He became a Zen Buddhist monk in the 1950s, and returned to secular life sometime in the 1960s.
Ko Un became an activist opposing the harsh and arbitrary rule of South Korea’s president, President Park Chung-hee. His dissident activities led to several terms of imprisonment and torture.
The democratization of South Korea in the late 1980s finally gave Ko Un the freedom to travel to other countries, including a visit to the United States and make a spiritual journey through India. (from Poetry Chaikhana)
We put up a tent for the night
between Shigatse and Latse.
As soon as the tent was up
a storm broke.
The tent shook as if about to fly away.
The water rose
up the river bank,
and with it the loud sound of the stream.
Shortly before, our water had boiled at 80 Centigrade.
Not anything like 100.
My anxiety and resignation had boiled away with it.
Already unrecallable sights have been swept away.
The sound of the river rose louder still.
The only thing left for me was to be swept away in the swollen stream.
I recalled my wife’s face.
I recalled my daughter’s face.
I had absolutely no use for things like truth.
translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Sang-Wha
from Asymptote Journal