By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporter Ms. Sua Kim
According to statics compiled by different sects of Buddhist organizations in Korea and submitted to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Korea in 2011, the total number of believers in Buddhism in Korea totaled 39,581,983 persons. The figure sounds a bit exaggerated, but there is no denying that the strength of the Buddhist believers in Korea by far outnumber those of other religious organizations throughout the country.
Of the total figure, the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order is far by far the largest in Korea.
In the southeast port city of Ulsan, there is a time-honored Buddhist Temple named Cheonman-sa headed by Chief Abbot Ven. Hyangdeok Park Seung-eok who preaches the teachings of the Daeseung Bulgyo (Mahayana Buddhism) belonging to the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order.
Ven. Park is told apart from other Buddhist priests in that he is very well exposed to the international community in Korea, especially the expatriates in Korea, including many members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps (SDC). He has been associating with them for a few decades. He used to invite dozens of the members of the SDC to his temple helping them learn the essence of Korean Buddhism.
Ven. Park was appointed the Culture and General Affairs Consul for the Ulsan City by the Embassy of Ethiopia in Seoul on April 4 this year. (See details of the Letter of Appointment at the end of this article.)
One of the most important formal Buddhist rites in Korea is the Grand Yeongsanjae Buddhist Rite.
Many ambassadors, senior diplomats and their spouses attended the Grand Yeongsanjae held at the Buddhist Temple of Ven. Hyangdeok at his temple in Ulsan on Oct. 25, 2009, and Ven. Hyangdeok plans to hold another Yeongsanjae next year when he wishes to invite many ambassadors again together with spouses and other family members.
Here are details of Yeongsanjae, which is one of the most important Buddhist rites in Korea as well as its large scale:
Yeongsanjae Rite at Cheonmansa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan
A Grand Yeongsan-Jae Buddhist Rite was solemnly observed at the Cheonman-Sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan Metropolitan City on Oct. 25, 2009 with the participation of the chief abbots of 12 different Buddhist orders from Seoul and all other regions of the country. They included Chief Abbots Bota from Daeun-san Bota Buddhist Temple and Jo Seong-Su of the Korean Buddhist Daebul Order (list of the participating chief abbots at the end of this article). It was hosted by Chief Abbot Hyangdeok of the Cheonman-Sa Buddhist Temple, concurrently chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Rite.
Yeongsan-Jae is one of the five biggest Buddhist rites designated by the government as Intangible Cultural Asset No. 50 and by the UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Buddhist Rite was organized by Chief Abbot Ven. Hyangdeok of the Cheonman-Sa Temple and in supplication for peace and prosperity of the world as well as Korea and, naturally, ambassadors and madams of the Buddhist countries and those of other religions were invited to attend the Rite as VIP guests.
In a sermon at the Rite, Chief Abbot Hyangdeok said in part: “We offer prayers to help the deceased souls still wandering in the Hades to find their way into the Paradise and for the preservation and enhancement of peace and prosperity in the world. The mankind is working toward achieving an everlasting peace and prosperity. In spite of such an effort, however, the people are far from extricating themselves from endless conflicts and confrontations due to their limitless selfishness and pursuit of personal gains.” (Further details of the sermon are at the end of this article.)
Many of the participating chief abbots of the different Buddhist orders made a congratulatory speech each, in which they stressed the importance of the Yeongsanjae Rite and congratulated Ven. Hyangdeok on the successful organization of the Rite for the sake of the security and prosperity of Korea and all the countries of the world.
From the SDC, the congratulatory speech was made by Ambassador Soukthavone Keola of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in Seoul as the dean of the visiting members of the SDC. Laos is known for the large population of Buddhist believers who are known to account for 80 to 90 percent of the entire religious population in the country.
In the speech, Ambassador Keola said that mankind is working toward achieving an everlasting peace and prosperity with the cooperation and contribution of all countries and peoples. The Yeongsanjae Buddhist rite was opened with a tape-cutting ceremony joined by the 12 Korean Buddhist leaders, the visiting ambassadors and other senior diplomats with their spouses and the government and civic leaders of the Ulsan City. Mayor Park Maeng-Woo was unable to officially attend the Rite obviously due to the restrictions of the Korean Election Law which prohibited politicians from attending public gatherings during the election period which might be used as part of electioneering.
On his behalf, came Magistrate Gang Suk-Gu of the Buk-gu District of the Ulsan City to attend the Rite. There also was Senior Superintendent Lim Jung-Sub of the Ulsan Police Station among the local VIPs attending the Rite.
Originally, over 1,000 Buddhist believers and guests had been scheduled to attend the Rite on the first day but there were only a few hundred guests due to precautionary measures against continuously spreading swine flu at the time.
The 12 chief abbots made congratulatory speeches and offered prayers for peace, prosperity and well-being of all the peoples of the world as well as the Korean peninsula.
The luncheon for the VIP guests (members of the SDC, chief abbots and society leaders of the Ulsan City, Seoul and other parts of the country) were prepared in a buffet so that the foods and drinks could meet the different palates of the VIP guests from many different countries and religions.
The temple foods normally consist all of vegetables and fruits and there are no meat or fish. However, meat and fish were provided out of special consideration for the non-Buddhist guests, including the diplomats from many different countries of the world.
While the guests had their luncheon, the ceremony continued by many Buddhist leaders inside the Main Daejeok Gwangjeon Building of the Temple, including Vara Buddhist Dance and chanting of sutras.
All kinds of foods, including rice cakes and fruits, were placed on the large altar in front of the Buddhist images. The luncheon was followed by Buddhist songs and dances by women believers in Buddhism who sang and danced on a large sheet of green carpet placed on the front yard of the main Daejeok Gwangjeon Building.
