Supreme Patriarch Jinje: the new appointed spiritual leader of Jogye Order

The 13th Supreme Patriarch was appointed unanimously by the Council of Elders

On December 14th, The Council of Elders had an election at the Center for Korean Buddhist History and Culture for the selection of the new spiritual leader. The Great Patriarch Jinje-beopwon, a member of Council of Elders was appointed as the 13th Supreme Patriarch unanimously. This election was attended by Ven. Jongsan (Head of Council of Elders) along with 20 other members from the Council, The Most Ven. Jaseung (President of Jogye Order), The Most Ven. Boseon (The Head of Central Council), and The Most Ven. Beopdeung (Executive Director of Precepts Council). The supreme patriarch’s term will begin on March 26th, 2012 for the next five years.

Followed by the election, ceremony to announce the new patriarch to the Buddha, along with incense offering and the three prostrations ritual took place at the main Buddha Hall of the Jogye-sa Temple to show respect to the Buddha. In addition, Ven. Jaseung and the members from the Central Directorate of Religious Affairs celebrated the event in the congratulatory ceremony. The new Patriarch then returned to Donghwa-sa Temple, the Head Temple for the 9th District of the Jogye Order where he currently resides.

The Supreme Patriarch Jinje stated in his acceptance speech, “I am very grateful that great masters from the Council of Elders have chosen me as the leader to represent the Jogye Order” and added, “I will follow the definitive opinions from the Council of Elders to create peaceful future of Jogye Order. I will try my utmost best to propagate Ganhwa Seon (Traditional Korean Buddhist Meditation) to the world, which can be considered as the essence of oriental spiritual culture.

The Great Patriarch Jinje was born on 1934 in Gyeongnam Province. He received his novice precept on 1953 in Haein-sa Temple under Ven. Seokwu and received his full ordination under Ven. Hyewun, also in Haein-sa Temple. He also received numerous Dharma lineages from great Seon masters of Korea, such as Ven. Hyanggok, Gyengheo, Hyewol, Wunbong, and Hyanggok. On 1971and 1999,        he established Haewun monastery in Busan City Haewundae and Geumcheon-sa monastery in Gyeongju City respectively, to propagate Buddhism in the region and establish Seon lineage.

He became the member of Council of Elders in 2003, and on 2004 received the great Patriarch Dharma status from the Jogye Order, which is the highest status in Jogye Order after the Supreme Patriarch.

Some of the Dharma books published by the Great Patriarch include, <100 Questions and Answers of Seon Buddhism> < Godamnokwol> published in Korean and published in English.

Article from Korean Buddhist Newspaper
Written By: Park Intak
Website Address:

15 Virtues of Korean Buddhism

Naesosa Temple
[Naesosa Temple]

There are 15 virtues of Korean Buddhism. In this column you can learn what those 15 virtues are.

1. Temples 
The temples temples are beautiful. They blend with nature as if Mother Nature herself built them. They are cradled by the mountains and replenished by brooks and rivers. The temple buildings are simple yet ornate. One could hardly find a more serene and beautiful sanctuary anywhere in the world.


2. Temple Food


It is delicious, nutritious, and good for the environment and living beings. The 100% vegetarian food served at Korean temples are prepared from fresh vegetable often grown on temple grounds. The preparation is often simple without many spices. Temple food never uses the five pungent vegetables from the onion family, which are supposed to hinder meditation practice. Artificial flavorings are also never used for a clean and light taste.

3. Seon Meditation
The Seon (meditation tradition) has an unbroken lineage back to the founder of Seon, Bodhidharma. The tradition of the three-month summer and winter retreats are maintained at over 100 temples with over 1000 monastics engaging in retreat. 


[ A monk explains what Barugongyang is to Templestay participants]

4. Barugongyang (Formal Monastic Meal)
 It is wonderful way to eat. It is taken in four wooden bowls and nothing is wasted. It is itself a silent meditation.

5. Monastic Lineage

A pure monastic lineage exists, which honors the Vinaya of Bhikshus. Korea is a Mahayana country, but its adherence to the Vinaya and respect for the monastic sangha resembles the Theravada countries such as Thailand and Myanmar. Monks and nuns conduct themselves with dignity and refinement to reflect the noble Buddhist lineage.


6. Form and Etiquette 


m and etiquette are emphasized in Korean Buddhism. There is a purity, straightness, and simplicity to the appearance of Korean Buddhism, which is to reflect the uprightness and wholesomeness of mind. Outwardly straight and inwardly pure is the tenet of Korean Buddhism.

