icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Living This Life Fully

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.

Post a comment