Rev. Park is a minister in the Won Buddhist community and the Buddhist chaplain at two New York universities.
I was born in 1980 in South Korea, the youngest of three children. We didn’t have any religious practices at home, but ethics and virtues, such as kindness, perseverance, and honesty, were very much emphasized by my parents.
In high school, at the invitation of a friend, I attended a Won Buddhist youth service for the first time. In the beginning, I thought of it as a fun social gathering, but later I found deeper meaning in dharma practice.
In 1998, I, with a group of close friends, entered monastic training to be ordained. At that time, most people around me thought that I would be the first to quit. So did I. But while most of my friends changed paths, I have not yet found any reason to leave the practice.
In 2008, after ten years of training, I was fully ordained and became a minister at the Manhattan Won Buddhist Temple. Besides my lovely temple community, I’m involved with various religious NGOs at the United Nations and serve as the Buddhist chaplain at Columbia and NYU. I’m very grateful to have all these opportunities to share the buddhadharma.
What is your practice tradition?
Won Buddhism. Won in Korean means “circle” and symbolizes ultimate reality and our buddhanature.
What is your current or next project?
Ongoing practice—a primary and lifelong project.
Favorite meditation practice?
My favorite meditation practice here in NYC is loving-kindness meditation. Every time I hear ambulance sirens, I wish whoever is involved in the situation to be safe, well, and at ease.
What dharma books do you recommend?
The Scriptures of Won Buddhism and The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic, by Gil Fronsdal.
Your favorite virtue?
Serenity. People respond differently to the same situation. This difference ultimately comes from a person’s state of mind.
Your chief characteristic?
Simplicity. With limited time and energy, I need to decide what matters most and do it. So I’ve been training myself to be focused and to let go of the unnecessary.
Your idea of happiness?
Being content with where I am now.
Your principal poison(s)?
Short temper. I’ve gotten much better, but still sometimes I can feel it inside, even if it’s not shown to others.
If not yourself, who would you be?
An enlightened one, in order to get a real sense of what it’s like to be enlightened.
Name three of your heroes.
Besides Buddhist teachers, Lao Tzu, Ryu Gwansun, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The natural talent you’d most like to have?
Musical talent. I’d perform before teaching dharma to get more attention.
Your favorite author?
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Your favorite musician or group?
Kim Kwang Seok and Queen.
What’s for dinner?
I try not to eat dinner these days, but if I do eat, I will eat anything available in the kitchen.
A motto that represents you?
A life of gratitude.
Listening to rap songs. Since English is my second language, I don’t get all the fast lyrics and slang, but the energy of the music lets me connect with strong, aggressive emotions that I normally don’t connect with. I like the beat.