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New Year’s statement by Ven.
Wonhaeng, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, released at the New
Year’s press conference
The new sloganfor the year 2020,coined by the 36th
Administration of the Jogye Orderled by Ven. Wonhaeng, is:“The Jogye Order will
light up the future of Korean Buddhism with One Million Vows and become the
lamp that illuminates all of society with trust.”We are publishing the full
text of Ven. Wonhaeng’s statement released on January 15, 2002 at the Jogye
Order’s New Year’s press conference.
New Year’s statement by Ven. Wonhaeng, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, released at the New Year’s press conference
Ladies and gentlemen!Four-fold assembly!The long-awaited New Year has dawned.
I pray that the year 2020 will be a prosperous and hopeful one for all Koreans regardless of their religion.
We have an eventful year, facing a veritable sea of challenges at home and abroad.
Nothing was plain sailing for Korea in 2019.
Political conflicts have causedsevere social turmoil and
sharply divided the country's citizens. Korean and Japanese relations are
filled with tension, andthe world superpowers clashed loudly over the issue of
the Korean Peninsula.
Amid all these, I tried my best to fulfillmy duties as president of the Jogye Order.
I met people from all walks of life from many
different countries last year, through such events as the state visit to
Pakistan and the Korea-China-Japan Buddhist Goodwill Conference.
Meeting all these people, I have felt their respect and devotion to Korean Buddhism.
I have witnessed their strength and hope.
I have humbly faced their criticism.
However, I have learned that nothing is more important than stability within the Order.
The past year was precious in that we all came together to work day and night to heal the wounds left behind by inner conflicts and sought to stabilize the order so that we can renew the potential and confidence of Korean Buddhism and create new momentum for futuregrowth.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who has regarded Korean Buddhism with unfailing respect and showed us steadfast support this past year.
Now, I would like to share some of our key plans for 2020 tocontinue to live up to the expectations the Jogye Ordermust embrace for a brighter future for Korean Buddhism.
My dear fellow Koreans!
In 2020, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism will actively participate ininter-Korean exchanges in the civilian sector so as to facilitate lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Relations between South Korea, NorthKorea and the United States were previously defined only by heightened tensions and discord, but they have begun to thaw since the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The South-North dialogue thus started led to inter-Korean summit meetings, which in turn resulted in US-NK summits, cascading into a powerful and beautiful process toward the ideals of peace, harmony and solidarity, not only on the Korean Peninsula but throughout the world.
Unfortunately, thecomplicated security issues surrounding the Korean Peninsulaare not entirely in the Korean people’s favor.
As our enlightened teachers in the past took yet another “step off the tip of the hundred-foot pole,”as they did on Mt. Myohyang, Mt. Geumgang, Mt. Jiri and Mt. Gaya, we too must now take that pivotal first step into the unknown.
The momentum that will propel us to take that important first step will only come from the hwadu of ‘Prosperous coexistence of the South and North, and lasting peace and harmony on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the world.’
South and North Korea together have preserved a traditional cultural heritage that can stand comparison with any culture in the world, a heritage that belongs to both Koreas.
The Jogye Order already has the experience ofsuccessfully excavating and restoring the former site of Singye-sa Temple in a joint effort with the North Korean Buddhist community. We will expand this already existing relationship and suggest newjoint projects to excavate and restore other Buddhist temples in North Korea, such as Jangan-sa and Yujeom-sa Temples.We will also initiate discussions to returnBuddhist cultural objects currently located in the South to North Korean temples where we anticipate they will truly shine when they are returned to where they originally came from.
The Jogye Order’s Templestay program continues to be an unabated success. Likewise, North Korea has a treasure trove of Buddhist cultural heritage that can significantly contribute to North Korea’s tourism industry and economic growth if properly preserved, restored and utilized through joint projects between the Buddhist communities of the South and North.
The Jogye Order will also suggest a joint project to improve the forests around Buddhist temples toprotect the ecosystem and help deter natural disasters.
We have already established an agenda of inter-Korean projects, both diverse and practical. We will do our best to move ahead with discussions that will lead in the foreseeable future to lively exchanges and concrete plans of action.
This year marks the 70thanniversary of the Korean War, a tragic and violent conflict between North and South Koreas. Achieving lasting peace on the Peninsula is no longer a matter of choice; it is a necessity.
