Travel Guide

A "Shelter" for Dharma Awakening in Korea

Rapid socio-economic growth of South Korea has brought an unwelcome side effect that threatens to undermine its own cultural heritage as well as moral standards.

Worse yet, fierce - if not fanatical Christian evangelical onslaughts - have jeopardized the history and value systems of Korea, whose culture and way of life have harmoniously interlaced with Buddhism since its introduction in the year of 372 AD.

Under the seizure of bellicose evangelism, Buddhism in Korea has been painted as a misguided, superstitious cult, while Buddhists are openly abused as 'demons worshippers'. In some cases, physical and criminal assault were reported, such as temple-burning, insults openly hurled at Buddha images or statutes etc.

To compound this problem, dogmatic local Buddhists and the hypocrisy that prevails among the religious leaders, is not helping much to stem the losing tide of Buddhist adherents. By turning the other cheek on prevailing social problems, the behavior of such Buddhist leaders is farcical at best, resulting in the eventually decrease of Buddhists today, which is just about 50% of the country's total population.

However, pointing to ruthless evangelical challenges as a reason for the decline of Buddhism is one thing. More importantly, all those concerned with Korean Buddhism should first reflect with candid conscience and humility, upon their passive attitudes and easy-going negligence in their failure to propagate the Dharma effectively.

Playing a personal role to stem the tide of a fast receding Buddhist populace and moral decay in general, Ven. Song Hue founded "Shelter", a non-conventional Buddhist movement that aims to "Spread Dharma through Youth, by the Youth".

Based in Seoul, South Korea, Shelter's main object is to make full use of the entertainment circle - both at home and abroad - to bring the Buddha Dharma closer to Korean youths. It puts this into practice by sponsoring different kinds of get-together such as hip-hop concert, B-Boy performance, rock band performance, charity song contest and the like.

Shelter aims to produce and distribute study kits in the form of comics, cartoons, animations, DVDs etc. These media based products are targeted at younger Koreans, pre-teens inclusive. The study kits will carry simple Buddhist teachings and parables. The materials will be produced in a manner which children and their parents can enjoy reading or watching together, while making it easier for them to get familiarize with the Dharma.

These study kits will be also distributed among the military and police forces, especially for most Korean males in their early 20's participating in the 2-years compulsory national service program. Such materials will give these men a lot of support and courage, and may even help them to endure their hardship in service. Followed up programs will be initiated for these men so that upon their discharge from national service, they will be motivated to continue working on the path of Dharma and to be involved in charitable campaigns.

Unlike traditional Buddhist temples, Shelter aims to use the English Language as a medium to deliver basic Buddhist teachings. This approach differentiates it from other temples, which have been teaching the Dharma using Sutras written in old Chinese letters. This orthodox and traditional method is recognized as a factor which have dispelled the young and old alike from learning Buddhism. Given the current popularity of English, this approach appeals very much with the local populace, a strategy which have been applied effectively by the evangelists to spread Christianity.

Shelter also offers services for local college students and expatriates from European countries, Australia, USA  etc., and conducts study groups using selected Buddhist Sutras. It will soon offer online Buddhist courses such as those supplied by Ashoka eDharma University.

For foreigners who wish to meditate or experience Buddhist rites and formalities, Shelter arranges separate temple-stay programs as well.

Ven. Song Hue is now planning to renovate Shelter into one-stop center for needy teens, and will include programs such as judo, computer lessons, practical studies and meditation. These activities will be assisted by local and foreign volunteers.

The center is currently being supported by funds raised among Ven. Song Hue's lay friends and followers.

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