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Buddhism in DonggukCOVER STORY - Lee Min-jeong, Kim Na-eun, Jun Ji-min

   
 

  On May 8, 1906, DGU was established by the people from the Jogye order.  They insisted that they educate the nation from the national capital, free from Japanese colonialism, under the flag of national salvation.  The purpose for developing DGU was to give knowledge to students so that they can contribute to the development and salvation of the nation.  DGU was first called Myeongjin School. Since then, the name had changed seven times.  Finally in 1953 ,after the Korean War had ended, our school was raised to status of university and called Dongguk University.  

 Dongguk University was founded according to the principles of Buddhist teaching to ensure the highest levels of educational achievement and personal integrity, and to bring the nation, human society, and nature together.  This was done by enlightening the students with the spirit of wisdom and charity and by realizing an open academic community in which each individual can inherit confidence and respect with their academic reward.  Today, DGU is committed to a vision which promotes the globalization of Korean culture, including Buddhism.  

 Following this founding spirit, DGU is unique and one of the best universities that was founded on the Buddhist faith.  DGU continues to cultivate talent of leadership ,devoting themselves to realizing the ideals of the nation and mankind through research and teaching academic theories and application.  Let’s look into Dongguk University and feel the spirit of Buddhism. 

[Part1] Introduction to Cultural Studies on Buddhism 

 DGU is offering many cultural studies on Buddhism for students while providing a good curriculum to the students of the Buddhist Studies College.  It aims at cultivating people who are well grounded in various fields.  They also want you to experience the Buddhist spirit through cultural subjects on Buddhism.  

 First part of the curriculum is mandatory basic course: Practice in Seon 1 and 2, and Buddhism and Humanity.  These courses are generally required for freshmen.  Practice in Seon 1 aims to establish a person sincerity and creative mind.  Through this class, students can become more familiar with Buddhism by practicing Buddhism meditation and breathing.  Practice in Seon 2 is a continuatoin of Practice in Seon 1.  Actually, Practice in Seon series has gained popularity for many reasons. 

First of all, these classes tolerate students of other faiths.  Students are not forced to follow the teaching and ceremonies of Buddhism.  They also provide various activities beyond common meditation.  One student who took a class in last semester said that she really was impressed by professor's question: “Who are you? and Who am I?"  Her professor then said that meditation is 'A journey to find yourself'.  "It was the most exciting experience in my life," the student said.  In addition, there are activities like visiting temples or lying meditation.  There are about fifty Practice in Seon classes available each semester.  

 Buddhism and Humanity class help you develop proper values and a world view by giving lessons on life and the teachings of Buddha.  This course will teach you the fundamental notions of Buddhism.    Unlike Practice in Seon, this class is a theory-based practice.  Buddhism and Humanity offers interesting homework like interpreting movies as a theme of Buddhism. Twenty-eight classes were available this semester.  

 Second part, there are key cultural courses : Dialogue between Contemporary Philosophy and Buddhist Thought, Indology and Orientalism, Wisdom of Life to Learn from Wonhyo and Toegye, Indian Society and Buddhism, Life science and Buddhist Moral Principles, Buddhism in the Ecological Crisis Era, Seon and Art and Understanding Buddhist Art.  Dialogue between Contemporary Philosophy and Buddhist Thought searchs for the mutual understanding between these two and tries to analyze modern philosophy through Buddhist thought. 

 Orientalism implies prejudiced outsiders' interpretations about Eastern cultures and peoples.  Indology and Orientalism class chases such a tendency of Orientalism, especially in relation to India, and aims at revealing the substance of Orientalism.  Wisdom of Life from Wonhyo and Toegye teaches us to seek wisdom from these two thinkers.  We can track struggles to abolish the Caste System between M.K. Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar in Indian Society and Buddhism. 

