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[Editorial] Buddhist leader`s improper remark

Posted January. 20, 2001 15:50,   


A politically charged remark by a Buddhist leader, the Ven. Jeong-Dae, chief executive of the Chogye Order, aimed at Grand National Party president Lee Hoi-Chang has created quite a stir. The monk`s utterance was obviously out of place, a slip of the tongue most unbecoming for a religious leader.

While meeting with Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) chairman Kim Joong-Kwon the day before yesterday, the monk said no one can be sure if Lee would launch political reprisals on a scale unprecedented in Korean history if he comes to power. The cleric termed the opposition leader a brutal man.

The Chogye Order is the largest Buddhist congregation in this country, commanding great influence. Even though there is the supreme leader or "jongjeong" above him, the chief executive is the virtual head of the order. As such, he should serve as a moral and spiritual example for others. It is most deplorable that the Buddhist leader spewed out such sharp words, defiling the sanctity of religion and undermining societal unity.

Religions find their value in realizing social justice through the salvation of man`s soul and the pursuit of the common good. They uphold a sense of tolerance, encouraging us to embrace others and live in peace with our fellow man.

Ven. Jeong-Dae`s statement was far removed from this spirit. His decision to take side with one party and disparage the other, and thus fuel conflict, is all the more regrettable because he is a religious leader, not a politician. The harsh language used by the priest was such that it would have been surprising coming from the mouth of a politician.

At the beginning of the year, he said in a New Year`s message that everyone should reflect on his or her own responsibility before blaming others; instead of hating others, one ought to keep one`s mind upright; and that the path to building a history of hope and joy and eliminating darkness and conflict, lies in our minds. What he said this week was diametrically opposed to his earlier statement. He went against the spirit that he himself emphasized in the message.

MDP should be denounced for the way it responded to the priest`s remarks. According to reports, MDP chairman Kim voiced agreement with the priest throughout their conversation, and party officials later wholeheartedly welcomed the Buddhist`s comments, saying they were refreshing and to the point, and praising the monk for being well-versed in worldly affairs. We couldn`t have been more dumfounded. One wonders what led the domestic political arena to overflow with hatred.

We don`t dare think that all the members of the Chogye Order, whether ecclesiastical or lay, share the sentiments of the Ven. Jeong-Dae. They must look into what caused the chief executive to speak these foul words. It may be necessary to do considerable soul-searching and engage in self-reform to prevent similar incidents in the future.