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Mindfulness: Daily Practice

I once lived in Iksan, a city located in the southwest of South Korea. I heard stories about a terrible train explosion which occurred 30 years prior to my arrival. Because of that tragedy, one third of the city was destroyed resulting in 59 deaths, 1,343 injures, and 7,800 people were left homeless.

A train employee had been drinking while at work and fell asleep in a freight car with a candle burning. The candle fell on his sleeping bag and ignited an explosive substance in the train, resulting in this great catastrophe.

Similarly many forest fires are caused by “careless or mindless” acts, such as casually discarding a cigarette. We, too often, see such careless and trifling acts result in huge disaster.

When I read the Won Buddhist Scripture for the first time several decades ago as a preminister at seminary, I thought it was strange to find the frequent use of the word “mindfulness”. I had begun my religious life through Christianity and had been familiar with expressions such as the “Almighty Power of God” and His mysterious and supernatural aspects as in told in the Bible. I thought the very plain word “mindfulness” wasn’t suitable in a sacred book nor was it attractive to me. Yet, the more I practice as a Won Buddhist minister, the more I’ve discovered how precious and important the word “mindfulness” is to change our lives.

Sotaesan, the Founding Master of Won Buddhism, instructed his disciples to practice mindfulness in order to direct one’s life toward happiness and freedom.

Mindfulness is not a mysterious or esoteric thing. Mindfulness uses correct thinking when making a choice to prepare all things well in advance, not to forget to carry out what we promised to do, etc.

Mindfulness is based on common sense. We could ask ourselves “Will there be any person who cannot succeed in life once he sincerely ‘practices’ this mindfulness?” Still, this practice is not easy to put into action and so people continue to live in unhappiness and distress.

For example, I learned to play tennis for the first time in middle school. My body and limbs appeared very tense to my coach. I always held the racket tight with all my strength. So, he instructed me, “always keep your body fully relaxed, only hold the racket tight exactly when the ball strikes”. When I followed his advice, it really reduced the degree of tiredness and I felt my mind could be far more comfortably focused on the ball. It would be great if we could be careful and ‘mindful’ of all things in our lives.

However, Sotaesan, the Founding Master of Won Buddhism, taught that if we are ‘mindful’ of the following 6 items, our lives would become far more successful.

         Items of mindfulness in Daily Practice

  1. In all your actions, be mindful to make choices with sound thought.
  2. Before engaging in all actions, observe the circumstances and be mindful to study in advance.
  3. Be mindful to study and practice scripture when you have free time.
  4. People who have achieved a basic knowledge of the scriptures, be mindful to study and practice koans (the cases for questioning).
  5. To cultivate the spirit, be mindful to practice reciting the buddha’s name or practice sitting meditation either during the time before going to bed after completing any remaining household affairs after supper, or else early in the morning.
  6. After finishing any task, think about how you handled it; be mindful to assess whether or not you have carried out the task you resolved both to do and not to do.


Spiritual practice is not performing severe asceticism. Spiritual practice begins by being awake and aware of a few key things in daily life. This teaching appears to be very simple and plain. It is a great dharma which can be practiced by everyone. As long as we practice the above mentioned items of mindfulness, we can become great practitioners and mature believers.

Having good faith and spiritual practice does not necessarily require going to a prayer house frequently or visiting a special retreat center in some remote location.

In order to lead a happier and more successful life, let us all bring our minds to a pause before we make an important decision. Let us take sufficient time to study whatever endeavor we intend to pursue and regularly read scriptures in order to be guided to our best path or to get an answer for our suffering, or to meditate and contemplate who I am, or to calm down and recharge ourselves.

Again, I would like to emphasize that the above mentioned dharma is a very simple teaching, but only as we put it into practice, will it be a truly transforming and profound dharma.

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