Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shamanism: Matrix of Religion in Korea

Religion and spirituality arise from our human inclination to search for ultimate answers to our problems or, another possibility, because of humanity's search for wholeness, says a professor in a Catholic Research Institute. He went on to note that some scholars of religion, when discussing the origins of religion, believe that humans have a disposition for religion without  religion. His comments were in an article in the Peace Weekly.

Looking at the whole of Korean religious history, the professor details a plurality of religious inclinations that have been transformed and manifested in various ways. Religious spirituality is basic to our mental life, he says, and is not the result of our man-made cultures but is a primitive expression of mankind's innate religious feelings.

The religious sensitivity of Koreans has been influenced by shamanism, which sees culture, art and religion as joined together harmoniously with nature, resulting in a fusion with spirits from which  blessings and good fortune are received. This thinking, he believes, is at a primitive level in a Korean's psyche, with one's good fortune considered to be a safe, protected existence. This is like the "shalom" of Judaism and  Christianity, and not unlike the supernatural salvation from above.

Shamanism has fused together with the religions that have come in from outside Korea, such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Buddhism and Confucianism have mostly accepted this fusion with Shamanism. In Buddhist temples you can see the adaptations from Shamanism;  in Confucianism, it appears in the rice cake ceremonies. Christianity, though, has looked upon shamanism as something primitive and to be abolished, but there are those that see shamanism as the womb from which religion has grown in Korea.

Korea is unique as a country where religions can co-exist with respect for each other. This receptivity, the professor says, has a great deal  to contribute to establishing peace among the religions of the world. The basic religious sensitivity Koreans have for religion can be the reason, he speculates, for this ability to accept each other.

We should not condemn shamanism unconditionally, as being out of step with modern thinking because it was the matrix of religious life in Korea. But neither is it proper, he warns, to extol it. It's necessary to see shamanism's  limits and areas of dysfunction and have a proper balance in our criticism. When we look closely at the other religions, discounting their cultural expressions, seeing their common elements of truth, we will be able to see, the professor says, our own beliefs more clearly and live them more deeply.

No comments:

Post a Comment