Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Poker-playing Buddhist monks scandalise South Korea

B5CB5C
edited May 2012 in Modern Buddhism
Six leaders from South Korea's largest Buddhist order have resigned after secret video footage showed the monks playing high-stakes poker, drinking and smoking.

The scandal broke just days before Koreans observe a national holiday to celebrate the birth of Buddha, the holiest day of the religion's calendar.

The head of the Jogye order, which has 10 million followers – about a fifth of the population – made a public apology on Friday, vowing "self-repentance".

South Korean TV networks aired shots of monks playing poker, smoking and drinking, after gathering at a luxury lakeside hotel in late April for a fellow monk's memorial service. "The stakes for 13 hours of gambling were more than 1bn won [£543,000]," Seongho, a senior monk, told Reuters on Friday. He said he had reported the incident to prosecutors.

Gambling is illegal in South Korea outside of licensed casinos and horse racing tracks and is frowned upon by religious leaders.

"Buddhist rules say don't steal. Look at what they did, they abused money from Buddhists for gambling," Seongho said.

Seongho said he had obtained a computer memory stick with the video clip from a camera that had been hidden in the hotel. He would not say who had planted the camera because of recent threats made against him.

The scandal has cast doubt on the future of the order's head, Jaseung, who apologised to all of South Korea's 12 million Buddhists.

"We deeply apologise for the behaviour of several monks in our order," he said in a statement. "The monks who have caused public concern are currently being investigated and will be punished according to Buddhist regulations as soon as the truth is verified by the prosecution."

Chung Yoon-sun, the secretary general of the Buddhist Solidarity for Reform, said conflict between South Korean monks had become as commonplace as disputes between the country's politicians. "It's just like politics," she was quoted as saying by the Korea Times. "If there's a conflict in interest between two groups, they make a deal or they fight."

Chung said the scandal highlighted the need to monitor how Buddhist orders spend their large, and untaxed, donations from the public.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/11/poker-playing-buddhist-monks-south-korea

Organized religion always corrupts.
«1

Comments

  • It's in the heart, not in the clothes, mate.

  • being a monk does not make you a saint.
  • zenmystezenmyste Veteran
    They're living LIFE..

    Whats the problem...????
    They're not committing a huge, terrible, murdering crime..

    Those who think its a huge problem are the ones who will never find Enlightenment..

    Fair play to them!

    Hats Off..
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    They're living LIFE..

    Whats the problem...????
    They're not committing a huge, terrible, murdering crime..

    Those who think its a huge problem are the ones who will never find Enlightenment..

    Fair play to them!

    Hats Off..
    So, monks get to not follow the basic precepts?
    Monks get to break the law?
    Monks get to take money donated to the temple and gamble with it?

  • edited May 2012
    @zenmyste

    The problem, at least to me, isn't that they are gambling, the problem is they are using money that was donated to the temple to do it with. That is essentially stealing from the people who donated.
  • They're living LIFE..

    Whats the problem...????
    They're not committing a huge, terrible, murdering crime..

    Those who think its a huge problem are the ones who will never find Enlightenment..

    Fair play to them!

    Hats Off..


    So, monks get to not follow the
    basic precepts?
    Monks get to break the law?
    Monks get to take money donated to the temple and gamble with it?

    Your right, sorry! I wasnt first aware they broke the law. My bad!!
    X

    @zenmyste

    The problem, at least to me, isn't that they are gambling, the problem is they are using money that was donated to the temple to do it with. That is essentially stealing from the people who donated.
    My bad!!!!!

    I've re-read it, and yes its completely wrong what they did!





  • I read some of the articles scattered around the web, and a lot of them have no idea what they're talking about. A couple of the reports tried to say gambling was rare and frowned upon in Korea. That's nonsense. In Korea the guys are playing cards constantly whenever they get together, normally with small bets to make it interesting. It was always a game called Go-Stop played with tiny cards that had pictures of flowers and such on them, that I never got the hang of. The action was too fast.

    I never saw monks playing cards, but then again I never was one of them. Don't know what was happening behind temple walls in their quarters. I did see a few monks smoking but never around a temple. The huge scandal is somehow half a million dollars of temple money is supposed to have been bet in this game. The video I see doesn't show stacks of money or even chips being used and no details are given as to how the bets were made, if money ever actually changed hands (apparently it didn't) and even if the bets were in fun or actually supposed to be paid off or whatever.