 Life Science and Buddhist Moral Principles studies the Buddhist view on human cloning, abortion, euthanasia, organ transplants, etc.  Buddhism in the Ecological Crisis Era class deals with Buddhism thoughts on ecology and its solution on the ecological crisis.  Seon is the science of practicing Buddhist doctrines, developing humanity and the awakening of self-nature.  Seon and Art lectures understand teach the concept of Seon and  the relationship between Seon and Art.  We can look into the origins of and developments in Gandhra art in Understanding Buddhist Art.  We can also understand the process of spreading Buddhist art from Gandhra to China and to Korea. 

These key cultural subjects are optional subjects, but all students must take one of them.  Definitely, these lectures are more in-depth than the basic courses. Do not worry if you don't understand Buddhist philosophy well.  These classes explain everything clearly and stimulate your curiosity.  Popular lectures like Dialogue between Contemporary Philosophy and Buddhist Thought, and Life Science and Buddhist Moral Principles show that subjects related with Buddhism appeal to lots of students.  

 Third, there are thirteen courses on Buddhism for general education: Literature and Thought in Buddhist Classics, Religious Understanding of Buddhism, Ethics of Buddhism, Seon and Person, Buddhism and Woman, Buddhism and Korean Culture, Understanding and Practice of Buddhist Meditation, Yoga and Self-realization, Buddhism and World Religion, Origin and Development of Indian Buddhism, Buddhism and Arts, Understanding the Philosophy of Confucianism▪Buddhism▪ Taoism and Buddhism and Oriental Culture.  They are elective courses which you may choose according to your area of interest.  Some lectures on Buddhism are connected with other themes like women's studies, other religions and art.  Their purpose is to try to reconcile Buddhism with other subjects and encourage you to have a more opened mind. 

[Part 2] The Buddhist Programs in DGU

 There are many Buddhist programs which every DongGukian can take part in.  The purpose of these program is to spread the culture and spirit of Buddhism among the public.
What kinds of program can we take part in?

1. The Buddhist cooking lesson
More people are becoming sick of eating meat, spicy food and fast food.  People find Buddhist food as an attractive alternative(often called "well-being" food).  You can taste the natural flavor of Buddhist food, which contains no artificial addictives or preservatives.  To satisfy the new interest in healthy food, DGU offers Buddhist cooking lessons at Haklim Hall.  These lessons help people understand Buddhist traditional foods.  We can learn how to cook various Buddhist foods and enjoy the generosity of the monks. 

2. Temple Stay
 We cannot mention Korean traditional culture and history without discussing Buddhist temples as Korean Buddhism has been a spiritual refuge for Korean people for over 1700 years.  We can experience daily life of the Buddhist tradition in temple.  Temple stay includes tea ceremony, offering Baloo and a temple tour.  Drinking tea with the traditional tea sets is similar to the sitting "Seon" or meditation practiced in Buddhism.  We can experience spiritual ascension through the tea ceremony.  "Baloo" means the 'bowls appropriate for the quantity,' and "Gongyang" refers to the 'dining at temple'.  The four-bowl meal is  traditional among Korean monks and a practice that represents  more than simply table manners. 

3. Energetic Buddhist group counsel
 This program is held on Student Counsel Center.  It helps students to search for self and make inner peace by applying Buddhist counseling techniques.  This is a two-day program that all DongGukianscan participate in. 

4. Vippasana
 The term 'Vippasana' literally means "to see things as they really are".  Vippasana is regarded as a type of Buddhist meditation, through which a person calms the mind and achieves a sort of equanimity and composure.  It is said that Lord Gautama Buddha himself, made use of this meditation technique.  The method of Vippasana is 'to watch your breath with awareness.'  In Vippasan, a person is just required to be aware of his breathing but not try to control it. 

 In addition, many other Buddhist programs are available to you through the Jeonggakwon temple.  Every Saturday, the temple offers many Buddhist celebrities with respected monks' preaching the teachings of Buddha.  In Buddhist ceremony on every Saturday sponsored by Jeonggakwon, many celebrities and reputed monks preach Buddhism. 

[Part 3] Feel the Buddhism in DGU campus

 There are many ways that you can feel Buddhism on the campus at DGU.  Let’s look around the campus.