We must find ways to put the past 70 years behind us and replace conflict and struggle with dialogue and compromise,and armed confrontation with peace.
As such, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism plans to
propose to hold a Dharma assembly to pray for the endof all hostilities and
lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula atPanmunjeom in the DMZ, the symbol of
the nation’s division.
Religious leaders from the North will be invited, and
all key players from the South, including religious leaders and NGOs, will be
given an active role in organizing this assembly for universal peace.
2020 is the 2nd year of the 36th Administration of the Jogye Order, which was launched with the promise of stability, harmony and innovation.
While the 36th Administration has been widely acknowledged to have substantially stabilized the Order, it has been pointed out that there is still room for improvement in promoting harmony and innovation.
Harmony and innovation are as vitalas stability in order to fulfill the vision of the Jogye Order, but innovation can only be borne out of a solid foundation of stability and harmony.
H.E. Master Jinje, the Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order, preached in his New Year’s message the importance of greater harmony in the coming year, and that even Sangha members who haveexpressed views differing from the Order’s official positions in the past should be reconciled and united.
In deference to His Excellency’s teaching, we will make sure to implement measures for a grand reconciliation, to be carried out in close consultation with the Central Council of Elders.
The Grand Centennial Project Headquarters will spearhead the Jogye Order’s innovation efforts and will be tasked to gather diverse views from the four-fold community, to formulatean innovative vision for the Order’s future, andto come up with concrete action plansto ensure the implementation of this vision.
The Buddhist Institute of Social Studies in particular are currently conducting a survey among a wide Buddhist populace to provide baseline data. The analysis of this data will surely point us in the right direction and guide our innovation efforts.
Innovation, by definition, means walking an untrodden path.
The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism will lay a foundation upon which a brand new road will spread out.
At the same time, the Million Vows Assembly will be the main engine to provide momentum forthe future of Korean Buddhism. Since last year, when the Million Vows Assembly was established, it has been a catalyst in uniting Buddhists all over the country to make ardent vows.
The Million Vows Assemblyhas already produced meaningful results in its first year as it raised 5 billion won to construct a Korean-style temple in Bodh Gaya, India. The Assembly will continue to act as a focal point for the aspirations of all Korean Buddhists.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the Korean templein Bodh Gaya, to be named Bunhwang-sa, is scheduled to be held in March 2020 and will be attended by a Korean delegation of 100 representatives to mark this historic moment.
We will also finalize an architectural plan for a military Buddhist chapel in Gyeryong City where the Headquarters for the Joint Chief of Staff is located as soon as possible so that its construction can start in 2020.
We are also in the final stage of securing land upon which a Sangha care homewill be built. Construction will start as soon as all arrangements are complete.
In March, the entire staff of the Jogye Order Headquarters will make a pilgrimage together to the site of the rock-face Buddha in Yeolam Valley, Gyeongju, a Buddhist carving that was discovered after being neglected for over a thousand years.
In cooperation with the local Buddhist community, a committee will be appointed to facilitate the construction of a sacred pilgrimage site where the YeolamVally Buddha can be properly enshrined.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the Korean Buddhist Cultural Experience Hall to be built in Sejong City will be held in March or April.
We will do our utmost to ensure that the construction
of the Buddhist Cultural Heritage Preservation and Restoration Center will
start in late 2020 or early 2021 on its new land, without further delay due to
As for the inner-city temple to be built in Wirye City, Bongeun-sa Temple is now taking the initiative to create a new model for urban propagation. The new inner-city temple will include a cultural center that will serve the wider local community.
The year 2020 is the 40th anniversary of the DharmaPersecution which began on October 27, 1980. The National Assembly enacted a law to address the illscaused by the incident, and for the first time, President Moon has officially apologized for the crimes the government committed in illegally persecuting Buddhists.
Establishment of the October 27th Incident Memorial Hall will be the last step through which the wounded dignity of the Buddhist community can be fully restored. It is our sacred obligation to educate future generations about the historic truth so that tragic events of the past will never be repeated.
I would like to take this opportunity to beseech the government’s active support and cooperation in this matter so that this final step will be completed as soon as possible. We will proceed in close consultation with relevant government agencies.
