Ignas met F.J. Seligson in the small Buddhist monastery of South Korea during the two weeks retreat led by lama Glenn H. Mullin in August, 2019. The conversation occurred outside in the tea area during the break for lunch after the meal.
I’ve been living in Korea for forty-two years. I’ve traveled a lot, so I feel at home almost everywhere I have lived. Before Korea, I lived in Japan for two years, and then I lived in India, Greece, Ireland, and Australia. I’ve traveled to Central America, Canada. I feel pretty much at home everywhere.
IGNAS STAŠKEVIČIUS Speaking about Korea. You speak Korean, right?
Yes, simple Korean.
I’m a permanent resident in Korea. I keep American citizenship because it’s convenient for traveling and if I want to go back to America to visit. My children have American citizenship also. The eldest daughter was in the . The youngest daughter is now in Grenada, which is not the US, but she will be qualified to be an animal doctor in the US.
Yes, I think any identity that we have is like a bridge to meeting new people, and the pool of Jewish people is valuable to me. There are many intelligent people. We feel something in common. Any type of identity is useful as long as it is beneficial to people.
My great-grandfather was a rabbi in . I think that Seligson came from there. By the way, “Selig” means “bliss” in German. I think it is related to religious matters.
I guess around 1825 or something. He went to Hamburg and took a boat and then he went to Vilnius.
When I visited Vilnius, I saw the names of the people who died in a concentration camp. Twenty thousand people died, and I found several surnames similar to mine. There used to be so many Jews living in Vilnius, but now they are all gone. Also, Jews were 20 percent of Budapest, and suddenly in four years, they all just disappeared. Just wiped out from memory and history. I guess I had rooted for hundreds of years in that area, but then there’s nobody alive.
Yeah, my grandfather used to trade horses. Across Eastern Europe, back and forth. Then he came to America. Of course, he knew six, seven languages just like everybody.
The first dream I remember I was four years old.
Yes. My mother died when I was four and a half. My mother was in a hospital, so I was living with my aunt and uncle. The mother died while I was with my aunt and uncle. I lived in a two-story house. I had a little room there with a little bed and a window at the other end.
One night I had a dream — a big eagle flew in the window, grabbed me and started flying away. I started screaming, and then the door opened — my uncle, aunt and cousins looked at each other like I was crazy. I said, “Look at the blood on my chest.” Scratches were on my hand.
I realized it was a dream, and I just naturally made an association. I had watched in the afternoon a soap drama on television where an eagle came and took the baby out. Also that day, I was crawling in the bushes — and touched poison ivy. That night, I dreamed of a fight with an eagle, and I scratched my poison ivy rashes, and that’s why it was bleeding.
That’s my first experience with dream interpretation, at four and a half years old.
Over time, I recorded dreams. And when I came to Korea in 1977, Igot married to a Korean woman. My wife told me about her mother’s . Her mother had six children, and had a different dream for each one of the six children, too.
The dream could be before or after. Everyone in society expects to have such a dream before having a baby. If they don’t have such a dream, they think that something terrible will happen. That dream has the baby’s soul sent from heaven.
For example, my wife’s mother dreamt that she went to a field of flowers, and she was cutting some wildflowers. And then she started walking home through the field, but there was a lion following her. Later my wife’s sister was born, so the sister was called “the lion sister”. She’s like a flower, and her character is like a lion. It’s called a Tae-Mong.
Yes, it was obvious. It’s not easy to forget. It’s something that hits you very profoundly.
She’s heard many such dreams from other women. It’s a cultural thing to have such a dream. Women want to get pregnant, and they wait for the dream.
So when I heard that, I asked the students, “Did your mother have a Tae-Mong?” Students answered, “Oh, yes, she did.” For seventeen years, I was asking students to bring Tae-Mong details.
Yeah. It’s a mountain of dreams, so I made a book. The first book was called “Oriental Birth Dreams.” It was all about Tae-Mong. It was the first book in the world on that subject. After me, two Koreans wrote a book about that too.
I haven’t found any culture in the world that has these dreams. Other cultures have dreams about the sun, moon, stars, trees, rivers, insects, butterflies, and mythological animals like dragons and phoenixes. Those were Tae-Mong also.