    I suspect a whole lot has been exagerated, but that doesn't excuse the behavior. One reason monks should avoid this sort of activity is because of the bad impression it can give to people in spite of details. The offending monks have resigned, hung up their robes, as they should.

    If you want a world where every monk and every temple is pure and focused and committed to living and teaching the dharma, it's not going to happen. We want monks to be holy, to be in a state of grace, walking around and dispensing wisdom and compassion on the world. They're just people.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012


    Organized religion always corrupts.
    Only if you can show they wouldn't have played poker as laypeople ;)

    For that matter, it kind of sounds to me as if some old Christian puritanical taboos are being foisted on these guys - poker? Smoking? Seems as if a true Buddhist "scandal" should say something like, "The monks were caught being unkind."



  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran


    If you want a world where every monk and every temple is pure and focused and committed to living and teaching the dharma, it's not going to happen. We want monks to be holy, to be in a state of grace, walking around and dispensing wisdom and compassion on the world. They're just people.
    On the one hand, I don't expect every monk to be pure and focused and teaching the Dhamma...although that is the way it should be.

    But if they're "just people", then there's really no need for us to listen to them. And that's not what we want either.

    Imperfect though they may be, because they are human, they are supposed to be the leaders of Buddhism. As with any group of leaders, some fail, and those who fail always lower the standards for respect toward that particular group of leaders.

  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran


    Organized religion always corrupts.


    Only if you can show they wouldn't have played poker as laypeople ;)

    For that matter, it kind of sounds to me as if some old Christian puritanical taboos are being foisted on these guys - poker? Smoking? Seems as if a true Buddhist "scandal" should say something like, "The monks were caught being unkind."



    I believe theft of contributed funds would be a major Precept.

  • They are the leaders, really?

    In Buddhism I thought it was harder than that.

    Best wishes,
    Abu
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012


    Organized religion always corrupts.


    Only if you can show they wouldn't have played poker as laypeople ;)

    For that matter, it kind of sounds to me as if some old Christian puritanical taboos are being foisted on these guys - poker? Smoking? Seems as if a true Buddhist "scandal" should say something like, "The monks were caught being unkind."





    I believe theft of contributed funds would be a major Precept.

    Was it theft? I thought they were accused of squandering donations?

    It will be interesting to see what the court case brings - thought I doubt it will make news either way. By then we'll have moved onto the next juicy allegation...

    I'm very curious as to who decided to film the monks, and how he/she planned for it. Maybe the Zhengjue gang is now after Korean Buddhism as well 0_o.


  • Is that the mafia? The mafia are another world order altogether...

    _/\_
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Veteran
    edited June 2012
    In Korea the guys are playing cards constantly whenever they get together, normally with small bets to make it interesting. It was always a game called Go-Stop played with tiny cards that had pictures of flowers and such on them, that I never got the hang of. The action was too fast.
    LOL! As an aside, I agree! I spent 13 months in Korea (in the US Army) and I too found the card action way too fast to be able to join in. Gambling in general was quite prominent in the streets and clubs in 1970.
  • Actually on the overall topic, I think there is a lot of corruption everywhere - charity organisations, governements, religious orders, baby child care centers. Name me a place where corruption does not exist please, folks
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    1. The fact that Koreans like to gamble does not excuse monks. If you think it does, then you could also say that since brothels in Thailand are very common, monks there should be allowed to attend brothels.

    2. Abu, yes, there is corruption in many places. That does not excuse those lay people, nor does it excuse monks.

  • edited June 2012
    Ahh vinlyn, me was not saying that monks are excused or anything. I didn't even comment on that no?

    Was just making a general observation which I have seen recently.

    WW,
    Abu
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    In my view (which of course may be incorrect) it appeared that you were.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    I just can't buy the poker-smoking thing as a massive sin.

    If they committed armed robbery and then bought cards and tobacco with the loot, well, then okay. But smoking and playing cards? Heaven forbid 0_o.

    What if they're all super-nice guys enjoying a break from their labors? I guess I'm just weary of Puritan-tinged judgmentalism on silly things, when there are so many real crimes underway.

    Who secretly filmed them, and why? Now that I'd find interesting.
  • In my view (which of course may be incorrect) it appeared that you were.
    Didn't even think it so I guess you were wrong on that.

    _/\_
  • vinlyn

    And to elucidate I was commenting on the general observation of the corruption and corruptability of humanity.

