Most Buddhist ways of thinking and learning recommend doing on your own, and meditation may be one of the most famous ways to practice Buddhism by yourself. Confucian scholars started to sit for meditation because they may have found it cool to meditate just as monks did. A handful of philosophers during the North Song China period discussed and established how Confucians mediate. Playing a critical part in such discussion, Jung Ee likened people’s mind to a glass bottle. As he put it, it does not make any sense if you think that any drop of water will not flow in an empty bottle floating on the water. If you are preoccupied with worries about the issue of incoming water, there is only one way to get free of it. Fill the bottle with something else. That is, make your mind full if you want to empty it.
Jeong Do-jeon (1342-1398), one of the founders of the Joseon Dynasty, took a different viewpoint of what meditation is for. Let’s say that temples are packed with everyone who has turned into meditators. He would have asked, “Who then will raise cattle?”
Pragmatist Jeong was interested in pondering upon questions such as who brews the café latte that you are thankful for because a cup of it perks you up to boost concentration while you work at home. It has always been that you need someone else’s help to make self-lockdown or me-time possible. Farmers have a part to play while sewers have their own.
If meditation is the only way to reach Nirvana in the woods, we may have to admit that only a few are exclusive to such opportunities. A meditation practitioner in the mountains may be a rich religious leader who deprives his servants of such equal opportunities to reach the stage of Nirvana. Jeong Do-jeon felt bad at the thought of hardworking cattle raisers and farmers who have to take care of the temple where monks only sit all day long to achieve mindfulness.
The same criticism is directed at Taoist philosophers who would dream of becoming a flying fairy to live in heaven. They produced a great deal of poems and proses praising their way of life, by which they stayed away from secularism but instead lived in nature while holding an aesthetic point of view of life. However, being distant from the world is only a luxurious hobby activity. To help reclusive hermits maintain their lifestyles, some people in the worldly world must have fabricated brushes, ink sticks and ink stones to sell them on the market. Think of their servants who would have carried lots of cash to buy such stuff. History tells us that it is only a few who are allowed to get what may seem to be available to anyone else. While some talk knowingly about lockdowns and quarantines online, others may find no time to leave comments on online forums.
It is likely that the day will come when every single comment and reply left online turns into big data and a graduate school student majoring in history decides to write his doctoral thesis about it. If he maintains strongly that most Korean citizens spent most of the day goofing around at home alone in the post-COVID19 era of the 21st century, I hope that his professor will give him an answer to correct him right.
“Well, one of the words I don’t agree with is the Stone Age. Stoneware was all they got from excavating the ground of the era, from where the word was coined. Think this way. You may need some stone tools to survive on an uninhabited island but you are likely to use wooden tools more often. The same thing must have happened in the prehistory era. It is just that stone tools were buried and preserved well. You see? Don’t be mistaken that online records say everything about their era. Pay the same amount of attention to the lost parts of the world that were swallowed up by the coronavirus.”