|Singh Krishna Kumar (College of Budhist Studies, top graduate of College of Buddhist Studies)|
|/Photograph by Lee Min-jeong|
Dongguk University is one of the top Buddhist universities known for its excellence in Buddhist studies. A lot of Buddhist monks come to Dongguk to study Buddhism from all over the world. The Post interviewed the top graduate of the college of Buddhist studies, Singh Krishna Kumar, to know about his life in Dongguk and his steps afterwards.
Q. Is there any reason you came to Korea to study Buddhism instead of Nepal?
A. To be honest, I did not know about Buddhism at all. While I was working as a teacher in the police school run by the government, I had chance to teach about the life of Buddha and Buddhism.That was when I got interested in Buddhism. However, the information about Buddha was too scarce in Nepal. Then I thought of a Korean Buddhist I met when I was practicing Yo-ga in India, in 2006.
Our meeting became a trigger and I decided to study Buddhism in Korea. So I quit my job and came to Dongguk University.
Q. Did you have any chance to meet with Buddhist monks other than the Korean monks? Is there any community for foreign Buddhist monks?
A. There is no community for foreign Buddhist monks. Usually, foreign monks like me talk about Buddhism, but when we get to know each other, we talk about differences between one’s culture with another.
Q. Have you ever taken classes other than Buddhism related courses? How were they like?
A. Actually, I double-majored in English Language and Literature. The most memorable lecture was “English Briefing on Korean Cultural Products” with the book called The Death Appeared in Western Literature by professor Hwang Hoon-sung. Since the book was well organized, it was easy to understand its content. Since Buddhism covers the area of death, the book helped me study Buddhism as well. I was able to have deeper thoughts about death thanks to the book. Hence, taking the lecture with the book about the death was the most helpful and productive in my university life.
Q. Was there any difficulties you experienced as a Buddhist monk student and an international student?
A. Since I was not good at Korean when I was a freshman, I recieved a lot of help from my Doban sunim; Doban stands for a companion sunim. He explained me what I did not understand during the classes. Furthermore, he helped me when applying for the courses. Thanks to his help, I did not have big difficulties. But I had some troubles in knowing the ingredients of the food in cafeteria.
Q. I heard that you are going to study for a master’s course in anthropology at Seoul National University. Why did you choose anthropology?
A. I personally think that religion belongs to humanity. That means, the root of religion is humanity. The world is created, human beings are born, which opened civilization, and finally led to the creation of religion; anthropology and Buddhism are clearly related.
Studying anthropology in depth would be enable me to think more about why Buddhism is necessary. That is the reason why I want to learn anthropology.
Q. In another interview, you said, “I want to do Buddhist activities which can be understood by non-religious people.” Why do you want Buddhist activities to be acceptable to non-religious people?
A. When a religious person describes his or her religion, a non-religious person often thinks “He talks so, because he is a religious person.” I want to get away from this judgment. I want to do away with the stereotypes of a Buddhist monk or those of a religious person. For example, “He is going to study for a master’s course in Buddhism because he graduated Department of Buddhism.”
Q. In another interview, you mentioned that you want to study Buddhism academically. Can you be more specific?
A. Nowadays young men are indifferent to Buddhism. In order for young people to be interested in Buddhism, the religion and Buddhists should follow the changing trends of the era. To this end, I want to do away with the stereotypes of a Buddhist monk that they only practice meditation or hold a Buddhist ceremony. I would like to also write a book or open a seminar related to Buddhism. I want to help Buddhism to be closer to the citizen, for example, by writing a novel based on the dependent origination theory.
Q. Why do you want to teach Buddhism to especially young men? In what way do you want to teach them?
A. For continuous development of Buddhism, young people’s recognition is essential. To do so, I think that religion should not simply attempt to attract ordinary people (non-religious people) unilaterally. Instead, Buddhism should embrace young people. I hope Buddhism naturally meets everyday life, not being separated from religious life. In the end, Buddhism and society must coexist. The reason is that Buddhism is a religion that has many good teachings that people should learn. Many people tend to be repulsed when they talk about “religion.” I hope them to know and understand Buddhist teachings a lot.
Q. What advice would you give to other foreign students studying Buddhism at Dongguk University?
A. Do not give up even if it is hard. The most important thing is “language.” You should try your best to speak Korean well. When opportunities to talk to someone and become friends come to you, you should grab those chances. In addition, you need to know the “culture” of the country to understand the people and adapt to that country. After that, you will not misunderstand Koreans because of culture differences.
Q. What would you like to do in the future based on your learning about Buddhism?
A. I do not have a concrete method yet, but I would like to contribute to the development of Nepal, my home country. I always hope the political and economic situation in Nepal to be much better than now.
Q. What is your own motto?
A. I have learned many things and received help from numerous people in Korea. I think that we should live for others as much as we can. This is my motto.
Khang Seok-jun firstname.lastname@example.org
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