7. Diverse Practices
Korean Buddhism offers diverse practices. Along with Seon (the meditation practice, which is the backbone of the KB’s practice lineage), there are diverse devotional practices for monastics and the laity. Daily chanting (Yebul), Yeombul (deity practice, praying to a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva by chanting the name), bowing (such as 108 daily bows or 3000 bows), reciting the sutras (gangyeong), copying sutras (sagyeong), intensive prayers (jeong-geon kido, chanting intensively for 21 days, 100 days, etc.), and more.


It is the meditation practice of Korean Seon. Korea has uniquely preserved and actively engages in this practice. Ganhwaseon means to observe the hwadu, which is the ultimate inquiry. The Hwadu is a sincere and intense questioning into the nature of self and reality. For example, the most common hwadu is “who am I?” This is not an intellectual question, but a sincere longing to know the true nature of the self. This practice leads directly to the experiential understanding of the nature of reality and ultimately to realization. 

9. Ascetic Practice
It is highly valued in Korean Buddhism. Monks and nuns rise at 3 a.m. in most Korean temples for a rigorous day of practice. There is ruggedness and strictness to Korean temple life. Even the grey color of the monastic robes reflects this mentality. Some examples of Korean Buddhist asceticism are: Yongmaeng Jeongjin (ferocious practice: each retreat season in most meditation temples, practitioners don’t sleep at all for a week or longer), Jangjwa Bulwa (not lying down to sleep), finger burning (this is done as an offering to the Buddha or as a sign of dedication to the monastic life), etc.

10. Monastic Robes
Monastic robes are often very elegant and made of the best materials. Koreans monastics are often criticized for their expensive robes made of fine hemp, cotton, or silk. However, the natural materials also have a practical value (such as coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter) as well as aesthetic appeal. Like Catholic priests in Europe, Buddhist monks in Korea play the role of clergy. Such robes lend to the distinction and importance of the clergy’s responsibility. These fine robes have become an inseparable part of Korean Buddhist monastic culture.

11. Korean Tea Tradition


It is an inseparable part of the Korean Buddhist culture. There is not a single temple without a complete tea set and various wonderful teas. The tea pots and cups are uniquely Korean with an earthy and slightly rough appearance, which reflects the Korean Seon values of naturalness and simplicity.

12. Ulyeok (Community Work Period)

It is an indispensable part of Korean Seon. The Seon tradition values work as much as eating; as the saying goes, “no work, no eat.” As Buddhism came to East Asia, farming was done on the temples for sustenance of the monks. In Korea, farming became a Seon practice with the adage, “Seon and farming are not two.” Ulyeok is part of the daily routine of Korean temple life. It is a way to purify Karma. Every Korean monk must do at least five months of manual labor before receiving precepts. Korean Seon adheres to the adage that “every human being should physically labor every day.” This is good for the body and mind.

13. Process of becoming a monastic 
The process inn the Jogye Order is not at all easy but certainly rewarding. Every prospective monastic begins as a hangja (postulant) and must do manual labor for the temple for at least five months. Then, they go to the hangja training course for four weeks to qualify as a novice. Then, a novice monastic must go through four years of training in one of the following institutions: Sutra School, Meditation School, or Monastic or Buddhist University. Then, after a one-week training course, they receive full monastic ordination. It is this difficult process that gives the monks a sense of pride and dignity of wearing the monastic robes.

14. Buddha’s Birthday

It (eighth day of fourth lunar month) is the biggest day of the year for Korean Buddhists. It is the Buddhist Christmas, when the streets and temples are adorned with colorful lanterns. It is when every Buddhists (even closet Buddhists) make their way to the temple for Dharma service. This is the best time of the year to see and experience Buddhist culture in Korea. The Lotus Lantern Festival with its grand and lavish parades and activities takes place around this time.

15. Korean Buddhist Art 
It is a unique heritage of Korean culture. In fact, most of Korea’s cultural properties are Buddhist. Korean temples are veritable art museums with diverse paintings, sculptures, and design. Likewise, museums 

Korean bhikkhunis, creating a culture of their own

Two bhikkhunis, or female monks, work under the sun at Bulyoung Temple, North Gyeongsang Province. /Korea Times file
By Han Sang-hee

Walk into any Buddhist temple in Korea, and you will readily find female monks, or “bhikkhunis,’’ walking or praying in the temple grounds, just like any other male monk. Sometimes it’s even harder to notice at a glance if they are female or male; which indicates that in Korea, there are almost no hints of discrimination in terms of the Buddhist faith.

