CUTTING OFF THE HORSE'S HEAD
Maggie H is a Global Explorer and Wellness Advocate from Hong Kong. Among many spiritual endeavors, Maggie practices and leads Qigong meditation to help people around the world find their inner balance. Find out more about this and other Eastern Philosophy & Meditation practices every Monday on the ICBRKR blog.
Forming a good habit is hard to do, but kicking off a bad one is even harder.
This is a well-known story about Kim, Yu-Sin, a famous general and politician of the Silla Dynasty in the 7th century. He was the main force behind the unification of the Korean peninsula with the three kingdoms of Goguryo, Baekje and Silla. Following his demise, he was recognized as an honorary king for his extraordinary contributions servicing over five different kings.
When he was 15, Yu-Sin joined the elite warrior group, Hwarang (花郞, Flower Knights), and later become its head. However, he also did what most young boys his age would do: he hung out with his fellow Hwarang boys and often visited geisha houses. One day, he met a beautiful geisha girl named Cheon-Gwan and fell madly in love.
Most nights, he stayed at Cheon-Gwan's house and led a rather fast life. His mother was concerned about her son's behaviour so she finally sat down with him and begged him in tears. She expected him to achieve something great for the country and make his parents proud one day. But all he did was chase women, drink and waste his youth away. She was so disappointed in him, and asked him to become a monk, instead.
Yu-Sin was shocked to hear his mother and felt deeply ashamed of himself. He promised his mother that he would never see Cheon-Gwan again and focused on studying and training from then on.
One day, he was riding his horse home at night, but having had a few drinks, he fell asleep on the horse's back. The horse took him to Cheon-Gwan's house, as he would normally do, and hearing the horse, Cheon-Gwan rushed out to greeted him. Yu-Sin woke up and realized what had happened. Immediately, he pulled out his sword and said to the horse: “How could you not understand your master?" and he cut off the horse's head.
Of course, it's not entirely the horse's fault, but we can infer Yu-Sin's firm determination from this story. To this day, people continue to use the expression "to cut off the horse's head" when referring to kicking a bad habit and having big aspirations (斬馬大成).
We all have habits we want to work on, and often come up with pathetic excuses for not doing it. Cutting off the horse's head may not be possible for all our habits, but this story reminds us to reaffirm the bigger picture once in a while. Hopefully, we will get to where we want to be slowly but surely, without having to take such a drastic action.
Maggie H is a Life Cartographer, Eastern philosopher, Qigong master, Buddhist and Taoist meditator, Feng Shui practitioner, and researcher of Buddhist scriptures. She lives in Hong Kong, and regularly travels to both India and South Korea to further her spiritual growth and development. Her lifelong motto is: "benefit to all humankind."