Conceptual dreams show the character of the child, too.
Parents can learn whether children would be wealthy or become famous.
Yes, a prophecy. Also, it can tell the health of the child. If something falls in a dream — maybe there’s going to be an abortion. For example, I had a dream of my wife’s second pregnancy. I dreamt that yellow bird came down from the very top of the sky and went in front of my eyes, and black eyes looking at me and fell into the void. The next day, my wife had a miscarriage.
Of course, there was a fight with tear gas in Korea, and I think that’s what made the miscarriage. The dream told about miscarriage.
Yeah, men can have it, too. Husbands are rarer, but they do too. Even sometimes, the neighbors could have it, or their grandmother.
We can change ordinary dreams. Dreams show a reflection of daily activity. If you change your habits — you can change your destiny that way. But I think it’s very hard.
Recently, somebody told a story about his son. His nine-year-old boy went to have a nap, and when he woke up, he said, “Daddy, a dream came to me, but I didn’t even start to look at it.” So apparently this boy decided not to have a dream; he just had a feeling of a dream coming to him. Do you think that’s relevant?
We can have a nightmare, and we just don’t want to see it, so we just look away. Or we think it’s not worth remembering, so we don’t pay attention. If you want to remember dreams, you have to focus on it, and when you wake up, you should write it down before other thoughts get in the way.
Somebody had a dream that a dragon fell. Later in life, he was climbing the mountain in , and then he fell. Then, he became disabled. Later his wife divorced him. The wife thought it was fate related to the dream. That’s hard to change a dream.
Yeah, it’s hard. There was one famous philosopher and statesman during the Koryŏ dynasty. His mother dreamt of carrying a lovely orchid in a pot, but she tripped, and the pot broke. Later, they tried to change destiny by changing the child’s name. The meaning of the child’s name was “the dream child.”
One day he was invited to a party, got drunk, and when he was going home over the bridge — six men came and beat him to death with clubs. He had been an ambassador and chief of the Confucian department and had various ministerial posts, just like the orchid. He was a respected diplomat in China and Japan, but at the end of his life, the pot was broken.
Not always. Lucid dreaming is when you’re aware of it, and you can change the dream at will. Some people are very skilled at that. I am aware that I am dreaming. At least at some point in the dream. I want the dream to tell me whatever it needs to tell. Every dream has a purpose. A dream is to benefit us.
First of all, the early dreams at night are to flush out emotions of the day to relax us and make space in the brain. As we are more relaxed at night, the dreams get better and better. Towards the end of the night, we start dreaming of the future. First, we’re dreaming of the past, then — the present and future.
A couple of days ago, I dreamt of four men who were dancing uniquely, moving their arms and legs very rhythmically. So when I woke up, I thought this is teaching me that I need to do this exercise. So I started doing that exercise, every morning and night, I’d do it. I dance back and forth.
The other dreams give me messages on what to do. One had to do with me meeting people or having physical practice. Dreams can tell you that the body is getting weak, and you need to make it strong.
The unconscious mind wants to show our fears, or what we call dragons in the west — the dragons of greed, anger and fear. It wants us to transform from negative to positive so we could grow. It wants us to heal our bodies, our minds, and our souls. It’s showing us ways to do that. Therefore, we have to look at it. We need to request our brains for dreams. The brain doesn’t know what to do unless we guide it. When you become the driver of your body, you tell your body and mind, “I am having a problem. Please give me a meaningful dream to guide me. Please show me a dream that solves the problem.” Then you go to sleep. You should have your notebook on your pillow and a pencil. You are going to wake up and write down your dream.
I don’t think about dreaming. I’m not thinking, “Who am I?” and “Who is that?” There’s not any separation. That’s a mental action.
Not in that case. Duality requires reflection, and that’s separate.
There are famous tales about a character who is dreaming of having a dream. In that dream, the character becomes the character who dreams of another character, you know. So it goes in circles. Have you ever experienced that?
Just like .
That’s a reflection. During that time, he is not thinking of what he felt after the dream.
Usually. Foreign words come in, but it’s generally in English.