Despite the modern trend, where bhikkhunis are treated relatively equally to monks compared to other countries, they do follow some different rules. In daily life, bhikkhunis abide by nearly 348 precepts, some 100 more than male monks who follow around 250, and they also wear five pieces of clothing, while the men wear three.

Korea is one of the few nations that recognizes and continues female monastic lineages, along with only a handful of other countries, including Taiwan. Even today, there are only a few countries where women in training can receive ordination, which has resulted in foreign bhikkhunis coming to Korea to be ordained and also many female Buddhists from around the world come to study the religion.


According to Buddhist experts and historians, it was during the 4th century that the bhikkhunis first appeared in Korea.

Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) records state that the first female Buddhist was the sister of a man named Molae, who was also a devoted Buddhist. Molae was the person who helped Goguryeo monk Ven. Ado find his way to Silla and spread the religion. The first officially ordained bhikkhuni to be reported on record is King Beopheung’s queen, who was given the Buddhist name “Myobeop.’’

Bhikkhunis played a great role during the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-660 A.D.), as many were sent to Japan to spread the religion while others taught Japanese Buddhists to come to learn the religion. The Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C.-A.D. 668) and Goryeo Kingdom period (918-1392) flourished in terms of Buddhism, opening a wider door for bhikkhunis. The female monks were respected as much as their male counterparts.

Things started to change with the rise of Confucianism during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Women’s activities were restricted, thus making it difficult for bhikkhunis to carry out their duties and display their faith openly. Some were forbidden from entering temples while others had to leave their posts. Such difficult times may have made their lives and faith a bit harder to express, but their existence was not completely forgotten. According to Yi Hyang-soon, a comparative literature professor at the University of Georgia, their presence could be seen in Buddhist paintings, also known as “Gamrodo,’’ and eventually these paintings became a way to protect their lineage and also continue their practice. Out of the 60 gamrodos found around the country, 28 of them show bhikkhunis, either praying or reading scriptures in peace.

In modern days, bhikkhunis have now found their rightful position in the Buddhist community and although some may argue that they deserve more equal treatment, it’s quite easy to see that they have created a unique culture and system of their own.

Struggle remains

Jo Eun-su, a philosophy professor at Seoul National University, argues that despite the growing interest and number of bhikkhunis in the modern world, their general status has not seen any development over the past years.

“The bhikkhuni tradition has almost disappeared in other Southeast Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, but Korea’s lineage still stands strong thanks to its systemized asceticism and education,’’ the professor wrote in the quarterly magazine, “Buddhist Review’’ earlier this year.

She added that several factors actually helped the tradition survive, pointing out the bhikkhunis’ cohesiveness, their efficient use and management of temples during economically difficult times and also their open minded approach toward the public.
On the other hand, the professor emphasized the problems of the “The Eight Precepts’’ and called it “old-fashioned.’’

The Eight Precepts were made after Buddha initially refused his stepmother and Aunt Mahaprajapati Gotami’s request to ordain herself along with 500 other women in open assembly. Jo insisted that the precepts include outdated orders, such as the rule that a nun who has been ordained for a hundred years must rise up from her seat and greet respectfully, with joined palms, a monk who has only been ordained a day, or the precept that states that a bhikkhuni must not spend the rains in a residence where there are no male monks.

The professor insisted on the need of a more practical and fair system and doctrine for the bhikkhuni tradition to carry on in a healthier way.

“Fairness is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism. Korean Buddhism must not stay behind and insist on the Eight Precepts. It is time for us to discuss more fundamental and practical issues such as female political rights (in the Buddhist circle) or the progress of bringing gender equality,’’ she said.

Present and future

In 2004, Korea held the Sakyadhita International Conference, inviting more than 900 bhikkhunis, monks and Buddhists from around the world. “Sakyadhita’’ means the daughters of Buddha in Sanskrit.

Some 2,000 monks attended the opening ceremony, while more than 1,500 appeared at the closing event, showing the importance and also the influence bhikkhunis possess in the local Buddhist community.

Along with the ongoing recognition of such bhikkhunis living and meditating in Korea, expectations have also never been higher. Discrimination and ancient precepts are not enough to stop the rich and meaningful tradition they have led throughout the years and it’s most evident in the bhikkhunis we meet in the streets, subways and temples that they will continue to do so in the future as well.