    Ref Dune Atulo when asked what a monk even means.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    Btw, I wonder how Justin McCurry knows all of South Korea feels scandalised, and how he took his poll, lol.

    I guess I'd also like to at least see a few snapshots of the "luxury lakeside hotel" just to assure myself it is, you know, luxurious.


  • If you want a world where every monk and every temple is pure and focused and committed to living and teaching the dharma, it's not going to happen. We want monks to be holy, to be in a state of grace, walking around and dispensing wisdom and compassion on the world. They're just people.


    On the one hand, I don't expect every monk to be pure and focused and teaching the Dhamma...although that is the way it should be.

    But if they're "just people", then there's really no need for us to listen to them. And that's not what we want either.

    Imperfect though they may be, because they are human, they are supposed to be the leaders of Buddhism. As with any group of leaders, some fail, and those who fail always lower the standards for respect toward that particular group of leaders.

    You're right, that we should expect them to set an example. Putting on a robe and shaving your head makes you the public face of Buddhism. If they don't want to live like a monk, they should take off the robe.

    But it's wrong to think monks should have any special insight or ability to live the Dharma beyond what you or I have. We shouldn't listen to anyone just because they're a monk, or even hold high position in the Sangha. The guy who takes the garbage away might be more enlightened and make a better teacher than the Temple Roshi. People expect monks to be special because they look special and act special and the sutras they wrote tell us how special they are, but then we feel betrayed when we discover monks acting selfishly or hiding addictions or focused on temple politics instead of inner enlightenment. That's all I mean when I say they're just people. Take the robe away and he's just a naked man with a bald head.
  • SileSile Veteran
    The guy who takes the garbage away might be more enlightened and make a better teacher than the Temple Roshi.
    Likewise, the young smoking monk.

  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    edited June 2012


    You're right, that we should expect them to set an example. Putting on a robe and shaving your head makes you the public face of Buddhism. If they don't want to live like a monk, they should take off the robe.

    But it's wrong to think monks should have any special insight or ability to live the Dharma beyond what you or I have. We shouldn't listen to anyone just because they're a monk, or even hold high position in the Sangha. The guy who takes the garbage away might be more enlightened and make a better teacher than the Temple Roshi. People expect monks to be special because they look special and act special and the sutras they wrote tell us how special they are, but then we feel betrayed when we discover monks acting selfishly or hiding addictions or focused on temple politics instead of inner enlightenment. That's all I mean when I say they're just people. Take the robe away and he's just a naked man with a bald head.
    I thought taking refuge in Buddhism was a key component to being a Buddhist? "To the Buddha I go for refuge. To the Dhamma I go for refuge. To the Sangha I go for refuge."

  • SileSile Veteran
    What about a non-smoking monk who is unkind? Is he better or worse than a smoking, kind monk?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    Oh come on....wait a minute, let's not veer away from the subject here with pointless hypotheticals, guys - the subject here, is that these monks were drinking and smoking, and gambling, which quite aside from being illegal outside registered casinos, was also being done with donated money intended for other purposes.
    so forget the unkind non-smoking monk, that's not the issue here.

    Wait - what is the issue here...?

  • Oh come on....wait a minute, let's not veer away from the subject here with pointless hypotheticals, guys - the subject here, is that these monks were drinking and smoking, and gambling, which quite aside from being illegal outside registered casinos, was also being done with donated money intended for other purposes.
    so forget the unkind non-smoking monk, that's not the issue here.

    Wait - what is the issue here...?

    Uh...
  • ourselfourself some guy The Hammer, Ontario Veteran
    To me the issue would be whether or not the money was actually being spent.

    If it was used as a prop then the only issue is public relations.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    To be honest, we don't even know whether the basics of the story are true, much less any particulars. Nameless monks, rooming at a nameless hotel, filmed (allegedly) by nameless people. At this point, pretty much everything is a hypothetical, until proven otherwise in the courts.

    But in the meantime, The Guardian can add another notch in its "Why Buddhism is Evil" belt of public opinion.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    That's true, of course, but I also don't see anyone on this forum restricting their discussion only to things that have been proven facts.
  • SileSile Veteran
    To me the issue would be whether or not the money was actually being spent.

    If it was used as a prop then the only issue is public relations.
    I did wonder about that. Monks (allegedly) exchanging donated money. I think they'd have to be caught taking it home with them, or buying something with it, wouldn't they?

  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    I'm curious about this statement:

    "Chung said the scandal highlighted the need to monitor how Buddhist orders spend their large, and untaxed, donations from the public."

