instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Living This Life Fully

Talking About Munindra

Munindra (Bodh Gaya, 1974). Photo: Roy Bonney.
This past Monday I had the pleasant experience of engaging in a conversation about Munindra with Paul Swanson for his podcast "Contemplify." I appreciate every opportunity to share what I can about Munindra's life and teachings. This occasion was especially welcome since Paul is the kind of interviewer authors are so fond of--easy to speak with because they're both interested and prepared. I've been quite fortunate over many years to meet with people who take their work as interviewer or reviewer seriously. But I also can recall a couple of interviews about an earlier book. Not only did I provide the answers, I also had to come up with the questions because the person had not bothered to read what I'd written.

It was clear from the beginning that Paul was moved by Munindra and what he still offers--even though he's no longer with us--to anyone of whatever religious background. It never mattered to Munindra what spiritual path people followed. They didn't have to be a practitioner of Dharma, for he taught anyone who was willing to listen. In a similar way, Paul, who is an educator at the Center for Action and Contemplation, supporting the ecumenical ministry of Richard Rohr, OFM, readily "got" Munindra's essential wisdom.

Part of what made Munindra's teaching so universal was his nonsectarianism. He never said that Buddhism had a monopoly on such qualities as loving kindness, compassion, patience, and so on. He made the ordinary extraordinary. A simple gesture of generosity took on a deeper meaning with a greater impact than one might imagine. By embodying those qualities, he taught others how they, too, could embody them in their daily life.

Every time I have a chance to talk with someone about Munindra or reread sections of Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra, I am reminded yet again of what I can do, what any of us can do, to transform how we live and how we interact with others. Yes, on a technological level, things have changed dramatically from the world that Munindra grew up and lived in. However, the simple truths he espoused have not changed. They're as relevant today as they were when the Buddha first shared them 2,600 years ago.

To listen to the interview with Paul, just click the link: http://www.contemplify.com/012-your-teachers-teacher-mirka-knaster-on-the-dharma-quirks-and-stories-of-munindra-teacher-of-joseph-goldstein-sharon-salzberg-jack-kornfield-kamala-masters-and-many-more/ Read More 
Be the first to comment

Munindra's teachings go to Korea

Copies of Korean translation at Kyobo Mungo in Seoul.
Now it's been a year since my last post, so at least the delay is shorter!

I'm writing because it’s amazing what happens when you simply let things unfold instead of planning, especially when it comes to sharing Munindra’s joy and wisdom. Recently, I wound up having an extraordinary experience in Korea because of him.

My friend Shirley couldn’t speak highly enough of her trip to Korea--the Koreans she met, and the art, architecture, and gardens she saw. So I decided I’d go too, especially because I admire traditional and contemporary Korean fiber art (textiles and paper). But all I had time for was purchasing an airline ticket and booking a room in Seoul. I was fully occupied with getting my studio ready for Art By The Sea/The Sea Ranch Art Tour. I decided that, as so often in the past, serendipity would be my travel agent.

In the midst of all my studio preparations, I received a totally unexpected email from Shiva Ryu, indicating that he’d translated my book, Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra, into Korean. I didn't have a clue who he was when he wrote to ask how to best translate my family name: Should the K be pronounced or not? I wrote back, “What an interesting coincidence, for I’m soon leaving to travel in South Korea.” That information put a whole chain of events in motion that left me stunned in the most positive way.

First, I was now considered a guest and would be picked up upon arrival. Thus, when I landed at Incheon International Airport, I was greeted by Jea-Sung Hwang, publisher of Alchemist Books. After that, it was dinners and lunches and interviews as well as signings at Kyobo Mungo, South Korea’s largest bookstore chain. So moved was I by all that was happening, that I often got teary-eyed. We also visited Ven. Dr. Misan Sunim at Sangdo Meditation Center. Completely unsolicited on my part, female companions and transportation appeared for wherever I wanted to go.

Although the Korean translation was not due to be published till the end of the year, the pub date was pushed for my arrival. I’ll bet a lot of intense scrambling took place as everyone went into gear to meet the new deadline. On top of that, the translator, who annually leaves for India around that time, postponed his trip because of me. Little did I know who Shiva Ryu is, beyond his role as translator. I soon discovered.

Shiva is one of Korea’s most celebrated and prolific writers. He is a poet who has also translated Japanese haiku. And he’s well known for inspiring Koreans with his travel writing about India. When he told me that he selects one book each year to translate. I felt honored that he chose mine about Munindra. I wondered how this came about. Had he ever met Munindra? Where did he come across the book in English?

Because of his long-time travels in India, he did, in fact, meet Munindra in Bodh Gaya many years ago. And he probably chanced upon my book in a NYC bookshop. There's no way I could have arranged any of this to happen!

All of the things that ensued following those first days in Seoul were like a fairy tale. I was treated royally, in a way that I'd never experienced in the U.S. on previous book tours that were planned. Like my friend Shirley, wherever I traveled, I met only with kindness, graciousness, and generosity in the Korean people. I was showered with gifts. And, unlike my highly regulated interactions with Theravada monks in Southeast Asia, I was able to sit and talk and walk comfortably with Korean monks, especially when one of them knew English. It was such a delight to visit temples and have these conversations to learn more about their modern lives as Buddhist monks in an industrialized nation. I was surprised but gratified to hear of the growing interest in the Pali Canon (two translations into Korean) and vipassana practice.

In future posts, I will go into more detail. For now, I'm still glowing from the warmth of my Korean experience. I know that Munindra used to have similar experiences when his students invited him to their countries. I never expected that it would be my good fortune too. I could never have anticipated that six years of working on the book in order to pass on his teachings would afford me such a happy time in South Korea. I felt as though Munindra were there with me, smiling in the background to see how much goodness people can express. It was what attracted so many individuals to him. Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment

Long Absence

Two years have flown by since I last posted here. As a writer-turned-textile artist who is still a writer, I started a new blog at the beginning of 2014. It's about art in general, though I touch on aspects of the Dharma whenever possible. I invite you to have a look: exploringtheheARTofit.weebly.com Although I don't write about Munindra in the art blog, I will be examining the relationship between Dharma and the Arts after I participate in some events focused on that theme.

I am also glad to report that the scholarship fund I set up at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Munindra's memory has attracted more donors. Read More 
1 Comments
Post a comment