As Ven. Myoeom, who is known as the “Godmother of bhikkhunis’’ in Korea, once said during an interview with The Korea Times last year, “although men wouldn’t believe so, women can do everything men do. We do it with wisdom, which is more powerful.’’
Male or female, meditating and following Buddha’s teachings is the same, for it all comes down to “the maturity of one’s soul.’’

Anthology Teachings of Zen Buddhist Priests

“Baegunhwasang Chorokbuljo Jikjisimcheyojeol” contains the essentials of Zen Buddhism compiled by Priest Baegun in the 21st year of King Gongmin(1372) at the age of 75. It is apparent  that the ideas inherited from his teacher Seogok Cheonggong, a Zen(Buddhist Mediation) master, continue and transmit to this work. It was printed into the metal type by his students Seokchan and Daldam under the auspices of Myodeok, who was a Buddhist nun, in the seventh lunar month of 1377 at Heungdeoksa Temple of Cheongju city.

Jikji comprises of historical biographies such as Gyeongdeok jeondeungnok and Seonmun yeomsong, which were to be studied by the student monks after completing the study of the teachings necessary to understand the essence of Zen, including Buddha’s sayings from his last moments, letters of praise, letters and poems on drawings, educational phrases and sentences, songs, writings, orthodox teachings, and dialogues. It introduced all kinds of literature for providing an understanding of Buddhism, and one hundred and forty-five Priests and Monks of India, China, and Korea are related in the contents of the book.

The key words of the title of the name of the book, “jikji simche” were derived from the famous phrase about attaining enlightenment through the practice of Zen, “Jikji insim gyeonseong seongbul” meaning the attainment of an enlightened state by direct appeal to the mind. It also means that when we come to see through Zen what the mind is, then we come to understand that mind to be that of Buddha. Because human nature is pure from the beginning, when the mind sees that it is pure and practices asceticism, one becomes a part of Buddha and one’s mind becomes that of Buddha. In other words, when one is enlightened through Zen, one’s mind becomes Buddha. The old priest put together a book of high standard by selecting only the essentials of Zen to teach and propagate to pupils.

Priest Baegun, who was an author, was born in the 24th year of King Chungryeol(1282) in Gobu, Jeollabuk-do province and passed away in the 23rd year of King Gongmin(1374) at the age of 77 at Chwiamsa Temple of Yeoju-gun. Priest Baegun entered the priesthood when he was young and devoted to religious ansterities. He inherited the ideas from Seogok Cheonggong, a Zen(Buddhist Mediation) master, and learned doctrines from Priest Jigonghwasang of India. After returning home from abroad, he stood abreast with National Preceptor Taego Bowoo and Priest Naonghwasang Hyegeun as Royal Mentor.

The circumstances under which the book left Korea were as follows. It had been in the collection of Collin de Plancy, a charg d’affaires with the French Embassy in Seoul in 1887 during the reign of King Gojong. The book then went into the hands of Henri Vever, a collector of classics, and when he died in 1950, it was donated to the National Library of France, where it has been ever since. Although Buljo jikji simche yojeol consists of two books, the first volume has not been found yet and only the second volume is currently kept at the National Library in France.

It originally consisted of 39 chapters, of which the first chapter is missing. Although we do not know the year Cheongju Heungdeoksa Temple was built or its size, there is an inscription on the last page that the second volume of Jikji was printed with movable metal type at Cheongju Heungdeoksa Temple during the reign of King U in 1377. The time was about 70 years earlier than the Gutenberg Bible printing in Germany. It was introduced in one of the articles of the UNESCO Courier in 1972 that the work is the oldest extant example of printing with movable metal type in the printing history of the world.

However, no one knew the exact location of Heungdeoksa Temple until a drum and Buddhist bowls made of bronze and inscribed with the word Heungdeoksa Temple were unearthed. The location of Heungdeoksa Temple, where the book was printed, was confirmed when the museum of Cheongju University excavated the site in 1985.

The book was printed using metal type, which makes printing technology more convenient, economic, easier correcting, and makes production of books quicker. Also, it served as momentum to invent an oiled ink which is appropriate to print metal type. This practical printing method invented by Korea influenced the history of Oriental printing, and it is thought that it was spread to Europe. It is the world’s oldest movable metal type printing evidence available and shows us an important technical change in the printing history of humanity. According to these values, the book was registered as Memory of the World in September 2001

Buddha’s Teaching Can Help Global Peace – UN Sec Gen

Narinjara News, May 8, 2009
United Nations, New York — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message delivered to the world communities on Wednesday that the Buddha’s teaching could help the world become peaceful.

