The Path of No Gains Leads to WisdomThe Millennium Expedition of North Chungchong Province divided its teams into six － one for each of six continents － and climbed the highest peak in each. Snapshots taken at the peak of Mount Everest, which is 8,848 meters high, are moving. It is not clear whether the scene behind the flag of the expedition consists of snow or clouds, but it makes us ask ourselves "Why do we climb this high place, risking our lives?" The expedition explains "to show mental power to those who face hardship in life," but I want to find the reasons in a different point of view.
Many people all over the world express their instincts to explore in different ways. I can think of those who traverse a continent by walking or cycling, cross an ocean by rowing a boat and make a round trip around the world in a light aircraft. A disabled person without legs tries to cross the five oceans all by himself.
Those who risk danger and travel long distances or climb high mountains are not confined to explorers alone. We are all explorers.
We try to draw people to our side and climb high buildings. The computer, various software, the Internet itself is a cruise, where the traveler doesn''t get wet, a high-speed track without the sound of an engine.
People who study genomes and develop drugs for the treatment of diseases are also passionate explorers.
What do explorers gain at the end? What do explorers gain after climbing Everest? They only get to see snow at the top and have to climb down. A man who controls money, power and people must climb down empty-handed.
A person who exclaimed "The world is wide, so there is a lot to do" and another person who went to the top using violence had to come down from the throne with empty hands.
Even if you eat with a gold spoon all the delicious food goes through your stomach and nothing remains. It only satisfies curiosity and vanity. Regarding money and honor as gain is like considering the snow at the mountain top as income.
Banyashimgyeong (the Prajna-paramita Sutra) teaches that " The realization of no gains leads to wisdom and removes fear. No gains are necessary to reach nirvana, which is the ultimate stage of peace of mind. If we observe our wandering souls and bodies, we can realize that what is me and what I have is a concoction.
A person who tries to gain, but has nothing to gain, is lonely, gloomy, sad and feels painful. If we observe our condition as it is, we find beauty in our roaming self.
"Beside a Chrysanthemum," a poem by Seo Chong-ju, who passed away recently, shows a section of that stage. A blossom of a flower is the product of the cries of thunder and the cuckoo, wanderings and the loss of an elder sister, the first frost and sleeplessness. In this view, the painful life looks beautiful. It is similar to the stage when one weeps and feels joy at the same time when watching a touching movie or reading an emotional book.
The word "hwa-eom" － "grandeur of flower" － which appears in Hwaeomgyeong (the Avatamska Sutra), does not mean that the world is made up of flowers. It means that loneliness, wanderings and no gains cannot be avoided but one can look at the world beautifully.
If greed, anger and vanity can be looked upon as a flower, there is nothing on earth that cannot become a flower. Geumgang-gyeong (the Diamond Sutra) also teaches us to draw out beauty from no gains. It teaches "Make the world of realization beautiful without tenacity."
The opposite of the pains of metempsychosis is the salvation of nirvana. But these two are not apart in time and space. One is in a bitter world if he thinks he gains from climbing over a high mountain or the top of the world of desire.
But one is in the world of nirvana if he can see through the world as a whole and look upon pain and no gains as a flower and a grandeur of the land of Buddha.
The writer Seok Ji-myeong is the head priest of Popchusa temple.