Templestay is one of Korea’s most valuable traditional cultural assetsand has great popular appeal to people all over the world. We will step up our efforts to promote and modify the program’s content so that more and moreforeigners can enjoy our traditional culture. This will boost the nation’s cultural competitiveness and help Korea to be reborn as a cultural superpower.
We have also found a new way to use Templestay to make a social contribution. Last year, about 24,000 participants from underprivileged backgrounds, including immigrant children, children of single parents, troubled teenagers and parolees, were invited to Templestay programs provided by the Order.
We plan to expand our social Templestay programs so that more of our brothers and sisters in need will be able to enjoy the benefits of Korea’s traditional culture.
The World Heritage Committee will decide in late 2020at a meeting in Kingston, Jamaica whether to includeYeondeunghwi, or Lotus Lantern Festival, in UNESCO’s list of world heritages. We must be fully prepared andcooperate closely with relevant government departments to ensure a positive outcome. This would be another resounding success after the 2018 designation of Sansa, Korea’s Buddhist mountain temples,as a World Heritage Site.
We also believe that successfully hosted internationalBuddhist conferences will boost Korean Buddhism’s global status.
In 2020, the Korea-China-Japan Goodwill Conference and the Korea-Japan Cultural Exchange Conference will be held atTongda-sa and Guemsan-sa Temples respectively. These conferences are precious venues where Buddhist leaders from Korea, China and Japan, which are three key proponents of Mahayana Buddhism in East Asia, get together to discuss and pray for world peace and the happiness of all mankind which is now threatened by political tensions and prospects of war. We are fully committed to the success of these international conferences to be held in Koreathis year.
On the global front, the Jogye Order has reaffirmed the need for international exchanges and cooperation to promote inter-religious harmony and the peaceful co-existence of mankind through the state visit to Pakistan last year.
As part of its international initiative, the Jogye Order has officially requested the Pakistani government to loan Pakistan’s Gandhara artworks, including the famous Fasting Buddha Statue, now housed in the Lahore Museum, for a special art exhibition in Korea. The response has been positive.
The Fasting Buddha Statue is one of the most highly acclaimed masterpieces of ancient Gandhara Buddhist art with its realistic depiction of Sakyamuni Buddha’s fierce pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. It is also an object of worship revered by Buddhists around the world.
We will do everything in our power to introduce the Fasting Buddha Statue to the Korean public for the first time, which will be an important landmark inKorea-Pakistan relations.
We will also stand in readiness for the future.
Due to having the lowest birthrate among OECD countries, Korea’s rapidly aging population poses serious challenges to our society.
This is an especially seriousproblem for Buddhist
temples because most temples are located in rural areas, which are most
severely affected by the issue of an aging population. This jeopardizes our
temples’ capacity for autonomous existence.
Furthermore, younger people are becoming less and less interested in religion. Although rapid technological developments, such as the internet and AI, make life materially more convenient, inner peace and the life wisdom taught and cultivated by religion is seen as less and less important.
We admit that the Jogye Order has been somewhat remiss
in preparing for these inevitable social changes. We must develop a more comprehensive
and systematic approach to ensure a bright future for Korean Buddhism.
As the first step in such an endeavor, the Propagation Bureau just released a detailed report on the current status of Buddhist propagation efforts in different areas of Korea.
This report will be shared on January 20 at our Leadership Forum where views on strategies for propagating Buddhism toyounger generations and other innovations within the Order will be exchanged and discussed.
We will continue to actively institute solutions for changing circumstances resulting from the sharp decrease in the number of ordained Sangha members, especially the issue of educating and training monastics. We will strive to continually support and communicate with the Director of the Education Bureau and those who are in charge of Sangha education within the Order.
Dear fellow Koreans! Four-fold community!
Wise men say that anger is overcome by not being drawn into it, evil by good, stinginess by generosity, and lies by truth.
Let us all begin here and now.
Let us all reflect right at this moment whether we are
being driven by ignorance, anger or dualistic tendencies in our mind.
A shallow brook gurgles noisily,
while a deep river flows silently.
In the coming New Year, in 2020, we shouldall endeavor do to whatever we can in our own way to flood the nation with harmony, innovation and peace.
In the year 2020, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhsim
will light up the future with One Million Vows and
become a shelter of stability, harmony and innovation where all members of the
four-fold community can safely take refuge, where the people of Korea can find peace.
January 15, 2020 (BE 2564)
President, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism