By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik, Editor Kevin Lee
Venerable Chief Abbot Hyangdeok of the Cheonman-sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan received a Voluntary Service Medal from the President of the United States of America.
The Medal was presented in a ceremony hosted by Korea Nobel Foundation at the Center Mark Hotel in Seoul on Jan. 19, 2022.
The citation is known to be awarded only to American citizens. Ven. Hyangdeok received this citation as an honorary citizen of California, and Secretary-General Yoo Jae-ki of the Korea Nobel Foundation delivered it directly to Ven. Hyangdeok at the ceremony on that day.
Statistics in South Korea show that there are some 7.62 million Buddhist believers in South Korea and in the past (2005) they were known to total 10.73 million. It means that at the time every third person in Korea was a Buddhist believer considering the fact that the population then is estimated at 30 million.
Whenever people have a hard time in Korea, they pray for mercy from Gwanseeum Bosal (Guanin Bodhisattva), although nowadays many others, especially Christians, pray to God.
There are many large Buddhist temples and famous Buddhist monks in Korea, small and large, and among them are some who are especially diplomat-friendly and among them stands out the Cheonman-sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan led by Venerable Hyangdeok.
Ven. Hyangdeok is very friendly with the diplomats and invited many ambassadors and their families to his Cheonman-sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan on many different occasions in the past as shown The Korea Post articles covering the events.
Ven. Hyangdeok has won many prestigious awards and citations from many important persons around the world.
Ven. Hyangdeok is currently serving as UN (NGO) Peace Ambassador, president of Korean Buddhism Hall of Fame, chairman of the National Federation to Help Student Breadwinners, police monk of Ulsan Jungbu Police Station, and chief police monk of Ulsan Maritime Police Station.
Ven. Hyangdeok also serves as consul general of Ethiopia in Ulsan for economic and cultural affairs and an editorial writer of The Korea Post. He was also selected as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Korea Nobel Foundation.
Delivering his acceptance speech at this forum, Ven. Hyangdeok said, “I am very happy to receive the honorable award from the President of the United States of America, our staunch ally. And I think that I was able to receive this prestigious award because I worked hard for peace in the global village and on the Korean Peninsula.”
Excerpts from his acceptance speech follow:
While traveling around the world to spread peace, I felt that the land of Korea is really beautiful. We should feel great gratitude for the beautiful land of Korea.
I have seen many statues of Confucius and Mencius worshiped at temples in foreign countries such as China, I am enshrining Dangun, the progenitor of the Korean people at our Cheonman-sa Temple in Ulsan.
Everyone meets through cause and relationship, and I think that all bad things that have happened are due to our faults, so we have to embrace others with love and compassion.
Regarding the wealth that people covet, I would say that wealth comes by itself, not seized. There is no material happiness. Even if you have a lot of things and power, you are never happy. Who in the world has no worries? Is there anyone without envy or jealousy? Life is equal. We have to live together, and happiness comes from giving.
On other religions, I would say: “All religions need to be believed properly. Love is understanding and giving to each other. From this point of view, all religions will become one in the future.”
The presentation ceremony was attended by many well-known civic figures and some ambassadors were invited from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps. However, COVID-19 Pandemic was still a cause of worry and, on top of that, it rained that day some ambassadors who had applied to attend the ceremony were absent perhaps due to the weather.
However, one ambassador kept the promise and attended the meeting and the kind-hearted ambassador was Madam Mwende Mwinzi, the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya in Seoul. She also made an impressive congratulatory speech which was very highly received bv the attendees at the meeting.
In her congratulatory speech, Ambassador Mwinzi said that she congratulated Chief Abbot Hyangdeok on the auspicious occasion and expressed hopes that there will be greater developments in the religious and cultural fields of Kenya and Korea in the future.
Ven. Hyangdeok made an impressive speech receiving the honor through the Korea Nobel Foundation. Excerpts follow:
I would like to present my gratitude to the executives of the Korea Nobel Foundation, including Chairman Dr. Ryu Jae-gi of the Foundation, who has organized the Korea Genius Forum.
In this difficult time around the world as well as in Korea deriving from COVID-19 Pandemic, we need to think about a famous Korean wise-saying, Gojingamrae, which means, “Happiness comes after hardship.”
Today, at the outset of the New Year, I am as happy as when I was a child with a fluttering heart because I receive a citation, entitled “President’s Volunteer Service Award” from President Joe Biden of the United States of America.
I have been serving as a peace ambassador to the United Nations NGO, president of the family aid association, and consul-general of Ethiopia, working hard for peace in the global community and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
I am very grateful for this rare opportunity to receive the most prestigious Presidential Citation from the President of the United States of America who is the staunchest and closest ally of the Republic of Korea.
Who has no worries? Who does not want to be successful in one’s career?
Is there anyone who's free from jealousy? Who is without faults and defects?
Don't be sad because you're poor. Don't be discouraged even if you have disability.
Don't get discouraged because you didn't learn much. Everything in the world is the same.
Even if you have a lot of things, don't try to show them off. Even if you are healthy, don't be arrogant.
Even if you get honor, don't be arrogant. Nothing is ever-lasting in the world.
You came to the world to live only for a while. Don't judge persons by their possession or the lack of it.
Don't judge people as being smart or stupid. Let's live all together in harmony.
All is like wind. What are you so worried about?
The joy of meeting or the sadness of parting is just one moment.
No matter how deep the love is, it is but breeze.
No matter how deep the misunderstanding is, it is rainstorm.
No matter how awful loneliness may be, it is just a blizzard.
No matter how strong the storm is, after it passes there is stillness.
No matter how gruesome the story may be, after it passes there is only a lonely wind.
The whole world is wind.