Correspondence with a Student

A student wrote to Zen Master Jok Um with questions for a college paper.

Student: What is peace?

Zen Master Jok Um: What are you? If you find your true self, then you find peace.

Student: What is forgiveness?

ZMJU: Don’t eat toxic mind food. Greed, hate and delusion poison the mind.

Student: What is compassion?

ZMJU: All sentient beings are your teachers. Perceive their mind-light and be guided by it.

Student: What is the importance of compassion and forgiveness concerning oneself and others around them? ZMJU: Don’t make self and others. Then you see your true nature everywhere.

Student: What methods do you use or teach to help people implement these qualities in their lives?

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ZMJU: These qualities only come to life when you find that they already reside in you. Meditation practice is body practice—intentionally making a time and space to be fully with your own nature without being seduced by mind-hindrances helps you anchor in the mind-ground. Find this mind-ground in simple activities—grooming, folding laundry, cleaning, walking. Things that don’t require figuring out can be used as practice anchors throughout the course of the day. This is mind practice. Recognizing the shape of circumstances around you and following its flow is life practice. Eat when hungry; sleep when tired; know how to give and how to receive. Then seeing that all sentient beings are your teachers is student practice. The mind of a student is generous, grateful, curious, engaged, kind, receptive and responsive. Finding a guide for this is very important.

Student: What is the process one goes through to accept forgiveness?

ZMJU: Why would someone reject forgiveness?

Student: How does a community prosper when its citizens have a compassionate and forgiving nature?

ZMJU: Buddha taught that a peaceful heart makes a peaceful person. A peaceful person makes a peaceful family. A peaceful family makes a peaceful village. A peaceful village makes a peaceful country. A peaceful country makes a peaceful world. ◆