|Buddha, before he went to China|
and had all those Peking dumplings
Buddhism, much like Hinduism, here in the US often gets a free pass by atheists. After all the two faiths have a lot going for them: Hinduism has the yoga industrial complex to mask its grievous sins of the caste system and the ludicrous idea of karma while Buddhism has those priests in the saffron robes that look so comfortable.
But do not be fooled by comfortable clothes. Regardless of Buddhism's casual Saturday-Friday fashion sense, institutional Buddhism leaves a noxious footprint in societies. Today's example is from The Economist's article Buddhism in South Korea: Monkey business -- It's not all sweetness and light at the biggest Buddhist order. Here are the highlights from the piece.
THE Venerable Jaseung has, of late, become good at saying sorry. When eight senior monks were caught smoking and boozing over a game of high-stakes poker in a hotel room last year, the leader (pictured) of the Jogye order, South Korea’s biggest Buddhist sect, led the 108-bow repentance. Many thought he should resign. He assured them he would not run for election again. But on September 16th, he belatedly entered the race—and swiftly apologised for doing so.In Buddhism's defense when their priests have done something wrong at least their penance involves some sort of exercise -- unlike Catholic clergy who can simply say a few Hail Marys after wiping away the tears and lost innocence of children who they've raped.
As in politics (and, indeed, in some American mega-churches), corruption, sex and in-fighting mix readily. Tales of upmarket brothels followed the poker saga; Venerable Jaseung’s camp accused the whistle-blower, who had been expelled from the order after a feud, of once attempting to rape a nun and buying a car with temple funds. Rival factions have engaged in street brawls and launched raids to oust leaders, who in turn hired thugs to beat them off.I've noticed with The Economist that while the magazine does tackle problems with religion, they couch it in language like "Well, we all have to believe in something crazy," or in this case "Whenever you get people and power together shit is going to happen." The former is simply untrue and the latter is valid, but with the caveat that religion is an accelerant to corruption and other bad behavior because faith nurtures servitude while dulling reason.
Hwang Soon-il, a professor of Buddhism at Dongguk University in Seoul, says elections are a real innovation in the Jogye order. Before reforms in 1988, a committee handpicked leaders who “kept going until they lost power”. South Korea’s shift from military dictatorship to democracy fed egalitarian hopes within temples too, Mr Hwang says. Factions and indirect elections began in 1994—as did political manoeuvring and shifty cliques.Note: Not surprisingly democratic reforms in South Korea did not originate in the temples.
Both rivals argue that there are improvements this time round. Smear campaigns are fewer, while the Venerable Jaseung is unlikely to win 90% of the votes, as he did in 2009. Still, abbots at rural temples notice a steep decline in devotee numbers during elections. Followers are weary of the bickering too.And that is one way how religion dies, my friends. Simply let the religious loons argue between themselves and as long as they can't force people to go to church/temple/mosque the populace votes with their feet against faith.
A bad day for religion is a good one in Purgatory.