Do you know the nearest temple from Dongguk University (DU) except Jeonggakwon, a temple on campus? That is Seoul Fo Guang Shan Temple which is located in Jangchung-dong. It is one minute walk from Dong-dae-ipgu Station. Fo Guang Shan Monastery is originated in Taiwan and was founded in 1927 by the Venerable Master Hsing Yu who promoted Humanistic Buddhism, which takes to heart spiritual practice in daily life. Seoul Fo Guang Shan is one of 200 worldwide branches on five continents. There are temples in Africa, America, Asia, Europe, Oceania and in 173 countries. Out of a total population of 23 million people in Taiwan, more than 3 million people are Buddhists of Fo Guang Shan. There are about 1,000,300 Taiwan Buddhists in the world, and the number increases every year if we consider the worldwide branches. It is an outstanding achievement considering Fo Guang Shan is just one of Taiwan’s many temples.
How about Korean Buddhism? According to a study by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Buddhism has most of its followers in Korea, ranging from 39 million to 50 million. The estimated figure is high but the percentage of Buddhists, living in Seoul, fell 0.4% from 1995 to 2005. Moreover, the number of Protestants living in the metropolitan area exceeds the number of Buddhists. Taiwanese Buddhism has a shorter history of 400 years when compared with that of Korea, 700 years. Despite this fact, Fo Guang Shan, the Taiwan representative temple, became the largest Buddhist monastery and an internationally recognized site of pilgrimage. Then, What is the power of Taiwanese Buddhism?
First, Fo Guang Shan emphasizes nurturing talents through education. It has been proven through the fact that the center for its followers is the first building established in Fo Guang Shan. It had four Buddhist colleges: three regular colleges, and various community colleges not only in Taiwan but also in America, Australia, Hong-kong, and many others. Also, it has nursery schools, kindergartens, primary schools, elementary schools and high schools which provide regular curriculum for students. These schools were designed to cultivate students’ multi talents such as language, music and sports. “I was surprised when I saw the orchestra of Fo Guang Shan,” said Lee Jeong-soo, the Doctor of Esoteric Buddhism. “It strikes me that these students will become the influential leaders not only of Taiwan’s Buddhism but also of the world. They will go into the world under the Buddhist concepts and then, naturally Buddhism will be received and developed. “Moreover, Buddhist study class, devotee’s seminar, short-term monastic retreat and Buddhist summer/winter Camps are prepared for adults. A particular thing is that the program is organized for each individual’s needs: a program for the teacher, a program for salesman, and a program for the CEOs in major companies. “We offer a variety of education programs to fulfill the people’s needs,” said a monk of Fo Guang Shan. “Fortunately, we have received tremendous responses so far, and the program is fully booked for the beginning of the year.”
Second, the convenient service system is well-organized. A five-story building fully equipped with people’s practice, conference, and rest opened in 2003. The thirty conference rooms and huge dining rooms can accommodate up to more than 3 hundred people and 1000 people, respectively. Accomodations at this building are excellent, having all the modern amenities and a shower room separated from a washroom. “It was such a comfortable night,” said Song Hyo-jung, the DU’s student who visited the Fo Guang Shan. “Most of the temples in mountain are uncomfortable to take a shower and sleep. Recently, Korean temples in urban areas are emerging but they have a long way to go before they settle in. To make people come again, we need to find ways to improve the fundamental services like accomodations, shower facilities, and uncomfortable transportation.”
Third, propaganda by stimulating the five senses attracts more people to Buddhism. Publications, broadcasting, DVD’s and other materials aid people to easily access and learn percepts in Taiwan and Korea alike. However, there is a unique Pure Land Cave facility located in Taiwan which generates interest for visitors. Based upon the content of the Amitabha Sutra and Sutra of the visualization of the Buddha of infinite life, it is remarkable both in its artistic and educational value. Buddha, Buddha’s ten great disciples, and others are carved in most lifelike fashion with bright color. “I felt like I was in an amusement park!” said Bang Hye-in, a student who visited Pure Land Cave. “Colorful pictures and sculptors are shining. I can touch them and hear the sounds that flow through the cave. All People, regardless of age, enjoyed it. It was really fun and I was just getting curious about Buddhism. On the other hand, Korean temples are tranquil and there are nothing more to make me excited about. I think that Korean Buddhism has to make programs people of all ages enjoy.”
It is hard to compare Korean Buddhism with Taiwanese Buddhism unless one considers the system, history and culture. However, it is obvious that Taiwanese Buddhism exerted great effort to embrace all people through various materials and methods which meet the modern trend and to respect the follower’s needs. Taiwanese Buddhism may well have won the hearts of people all around the world, and monks and followers help each other to own the temple. According to the survey conducted by Jogye Order, 55% of the temples in Korea are opened for the people but people don't visit and use them. Also, transportation and education are problems. “There are good examples of temples but there are few,” said Kim Eung-chul, the professor of department of Buddhist Propagation & Sociology at JoongAng Sangha University. “We have to revamp the old propaganda system and revise the education curriculum in order to meet the people’s needs.”
Park Ji-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
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