None of us at Shim Gwang Sa aspired to monkshood. We took no vows of celibacy or poverty; we were training for good health and successful living. In ideal terms though, there was a lot we could learn from the monk: a monk always knows what he's supposed to do at any given time of the day and temple-life strove for this ideal.
I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower. I've been circling for thousands of years and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?
To the monk, a canonical hour is more a presence in the day rather than our common understanding of a sixty-minute segment of it. We come closer to appreciating the monastic idea when reflecting on the seasons of the year: each season is defined less by exact start and end dates and more on qualitative aspects of time expressed in nature.~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours (translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows)
Before the calendar marked the beginning of Autumn last week, we already knew something was underway. One sensed a subtle shift in mood: the angle and quality of light and diminishing daylight betrayed the warm summer temperatures. I noted that some of the trees had given way to this shift with changing leaves, in evidence since August. It's the time of year when personal reflection comes more easily and naturally for me, too; I reflect on personal goals, hopes, dreams. It feels easier now that children are back in school than during our active summer.
Even in our busy schedules, we notice that different times of the day have unique qualities, as well. In monastic life, each hour issues a distinct challenge and calls for a response.
Living healthy lives means building in moments of daily vision, then letting our action flow from it. A Japanese proverb warns:
Vision without action is a daydream.The over-arching clarity of our vision and action ultimately builds our days, our weeks, our lives. To the monk, life is about bringing together clarity of vision and action in each moment by moment. Vision alone, meditation alone, is incomplete contemplation. Completing the circle requires a melding of vision and action; all of us (not just monks!) are called to contemplation in this sense.
Action without vision is a nightmare.