    Are Buddhist orders state-owned? Who's going to monitor it? The state has no business monitoring religions, unless the religions are somehow beholding to the state.

    Individual patrons, of course, can cease donating based on this alleged scandal, and that's fine; but I always cringe at the sound of "need to be monitored," as if the state should dictate how private entities deal with their own money.

    On the other hand, according to this brief article, it doesn't seem to have actually been established where the money came from:

    http://sweepingzen.com/video-jogye-monks-in-hot-water-over-high-stakes-poker

    This may all well be bad business, to be sure; I just want to reserve a lot of judgement until crimes have been proven.

    I'm also very curious how the original whistleblower/spy was able to tell exactly how much money had been exchanged.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    Here's a far more detailed report [which for some reason appends a picture of Thai monks as its "stock monk photos"]:

    Seoul District Public Prosecutor's Office said that Seong-ho, a former member of the order, lodged a complaint and accused eight monks of gambling $875,0000 from 8 p.m. on April 23 to 9 a.m. the next day.

    [Seong-ho is a former member? Why is he a former member? How did he know the exact amount of money he says was gambled? Why is the story surfacing nearly a month later in The Guardian?]

    The monk wrote: "They have violated good customs and social order, and I therefore request them to be punished severely." The monk handed over the videos showing the monks gambling to the authorities. According to Daily Mail, Seongho said he obtained a USB drive containing a video clip taken by a camera hidden in the hotel room, but did not give information about the source of the clip.

    Korea Bang reports Monk Jin-je, the highest ranking monk of the Jogye Order, said, "any monk who gambles does not deserve to eat the offering meal or wear Indian ink clothes [the grey clothes that Korean Buddhist monks wear]. Someone who has left home and joined the Buddhist priesthood should not commit an unscrupulous act."
    Herald Sun reports that Jin-je made a public apology vowing "self-repentance." He said "Basically, Buddhist rules say don’t steal... they abused money from Buddhists for gambling."

    Jin-je also announced an investigation into the installation of the camera, which he said violated the law.

    Daily Mail reports the episode has led to speculation of a power split within the order with observers saying the camera was installed by opponents to bring down the monks.

    Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/324744#ixzz1wb2kLH00
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran
    I'm curious about this statement:

    "Chung said the scandal highlighted the need to monitor how Buddhist orders spend their large, and untaxed, donations from the public."

    Are Buddhist orders state-owned? Who's going to monitor it? The state has no business monitoring religions, unless the religions are somehow beholding to the state.

    Individual patrons, of course, can cease donating based on this alleged scandal, and that's fine; but I always cringe at the sound of "need to be monitored," as if the state should dictate how private entities deal with their own money.

    On the other hand, according to this brief article, it doesn't seem to have actually been established where the money came from:

    http://sweepingzen.com/video-jogye-monks-in-hot-water-over-high-stakes-poker

    This may all well be bad business, to be sure; I just want to reserve a lot of judgement until crimes have been proven.

    I'm also very curious how the original whistleblower/spy was able to tell exactly how much money had been exchanged.
    You're looking at this through a Western lens.

    In Thailand, Buddhism is controlled by the Supreme Sangha and the government.

  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    Interesting:

    "The Jogye Order has faced a lot of conflicts with the current government led by President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative Presbyterian Christian. The government is at odds with the Jogye Order by the decreasing of Temple Stay fundings, the lack of government recognition of the Buddhist Lantern Festival, and neglecting Jogye-affiliated temple names in the new address system."

    (Hwang (황), Yun-jeong (윤정) (2011-07-19). "불교계-정부 화해무드 다시 급랭하나" (in Korean). Yonhap News. Retrieved 2011-09-25.)
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    Way more interesting - several weeks before someone planted a video camera in the Jogye Order's hotel room, the Order had publicly urged China to cease its oppression in Tibet:

    "Thus, we, the Jogye Order Central Council Members, have regulated the current Tibetan situation a grave issue, and will not stand back and watch in silence.

    Together with the world who longs for peace and freedom in Tibet, we strongly caution the Chinese government of their acts of repression.

    Additionally, we urge for the return of the bodies of the self immolated, the withdrawal of troops, release of political prisoners, allegiance to the monks, and the immediate end to forced immigration policy."

    http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=89,10818,0,0,1,0

  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    Hmm. In Time, Seong-ho is listed as the "head monk of the order:"

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/05/12/gambling-smoking-and-drinking-monks-scandalize-south-korea/

    ...whereas according to Digital Journal, Seong-ho is a former member of the order:

    http://digitaljournal.com/article/324744#ixzz1wb2kLH00
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    See...?!