   

 Noble Eightfold Path & A Buddhist statue

<Noble Eightfold Path & A Buddhist statue>
 The Noble Eightfold Path is, in the teachings of Buddha, said to be the way that leads to the end of suffering.  In Buddhist symbolism, the Noble Eightfold Path is often represented by the Dharma wheel, whose eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path.  At the center of the DGU campus, there is a road that expresses the eightfold path, and symbolizes the eight teachings of Buddha.  At the center of the Eightfold Path, there is a statue of Buddha, which is symbolic of DGU.  Tourists who visit our university often take pictures of this statue. 

   

 Elephant

<Elephant>
 DGU's mascot is an elephant.  In Buddhism, an elephant is a holy animal which symbolizes wisdom and fortune.  It also symbolizes the new generation of university students  who are wise, brave, bright and friendly.  You can find several elephants on the DGU campus that are very popular with the students. 

 

   

Jeonggakwon

<Jeonggakwon>
 This temple was erected around 1616 as the main building of Gyeonghuigung.  In March, 1926, during the period of the forced occupation by the Japanese Empire, it was moved to north of Dongguk University.  Then in September, 1976, it was moved next to Dongguk University's front gate and given the name of Jeonggagwon.  Meditation classes are held in this temple and it is also available to Buddhist priests. 

<Daegakjeon>
 As a part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the school, the School Authority (SA) and believers in Buddhism raised a fund to build the sanctuary.  This sanctuary opened in November, 1997 and is called Daegakjeon.  Its design is elegant and there are more than 4000 statues of Buddha in the sanctuary. 

<A bell of Dongguk and a bell tower>
 The bell of Dongguk was engraved with a poem written by Seo Jeong-ju, inscribed by Kim Jin-sang in October, 1976.  "Steady one's clean mind, Behave truly and reliably, Love people with benevolence, Save mankind from agony" 
 This temple bell rings every morning and evening and on annual events such as the entrance ceremony graduation ceremony, and special Buddhist ceremonies. 

[Part4] Interview with foreign students who are studying Korean Buddhism in DGU

 Korean Buddhism appeals to foreigners with its unique character.  The number of foreigners who are fascinated with Korean Buddhism is increasing,  Many foreign students who want to study Korean Buddhism are entering DGU.  The Post met and interviewed two of them.

 Interview with Marek Zemanek
<From Czech, graduate school of Buddhist studies>

The Post: What do you study in Dongguk University?
Marek: I’m a graduate student of Buddhist studies.  I entered this graduate school about 2 and a half years ago.  Now, I'm writing a Master´s thesis about Hwaom Philosophy related to nationalism. 

The Post: How did you find out about Dongguk University before you came to the school?
Marek: I was interested in Asian culture ever since I was a young boy. I wanted to study the science of religion, I read many Buddhist books and they were published by Dongguk University, so I saw the name DGU in the books and came to know that Dongguk University is well known for Buddhist studies.  I have known about DGU ever since I was a high school student.  After graduate from high school, I decided to study Korean and Korean Buddhism.  I heard that it would be better to learn Korean if I want to study Korean Buddhism.  After graduation from university in Czech I came to Korea and entered the Dongguk University graduate school. 

The Post: What attracted you to  Korean Buddhism studies?
Marek: I love many Buddhist cultural heritages such as temples, poetries and statues of Buddha in Korea.  They are so beautiful.  And the spirit of Korean Buddhism can be put into practice in politics, the environment and so on.

The Post: What was your favorite class?
Marek: My favorite class was 'Comparison between Western philosophy and Buddhism philosophy' by professor Kim Jong-wook.  It was really interesting to me because I'm a western guy.  The most difficult class was 'Hwaom Philosophy' because there were too many difficult terms.  But now, I can read and totally understand them because I studied so hard. (Laugh)

The Post: What do you think about Dongguk University?
Marek: I think DGU's campus is really beautiful because of the temple, the statue of Buddha and mountains which surrounds the whole campus.  Especially I like the Noble Eightfold Path, it's really nice that philosophy represented by the road.  I also like the Library because there's a Buddhist studies reading room in there and I can read many books which are written in English.  Generally I'm content with Dongguk University.