“All of us can learn from the Buddha’s spirit of compassion. His timeless teachings can help us to navigate the many global problems we face today,” said Ban Ki-moon in his message.

His message came ahead of the Buddha’s birthday, traditionally known as Vesak or Visakah, a full-moon which this year fell on 9 May, 2009.

Vesak is the name of the month of the Buddha’s birth in the Indian lunar calendar. Buddhist communities around the world celebrate the full-moon day with great reverence and piety as the day synchronized the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha.

“The need for global solidarity may seem like a modern concept, but it is not. More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that nothing exists in isolation, and that all phenomena are interdependent. Just as profoundly, he taught that we cannot be happy as long as others suffer, and that when we do reach out, we discover the best in ourselves,” he added.

He also urged every individual to resolve to help people who are suffering, in order to secure a better future for all, in his message marking Vesak.

Lumbini mesmerizes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Posted:10 Mar 2009 02:50
Lumbini mesmerizes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Lumbini- the birthplace of Lord Buddha, one of the most popular site for tourists in general and global Buddhist community in particular on November 1, 2008.

On his two day visit to Nepal, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Lumbini- the birthplace of Lord Buddha, one of the most popular site for tourists in general and global Buddhist community in particular on November 1, 2008. Former UN Secretary General U Thant who visited Lumbini in 1967 initiated the Lumbini Restoration project and the Lumbini Master Plan(LMP) is the result of his untiring effort.

After his short trip to holy shrine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in the visitor’s book of Lumbini Development Trust,” I am awestruck by the beauty and profound significance of this sacred site, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

I am moved by the life journey of Prince who left behind all comfortable circumstances to comfort the hard realities of life, late becoming founder of one of the largest religions.

As Secretary General of the United Nations, I sincerely hope that the life, philosophy and the teaching of Lord Buddha will guide us to promote peace, harmony and reconciliation among people of different religions, belief, culture and creed.”

UN Secretary General Ban also inspected various monuments, monasteries and other places of archeological importance, including the Mayadevi Temple, the Ashoka Pillar, during the visit. He was briefed about LMP, which was designed by late Japanese engineer Kenzo Tange in 1978, and about the UN assistance so far for its development.

Of the five UN General Secretaries who have visited Nepal, Ban is the fourth one to visit the birthplace of Buddha. Lumbini is a major pilgrimage site for more than 350 million Buddhists spreading all over the world. Recently conducted survey shows that the segment of pilgrimage visitors to Nepal has increased considerably over the last few years and, Lumbini is expected to attract a large number of Buddhist pilgrimage tourists in near future. Last year 71,053 from 84 countries visited Lumbini. This year, 55,652 tourists have already visited Lumbini from 86 countries till August. To achieve substantial growth in tourism industry through new programmes, the Government has also declared 2011 as “Nepal Tourism Year” to revolutionize the tourism sector. Since peace and stability has already been established in Nepal, New Nepal is embracing all kind of social, economical and political agendas to keep country’s economic prosperity on the track focusing particularly on tourism.

With the visit of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his inspiring comment on Lumbini, Nepal Tourism Board expects that it would boost the tourist inflow in Lumbini creating an image of a must-visit-in ?a lifetime.

A Lifelong Fascination with Korean Buddhism

Robert Buswell
Robert Buswell

An American university student full of existent questions took off and got on a plane to Bangkok in 1972. He studied Hinayana Buddhism for a year in Thailand, met Korean Buddhist monks there and was attracted to Korean Buddhism. In 1974, he finally visited Korea, was given the Buddhist name of Hyemyeong at the Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province and trained and meditated for five years.

Now a 56-year-old professor of Asian languages and cultures, Robert Buswell is director of the Center for Buddhist Studies at University of California, Los Angeles and one of the foremost Western scholars on Korean Buddhism.

Last month, Buswell was appointed as the head of the Academy of Buddhist Studies at Dongguk University for one year. “I received the appointment certificate from Dongguk University on June 15. I agreed to come during the summer and winter vacations to Korea because I also teach at UCLA,” he says.

Buswell won PhD from UC Berkeley in 1985 with a dissertation titled, “The Korean Origin of the Vajrasamadhi-Sutra: A Case Study in Determining the Dating, Provenance, and Authorship of a Buddhist Apocryphal Scripture.” He established himself as a leading scholar on Korean Buddhism by translating Wonhyo’s Vajrasamadhi-Sutra and the writings of Jinul.

