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New Year’s Press Conference by Most Ven. Wonhaeng, B.E. 2566 (2022)

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Writer Jogye Date18 Feb 2022 Read501 Comment0

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Committed to a new future for Korean Buddhism, guided by the lamp of Buddha-dharma

Dear citizens and fellow Buddhists of Korea!

I wish you and your family health and happiness on the Year of the Black Tiger.

Our mind and heart are still troubled in the new year, auspicious as the Year of the Black Tiger is, as the pandemic continues to pose threat to our health and way of life,causing distress and restrictions at every level of society with the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 variant.

On behalf of the KoreanBuddhist community, I hereby promise that we will do our utmost to support our nation to overcome the crisis posed by the pandemic and restore our lives to pre-pandemic times.

It will take concerted efforts of all the citizens of Korea as well as those of the Buddhists to pull through the hardship.

The Buddhist community recently convened the National Monastic Assembly to protest against the government’s religious favoritism and policies biased against Buddhism with a crowd of 5,000 monks and nuns.

There were some concerns about so many people getting together amid the pandemic and making a seemingly political stance with the presidential election just around the corner.

However, the monastics feel that the atmosphere of discrimination and prejudice is so pervasive in our society that we can no longer afford to put off taking actions to bring these issues into the public forum, which is key to building consensus to resolve them.

It is up to the Buddhist community to ease the concerns and doubts the public may still have about the National Monastic Assembly. We will continue to do our best to convince the citizens that our cause is just and worthy of giving support to.

All religions are facing the threat of extinction, including Buddhism. Since four years ago when I was elected as the president of the Jogye Order, Korean Buddhism has been undertaken the journey of laying the groundwork for the future, that of turning crisis into opportunity.

We see the hope for the future of Korean Buddhism in young children who come holding their piggy banks in their chubby little hands, and our hearts are touched by grandmothers whose time-worn hands donate their hard-earned money to support the Million Vows Assembly campaign.

Million Vows Assembly, laying the groundwork for the future of Korean Buddism

The Million Vows Assembly was the channel through which all the devotion and care of Korean Buddhists gather and flow through. Now, they are finally bearing fruits, one after another.

Bunhwang-sa Temple in India will be the first traditional Korean Buddhist temple ever built in Bodh Gaya.

The completion of theframework of its main Buddha hall was celebrated with a ceremony of putting up the ridge beam last December, and the Buddha statue will be consecrated with the eye-dotting ceremony in May this year, marking the official opening of the temple.

Hoguk Hongje-sa Temple in Gyeryongdae, where the Army, Navy, and Airforce Headquarters are located, is scheduled to be completed in June this year, to serve as a new center for the dissemination of Buddhism in the military.

The construction of the Korean Buddhism Experience Park and Gwangje-sa Temple in Sejong City, Korea’s administrative capital, is going well, to be completed as planned in September this year and spearhead Korean Buddhism’s progress into the future.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Cultural Heritage Research Institute will be held in March in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province, and the ceremony of putting up the ridge beam for the building in 2024 as planned, with the completion of the construction project to be in 2024.

Much effort has been madein consultation with the Gyeongju City government to bring the fallen Yeolam Vally Buddha back on its feet. A Dharma ceremony was officiated on November 22, 2021, dedicated to the cause of restoring the rock-face Buddha foundnear Yeolam Vally in Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju, with the four-fold assembly present.

The land purchasing agreement was executed in December 2021 to establish a residential home for the elderly, where the aging monastics and lay Buddhists who devoted their whole life to spiritual practice and propagation of Buddhism can live and receive medical care. The Monastic Welfare Foundation will make sure that the project proceeds as planned.

As the land was repurposed to build the October 27 Incident Memorial Hall to restore the honor of the victims, a new feasibility study report was published, which enabled the budget for the project to be finalized.

This will enable the project to resume, which has been on halt for a considerable time.

The abbots of Jogye-sa and Bongeun-sa Temples also join the Million Vows Assembly campaign, with the former turning the headquarters temple of the Jogye Order into a sacred pilgrimage site, while the latter establishing Sangwol Seon Center in Weirye City.