The Post : As a foreign student, what do you want from DGU?
Marek : For the best Buddhism based university and I hope that many foreign students will come to the school to study.  I also want the university to establish a Buddhist graduate school for foreign students and to cultivate international Buddhist scholars.  I know that college of Film& Digital Media is a specialty at DGU, so I want DGU to offer various workshops in the college for foreigner students.  Through these programs, it will be famous in many fields all over the world as well as Korean Buddhism. 

The Post: What are you planning to do after you graduate? 
Marek: I will try to take a doctorate in Dongguk graduate school.  After that, I'm thinking of two things.  One option is to go back to Czech and be a professor of Korean studies or Buddhist studies.  Another option is just to stay in Korea and continue study Korean Buddhism.

- Interview with Rustam
<From Uzbekistan, Dept. of Seon Studies>

 Rustam came to Korea nine years ago and entered DGU last year.  When asked how he got the opportunity to participate in Korean Buddhism, he responded.  "I was interested in oriental philosophy ever since I was a child.  I was determined to study Korean Buddhism when I met a teacher from the Jogye Order at a mission in Uzbekistan."  He thought that attraction of Korean Buddhism was a tolerance.  According to his words, Korean Buddhism cherishes folk beliefs and it reflects hearts of the Korean. 

 It is against Indian and Chinese Buddhism which emphasize theory of Buddhism.  "I was moved by relentless protest of Korean Buddhism against Japan's colonial rule of Korea," he said.  

 He had difficulties coming to Korea to study Buddhism.  His parents who are Muslims told him he could not study Buddhism.  But when he turned twenty-three, his parents changed their minds and allowed him to study Korean Buddhism.  He visited to Haeinsa which is well-known for Tripitaka Koreana(Palman Daejanggyeong) in 2000.  When he went to Haein Buddhist University, he was trained to strengthen his body and mind through practicing meditation.  After four years, he graduated from Haein Buddhist University and went to Korean Language Institute after he graduated from Hae-Inn Buddhust Univ.  

 "When I was fluent in Korean, one of the monks at Haeinsa recommended DongGuk University to me," Rustam said.  He was really satisfied with the curriculum at DGU and was impressed by the campus scenery.  He said that he was impressed by the volunteer work arranged by the Student Counsel Center.  "Through them, I met various students and had a good time," he added.  He also pointed out a problem. Unlike Korean Language Institute in Yonsei University, the DGU center has a short history and the programs were less developed: for example, they emphasized conversation, at the exclusion of grammar.  

 He is planning to study Korean history and the history of Buddhism as a minor.  He hopes to study more about Korean Buddhism at a Graduate School.  " I want to study the role of Buddhism in modern society and how to spread its teachings all over the world even to foreigners who have difficulty understanding  Buddhism," he added. 

[Part5] Meet Jung-An, dean (executive secretariate of DGU foundation)

 

   
 
 

Jung-An

 
The post met with Jung-An the dean and executive secretariate of DGU foundation.  He said that Buddhist cultural studies to spread the founding spirit of  Buddhism.  He also believes that each students would gain confidence and respect through the courses provided.  DGU is widely known for its Buddhist teaching sparking a world interest.  Jung-An stressed its primary role of achieving globalization of Buddhism. 

 He said "one of the Buddhist teachings is 'the world is one'.  This means that all things, whether they are alive or not, are valuable to each other.  As this is the basic principle of Buddha, I think that this spirit will make people in the world one and justify globalization of Buddhism."  The number of foreigners who come to DGU to learn this is increasing and it has grown to accept these foreigners." he said. 

He added, "the reason why Korean Buddhism is loved by other countries is the unique Korean Zen (Seon).  DGU needs to propagate not only the Buddhist spirit, but also the Korean Zen pursuing of ultimate freedom.  We should teach all the people who want to learn and show them how to apply this to their real lives."  

Lee Min-jeong
Kim Na-eun
Jun Ji-min

Lee Min-jeong  serendipity@dongguk.edu

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