The Korean Monk

“Do people have a path in their life?”

“I think so.”

Do you feel that things happen to you, the world you see, or people you encounter seem to be destined? There is always a driving power behind your motivation. You don’t really have a choice to choose what happens to you. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. The spiritual principle of cause and effect is sometimes inevitable.

Visitors typically arrive at the Temple for lunch, and will head towards other peaks of the Wutai Mountain right after the meal. I always liked to sit on an enormous rock and watch people come and go. It feels like watching a movie, you don’t really belong to any part of the scenes. You observe people talk, walk, and even see their thoughts as if they were written out for you in plain sight. In that moment, time freezes and everything is crystal clear. While observing, I inevitably become part of the scenery.

One of the visitors was a Korean soldier. My attention was immediately drawn to him because of his humility, manners, and quiet nature. Aside from his long hair, he had every characteristic of a monk. He had been hiking for several months, causing him to go without a haircut. I was intrigued by his presence and wanted to converse with him. I discovered that he taught people how to drive tanks and worked in the military for a majority of his life. He had a wide perspective that gave him clarity in his life. He was a foreign visitor and I was the only one that was able to communicate with him. The communication was minimal because there was a slight language barrier.

“Do you eat meat?” a random question I always use to start a conversation.

“No.” he answered.

“Did you get married?” the fact that he only speaks a little English, and it limits the topics we could possibly talk about. I am not intending on asking such personal questions, but my interests push me to engage in a deeper level of conversation.

“No, I am not getting married.”

“Wait, are you a monk?”


Through this small language barrier, there was a great miscommunication that pushed forward his destiny. The shocking news soon breaks out in the temple, and it’s probably the most ironic thing I did to change a person’s life. To show our welcome, we brought him monk clothing and gave him a haircut. Well, not actually a haircut, but made him bald. And he stayed in the temple for almost a week. He seemed to fit into the environment very well with his hand signals and body language. When all the people are interested about the new Korean face in the temple, another Korean visitor arrived. The good thing is that she can speak both Chinese and Korean. We finally get to communicate with the Korean monk. And of course, he became a monk because of my mistranslation. The gsuilty feeling makes me feel a little ashamed when I see him even though he told me he wanted to become a monk. I started to avoid him and I know that came from my fear of taking responsibilities. The fear somehow contains a little excitement for the Korean monk. There is also a little bit of pride for being the catalyst of someone making this important life choice. This creates an inner conflict of fear and pride within me.

And it goes back to the question I mentioned before, do we really have a path that is set ahead of us and is it unchangeable? The whole story might sound like a joke or a funny event when you first read it. Reincarnation is highly believed among Buddhists. Hundreds of years ago, this temple was one of the most popular places for monks and still remains one of the most visited places. They would spend years in the temple learning Buddhism teachings and travel back to their home country to preach what they have learned. This includes Korea, Japan, and other small countries around China. Imagine if this Korean soldier was a monk lifetimes ago, and has reincarnated back into his driving desire as a monk. Therefore, I’d be a small part of a bigger driving force behind his destiny.

This experience pushed me closer towards understanding the reason to be a Buddhist. Seeing a Korean soldier become a monk by a meticulous plan laid out for him and the contributing outside factors. It is never a coincidence for me to visit Wutai Mountain and have met my Guru. It is never a coincidence that I chose to believe in him to help me to gain control of this planned and destined life. From the moment we saw each other, I knew it was my way to find the truth. The driving desire to obtain wisdom pushed me into the study of Buddhism. And yes, it is my destiny.


One Comment

  1. rpl5209

    Hello Ruiqi. Wow, what an interesting story. You’ve asked a great question, do we really control what happens to us or is it our own destiny? A difficult question indeed. Was it just a coincidence that you two met, or were you destined to meet and turn him into a monk? It’s hard to say for sure but it definitely makes you think. Personally I believe everything happens for a reason. You two were destined to meet because the impact on both of your lives was necessary. Interesting topic in Buddhism since not many people fully understand what it about. Hopefully in this class we can all learn a thing or two about Buddhism from you.


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