The Way Calls

How strange the cycles of time and fate. That we should meet again one brisk winter’s morn, to step again on the undulating terrain of this eastern most tip, three years on. Gone is the summer of three year’s back whence we looked first up that track, and contemplated in awe the road’s door…..

I recall your words….

“When spring comes to Korea and roots begin to stir from April showers, sap in the cherry trees begin to tickle the pink buds and green shoots push aside the dark earth. Spring birds singing their melodies, bring forth ancient memories. Then the mountain spirits, male and female, begin to murmur, “The wind is sweet and gentle. The sun is tender. Come walk with me.”

And people, following the whispers, climb little mountain paths to plunging waterfalls, past craggy peaks into secret crevices where healing waters and ginseng roots cure sickness and sores. To the monasteries they go where ancient statues of the Buddha watch their panting breath with calm eyes and good monks welcome them with drinks of sweet herbs and fruits, and villagers provide warm lodging and fiery sojo.”

Now in the December of 2011 late, this same fiery sojo will least be our source, of warmth, when all is quiet save for the rustle of the dry leaves in the winter breeze. But from the heart our spirits will melt this long cold front which has been felt, upon this path for several years. Where we shall tread our feet will meet the very ground where Wonhyo walked, and in doing so I do retort, that we will be in harmony in that crisp air which leads to the monastery.

The story you told us rings clear in our heart of the ancient saint who’s magic did start our quest to walk this road……..

“Legend has it that on a dark night a storm drove Wonhyo and Uisang into a cave for shelter near Dangjugye. During the night Wonhyo was overcome with thirst and searched in the dark for something to drink. On the cave floor, he found what he thought to be a gourd filled with cool water and lifting it to his lips drank deeply from its refreshing contents. In the morning when he awoke, he looked for the vessel and was shocked. The delicious, thirst-quenching water of the previous night was dirty rainwater swarming with maggots that had collected in a rotten skull-cap. He fell to his knees and vomited and experienced deep inner enlightenment. He realized that truth is created by the mind.  Wonhyo is reputed to have said-

The three worlds are only mind, and all phenomena arise from the mind, consciousness. If the truth is present in the mind, how could it be found outside of the mind!

This December in the city of Gyeongju, where lived many years ago, the saint Wonhyo, it so happened that five companions met in an inn called the Dragon’s Hearth. The next morning they would begin their walk west towards Pyeongtaek. For their enjoyment they proposed to entertain themselves along the way with stories, poems and songs, as traveller’s do. Just as was agreed to by the English pilgrims as described by the author Geoffrey Chaucer in Canterbury Tales.

And so it was that the five pilgrims set off west, leaving all notions of the world as they knew it at the road’s door. Fore the way was the way of the free mind and all were potent believers in this truth. They let the politicians negotiate over the statistics back in the capital of Seoul. For them the simple act of walking would yield the necessary truths.


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