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English | [Eye Interview] Seon meditation empowers you: Buddhist leader

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Author Jogye On24-05-31 08:42 Views1,347 Comments0



Finding an emotional outlet in a country like South Korea, an ultra-competitive society that teaches little about coping with emotions, is tough.

Left unaddressed, stress without a proper release could be feeding collective trauma, as evidenced by recent violent crimes that have alarmed the country, according to the Ven. Jinwoo, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

Responsible for running Korea’s largest Buddhist sect with the Supreme Patriarch as the spiritual leader, Jinwoo says he has plans to deliver the right kind of intervention required.

Control over emotions

“Empowering people to pull themselves together quickly when they need to is what I have in mind. I want to see the program take off this year,” Jinwoo said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Since his four-year term began in September 2022, the seon meditation program has facilitated public discourse on the role Buddhism may play in achieving inner peace when people are seized by invasive thoughts that they feel they have little control over.

“Stop all chains of thoughts,” Jinwoo said of the way to start “seon,” the Jogye style of meditation. “Not a total shutdown. Just shake off those thoughts -- wicked and meandering. Let your mind come to a pause.”

Seon Buddhism, which the Jogye Order represents, has long placed meditation front and center, Jinwoo noted. Seon Buddhism is commonly known as Zen Buddhism of Japan, both of which prioritize meditation.

More efforts are needed to promote meditation, especially among young people, Jinwoo added, citing the population on which he has his eyes fixed for the next generation of Buddhist leaders and followers. The perception that Buddhism is a religion too old to connect with today’s world and address today’s problems is one of the major hurdles to clear, according to Jinwoo.

“We could sometimes seem too buried under our own traditions. We intend to change that,” Jinwoo said.

Putting on young face

The makeover started on Sept. 28, 2022 -- Day 1 of Jinwoo’s office. At a meeting with college students and Buddhists as young as 20, the new leader promised them whatever support he could find to help them propagate Buddhist teachings.

“We will meet up on a regular basis,” Jinwoo said at the gathering, joined by senior officials assisting Jinwoo. The outcome aside, the meeting at least succeeded in publicly solidifying the Jogye Order’s commitment to wider outreach to the younger generation.

Last month’s annual International Buddhism Expo in Seoul was a reassurance that Jinwoo is determined to see his vision through. The four-day event drew the largest attendance in the last 10 years. Jogye officials were empowered as young participants helped them set a record.

Jinwoo took part in the expo, putting himself out there to level with young participants at a roundtable. “We all need to control ourselves and be comfortable while doing it,” Jinwoo told some 500 participants, revisiting the importance of meditation, which he described as something to remember as a 10-minute daily routine.

“The whole point of that is to calm the mind,” Jinwoo added. “And do that every day and it grows on you. You will get wise. You will gain acumen.”

The expo lived up to its theme, “Joyful Buddhism” as a DJ in a monk’s robe kicked off the event, shouting out Buddhist verses to the beat of electronic dance music. That alone was the single most powerful demonstration of how far Jinwoo’s team is willing to go to show the appeal of Buddhism to new audiences.


Forming coalition

For Jinwoo, seon meditation isn’t just a rallying cry. The Jogye Order president is looking to weave that into the fabric of Korean society. And Buddhists, Jinwoo says, are everywhere in sports and in the military, where Buddhist monks, along with their Christian peers, regularly teach conscripts about Buddhism.

Jinwoo says he is entertaining the idea of launching a fellowship group where star players lead the conversation about Buddhism. Exchange at the grassroots level is a way to “get the ball rolling,” according to the monk.

A nationwide event is also in the pipeline.

In late October, the Jogye Order will host a mass public gathering to promote seon meditation. At “Peace of Mind, the Road to Happiness,” Jogye officials plan to communicate seon better to the public.

The October rally will coincide with Jinwoo’s trip to the US, where the Buddhist leader will meet with his counterparts to discuss advancing seon meditation. Lectures and seminars by Jinwoo at universities there will highlight his understanding of the practice.

The US tour includes a stop at New York City’s Central Park, where Jinwoo plans to display how seon meditation works in real life. Officials are finalizing the agenda and timetable.

Rethinking education

Jinwoo acknowledges his push to instill a culture of meditation could use a boost, singling out education.

“I’ve already communicated my concerns to authorities and we need to revamp the system,” Jinwoo said, calling out underinvestment in building character. “Competition after competition is how we’re raised from kindergarten.”

“Just think about how much you’d be stressed out from all that,” Jinwoo added. “We have good talents but what we know best is how to win, at all costs.”

The ability to handle suffering on their own, however, has been lost along the way, according to Jinwoo. “You have to learn to do that. Meditation is the way.”


Finding inner peace

Jinwoo does not identify himself as a forerunner in raising awareness of seon meditation, because the practice “has long been in place for the last 1,500 years and it has been flawless.”

“I’m not proposing something new; I’m just trying to make the approach to meditation up-to-date,” Jinwoo stressed, saying why people need to meditate in the first place should resonate with them before they are advised to do it.

Mustering the ability to independently discover and relish inner peace is a mission for all, according to Jinwoo. The Jogye Order president echoed it again at an annual press conference Thursday ahead of Buddha’s Birthday on May 15.

“The world is beset with wars and our society too is far from finding peace of mind,” Jinwoo said, addressing concerns such as consoling the marginalized.

“No matter how cutting-edge the next inventions will be from scientific advances, we will still have to grapple with suffering,” Jinwoo added.

Jinwoo called finding inner peace the panacea to conflict resolution. “Intellectuals you and I know are already aware of that. They are meditating.”

This article is written by Choi Si-young/Kim Young-sang (ysk@heraldcorp.com)

from Korean Herald.


(03144) 55, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of KoreaTEL : +82-2-2011-1830FAX: +82-2-735-0614E-MAIL: jokb@buddhism.or.kr