sad news from Hwaeomsa


“No publicity is bad publicity” may work for Hollywood, but whenever Korean Buddhism hits the headlines, I’m usually sorry it wasn’t for a better reason.

This morning, the head-monk of HwaEomSa, one of Korea’s most high-profile temples committed suicide by drinking herbicide. The reason is apparently about distribution of money within the temple, but there are investigations into any deeper reasons.

It leaves me puzzled to think that it was the head monk, who I’d think to have a high level of practice to be the head monk of such a temple, but that says more of my thinking than it does of reality, I suppose. Still, I find myself asking, “What about the precepts?” And, if not the precepts, how can you hide from or escape your own Karma like this?

I’ve often found that the concept of nationality comes even before the concept of being Buddhist, among monks in Korea, and this situation points towards that direction.

May he find his way back in good time…

Jijang Bosal, Jijang Bosal, Jijang Bosal


7 responses »

  1. Ah, that’s sad news.
    A lot of times the abbots at the bigger temples are more administrator-politician types, who jobs involve a lot of fundraising, reconstruction, social welfare events and such. It seems like sometimes practice wasn’t really there calling, or if it was, they lost sight of it as they got caught up in the job.

    But the same thing applies to any of us, even though our practice was great at one time, if we don’t consistantly apply ourselves, that energy and clarity begin to fade.


    • Actually, as I was typing this, the thought came to mind about the different types of monks and their different roles.

      Have you spent much time at Hwaeomsa?
      It’s one of the only big Korean Temples I haven’t visited yet.
      We were actually talking about heading that way around Chuseok. Hopefully things will be somewhat back to normal by then, I’m not sure how much of a circus the media is going to make of this…

      • I’ve visited Hwaeom sa /wa-um sa/ a couple of times, though the last time was about ten years ago or so.

        To tell you the truth, I really hated what that Juji (not likely the same person) had done as far as moving buildings around, construction, etc, the atmosphere in that sense wasn’t good.

        That said, I met a really incredible sunim , who seemed to be the definition of a do-sa, just kind of quiet, minding his own business and smiling a lot. A really great guy, whom you could really feel his mind reaching out and embracing you and everyone else.

        A lot of the original buidling placement and construction of those older temples was done by very advanced practitioners, who had a deep grasp of the energy of the land. So when they put buildings in a certain place it was for a reason. Nowdays, you often get people just moving around the buildings and undoing things because they happen to think it would look nicer some other way.

        A friend of my went to the kangwon at Songgwang-sa, and noticed that in the years after they moved one of the smaller halls, everything seemed unsettled, and the rates of people quiting or running away really increased.

        • I remember you mentioning that, I didn’t realize it was happening at the large temples. You’d think there would be something to prevent that from happening, if nothing else, good sense!

  2. How sad, Joseph. None of us are free of our Shadow Practice and the roles we take on (even “head monk” or “dharma teacher” or “abbott”) do not protect us. If anything, the roles make us even more vulnerable.

    Namo bo tat quan te um
    Namo bo tat quan te um
    Namo bo tat quan te um

    May we all serve well as we can.

  3. “how can you hide from or escape your own Karma like this?”

    Of course, you can’t. Sad news. May this monk, and all of us, find our way to a place of eternal peace and happiness.

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