“I think it is a good opportunity for me as well as for Dongguk University to make Korean Buddhism globally known,” he says in his succinct Korean, “The biggest advantage of this appointment is that it lets me stay in Seoul longer. I can meet with many scholars and learn the latest research trends.” When asked if he believes in karma, Buswell says yes. “I think I would be doing the same thing in the next life as well.”

Priest teaches lessons from many faiths

joongangdaily   June 20, 2009

Every religion has a unique philosophy and instills its own distinct methods for seeking the meaning of life. But most don’t teach followers about other religious beliefs, meaning many believers think only of their own faith, neglecting others.

In the words of Father Bernard Senecal, 56, a professor in the department of religious studies at Sogang University in Mapo, northwestern Seoul, focusing on one’s own religion without attempting to understand others carries the risk of a narrow worldview.

Father Senecal, who also goes by the Korean name Seo Myeong-won, is a Catholic priest with the Society of Jesus, but he also studied Buddhism, ultimately becoming a scholar in that field.

He was born in Quebec, Canada, and lived there until he moved to France at the age of 19. Senecal studied medicine for six years and earned his bachelor’s degree at the Universite de Bordeaux in Paris in 1979. But he grew disappointed that medicine did not attempt to explain why human beings get sick and why they die, focusing instead only on treatment.

So he decided to become a priest and religious scholar. Senecal’s monastic life began during his study of theology at the Centre Sevres in Paris in early 1984. In the summer of that year, Father Senecal had the chance to visit Korea for the first time, touring the country for seven weeks.

During that period, he was impressed with Korea’s natural beauty, the kindness of the Korean people and the Buddhist temples. His interest grew, and he eventually considered moving to the country.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1985, he was dispatched to Korea as a missionary. In Korea, Senecal took three years of Korean language courses at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute. He returned to France in 1990 and earned master’s degrees in theology and literature in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Fascinated by Buddhist meditation, Senecal flew back to Korea to conduct research on Korean Buddhism. In 2004, the priest earned a doctorate in Korean Buddhism at the Universite Paris.

He says his ancestors were Vikings, and that their frontier spirit endures in him, leading him to push himself to attain a broad and balanced view. Senecal was interested in what people do not know about life, and wanted to challenge human nature.

One of his conclusions is that we can learn more about the meaning of life by bridging understanding between Christianity and Buddhism. But for that to happen, and for these two very different faiths to share disciplines and teachings, a great deal of dialogue must take place.

“Recently, several Korean monks stayed in an abbey in France for two years to learn about Christianity. Both priests and monks have to know and understand each other. Each ought to view the other side in an earnest manner,” the priest says. “Both Christianity and Buddhism are religions that have long traditions. Both have contributed much to humanity. So both still have to exist throughout human life,” said the professor. “Jesus and Buddha did not live in the same age. But they both can exist within our minds and hearts and manage our way of life. There are a lot of characteristics that can be exchanged and shared.”

According to Senecal, there are two ways in which Buddhism and Christianity can come together. First, Christians can learn from Buddhist spiritual training. Buddhist meditation can also find applications in Christianity as a way to explore one’s faith.

On the other hand, Buddhists should take lessons from Christianity’s involvement with society. Korean Buddhism, the priest says, has maintained a tradition of isolation from the outside world for hundreds of years and is therefore not accustomed to communicating with human society.

“It is inappropriate to think that one’s own religion is superior to others,” Senecal says. “Everyone’s efforts to seek the authentic truth of life have to be pushed forward at the same time. Communication with another religious group with even a small hidden agenda of conversion is improper.”

For this scholar-priest, religion plays a crucial role in forging a connection with God, awakening one to enlightenment by helping one learn the purpose of life. It is only upon reaching that status that people can enjoy true freedom.

One of the unique characteristics of Buddhism is its radical quest for the truth. Such efforts lead humans to overcome their hardships, Senecal says. In order to do so, three behavioral elements – morality, meditation and wisdom – are necessary, and among them, the priest singles out meditation as the most important.

In other words, Senecal says, Buddhism is the medicine of reality, or the medicine of medicines.
By Lee Min-yong []

“Best Goryeo Buddhist Painting” returns from Japan for Local Exhibition at Tongdosa Temple

The Korea Times, June 3, 2009
Seoul, South Korea — One of the best Buddhist painting of Suwol-Gwaneum-Do or literally Painting of Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva in Sanskrit, which had been in a Japanese jinja (??) or a Shinto Shrine for nearly 600 years, came to South Korean for a special exhibition at a Buiddhist temple.

