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Do Not Be Afraid of Giving Up and Starting Over

   
 
  ▲ Kim Mi-suk (Professor of the Dharma College)  
 
   Every year during springtime, the campus turns into the garden of flowers. It would not be an exaggeration to say that freshmen are truly noble flowers: the blossom of youth. As college students, they face the statue of the Buddha everytime when they pass the campus’s central square.

   Once, in front of the statue, a freshman with an arrogant attitude asked me who he is.With a gesture of protection with his right hand and gesture saying that every wish will come true, Sakhyamuni (B.C. 563-483) is standing at Paljeongdo. He is not only the founder of Buddhism but also a spiritual guide at Dongguk University.

   Sakhyamuni had a life as rough as a roller-coaster. As a late child of the royal family, his name was Siddhārtha. Unfortunately, he lost his mother seven days after his birth. Under the care of an auntas as a prince, he was given the best education, got married, and had a son. However, he was unsatisfied with his life. Eventually, he left home and became an ascetic. He was 29 years old.

   For the six years after he left home, he put himself through tremendous penance. His practice was beyond the typical penance of one meal per a day. He went through the extreme penance of a fast; he ate only every 15 days and sometimes it was even the excrement of cows and his own urine. Yet, he could not reach the highest wisdom as he wished. Finally, he stopped the penance and made up his mind to avoid the extreme way of life. In other words, he thought that it was not the right way to live as a prince, a life full of pleasure, or as an ascetic, who has to practice extreme fasting.

   At the same time, even though it was not his choice, he decided to seek the truth on his own. For other ascetics were disappointed and left him. This was when Siddhārtha’s choice, avoiding both extremes, spread as the name of an ascetic practice, “the middle way.”

   Siddhārtha soon reached the highest wisdom after he started to eat suitably,  meditate suitably, and maintain a peaceful mind. Then, the moment of realization came. Ever since then, he became the Buddha which has been recognized and acknowledged by many people. He was no longer Siddhārtha. As the Buddha and a teacher of humanity, he became the light of sagacity. Probably forever!

   Every time I think about the life of the  Buddha, I realize the importance of  having a strength to determine to stop and give up on something in life. While the books for self-improvement tell us to strive our best for work and keep going, the life of Buddha and his way of life teach us something different: to take the middle way, which he learned through his experience.

   The Buddha gave up over and over again. He chose a life of seeking the truth by giving up on the lives of prince, husband, and father. Also, he left his teacher without hesitation. He even resolutely gave up the practice of penance and fasting which had been passed down for a long time.

   The Buddha started over again immediately. After abandoning his family, he soon started a life of an ascetic. He chose to practice penance by himself after he gave up the life as a successor under the teacher’s acknowledgement. Moreover, he daringly gave up the asceticism which all ascetics admire. He had the strength to give up when he could not find the answer even if everyone believed that was the right way.

   A life full of independent decision! That was the Buddha’s life. Until he completely achieved what he wanted, he gave up and gave up and then started over and over again. I believe that is a noble and superior life.

   Let’s make a decision on our own and give up when it is the time. Life is finite. At the age of 29, I left my home like the Buddha, himself. If someone asked me if my life was as successful as his, I would, of course, say it is not the time to answer yet. I just want to say that I do not regret my decision. During the school year, I hope students consider the statue of the Buddha at Paljeongdo a mirror. As it has done for me for 26 years, it will teach excellent lessons of life.

Kim Mi-suk  ashoka@hanmail.net

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