Presently, a woman Buddhist believer came toward the lady guests from the Diplomatic Corps and invited them to join the dance. The first foreign lady to join the dance was Mrs. Majida Mostapha, wife of the ambassador of Lebanon, who had a rare talent in Korean music and dance. She won a wild acclaim from the Korean women Buddhist believers. Soon almost all the ambassadors and other visiting senior diplomats joined the dance with their spouses in a circle dance which was named Ganggang Suwollae in the mundane world.
The Rite also included a fund-raising event where a number of women believers carried a long cloth and walked around the front yard of the Temple and on the long cloth one woman believer slided a miniature temple building with a large door.
Ambassador and Mrs. Dorjpalam Gerel of Mongolia put their donation into the small temple and a number of other ambassadors and wives as well as some Korean guests followed their suit and put some money into the miniature temple. Ambassador and Mrs. Gerel of Mongolia showed that they really knew much about Buddhism and Buddhist rites by making the donation while some of the Korean VIP guests did not know that the small miniature temple was a donation box – let alone putting their donation into it.
Chief Abbot Hyangdeok had prepared a Buddhist Good Luck Charm with a Hindu Name, Kala Chakra Mandala, for the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps. It was supposed to provide the keeper with good luck, the best of health and prosperity. It was thickly coated with gold. Kala Chakra Mandala is compared to a “Wheal of Timelessness” and is known to purify the mind and body of the people making them good persons.
People have both good luck and hard luck. However, when the people accept Mandala in their heart, it is supposed to expel Sumaekpa (groundwater veinlet waves or harmful earth radiation) and replace it with good spirit. Kala Chakra Mandala cleanses the body, mind and the spirit of a person and protects him/her from calamity and other misfortunes. (Further details of the Good Luck Charm are at the end of this article.)
Names of the participating chief abbots:
Chief Abbots Bota from Daeun-san Bota Buddhist Temple, Jo Seong-Su of the Korean Buddhist Daebul Order, Shin Seung-Do of the Hoguk Buddhist Hyoye-Jong Order, Ji Oh of the Daeseung Buddhist Jogye Order, Ahn Sin-Pung of the Daewon Buddhist Daewon Order, Il Ung of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order, Do Han-Ju of the Chongnam Buddhist Jogye Order, Eui Ryun (chairman of the Federation of the Korea Buddhist Orders), Hyu Gongof the World Buddhist Seungwang Order, Sin Seung-do of the Hyoye-Jong Order, and Ji Oh of the Korean Buddhist Daeseug Order. (Further details of the participating Chief Abbots are at the end of this article.)
Sermon by Chief Abbot Ven. Hyangdeok at Yeongsan-Jae rite:
I express my heartfelt gratitude to the distinguished guests from within Korea and without, particularly to the Excellencies the members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps and esteemed leaders of the religious organizations from all parts of the country and the leaders of all segments of society from Seoul and the different localities, for taking precious time out of their busy schedule to attend this Grand Yeongsan-Jae Rite where prayers are offered for the sake of peace and blessings of the world and Korea.
This Yeongsan-Jae Buddhist Rite is for offering prayers for helping the deceased souls still wandering in the Hades to find their way into the Paradise and for the preservation and enhancement of peace in the world. The Yeongsan-Jae Rite is observed not only in Korea but also in Sri Lanka, China, Japan and many other countries of the world. It is the proud culture and arts of the Buddhist circles.
The mankind is working toward achieving an everlasting peace and prosperity.
In spite of such an effort, however, the people are far from extricating themselves from endless conflicts and confrontations due to their unreserved selfishness and pursuit of personal gains. Even at this moment, we hear ceaseless gun shots from all corners of the Global Village and the people are suffering from hunger and starvation.
Peace is what everyone wants, but, all the same, it is an elusive one and we do not have a complete peace. This is why I humbly state that I have prepared this Yeongsan-Jae Rite to contribute to attaining peace in the world and, in particular, work toward achieving a new turn for durable peace in the society of mankind and the Buddhist world. We in the Global Village are all living under the same roof. All of us are brethren to one another and members of the same family. We are seeking a cease to all conflicts and we are seeking to have new hopes.
Through the Yeongsan-Jae Rite, I am praying and seeking to help the deceased souls still wandering in the Nether World to find their way into the Heaven, for peace to return to the world and for blessings and security come to Korea.
Peace-loving guests of distinction from within Korea and without and the broad masses! As a humble Buddhist priest, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Heads of State of all the different countries of the world and the members of the Diplomatic Corps here for the unreserved efforts they have made for the preservation and enhancement of peace in the world. My humble gratitude goes also to the representatives of the different government and other public organizations
Peace is not a gift that comes to us free. Peace is what we get as a result of efforts we all make jointly. Today, we have distinguished guests in attendance here who are the champions of peace. This humble Buddhist priest would like to present his resolve that he will continue to strive for the 365 days of the year to attain peace in the world as well as in Korea. It is my fixed conviction that perpetual peace will come to the world.
I wish every distinguished guest here the best of health and blessings. Thank you.
Letter of Appointment as Culture and General Affairs Consul for Ulsan City
Letter of Appointment
Mr. Park Seung Euk
It is my pleasure to appoint above person as the "Culture and General Affairs Consul" for Ulsan City" since APR. 04, 2018.
It is my belief that Mr. Park is the right person as he strives to promote the relations and cooperation between Ethiopia and Korea.
I trust that Mr. Park will take up this appointment with honor that he will continue to move forward in the promotion of relations and cooperation between the sisterly countries.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in the Republic of Korea