In an earlier post, I wrote about the scandal that has hit the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The Jogye Order is the largest group of Korean Buddhists and counts both monks and laity among its ranks.
I was pleased to see that the Korea Times has interviewed Dr. Robert Buswell on this topic. Dr. Buswell is one of the foremost authorities on Korean Buddhism. Unlike some scholars of religion, he knows his subject from the inside out, having spent time as a monk training under Master Kusan, one of the great Zen masters of the 20th century. Master Kusan (1909-1984) was for many years the head of the Buddhist seminary at Songgwangsa Temple, one of the three most prestigious temples of the Jogye Order. (These three temples are called the “three jewel temples” in honour of the three jewels of Buddhism, namely the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), the Sangha (the community of Buddhists), and the Buddha himself. Haeinsa, near Daegu, is the temple of the Dharma, given that it has the complete text of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures carved on wood blocks. Songgwangsa is the temple of the Sangha, or community of Buddhist monks. It is home to one of the leading Buddhist seminaries in the country. Tongdosa, near Busan, is said to contain a portion of the Buddha’s remains. Because of this, there is no Buddha image in the main hall. Rather, there is a window which looks out on the stupa which contains a portion of the Buddha’s ashes.)
For those who care to read Dr. Buswell’s comments, please click here. Buswell’s book, The Zen Monastic Experience, should be required reading for anyone curious about the life of Buddhist monks in contemporary Korea. I believe that Dr. Buswell also spent time as a monk in Hong Kong. After a few years as a monk at Songgwangsa, he left the ranks of the monks and returned to lay life. He currently teaches Korean Studies at UCLA.