Putting revamp plan into action

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Putting revamp plan into action

The Executive Office of the Jogye Order, which represents Korean Buddhism, came up with an ambitious plan to revamp the largest Buddhist sect in Korea in response to the public uproar over mounting corruption, including gambling and drinking by high-profile monks.

We welcome the order’s commitment to take a step toward a genuine rebirth of Korean Buddhism, given that its plan covers most of the issues critics have called on the sect to address. The problem is how to put it into action, because a number of people harbor doubts about the reform initiative.

One of the most noteworthy points in the plan is financial transparency. Though Buddhist temples in Korea have lots of problems, most of them end up as money issues. Therefore, we insisted that Buddhist monks not be involved in financial matters, as is the case in southern Buddhist countries like Myanmar, where all financial matters are handled by people outside Buddhist temples and monks enjoy much respect from the entire nation.

The Jogye Order’s plan appears to contain similar ideas. For example, it says monks should devote themselves to practicing and propagating Buddhism, while followers of the religion should serve the community. The sect also plans to establish a law on budgets and accounting for temples, thus placing financial matters in the hands of people specializing in administrative affairs. In addition, other ways to reinforce transparency in monetary issues will be introduced to tackle the traditionally sensitive matter.

We can expect great reform of Korean Buddhism only if the Jogye Order puts the plan into action. So far, pledges to revitalize the sect have not come to fruition as the order’s establishment dragged its feet for fear of losing their vested interests.

If the order really wants to change, the entire sect must participate. Jogye Order’s Central Council, a de facto legislature of the sect, must pass the revamp plan on June 21 and all of the major temples under its umbrella must accept it, even if it means giving up some of the considerable autonomy they have long enjoyed.

The road toward rebirth is bumpy. We worry that the ambitious renovation movement could suffer when faced with inside power struggles. The first step should be taken with a spirit of letting go of all greed.

The movement can gain momentum only when the leaders of the Jogye Order empty their minds and earn the trust of their followers.

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