Buddhist sect chooses next spiritual leader

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Buddhist sect chooses next spiritual leader

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Venerable Jinje, elected as the 13th spiritual leader of the Jogye Order, heads towards the sect’s main temple on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

The new spiritual head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect in the country with roots 1,200 years old, has been chosen.

Venerable Jinje, 77, residing head Zen master of Donghwasa, a Buddhist temple of the Jogye Order located in northeast Daegu, and a venerated leader of the Korean Buddhists, was appointed as the 13th Supreme Patriarch, or “Jongjeong,” the highest authority of the order, on Wednesday.

Ven. Jinje was elected unanimously in a meeting of elder monks of the Jogye Order to select a new spiritual leader at the Memorial Hall of Buddhism History and Culture located in Jongno District.

The induction ceremony will occur the following day after the term of the current Supreme Patriarch ends on March 25 next year.

Ven. Jinje, a Zen master, is noted for encouraging younger monks to challenge him about Buddhist teachings, which he counters with confidence.

He teaches Ganhwa Seon (Zen), which encourages reaching enlightenment through meditation to seek the true self through the mind.

Soon after the election, Ven. Deokmun said in lieu of the newly appointed spiritual leader, “Living in the mountains is our sect’s way of harmony and asceticism, and [Ven. Jinje] will be listening to the views of the elder monks and putting effort into spreading far and wide the spirit of Eastern culture and mind through Seon meditation.”

Ven. Jinje was born in Namhae, South Gyeongsang in 1934 and began training to become a monk only after reaching the age of 19, when he decided to leave secular life and enter training under Ven. Seogu.

He was ordained as a monk at Haein Temple on Gaya Mountain in 1954 at the age of 20.

In 1959, Ven. Jinje began training under Ven. Hyanggok, one of the most famous Seon masters of his time, under harsh conditions of self-deprivation to attain hwadu, “meditation topic,” a method of Zen meditation that encourages questioning the self while removing logical thoughts. Master Hyanggok acknowledged Ven. Jinje’s enlightenment in 1967.

To spread the Seon teachings far and wide, the eminent monk made a visit to New York in September for an interfaith dialogue held in a Christian church in New York City, several days after the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. A U.S. branch of the Jogye Order in Korean temples in New York and New Jersey was established shortly after the monk’s first visit to the United States.


By Shin June-bong, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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