The government of Pakistan has authorized the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, to establish a Buddhist temple at one of Pakistan’s ancient Buddhist heritage sites. This decision stems from the recent visit to Pakistan of a Korean monastic delegation led by Venerable Wonhaeng, head of the Jogye Order.
Fri. Wonhaeng, the 36th president of the Jogye Order, elected to a four-year term in October 2018, led a monastic delegation visiting Pakistan from November 16 to 24.
“I was deeply moved when I first entered Pakistan, because it is the country of origin of Ven. Maranante [Malananda, fl. fourth century CE], who brought Buddhism to Korea about 1600 years ago, ”Ven. Wonhaeng said at a Buddhist ceremony in Seoul after returning from Pakistan. “I was touched when I thought of him, who worked hard to come all the way to East Asia through thick and thin to spread Buddhism.” (Korea’s time)
Malananda was a Buddhist monk from Gandhara, an ancient region in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, in what is now northwest Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan. He was among the first to bring Buddhism to the Korean Peninsula, and the first to bring the spiritual tradition to the kingdom of Baekje (18 BCE-660 CE; one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, along with Goguryeo and Silla) in the southwest Korea.
During the visit, the 60-member delegation of Buddhist monks and pilgrims visited a number of historic Buddhist sites, as well as the Lahore Museum, which houses an impressive collection of Greco-Buddhist sculptures and Mughal paintings and pahari.
Fri. Wonhaeng’s visit to Pakistan also included private talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi in Islamabad. Khan said he had authorized the construction of a temple related to the Jogye Order at one of the country’s Buddhist heritage sites, while President Alvi observed that as the cradle of many civilizations, the visit of the Buddhist delegation to Pakistan would convey a message of peace, harmony and understanding among all religions.
“I have been impressed by the Pakistani government’s relentless efforts to preserve historic sites with traces of Buddhism,” said Ven. Wonhaeng. (AsiaNews.it)
During his meeting with President Alvi, Ven. Wonhaeng noted that Korean Buddhism’s centuries-old relationship with Pakistan began with Ven. Malananda’s journey to Baekje, and was cemented by Korean monk Hyecho (704-787), who traveled to Chitral and Swat in what is now Pakistan.
“I thank the Pakistani people and government for their efforts to preserve Buddhist sites and historical relics and hope that our recent visit can trigger and continue further cooperation between the two sides over the next 1,000 years.” , said Ven. Wonhaeng, who noted that the visit to Pakistan would also encourage the recovery and preservation of Buddhist sites and relics. (Korea’s time)
The Jogye Order is a school of Seon (Zen) Buddhism with roots dating back 1,200 years to the United Kingdom of Silla (also known as the later Silla) (668-935). The Jogye School as a separate entity emerged at the end of the 11th century when the monk Bojo Jinul, considered the founder of the school, sought to combine the practices of Seon with the theological foundations of the Buddhist schools based on the sutras, including Korean Pure Land Buddhism. The order now represents the largest segment of South Korea’s Buddhist population, administering approximately 1,900 active temples and over 13,000 monks and seven million lay worshipers nationwide.
According to 2015 census data, the majority of South Korea’s population (56.1%) has no religious affiliation. Christians make up the largest religious segment of the population at 27.6 percent, while Buddhists make up 15.5 percent. In Pakistan, Buddhists are estimated at only 1,500, according to 2012 data, out of a population of some 212 million people.
Buddhist temple to strengthen friendship between South Korea and Pakistan (AsiaNews.it)
A Buddhist leader describes the visit to Pakistan as “spiritually stimulating” (Korea’s time)
Korean monks in town for “spiritual peace” (L’Express Tribune)
Korean monks visit religious sites (L’Express Tribune)