Daeung Sunim in his gear, ready to set off on another leg of his spiritual test. (Dave Pope)
Quests, pilgrimages and other spiritual journeys form an important part of many faith traditions.
For Daeung Sunim, a 42-year-old Buddhist monk from South Korea, his spiritual test is to cycle across the Americas. He started in Vancouver, Canada in April. His planned endpoint in two years is the tip of Argentina.
Sunim doesn’t speak much English and, apparently, even less Spanish. He came to Canada basically on a bicycle and a prayer, and it’s been working. People are even contributing to his blog.
He has made it to Niagara Falls (though his cell phone and laptop were stolen in Toronto). He’s headed now for St. John’s, Newfoundland. After that, he’ll make his way down to the United States and go east to west, to California and then down to Mexico and other points south.
The CBC caught up with him in Hamilton, a Toronto suburb, this past week and said:
“Speaking very little English and armed only with faith and a bicycle, Sunim has seen half of Canada through the generosity of residents who have given him food, shelter and in one case, a cellphone.”
Wondrous strange ways
Early on his trip, he got a flat tire. A friendly Canadian named Dave Pope stopped to help him fix it, then gave him a place to stay and built a Facebook page for the monk. That page has helped Sunim find people who will put him up for a night and feed him. Strangers have opened their doors to him most of the nights he’s been in Canada. Still, he has lost between 15 and 20 pounds.
It’s an impractical journey, yet one that is already reshaping lives, like Pope’s. The two men bonded in their time together, strangers brought together by fate, perhaps, to help each other make their way through the world.
The CBC quoted from Sunim’s blog:
Water doesn’t stagnate when it flows. In the same way, humans should move so they will find their relationships with others. If you take a test you’ll know how well you’ve studied. If you overcome a limitation you will know your heart; tears are opening my heart.