Traditional Buddhist culture under the international spotlight

The UNESCO decided in December 2020to inscribe Yeondeunghoe (lantern lighting festival, the National Intangible Cultural Asset No. 122) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The UNESCO noted the inclusiveness of Yeondeunghoe, which contributes to overcoming all social boundaries and to ultimately expressing cultural diversity, and also noted that the lantern lighting festival plays the role of sharing pleasure and, in times of difficulties, of enhancing social cohesion.

With global recognition comes the responsibility to keep the traditional Korean Buddhist culture alive. We will do our best to preserve and transmit it to the next generations to be shared with the rest of the country as well as the denizens of the world.

The templestay may have started small, but it is now thriving in its adulthood. Over 6 million Koreans and foreigners have experienced this extremely popular program so far, making it one of the best-known symbols of Korea’s traditional culture.

Templestay was also used as a means of psychological quarantine, to soothe the hearts troubled by the hardships caused by theCOVID-19. The Jogye Order funded the templestay for the public, offering succor to around 12,00o people for the past 3 years and about 45,000 people experienced the temple food sharing events donated by the temples. We will do our best to develop templestay as the signature brand epitomizing Korea’s traditional culture.

10 years of working for social equality and civil rights for minorities.

It has been 10 years since the Jogye Order launched the Social and Labor Affairs Committee to address human rights issues, including labor rights.

The Social and Labor Affairs Committee has been steadfast in advocating the human rights of the social minorities and advancing the cause of equality. The Committee supported the workers laid off by Ssangyong Motors and the KTX Train and organized memorial services for immigrant workers, the victims of Sewol Ferry incident, and a mother and her two daughters from Seoul’s Songpa neighborhood who killed themselves for financial difficulties. It also hosted a prayer ritual in front of the National Assembly anda bowing protest in support of the proposed Anti-discrimination Bill by covering 30km by prostrations only.

The Buddhist community has always stood with socially disadvantaged and alienated and advocated the sanctity of life and social equality to honor Buddha’s teaching. We will continue to spearhead the effort to realize social justice.

It is high time to lift restrictions on traditional Buddhist temples.

The 36th administration of the Jogye Order has identified as one of its key policies the reform of the government restrictions against traditional Buddhist temples and in 2019 formed a committee to amend, relax or abolish the laws and regulations unfavorable to Buddhist institutions.

The Committee’s efforts are finally bearing fruits,as many reform and deregulatory measures reflect its suggestions. As a result, “The Special Law Regarding the Designation and Management of Development Restriction Areas” was amended to reduce the land preservation levy imposed on the Buddhist temples that own cultural assets or are located within the restriction area. The guidelines for buried cultural heritage were also revised to streamline the process of determining the ownership of the relics found in the temple ground.

Also, amendments to “The Disaster Saftey Law”, “The Architectural Law”, “The Law on Buried Cultural Assets”, “The Cultural Heritage Protection Law”, “The Law to Restrict the Tax Benefits”, “The Law to Preserve and Support Traditional Buddhist Temples”, “The Natur Park Law”, and “The Forest Protection Law” have been proposed.

We will follow through with these legislative proposals so that the traditional temples are properly protected as venues of spiritual practice and their natural and cultural heritage are well preserved and passed down for the enjoyment of Korea’s future generations.

A well-established Monastic Welfare System to support Sangha

Marking the 10th anniversary of the monastic welfare system, the Monastic Welfare Subscription was introduced in 2020 to ensure thatthe Monastic Welfare System stays adequately funded. So far, 90% of all ordained Sangha have joined, firmly anchoring the new system in one year’s time.

Since last year, the Jogye Order started subsidizing novice monks and nuns if they are hospitalized while attending Buddhist seminaries. The monastics will have additional security provided by the order on top of the national welfare benefits to enhance the ordained Sangha’s quality of life.

The Buddhist Scripture, the New Tripitaka of the 21st Century

The Tripitaka Koreana, also called “Eighty-Thousand Tripitaka” attests to the large collection of sutras Korean Buddhism amassed in the long course of its history. But its sheer scale made it difficult for the lay Buddhists to choose which text is most important, to carry on their persons and study at all times.

As such, the Jogye Order identified the essentials from the vast teachings of the Buddha and compiled them in a single volume to make Buddhist teaching more easily accessible to the people of the 21st century.

