[THE FOUNTAIN] Modern Day Dogmatic Purge

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[THE FOUNTAIN] Modern Day Dogmatic Purge

When Hui-yuan, a famous Chinese Buddhist priest of the Chin Dynasty (265-420), was living an ascetic life in the Lu Mountains, celebrated poet Tao Chien (also known as Tao Yuan-ming) and Taoist priest Lu Hsiu-ching visited him. Hui-yuan, who delighted in his conversations with the two, walked with them toward the temple door to say farewell after their meeting, although it was forbidden for the Buddhist priest to step outside of the temple during his ascetic training. As he moved his feet toward the door, the three people heard the sound of a tiger roaring, as if to scold Hui-yuan for breaking the Buddhist commandments. After hearing the tiger, the three laughed together.

In one of his books, Morohashi Tetsuji, Japanese master of Oriental studies, described an imaginary meeting of Confucius, Lao-tzu and Buddha in the Lu Mountains in China for a discussion. The book, "Confucius, Lao-tzu and Buddha," used the literary form of a discussion among the three sages, transcending time and place, in order to highlight the small differences and the significant confluence of the three streams of ideology. Mr. Morohashi wrote the book in 1982 at the age of 100, and the translated version was recently published in Korea, rapidly moving up the list of best-sellers.

Although there have been events in which people share deep conversation to enhance their understanding of different ideologies and religions, there are also some opposite cases. During the middle of the Choson Dynasty, Confucian scholars who disagreed with the interpretation of Confucianism by Chu-tzu (1130-1200), were sentenced to death. Yun Hyu, who argued that he, like Chu-tzu, could teach his own interpretation, was executed after an erudite scholar, Song Si-yeol, described him as an enemy of Confucianism for disagreeing with Chu-tzu.

Books on eastern philosophy such as "Confucius, Lao-tzu and Buddha" are popular today. Many viewers watch a series of lectures on the Analects of Confucius by Kim Yong-ok on KBS 1 TV. The interest in eastern philosophy reflects a desire for principles in the midst of political battles and change.

Ironically, incidents like the Choson era purge of dissident scholars continue today. Some people criticize Mr. Kim's lectures as being based on a misunderstanding of the true message of Confucius. Mr. Kim counterattacked, and an exchange of fiery words ensued, both sides basically saying, "I am right and you are wrong," reminding me of the unfortunate events during the Choson Dynasty. I worry that such hollow and thoughtless quarrels degrade not only the public desire for principles, but also debase the classics themselves, making them a mere tool of entertainment.


by Lee Kyeung-chul

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