정리 김혜진 사진 홍성훈
As a science high school alum and KAIST University student, Dong Joon lived with “studying” as his life’s purpose and meaning. However the ever increasing academic competition, loneliness and sense of distance from friends, the fleeting happiness after achieving goals, and days where all that was left was emptiness led Dong Joon to wonder, “Why do I need to study so hard? Is this ultimately what happiness is?” After starting Maum Meditation in 2010 and destroying the barrier of “me,” Dong Joon learned how to treat people sincerely and the joy of sharing happiness. This is the story of one twenty-three year old’s realization of life’s real purpose.
I was always a quiet and passive kid; the only thing I was good at was studying, and this was how I wanted to be acknowledged. I figured this was the way to gain status; this was how I could accomplish anything. So I went to a science high school and got into KAIST University. I majored in mechanical engineering because I always enjoyed physics class. When you’re solving a problem and suddenly the answer falls into place… oh the bliss!
However, after a while, I became distressed. There was always so much studying to do. The minute I finished one assignment and could relax, there was another assignment, always another assignment, always having to study… In fact, I didn’t even know why I needed to study so hard.
I figured this was to be my life. Grad school after college, and even after I started working, I figured this was how I would live. To me, the CEOS of Fortune 500 companies or Bill Gates only seemed to live a difficult life, always competing; they didn’t seem that happy. If that was my fate, I began to wonder: why do I need to study so hard?
In fact, just like me students don’t know why they need to study. They do it because it’s habit, because they’ve done it this far. People think students from a top school like KAIST don’t worry about their future and that everything’s a done deal, but the truth is they are very insecure. They aren’t very good at things other than studying, so they fill that void with academics, but when they arrive at this school they painfully realize they fall behind in that area as well. Therefore, in my case, true friendships were difficult. I was always lonely because I thought of my friends as rivals.
Mealtimes in particular are when one needs a friend, and one’s pride wouldn’t allow eating alone, so meals were stressful. Everyone sends texts asking “Do you want to eat together? Do you have time?” Afraid they might end up eating alone, students get anxious.
I started Maum Meditation after seeing a Maum Meditation flier by chance the winter break of my senior year of college. The people in the flier looked so happy. I wondered if I too could change if I went here. I had heard that I was usually cold to people.
As I meditated, I truly saw myself for the first time. I thought I had taken on all of the work others didn’t want to do because I was good, but it was all just to look good. I had lived only for myself! The thought that if I didn’t finish this meditation, life will always be like this made the future look bleak.
I assumed that if I bought a friend a meal, he’d pay next time. I always reluctantly agreed to favors in case my friend would think badly of me. I didn’t stay in touch with people until I needed them. I saw how I had lived. There was nothing done for others, everything was calculated, only for me. I learned why personal relations were difficult. The only thing I could show off was studying and KAIST so instead of approaching people humanely, I started relationships by showing off. So I was harsh with my words, berated others, and was unable to be warm.
From beginning to end I continuously eliminated that “me” because I truly disliked myself. And I found the roots of my minds: because I had always been told I was a good student, that I was smart and polite, these compliments had only made me more proud. “I’m right, why are you like that?” I had only viewed the world with my fixed notions.
As I threw away those minds I learned how I should treat people. To be one means to stand in another’s shoes, but I didn’t know this. Now that I listen carefully to people from their perspective, I can hear the little things they say off-hand, and I can respond accordingly. Thanks to Maum Meditaiton, my relationships with my friends and younger sibling have improved. Before, I self-created barriers between me and others, and I said I was lonely, and I didn’t know the joy of being with others, but after I knocked down my mind I saw that people were always with me from the start.
As I meditated I found my purpose in life for the first time: to live not for me, but for others. I want to live helping the people around me find happiness. I already know how unhappy it is to live only for one’s self.
My heart aches when I see on the news stories of students taking their own lives. There is a way to escape from the troubling minds, but those students just didn’t know it. How painful and distressing must it have been for them to the very end.
I think I am now learning, for the first time, the way to live. I’m learning how to clean, how to cook, and how to talk with people. If my brain and a pen were all of me before, now I am realizing every moment that the basis of life is opening the mind and diligently moving the body. That is the start of an admirable life, lived not for me, but for others.