Spending time in the forest cleanses the mind. The sound of leaves rustling in the wind, the sound of the wind blowing through the reeds, the sound of frogs croaking in the ponds. All you can hear are the sounds of nature. No extraneous thoughts enter the mind. If you empty your mind and receive nature into you with your whole body, there is no separation between you and nature. Nature comes into you, and you become completely one with nature. In the moment that the boundary between you and nature disappears, you feel a profound sense of joy. Then nature becomes you, and you become nature.
I have always treasured such experiences in my life. Even now, I close my eyes and I enter a state where I am one with nature. Some refer to this as andtman, or "not-self," but to me it is more than that, because nature enters and settles into the place that has been made empty. While in that state, I listen to the sounds that nature hands to me. The sounds of the pine trees, the sounds of the bugs... And we become friends. I could go to a village and know, without meeting anyone, the disposition of the minds of the people living there. I would go into the meadow of the village and spend the night there, and listen to what the crops in the fields would tell me. I could see whether the crops were sad or happy, and that would tell me the kind of people who lived there.
The reason I could be in jail in South Korea and the United States, and even North Korea, and not feel lonely and isolated is that, even in jail, I could hear the sound of the wind blowing and talk to the bugs that would be there with me.
You may ask, "What do you talk about with bugs?" Even the smallest grain of sand contains the principles of the world, and even a speck of dust floating in the air contains the harmony of the universe. Everything around us was given birth through a combination offerees so complex we cannot even imagine it. These forces are closely related to each other. Nothing in the universe was conceived outside the heart of God. The movement of just one leaf holds within it the breathing of the universe.
From childhood, I have had a gift of being able to resonate with the sounds of nature as I roam around the hills and meadows. Nature creates a single harmony, and produces a sound that is magnificent and beautiful. No one tries to show off and no one is ignored; there is just a supreme harmony. Whenever I found myself in difficulty, nature comforted me; whenever I collapsed in despair, it raised me back up. Children these days are raised in urban areas and don't have opportunities to become familiar with nature, but developing sensitivity to nature is actually more important than developing our knowledge. What use is there in providing a university education to a child who cannot feel nature in his bosom and whose sensitivities are dull? In most cases, such a person will only gather together knowledge lying here and there and become an individualistic person and someone who worships material goods.
We need to feel the difference between the s«Wr»d of spring rain falling like a soft whisper and that of the autumn rain falling with pops and crackles. It is only the person who can enjoy resonance with nature that can be said to have a good character. A dandelion blooming by the side of the road is more precious than all the gold in the world. We need to have a heart that knows how to love nature and love people. Anyone who cannot love nature or love people is not capable of loving God. Everything in creation embodies God at the level of symbol, and human beings are substantial beings created in the image of God. Only a person who can love nature can love God.