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[Opinion] The River of Myth Flows through Our Bodies

Posted February. 03, 2002 01:48,   


The greeting in Indian cultures `Namaste` means `I greet the God in you`. When you start thinking about it, I get shivers down my spine. The people of India seems to have believed that the divine lived in human beings since a very long time ago.

Buddhism, which evolved from ancient Hinduism, also adheres to the idea that anyone can become a Buddha once he attains realization. In one of the Indian thinker Bhagwan Rajneesh`s book, he writes this opening sentence, "I greet the Buddha who is in you."

According to Rajneesh, Buddha is in every one of us. We are simply not aware of it but the Buddha is truly in us. Hence, to study the self is to awaken the Buddha within. Our indigenous religion Chun Do Gyo adheres to the idea that `The human being is one with the divine`. In Chun Do Gyo, the believer seeks to attain a state of union between the human and the divine based on this belief. The union between the human and the divine is not possible without the seed of the divine in human beings.

I have a similar thought on ancient myths. I believe that the river of ancient myths flows in us. Sigmund Freud`s `remnants of the ancient past`, Carl Jung`s `collective unconscious` and Mircea Eliade`s `origion` are, I think, different names for this river. When we read myths, we feel a sense of familiarity even though it may be the first time, or we get the feeling that we have read it somewhere before. This is because we already have the seeds of the myths within us. So, when I talk about myths, I follow Rajneesh`s example and say, "I greet the myth that is in you." Reading myths is like greeting the river of myth that flows in us or making it flow again.

In 4th century Greece, there was a special sculptor named Lysippus. Not many of his genuine works remain, but he was a towering figure in life-size marble sculpture until the Roman era. I often think about his answer to people`s question, `How did you make such beautiful sculpture?`

"I just took away the clumps of marble."

He could not have said this without believing that the statue lay hidden in the marble.

The Korean poet Mi Dang Seo Jung-Ju saw a beautiful statue of the Buddha and uttered, "A laudable artisan brought out the Buddha in the stone." He may have had a similar idea as Lysippus.

There are songs that you can sing after listening to it just once. When this happens, I see it as a good song coming out to greet the song in me. There is a song called `Yellow Camellia`." I remember hearing it on TV just once when Cho Young-Nam performed it, and I sang it to myself all that day. When I met Cho Young-Nam several days later, I told him that I could sing whatever he sings. Actually, I succeeded in singing along half-way. Cho Young-Nam admitted that he gets teary when he sings the song and is reluctant to sing it in public.

I can tell the reason why I could sing that song so easily and why Cho Young-Nam hesitates to perform it in public because it makes him weep. If that song were not greeting the song within me, how is it possible for a non-musician like me to sing it after hearing it only once? If that song were not greeting the nameless sorrow behind Cho Young-Nam`s life, how could it bring a cheerful singer like him to tears? We can say now that this song written by the poet Lee Jae-Ha greets the song and sorrow living within us.

Greeting, calling, inviting, encountering . . . , my daily hwadoo is complex like this. As a writer, I seek to receive and write down this hwadoo, and strengthen my original spirit. I say, my `original spirit`.

Lee Yoon-Ki (Novelist)