You are here
Home > DHARMA ARTICLES > Who Are You?

Who Are You?

There seems to be diverse ways to survive in the animal world. Wolves and lions run around to catch prey despite risk, and some other animals, such as spiders, wait for prey after making its web by weaving threads from its body. There are other types of animals, such as monkeys or birds, which use stones or tools to crack nuts.

One of the differences between humans and animals is the human brain. I believe that is the greatest reason for humans, despite rather poor physical power, can be the master of all creatures.

It’s important for us to do our best to overcome hardships in our lives, and sometimes it’s also very important for us to contemplate: “What caused this hardship and how do I wisely overcome it?

Buddhists practice meditation a lot. The desire for a still mind by means of meditation has become a fad these days among Westerners. Every year, there has been an exponential increase in meditation and retreat centers in the USA. Toynbee, one of the foremost historians of the in contemporary times, said at his farewell lecture at Harvard University, “one of the most meaningful events in Western culture in the 20th century, was that Buddhism was brought to the West.”

Meditation practitioners come to the Won Dharma Retreat Center in order to learn about the way of meditation discipline. When they learn and practice meditation, they especially ask about how to overcome various obstacles they encounter during sitting meditation practice or in their daily lives.   Although it’s still important to work hard on sitting meditation, it’s as important to seriously contemplate “why I face such obstacles during sitting or in my life, and also how I can overcome them?”

Isaac Newton could explain all natural phenomena with one simple concept, ‘gravity.’ He could explain why the earth turns around the sun, what generates high tides and low tides, and why an apple falls to the ground, etc.  One journalist questioned Newton as to how he could have discovered the great concept of universal gravity, one of the most innovative discoveries in scientific history. Newton answered, “I have thought about it for 24 hours.”

Buddha when he was young, had many fundamental questions, such as “Why are human beings born into this world of suffering, and then when aged, get ill and die? Is there any way to resolve this?” Buddha eventually renounced his pre-destined position of Prince at 29 years of age, and left the palace for the Himalayas to search for the universal truth. Finally, at the age of 35, he attained supreme enlightenment about the great truth of the universe and life. Then he opened a path of liberation for all humans. All this started from the great doubts in his life and the universe.

Not long ago, a TV anchorman conducted interviews on ‘what would be the saddest thing in our life?’ In front of the Statue of Liberty, the anchorman asked many people what could be the saddest thing in the world. Would it be about unemployment issues, or terrorism, or their children’s problems? The anchorman posed this question to a Tibetan Buddhist monk, who was wearing an orange robe while visiting the Statue of Liberty. The monk asked, “Who are you?”  The anchorman replied that he worked for a TV station and was an American surveying what made people sad. The monk asked him again, “Who are you?” The anchorman thought the monk didn’t understand his question since English was not his first language, and so he repeated the same answer a little more slowly. The monk asked him once again, “Who are you?” As the anchorman repeated what he had said once again. The monk finally said, “What you said is just your job, and being an American is just your nationality. Do you truly know who you really are?”  The anchorman replied, “I have never thought about ‘my true self and I actually don’t know the answer.” Then the monk said, “The saddest thing in this world is that a person continues to live without knowing who they really are and this is the fundamental reason why they suffer.”

We sometimes need common sense in the political domain and sometimes computer knowledge. We sometimes need to know the market prices of security and real estate. Yet, the most important thing for us to know to realize eternal and perpetual happiness is knowing where I have come from and who I am truly.

Daesan, the 3rd Head Dharma Master of Won Buddhism said, “Whatever on earth you are in hurry for, nothing is to be more imperative than enlightenment or seeing into our true nature.” Jesus also said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Most people live following the flow of the world, without being able to discern or contemplate upon who we really are or what is a primary and what is a secondary thing in our life. The ignorance of these fundamental questions is the fundamental reason why people suffer.

A horse must be encouraged to move, not the cart. When we show interest in something more fundamental, the root, not the branches, of our life would be far more contented and meaningful.

People in contemporary society have a lot of knowledge about many things. However, we should really know about fundamental things, such as the reality of ourselves and where we have come from and where we will go. Without that understanding, the root of suffering or discontentment is still there in our life.

Without answering these spiritual questions, we cannot obtain eternal life; we cannot achieve happiness or freedom – which is perpetual and indestructible.


Leave a Reply