The Buddhist Scripture, the New Tripitaka of the 21st Century, will serve as the spiritual compass for the modern people pointing true north of their lives, and be provided in audio and e-book formats as well.

Reconcile the Conflict and Discord

One of my election pledges when I ran for the position of president was that I would do my best to heal the wounds caused by conflicts and discord within the Jogye Order and promote reconciliation.

As such, the Jogye Order officiated the Grand Dharma Assembly to transcend all differences and achieve great unity last November, urging monastics to forgive and honor each other. Participants made a pledge to Buddha to embrace the teaching of Master Jinje, the Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order and uphold the solidity of the monastic Sangha as their priority, renew their commitment to each other as Dharma friends and work hand-in-hand for innovation and harmony.

Harmony is one of the best virtues of the Buddhist monastic Sangha.While the Jogye Order strives to reconcile disputes and restore purity, the individual monks and nuns should alsofiercely dedicate themselves to spiritual practice to be reborn as the true disciples of Buddha.

To make a great leap forward in 2022

60 years ago, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the only legitimate successor of the Buddhist lineage unbroken for 1,700 years, had a new beginning when it ended a long-standing dispute between the ordained Sangha and the laity.

To mark the 60th anniversary of this new chapter in the history of Korean Buddhism,the Jogye Order will hold a variety of events, such as the memorial Dharma assembly, academic conferences, and exhibitions, which will serve as occasions to shed new light on the modern history of Korean Buddhism and reaffirm the Jogye Order’s identity as the sole heir to Korean Buddhism and its tradition.

In the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, with the emergence ofAI, Big Data, and the metaverse, everything is going online, including the culture. Amid the increasing appetite for cultural content, especially among Millennials and Generation Z, it is high time that the cultural policies of the Jogye Order, as well as those of the Korean government, undergo fundamental changes.

The traditional Buddhist temples are full of cultural assets, both tangible and intangible, in which the spirit of the Korean people will live on. The Jogye Order will work together with Dongguk University (the Buddhist Academy) 0n various projects such as ‘Buddhist Cultural Vision 2030,’ and ‘K-Buddhism’ to ensure better preservation of the cultural heritage and transform them into internet content for online use.

Climate change and the Net Zero economy are the new buzzwords all over the world. The unusually frequent occurring of natural disasters is predictably man-made, caused by humanity’s unfettered greed.

The forests around the Buddhist temples, which the Buddhist community has preserved and tended with loving care, are the last vestige to battle climate crisis and achieve carbon neutrality.Buddhism is inherently eco-friendly as the sanctity of life and interdependent way of living are the two distinctive foundations of Buddhist values, which will serve as an important engine to overcome the current crisis.

The Jogye Order Headquarters will set and commit to carbon neutrality goals and take concrete actions to achieve them. It will also produce anddistribute carbon neutrality guidelines to the temples around the country to fulfill their social responsibility.

We will have a new Supreme Patriarch in March 2022, the figurehead personifying the sacred spirituality of the Jogye Order. We will serve him to the best of our ability so that under his direction the world will be blossom into the Dharma flower.

Build a new future for Korean Buddhism guided by the lamp of Buddha-dharma

The 36th Administration of the Jogye Order will be finishing its 4-year term in 2022. It has been a long and winding journey, on which we have met and communicated with countless fellow Dharma friends, who generously supported us with their opinions, encouragement, and wisdom. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere appreciation to all of them.

Buddha says, “Be a light unto yourself. Be a lamp unto yourself.” One must live and shine in his own enlightened mind cultivated through practice, guided by the lamp of Buddha’s teaching.

The world is ever-changing day by day, with an untold number of events happening moment by moment.

In this tumultuous sea of change, the only thing that we can rely on is our own mind and wisdom, living and striving for enlightenment guided by the teachings of Buddha.

The term of 36th Administration of the Jogye Order is coming to an end this year, but it is yet another new beginning for the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. I hereby pledge that I will be with the citizens of Korea and fellow Buddhists until the very last day, wishing that my days so far will somewhat act as a catalyst for a leap forward for the future of the Jogye Order.

Dear citizens and Dharma friends,

May health and happiness always be with you.

Thank you.

February B.E. 2566 (2020)

Wonhaeng

The 36th president

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism

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