Thursday, May 24, 2007

Happy Buddha's Birthday!

Today is a national holiday, known in Sino-Korean as Seok-ga T'an-shin Il ("Sakyamuni's Birthday") or in pure Korean as Bu-ch'eo-nim O-shin Nal ("the day the Buddha arrived"). It's the Buddha's birthday, folks!

The Buddha lived to a ripe old age; the monastic community was already forming around him during his lifetime. Barely two or three centuries after his death, the major division between Greater and Lesser Vehicle occurred. Around the time of Christ (about 60CE), Buddhism entered China, irrevocably changing both the religion and the religion's host culture. While the number of Buddhist adherents does not rival that of Christianity and Islam, Buddhism is nonetheless a global religion, and various forms of it have caught on in the West. It is still rare to encounter Westerners who are "cradle Buddhists," but their day is coming.

Korean Buddhism is largely Chinese-inflected, as seen in the colorful architecture, the style of the rituals, and the tenor of the belief structure. I also think of it as somewhat more "relaxed" than Japanese Buddhism; some Korean Zen monks joke about the Japanese monastic obsession with pain, though according to Robert Buswell, Korean monks are sometimes capable of their own forms of masochistic machismo.

Whether you're Buddhist or not, perhaps you'll take a bit of time out of your schedule to just breathe, to think and act mindfully (something we should all be doing, anyway), and to practice compassion. As Hyeon Gak sunim noted in that lecture I linked to, the true Buddha has no specific form. Open yourself to this fact, and you realize the entire world is your teacher.

Enjoy the day!


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I practiced compassion today by throwing the bass I caught back in the river. After impaling them with a barbed hook in the first place, that is.