Criticisms Raised Over Kim"s Buddhist Philosophies

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Criticisms Raised Over Kim"s Buddhist Philosophies

A recent book minutely criticizing Kim Yong-ok's Buddhist philosophies has been causing quite a controversy.
In 'That's not true, Mr. Kim,' Buddhist scholar Byun Sang-sup strongly criticizes Kim who has inspired a resurgence in the study of Oriental religion and culture.
Kim's 'Lao Tzu and the 21th Century' and 'Kumgangkyung: Explanations and Lecture Notes' are best sellers in large domestic bookstores. Kim's TV lectures are also very popular and have broken audience attendence records.
Byun said his motivation for criticizing Kim was his concern that 'there may be many people who learn of our culture and philosophy primarily through Kim's lectures and books. I see it as my job to reveal his mistakes so people won't be misled.'
Byun's biggest concern was about Kim's explanation of Buddhist topics, known in Korea as Hwadu. In 1998, Kim published 'Hwadu, Hyenung, and Shakespeare.' Hwadu are best known from the classical text 'Byukamrok'. Byun stated, 'Since Hwadu exists for the purpose of banishing worldly thoughts, they can neither be completely understood nor explained. But Kim tries to explain them in earthly terms and ideas, which completely confuses and undermines the essence of Hwadu.'
Byun went on to assert that Kim basically misunderstands Zen because Buddhists are not supposed to interpret Hwadu. Byun raises objections to many of Kim's claims including his assertions that 'Zen is not Buddhism' and 'Nirvana is death'.
Byun, who leads a Buddhist philosophy research group, graduated from Hanyang University with a major in English Literature and received his Master's degree at Dongkuk University.

Shin Yong-ho; novae@joongang.co.kr
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