Today is Buddha’s Birthday. It is a national holiday in Korea. As such, it is a huge celebration for Korean Buddhists. While I’m not Buddhist and am not necessarily interested in taking up Zen meditation anytime soon, I like visiting the temples. They are often places of great tranquility and beauty. Except, however, on Buddha’s Birthday! Owing to Joseon-era bans on temples being built within cities, many of the great temples in this country are located in the countryside.
I’ve posted these photos before. The temple here is Jogyesa, the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The Jogye Order, which is Korea’s largest order of Buddhists, has the bulk of the historic temples. Jogyesa, unlike most historic temples, is right in downtown Seoul.
David A. Mason, an American professor of cultural tourism at Kyunghee University in Seoul, argues that the recent scandal involving monks of the Jogye Order needs to be seen in a wider view. There have been scandals in the past. However, he argues that the Buddhist monastic precepts are not inflexible and are more like reccommendations than laws written in stone. After all, one of Korea’s greatest Zen masters, Master Wonhyo, is said to have fathered a child in a one-night stand with a princess. He was also known to sing poetry after having a few drinks. You can read his thoughts by clicking here. The Ven. Jaseung, head of the Jogye Order, addressed the scandal in a speech at Jogyesa today. You can read about it here.