My childhood and adolescence were a time when I clung to a single question: "Who am I?" After obtaining an answer through a long period of ascetic practice, I went out into a park early one morning to meet people who were wandering, struggling with the same question as me. I spent the next 37 years helping those who came to me with the same fundamental question about life to find the answer within themselves. I had chosen the work of Hongik, which means benefit all humanity.
I have been on a continuous Hongik journey since then, circling the earth five or six times a year, from South Korea to the United States, then to Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, China, and now New Zealand. There is a reason I have been eagerly meeting with people from all over the world in this way. It’s because I want to ask them this question: "Then who are we?"
If I know who I am, then I know why I was born on the earth at this time, and that leads to a group realization concerning who we are. I think that this is a chain reaction of enlightenment and a physical and chemical action of consciousness.
We are Earth Citizens
Humanity has always belonged to the cosmos. In the East, the character for "cosmos" means "home." Our permanent address is the cosmos; our current address, the earth. That's why human beings who live on the earth are "Earth Citizens," regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, or religion. In nature, the earth and humanity are originally one.
Peoples, nations, and religions are merely artificial products humans have created as needed. Moreover, we don't even need to mention that the institutions and systems comprising and maintaining these things are artificial constructs. If these artificial products threaten human life, destroy communal life, and even ruin the global ecosystem, then humans can obviously change, eliminate, or re-create those institutions and systems. That is the natural responsibility and right of the humans who created them to begin with.
Human beings, however, are unable to change; they are trapped in those systems and institutions. They stand by, watching helplessly as the values of selfishness and unlimited competition that brought material civilization to a pinnacle of development pose an extreme threat to the sustainability of coexistence between the human community and the earth. Many don't even want to keep the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an agreement calling on us to stop degrading the quality of the atmosphere, which the entire human race and all organisms breathe together.
A prayer for peace
On August 28, 2000, when the world was full of hope for the new millennium, a conference of 1,300 religious and spiritual leaders from around the world was held in the United Nations General Assembly Hall, and I offered the opening prayer, "Prayer of Peace." I frankly wanted to ask, "Who are we who live on the earth, and what must we do?"
Before we are Americans or Japanese or Israelis or Arabs, we are Earth Citizens; before we are Christians or Buddhists or Jews or Muslims, we are Earth Citizens. We are members of the human race, who have a single spiritual heritage as Earth Citizens. It is the God of the earth (the Creator) who made our planet, but it is our task as humans to make our world prosper. Let us repent of all our wrongs, restore a united humanity, and make the earth prosperous. This was the central message of the "Prayer of Peace."
As long as human consciousness is trapped within the limits of ethnicity, country, and religion, division, confrontation, and war cannot be avoided. Humans degenerate, becoming tools of ethnic, national, and religious selfishness, and are merely used by their desire for control and greed. When humans go beyond ethnicity, country, and religion to have an awareness of themselves as Earth Citizens, with the same heart and vision, they will be able to join hands to examine the reality of their species and planet and go forward solving their problems together.
A plan and a movement
I had originally used the expression, "Earth Human," for people with this global consciousness. However, some people seemed to think of “human” as an antonym of "alien," so I changed the expression to "Earth Citizen," which emphasizes consciousness and action. It reflects the consciousness and identity that the present human population should have. This concept of Earth Citizenship is the same as being citizens of the world, which Mark Zuckerberg spoke about in a recent commencement address at Harvard University, and it is similar in context to the Global Citizenship Education (GCED) initiative, which is a key project of the United Nations.
If there is a difference between “Earth Citizenship” and the UN's “Global Citizenship,” it's that central values, educational methods, a vision, and even action campaigns have been designed and prepared very concretely for the Earth Citizenship movement. The central values of Earth Citizenship are the earth and humanity. The earth and humanity, in short, are nature. Earth Citizens are people who do not center themselves on artificial institutions, like countries, ethnicities, and religions, but instead view the earth and humanity as nature itself, that is, as one, and who consider this their central value. They are people who know what is most important on this planet.
Earth Citizens have an educational method, because the values and direction of human society are determined by the quantity and quality of information in the human brain. It's a matter of what information is in the brain. Unless we change that information, consciousness will not change, and no reform of institutions or systems can ever be successful. That's why many attempts at reform have failed.
Brain Education is Earth Citizen education
The educational method for becoming an Earth Citizen, called Brain Education, is the basic system of education that is most important for humanity. Human problems were created by the human brain, and only the human brain can solve them. So unless the values and information in the human brain that created those problems change, we cannot solve them. Brain Education helps people realize these things for themselves and choose new values with a spirit of seeking to save their species and the earth, which will become a reality when they establish and act on a vision together.
Brain Education is made up of five steps that:
- awaken the senses of the brain, which have grown dull through the pursuit of artificial values like selfishness and desire
- make the brain versatile, enabling it to perform its functions
- refresh the brain, cleansing it of negative information
- integrate the brain through new values
- enable us to use the brain, living as its master.
All humans have brains. I think we have hope because of that. If we can but use these brains creatively and in a peaceful direction, and if the number of Earth Citizens who use their brains this way grows to 100 million, I think there will definitely be hope for the future of the human species and the earth.
With that dream, I developed scientific research and study on Brain Education and created school curriculums for toddlers and primary education, as well as an alternative secondary school program, a college, and a graduate school. I also created the Brain Trainer program, which is nationally certified by the South Korean government, for developing expert coaches with globally recognized credentials in Applied Brain Education. Specialized institutions of Brain Education have been established in 17 countries worldwide. Brain Education was instituted in public education at the national level in El Salvador with the cooperation of the United Nations, and New Mexico and New York City in the United States have introduced Brain Education programs into public education at the state and municipal levels.
Connecting the global village
If Earth Citizens transcend countries and religions to pursue peace with a consciousness of oneness with the earth, and if they gather online to simultaneously carry out a global action campaign freely and creatively, we will be able to create a true global village for the first time in the history of humankind. Social networks, including Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook, and IT technologies are essential for creating such new change, and I hope for cooperation in this area. I hope that a global Earth Citizen Movement, one that seeks to save the earth and the human species, will develop simultaneously online and off-line.
In June of the year after I offered up the "Prayer of Peace," some world-famous figures met in Seoul, including former US Vice President Al Gore, former UN Under-Secretary-General Maurice Strong, and former Pulitzer Prize Committee Chairman Seymour Topping. With them, at the "New Millennium World Peace Humanity Conference,” we proclaimed June 15, "Earth Human Day," and adopted the five-point Earth Human Declaration. The Earth Human Declaration was revised several times after that, and was amended as the Earth Citizen Declaration this January at the First Earth Citizens Festival held in Kerikeri, New Zealand.
I'll end today's post with the Earth Citizen Declaration. This declaration is also my answer to the question, "Then who are we?" I hope for the birth of many Earth Citizens who will join us in dreaming of, designing, and creating change for a better future for the earth and humanity.
Earth Citizen Declaration
- I am an Earth Citizen who loves and cherishes all humans and all life, as someone who has found my value and recovered my character.
- I am an Earth Citizen who contributes to making healthy, happy families and peaceful communities.
- I am an Earth Citizen who lives for an Earth Village where all humankind lives as one family beyond nationality, race, and religion.
- I am an Earth Citizen who acts to protect and restore the global ecosystem so that the earth recovers its original beauty and vitality.
- I am an Earth Citizen who takes part in the work of developing 100 million Earth Citizens for the evolution of human consciousness and the advent of a new era of global civilization.