Korean Buddhist culture lures Parisiens
Jogye head vows to further globalization of Korean Buddhism
By Chung Ah-young
Ven. Jaseung, the head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, said he will set up a long-term plan to globalize Korean Buddhism at a press conference in Paris, France, Saturday.
His visit is part of efforts to publicize the religion around the world through various religious activities and events.
“I admit Korean Buddhism has been focused on settling internal struggles within the orders over the last 10 to 20 years and consequently unable to look forward to the future,” he said, noting the order’s lack of activity to globalize the religion.
“Now as the orders are in harmony, we will concentrate on promoting Korean Buddhism to the world through a long-term plan to come to fruition 10 to 20 years or 40 to 50 years later.”
The head suggested that the order will support students majoring in Korean studies at the University of Columbia in the United States every year with grants totaling $100,000 and strengthen overseas campaigns by increasing assistance to foreign monks dispatched around the world.
Last year, Jaseung visited New York to spread the religion. He pointed out the religion has stayed mainly in Korea and lamented its relatively low international status despite the 1,700-year history.
“If Korean Buddhism is known to the world, the national brand and status can be spontaneously uplifted together,” he said. The monk also emphasized the importance of the Buddhist cultural experience programs such as templestay to boost domestic tourism along with the globalization of temple food which is known as healthy and nutritious.
He said that he hopes the government will better understand the religion’s role in contributing to the national economy and enhancing the national image.
After looking around Buddhist bookstores in Paris, the head expressed concerns over the prevalent use of Japanese Zen even when mentioning Korean “chamseon” (meditation) even though Korean Buddhism preserves the original form of traditional meditation training methods more than any other country. Thus, he said it will promote chamseon instead of Zen as the international brand and will use the term when the English books are published.
Jaseung met Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, Friday and talked about the registration of Korean Buddhist cultural heritage such as the lotus lantern festival.
Bokova also expressed her interest in Korean Buddhist cultural heritage and its continuous efforts to advance it and said she will help them to be registered to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
In line with Jaseung’s visit, various Buddhist music and dance performances were held at the campus of University Paris 7, Friday. Some 300 students watched the monks’ performances. Ven. Donghee, who is a holder of “Yeongsanjae,” Buddhist ritual dances and ceremonies, which was inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, received ovations from the audience for praying for peace.
One the same day, the conference for Korean Buddhism took place at the university, drawing numerous questions from students. Ven. Hyangjeok of Seonbon Temple, and New Hampshire University professor and Buddhist monk Ven. Hyemin and Donghee attended and shared ideas with students.
Concerning the characteristics of Korean Buddhism, Hyemin said that various orders within Korean Buddhism exchange various meditation methods. “We have a strong tradition of retreat seasons in summer and winter for deeper meditation,” he said.
Hyangjeok said that “tolerance” of religion is deeply rooted as the central idea in Korean society so various religions can coexist until now. The monk took the example of when Catholics were persecuted during the late Joseon period (1392-1910), many Buddhist monks offered shelter to Catholics.
Ven. Daean, who specializes in temple food, served humble yet nutritious Buddhist cuisine — all made from fresh vegetables in the mountains without artificial ingredients — at the Korean Culture Center there on Wednesday. The monk demonstrated the process of cooking a mushroom tofu dish and a green-gram pancake and explained the charms and characteristics of Korean temple food.