Buddhist painting of Suwol-Gwaneum-Do or literally Painting of Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva

The Suwol-Gwaneum-Do Buddhist painting is from Kagami Jinja or Kagami Shinto Shrine in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan.

The Buddhist painting was created by eight court painters in 1310 on the order of a Queen Kim of Goryeo Dynasty, but was pillaged by the Japanese pirates soon after. Japanese invaders took the painting to Japan and kept it there for nearly 600 years.

Queen Kim was the second wife of King Chungseon,the 26th monarch of Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Dubbed “the largest and most beautiful Suwol-Gwaneum-Do Buddhist painting” by art historians, this Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva painting on the one silk scroll, started to be on exhibition from April 30, 2009 at Tongdosa Buddhist temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province.

The special public display of the Suwon-Gwaneum-Do, 4.19 by 2.54 meters, in Tongdosa Museum will continue until June 7, 2009.
Tongdosa Temple announced that it hosted the exhibition of the special Buddhist painting on the occasion of the 10 year anniversary of the opening of its Tongdosa Museum.

It is the second time for this greatest masterpiece Buddhist painting of Goyreo Dynasty to be exhibited in South Korea. In 1995 it was on displayed at Hoam Art Gallery south of Seoul.

Experts say that this Suwol-Gwaneum-Do is one of the world’s 38 Buddhist paintings of Goryeo Dynasty, depicting Suwol-Gwaneum or Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva.

It was Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty that top-quality Buddhist paintings were produced. There are some 160 Goryeo Buddhist paintings that exist in the world.

But there are no more than 10 of them that remain in South Korea. Japan has them all. There are only 20 Goryo Buddhist paintings scattered in Europe and America.

The rest of the paintings, over 130, were taken by force or sold illegally at best, to Japan long time ago. Most of them were pillaged by the Japanese invaders throughout history.

Experts agree that this Suwol-Gwaneum-Do painting is the most beautiful, the oldest, the largest one that still exists in the world.

Some art critiques compare this Buddhist masterpiece to “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. Others argue that it’s much better than “Mona Lisa.”

In Japan this painting is on public display for only 38 days per year out of concerns for conservation.

The temple souces said that they started contacting the Japanese Shinto shrine one year ago for this exhibition.

In 2003 the Suwol-Gwaneum-Do painting was displayed for 20 days at a San Francisco museum under the tile of “Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment (918 to 1392).”

But, exhibition period this time is double that of San Francisco exhibition. It is on exhibition at Tongdosa Temple for the full 40 days.

For details or inquiries please visit Tongdosa Museum’s website.



Sujata Linda Klevnick,
(former general secretary of BSCW and editor of Spring Wind)

In August of 1967, Samu Sunim arrived in New York City and founded the Son-Zen Lotus Society in a small apartment near Broadway. In early 1968 his karma brought him to Montreal, Canada, where I first met him when I was a student at McGill University. In 1972 he moved to Toronto. Right from the beginning Sunim wished to establish a Buddhist meditation community. Sunim attracted a few students and they worked hard. Those early years were difficult ones for Sunim marked by hardship, poverty and illness. Sunim lived in a shabby basement apartment in Toronto where he did personal retreat. When a few Korean Buddhist ladies discovered him, the basement became a temple where he conducted services and taught meditation. By1976 artists, musicians, students and dropouts came for meditation instruction in an unorganized way. Sunim encouraged community living and a series of houses were rented, first on St. Clarens, then Osler and Westminster. In 1979 with the combined effort of the Korean ladies and dedicated Canadian meditation students, a decrepit rooming house was purchased in Parkdale. In 1980 the Zen Lotus Society was incorporated as a non-profit religious organization. Over several years, the crumbling Victorian house at 46 Gwynne Avenue was completely renovated by the intense efforts of a lay monastic community of men, women and children living communally under a vow of poverty. Much support was received from the faithful Korean ladies. A regular schedule of services and meditations and retreats was held year round and a full-time training program for priests and dharma teachers was established. In 1981 an offshoot temple was founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan, organized on the same lines. The Ann Arbor temple has gradually developed into a thriving community of practitioners.

In 1983, Sunim made his first trip to Mexico and planted the seeds of a meditation group. It was then that he met some dedicated Mexican students, two of whom came for sustained training in Toronto.