Yes, of course. Throughout my life, I had eagle dreams, and then I had elephant dreams. That’s when I was writing a book about Buddha’s mother. I had to make a baby Buddha. I didn’t publish it. And now I’ve been having lots of dragon dreams. The dragon dream has inspired me to write this book about dragon dreams.
I had a dream of a big dragon swimming in the ocean. It had three wombs inside each of the loops, and at the bottom part, there was a baby, like a human baby — no hair and looking forward in the same direction as the mother’s hair. The dragon was sailing to an island, that had a beach, a forest, and mountains in the back. So when I woke up, I thought that was a unique dream. Later I remembered that I had a collection of a box of dreams. So I went through it and found about two hundred dragon dreams from my students.
Yeah, these were pregnancy mostly, and I thought I could make a book just about dragon dreams. So that’s what I started doing. I was already sixty years old. My life went in many ways, but I wasn’t a master of anything, so I thought that these three babies were three potentials inside me, and the dragon is the mother of the world. This island is like a future paradigm where there is a new life.
Analyzing what the dragon can teach me — I could find my inner strength and transform myself so that my life could be worthwhile. Every day, I learn something new about dragons. It’s been seven years since I’ve been writing this book.
I’m getting this understanding of the dragon as the universe. It’s nature itself and energy, and the dragon has a little ball, which is called a wish-fulfilling gem, and at the speed of light, it grants all wishes, and that is consciousness. The energy and consciousness — that’s enlightenment altogether.
The dragon is a symbol of everything — throughout all the water in our bodies. It’s the universal image. Like we talked about, in Ancient Greece, that was everything in the universe. It’s eating its tail and consuming itself.
I discovered the analogy that I’m seeing things that people saw before. There was a South Korean president . She was born in 1952, the year of the water dragon. She ran for president in 2012, which is also the year of the black dragon. She was sixty years old, so she knew that it was an auspicious time for her to run.
Her father who served as the President of South Korea from 1963 until his assassination in 1979 commanded to put the dragon on the money. Therefore, people were carrying a dragon in their pockets. I think the dragon inspired the people to work harder and develop the economy. Dragons are essential to Park Geun-hye. Her mother was assassinated, too, when she was about 22.
There was a hypocrite, a founder of a female dragon club in South Korea. He sent a letter to Park Geun-hye saying, “Your mother appeared to me while I was meditating, and she asked to take care of you. She also told a secret that you should know.” The imposter added, “If you want to talk to your mother, she can talk to you through my voice.” That man was like a medium and kind of . She became dedicated to him and trapped. Then she was imprisoned.
She misused the dragon.
There was a professor who asked me to teach the “Worldview” classes, and then the next semester, he asked to teach “Thirty-six strategies of Chinese warfare” I agreed. Later he asked me to teach students about Albert Einstein. I said, “Sure!” If I want to survive, I just say, “Yes, I can do it. I will learn how to do it.” I was introduced to the class, “Professor Seligson is Jewish like Einstein. He might be a grandson of Albert Einstein.” [Laughs].
Students accepted me, so I said, “Okay, I’ll be Einstein.” That’s how I became an Einstein specialist. I’ve done classes five times now.
I haven’t read it.
Yeah, it’s connected to my life because. My father was a controller for the atomic energy commission in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the secret city, where they made the nuclear bomb. That town had the highest percentage of breast cancer patients in the United States.
Yes, she died from that. In that way, I’m connected with Einstein. If Einstein hadn’t had that theory, I still would have been born, but my father wouldn’t have been working in , Tennessee, and then my mother wouldn’t have got cancer.
People in Japan say that their mother died in Hiroshima. I would say, “My parents died in Hiroshima, too.” The same radiation killed her.
The most important thing is to become the master of myself, my emotions, thoughts, fears, and relations with other people. Even with dreams, I just keep sleeping until I get a good dream.
That’s why I have to keep healthy to live long enough to be able to have the time to reach the realization of myself. It’s almost as if there’s something beyond our whole universe, a master of my body. A guiding spirit that says, “You go here.” I can refuse or take a chance.
I feel that it’s guiding me to something. Something brought me here and gave me the tools that I didn’t have.
Thank you. It’s a good experience. You have a very good methodology for interviewing.