experience. Right? And these are teachers who I’ve had one teacher who you felt like you were her favorites because they have that ability. I don’t know what it is. They just they have that love and that care and that focus just on you. And so when I when I was with her, I thought, Oh, I think I’m her favorite student. But when she passed away like all her, despite like all the students to be like, I know she’s I was her favorite phrase. Oh my goodness, they have also that gift of making you feel like you’re special. And that and I think also just believing in you. I think that was one of the really the biggest gifts of my teachers was that they say, I trust you and I believe in you and you have that potential, whatever that is. So go out there and do what you need to do, you know? So they give you that energy and that motivation and to make you realize, you know, you have a call and you have a certain thing that you need to do a mission, do it, you know, and you can do it. I think that’s that’s important. It took a while for me to find the teacher that I resonate with. You know, like you can go to a temple and there will be a minister and a teacher. But for some, you know, it resonates with me, doesn’t. So it’s so I asked one of my teachers again. I said, You know, when do I know that this is my teacher, right? And so he said, we’ll do do prayer. So I did a lot of prayer, you know, to to guide me to a teacher that I feel that I can surrender myself to, that I felt that trust and a connection. So really, it’s like they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will come. You’ve heard that before, but there is no systematic way of finding a teacher when Buddhism is really like who you meet. You know that connection or you have that affinity, and at some point you do come into contact with each other. Unfortunately, we don’t have like a teller like meditation teacher was like, Oh, this is what my preferences and you know, so at some point sometimes you just even hear a dharma talk and you know, you get a connection and you say, You know, where’s my teacher? Can I meet the teacher? You know? So yes, there’s no one way of finding it. But I just find that when you start practicing law and you just come in contact with more people, you eventually find that teacher that you connect with, you know, and it could be a late teacher not necessarily ordained. It could be a special dharma friend because it’s very still a baby. It’s been, I don’t know sure about other traditions. We’re about 50 years old. I don’t know if that’s a long history in the United States, but definitely we are smaller on the smaller side in terms of teachers. We don’t have a whole lot here in the West so that that is slowly growing. And so I’m hoping down the road we’ll definitely have more teachers where people can connect with and really get guidance. So I think in time, some of them are assigned to existing temples, but definitely there are there now are no more states where they want to open up a temple, right? So but we do have a shortage of of of ministers right now. That’s why it’s limited. But we’re hoping that now with the headquarters of the United States, and if we create a system to to teach and to to really open up that the lead track, then we’ll have more teachers in the future. Definitely. Mm-Hmm. But I will want to add there is the teaching in our tradition called the wise one first. So this is a bit different, meaning anyone can be your teacher in the sense that if you have an area of specialty, that person becomes your teacher in that that particular field. So you are a professional. Videographer, you are my teacher in that sense, so it’s always remembering I’m a student and I’m a teacher, right? So yeah, you can teach and you can teach me all all the other stuff too. But right now, just what I’m seeing is that you are my teacher in this sense, right? So in that sense, I’m in the student role. Mm-Hmm. So that’s always been great because it helps you to also just maintain a certain level of the beginner’s mind.
I just went to Temple because of my parents. But if people were asked me, So when did you really start to believe in Buddhism, I would say it was in my university years. You know, my father was very sick with cancer at that time, and it was the first time that I had that. I had to face dying and death, and I didn’t know how to process that. So the meditation practice, the prayer, the 49 day ritual really helped me to heal. And that was one of the reasons why I decided to ordain actually was because I realized, Wow, this is a path where I can actually help others to heal , because I see that healing myself and also throughout the years, I saw my father change. So before his passing, I realized that this practice transformed him. He had many habits that were very harmful to himself and to our family, and it was his teacher. And one Buddhism which really helped him to change. So, you know, my mom and my dad had a, you know, a decent relationship, but they had their difficult times. But I realized before his death that they became like Dharma friends. And so I realized, Oh, if my dad can change through these teachings, then that’s something that I can have faith in.
Grace is department chair
at the Won Institute.
That’s something that I feel that I could change to for the practice. So that was really the starting point of me. Ordaining in Toronto was very multicultural and religiously, culturally. And I was always the only one Buddhist in my school or except for my sister and I were the only one Buddhists. So I always felt very left out. And there were much more many people in the western tradition of Christianity or Catholic Catholics, and especially in the Korean Canadian community, that they all went to church. Some of my very close friends who were Korean, they’d always say, Come to the church, come to the church. So growing up, I was very conflicted. I didn’t. I didn’t want to identify as a Buddhist, never mind Buddhist, but Won Buddhist.
So people would ask, How is one person different from Buddhism? I didn’t know how to answer that. So it was very easy for me to say either I don’t have a religion or I’m Buddhist, but I think what eventually led me to stay as a one person of really the faith of my father like him, just even his friends who were one Buddhist in Korea and came to Canada and immigrated, they all converted to other traditions because when Buddhism is a minority, it’s a minority religion. But he stuck to it. And I think one of the reasons because he had a teacher, a very strong teacher who he trusted 100%, almost more than a father . And so with that faith in his teacher, he was able to stay on Buddhist. And so when I saw my father and his faith to the truth, his faith, to the to the community and to his teacher, I was very inspired. And I think those were the seeds that he planted for me.
So he said, everything that matters, which is instead in the scripture, you practice that you actualize it. That is the greatest thanks you can give to to your teacher.
And then taking me to Korea was huge. Me meeting the teachers and it’s the teachers I feel who embody the teachings of their teachers who don’t even speak. You just sit in the same room and they have this energy where they make you feel very comfortable, very calm and you feel better. Like when you walked in, you felt one way you felt feeling so much better and healed, even though there was no conversation. So when I saw those teachers who truly applied the teachings, then I said, Oh, OK, there’s something about when Buddhism that I really like. And I think another thing about when Buddhism is that we’re not there to convert other. And I think that was always very important to me because I was always the one being converted like people would try to convert me, which I always said, Well, thank you because I know that you want the best for me, right? But in one Buddhism, it’s always, you know, there are different paths to the truth, right? And you being a you being a good Christian is being a good one, Buddhist. So when I hear those kind of passages, I was like, Oh, this isn’t another religion that I can believe in.