Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Buddha's Birthday

Both Catholic papers had editorials on Buddha's  birthday, celebrated on May 28th this year. Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk  delivered a congratulatory message to all the Buddhists: "May the  mercy of Buddha spread to all the world, especially the poor and suffering. For those that can't find meaning in life, we hope that Buddha's teachings will enable them to find true joy and happiness."

This is the 2556 year of the Buddha's appearance on the world stage, 500 years before Christ. Buddhism has been in Korea 1400 years before Christianity came to the country. For most Koreans, Buddhism is more than just a religion, it is part of their religious culture. For them, Buddha's birthday is what Christmas is to Christians.

The relationship between Buddhists and Catholics has been close. In addition to the congratulatory message from the Vatican, many churches have a placard over the entrance to the church grounds celebrating his birthday.  

Because relations among religions have not always been peaceful, there is a greater need to try to achieve it in the present. The world has come closer together, which often accentuates our differences but fortunately also our similarities; respect for each other' differences in a world increasingly polarized is becoming more necessary than ever before. Without this respect, we will all suffer the consequences. 

If one simply takes the numbers of religious adherents in Korea, they would be greater than the total population of the country. In this "museum of religions," as the editorial described it, how open are we to the different religions, the editorial wondered, and will we be able to hand on this understanding to the younger generation?

Christianity and Buddhism have two world views and two different  starting points; they are two very different religions. It is an impossibility to see them united in doctrine, but in the understanding of mercy and love and going out to the poor and alienated, we are of the same mind. The world is ardently in search of peace and love. The editorial, expressing what all Christians should hope for, wishes to see Buddha's peace and mercy spread throughout the world.

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