Posted by: rbbadger | May 15, 2012

Jogye Order in turmoil

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism (대한불교조계종, 大韓佛敎曹溪宗) has been hit by scandal recently.  I’ve been surprised to see that it’s been picked up by the UK media.  Basically, some monks, including some very senior members of the governing council of the Jogye Order, spent all night and into the morning smoking, drinking and gambling.  You can read more about that here.

Buddhist monks are not supposed to engage in these sorts of practices.  When a Buddhist monk or nun is ordained, he or she takes the monastic precepts.  These include not drinking alcohol, not eating meat, and a life of celibacy.  While smoking may not be covered in the Vinaya, one figures that addictive things would be frowned on, given that one is supposed to cultivate a life free from desire of material things.  (The Taego Order permits its monks to marry and eat meat.  Most Japanese Buddhist monks are married as well.  Many Japanese temples have been run by generations of the same family.  In Korea, most Korean monks, apart from the Taego Order, are celibate and vegetarian.) 

The last part of this scandal, the gambling, could have serious legal ramifications.  In Korea, gambling is illegal and the Public Prosecutor’s Office will prosecute cases of gambling.  The casinos that exist in Korea are for the benefit of foreigners and not for the locals.  There is only one casino in the entire country where they may gamble.  Given that some 1,000,000 won (about $800) were on the table, one wonders where they got the money from.  The monks are generally supported by donations. 

It may be that the Jogye Order is gearing up for one of its factional disputes.  These disputes, which in 1999 turned bloody with monks from one faction throwing stones, bottles of soda and whatever they could get their hands on at police and the ruling faction of monks, were eventually subdued.  The monk who brought the drinking, smoking, and gambling to the attention of the police, the Ven. Seongho, has been in conflict with the Jogye Order’s senior leadership for some time now.  Apparently, he has even more surprising revelations to come.  You can read about them here.  He is claiming that some of the senior leaders have secretly married and have children, not to mention some tawdry revelations regarding the president of the Jogye Order.

The Daily Mail also has some very cute photos of some children dressed as monks.  It is possible, if you wish, to lead the life of a monk for a weekend or longer.  These children will lead the life of a monk for three months.  You can see those photos here.



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