The 1980s were busy years for Sunim. Under Sunim’s vision, the Society began to publish Spring Wind: Buddhist Cultural Forum, a non-sectarian publication for all Buddhists regardless of persuasion. Spring Wind sought articles from distinguished Buddhist teachers, scholars and artists, as well as lay practitioners. Sunim’s emphasis on Buddhist ecumenism was ahead of its time.

Another aspect of Sunim’s conviction of the vital need for Buddhists to know each other better, was his organizing of the first North American Zen Teachers Conference. In 1986, he invited the first generation of western Zen teachers to meet for six days at the Ann Arbor temple. The conference has been held annually at different centres since then.

In 1987 Sunim organized the Conference on World Buddhism in North America, bringing together Theravada, Pure Land, Zen and Tibetan monks, nuns and teachers, both eastern and western trained, to dialogue and learn about each other over eight fully scheduled days. A two-hour documentary video recorded the event.

By 1988, the Toronto temple had outgrown its premises on Gwynne Avenue and relocated to 86 Vaughan Road, another crumbling but much larger building. In November 1989, under a leaky roof and with the temple still under renovation, Sunim organized a Day of Celebration in Honour of the Dalai Lama upon the occasion of his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. The events included an inter-religious service, a forum on non-violent social action and an evening of literary and musical celebrations. The following year, a historic weeklong Conference on Buddhism in Canada was held at the Toronto temple, another first for Sunim who is firmly convinced that Buddhism benefits when Buddhist groups communicate with each other. The Toronto community continued to grow; new members replaced those who had moved on. In an organic process of renewal, the Vaughan Road temple was renovated.

In the early 1990s, Samu Sunim became interested in establishing a temple in Chicago. In 1992, on March 3rd, Sunim’s birthday, we set out from Ann Arbor to look for a temple building in Chicago. After several visits, a large run-down building was purchased and renovations begun. The following year, the centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Chicago. Samu Sunim organized a panel discussion on New Dharma for the West. While still undergoing renovations, the Chicago temple held several successful exhibitions of Korean Buddhist art, including Kwanjo Sunim’s memorable photographs of Korean Buddhist nuns’ life. Samu Sunim’s considerable energy and wide ranging efforts attracted some dedicated and wonderful helpers and, over the years the Chicago temple has been completely transformed into a beautiful venue for a thriving Buddhist community. Unique to the Chicago temple, the members hold an annual street parade for world peace during the Buddha’s Birthday celebrations in May.

More than anything else, however, Samu Sunim is a meditation master. He firmly believes that meditation and Buddhist wisdom are the right prescription for the salvation of humanity. He teaches that meditation practice based on the threefold discipline of ethical awakening, spiritual awakening and social awakening and the pursuit of the Bodhisattva path, are a self-sufficient regimen for all beings with a view to world peace and happiness for all. To this purpose he urges people to do chanting and prostrations for purification and empowerment along with regular meditation. Sunim sometimes gets impatient with Buddhist indulgence in long retreats and individualism. He points out,” The calm and peace from five years in a mountain retreat can shatter in one day spent in the marketplace. But a mind cultivated in the market place will shine bright in short retreats in quiet and solitude.” Therefore, he recommends retreats in the midst of activities and everyday life. He reminds his students with a chuckle, “It’s easier to become a buddha, than to become a good bodhisattva.” To people who doubt the doctrine of the Wheel of Life and rebirth, Sunim would say, “Life will continue with or without you after you check out. It would be better to include yourself and enjoy voluntary rebirth as a bodhisattva. Stand with Life and support all lives! Above all, just be a good bodhisattva life after life.”

Forty years have passed since Samu Sunim came to North America. During that time, Sunim has carried out dharma work with modest resources but with enormous dedication and determination. In forty years, he has founded remarkable temple communities in Toronto, Ann Arbor, Chicago and Mexico City, Mexico. He single-handedly published a groundbreaking non-sectarian Buddhist journal and organized a series of significant pan-Buddhist conferences both in Ann Arbor, Michigan and in Toronto, Canada. The Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom salutes Samu Sunim for these remarkable achievements.

On July 4th, 2007 at 1 pm, the Buddhist Society and Spring Wind Sangha members of all four temples will celebrate 40 years of Sunim’s dharma work with appreciations, recollections, photo exhibition of the Society’s history, and a musical performance. We invite you all to the Celebration in Toronto.

Sunim feels that he is still young. Let’s give him a big cheer and encourage another forty years of excitement!

ⓒ 2007 Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom