When ChongGo Sunim heard that EunBong was expecting, he sent me some files that he had translated from his teacher on t’aegyo:
The idea that parent’s behavior, thought, and virtue can influence the development of their unborn child is an old one in Korea. Called t’aegyo, or prenatal education, this notion is as old as Korea’s recorded history. Through t’aegyo, one could help ensure that one’s child would be healthy and wise, and perhaps even become a great being who would bring honor and fortune to the family. Well understood by the common people, t’aegyo was also practiced by the royal family, with its need to produce wise and intelligent rulers. Even in Buddhist circles, monks and nuns occasionally emphasized the importance of t’aegyo when giving Dharma talks to laypeople.
Of course, the article goes into lots of detail, but that’s the main idea of it. His teacher, Zen Master DaeHaeng, explains the practicality of t’aegyo:
According to Daehaeng Sunim, t’aegyo is possible because every thing and life in the world reacts to the thoughts we input into our foundation, which can be called Buddha, Buddha-nature, Juingong, hanmaum (one mind), inherent nature, or God. This foundation has been guiding our development over countless billions of years. It is the fundamental nondual connection of all life. All beings, both living and dead, are connected through the inherent foundation they all share; what happens at one point can thus be instantly communicated to all others. When we entrust the things that confront us to our foundation, it responds to them in a comprehensive way that includes both the material realm and the unseen realms.
I don’t think I need to make excuses for not having attained full Buddhahood yet, so we did have a few ups and downs over the course of the pregnancy, but over all we did really well being peaceful. We didn’t make many trips to temples, but we have a small space in our room we set aside for meditation and made a small shrine. EunBong generally doesn’t meditate much but she would usually do yoga or something like that while I meditated. She would pray for the baby’s good health everyday. After meditating, I would rest my head on her belly and try to share some nice energy. I would talk to the baby and send some loving kindness through the womb. When the baby would be kicking enough that it would start hurting EunBong’s ribs, I would put my head against her belly and do the Tibetan chant, “Om Ah Hong.” EunBong noticed that the baby would relax after I did this.
I don’t know much about baby’s, but my mother’s friend, who is a nurse who works with baby’s, commented on the photo’s I sent from when Fina was first born, saying she had never seen a new born whose eyes could focus in sync before, and she could tell that her brain development was advanced for a new born. I noticed that when she cried her eyes seemed to roll around a bit, but I didn’t know that is usually how they are anyway. The nurse told EunBong that the baby should be able to recognize my voice if I speak to her. I put my head close to hers and hummed, “Om.” She stared right into my eyes. In a few moments, she closed her eyes and slept. A few times at home when she was kicking and whining, I would pick her up and hum, “Om Ah Hong.” Within about 3 seconds she would get quiet and her body would go limp. A couple times, I saw her purse her lips, and it seemed like she tried to imitate the sound. I really don’t know what she was actually doing, though! So far, she’s a very peaceful child. She whines and kicks when she’s hungry, but hardly cries. I’ll rock her in my arms and she’ll open her eyes wide and look around the room. She smiles and giggles a little, but best of all, mostly, she just sleeps!