    NOW we're beginning to understand what the issue is - !

    There's more to this than meets the eye!

  • I think articles like this are sensationalist, but I guess that is the crux of the issue also -- scandal
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012
    Great piece released today by David Mason, David Mason, Kyung Hee University professor:

    [Excerpt]

    Today marks the 2,556th birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha. Just before the festivities began, a scandal erupted among the managerial monks of the mainstream order of Korean Buddhism, the Jogye Order.

    Outraged charges and countercharges flew in the media and were wildly exaggerated online; non-Buddhist commentators fanned themselves as if they would faint.

    It all started after some senior monks were videoed playing poker, drinking and smoking, while another bought a car; worst of all, one might even have visited a room-salon over a decade ago!

    We breathlessly wonder whether this venerable national spiritual tradition can survive the shame of it.

    Or wait; no, we don’t.

    ...

    There are two pathways for monks to follow during their careers: either spend their days in meditation, scriptural study, doctrinal teaching, devotional practice and charitable works (generally found in the remote mountain monasteries or in neighborhood temples), or devote themselves to administration of the monastic order and its properties (found in temple offices and in the headquarters building of Seoul). A similar division of roles is found in every religion.

    The former group constitutes how the vast majority of Korean monks live, and is generally how the public thinks monks should live and act. And they do live up to those expectations, from my three decades of experience with them.

    The latter group, however, are absolutely necessary for the Sangha to function, as it would collapse in a day without such efforts. But these monks neither receive nor deserve as much respect as those they support engaged in spiritual activities, but they should be well regarded for the vital functions they perform.

    ...

    Within the past half-century or so the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism has been amazingly successful in reviving the true flavor of its ancient spiritual traditions centered on Seon, and in globalizing itself in all kinds of outreach.

    As a result, Korean Buddhism now enjoys a very high reputation around the world, and I do not expect that the manufactured outrage over this kind of minor incident will cause it any significant or lasting damage.

    David Mason, professor of cultural tourism at Kyung Hee University, is a contributing writer for The Korea Times.

    http://www.ohkpop.com/45808/monk-scandal-needs-wider-view


  • Organized religion always corrupts.


    Only if you can show they wouldn't have played poker as laypeople ;)

    For that matter, it kind of sounds to me as if some old Christian puritanical taboos are being foisted on these guys - poker? Smoking? Seems as if a true Buddhist "scandal" should say something like, "The monks were caught being unkind."



    Puritanical, I love that! What exactly is so bad about being pure I wonder...
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran

    Puritanical, I love that! What exactly is so bad about being pure I wonder...
    Very interesting comment!

  • SileSile Veteran
    edited June 2012

    Puritanical, I love that! What exactly is so bad about being pure I wonder...


    Very interesting comment!

    I'm not sure how pure they were...in America, Puritans burned women at the stake for being "witches," believed that musical instruments were from the Devil, and that parents should withdraw affection from children two years and older in order to "break the child's will," and that all humans are born bad, and doomed to eternal death with the exception of those few God chooses to save.

  • @Sile

    I don't think anyone is saying that the monks believe that they are the chosen ones, raise their children in bizarre ways, burn women at the stake, or believe musical instrument are from the devil.

    It's not clear if you think the monks are being judged by high moral standard or a very low moral standard.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran

    Puritanical, I love that! What exactly is so bad about being pure I wonder...


    Very interesting comment!



    I'm not sure how pure they were...in America, Puritans burned women at the stake for being "witches," believed that musical instruments were from the Devil, and that parents should withdraw affection from children two years and older in order to "break the child's will," and that all humans are born bad, and doomed to eternal death with the exception of those few God chooses to save.

    You're letting the history get in the way of what ozen was saying...in my view. One primary definition of Puritanical is "Rigorous in religious observance; marked by stern morality."

    Frankly, I expect monks to strictly follow the 5-10 Precepts (yes, I know there are far more, some of which get pretty silly). Perhaps the word "stern" is ill-advised. And, as Ozen said, what is wrong with being pure?

  • In the Culaassapura Sutta (M.i.282) the Buddha says to the effect that if wearing a robe could banish greed, malice, and so forth, then as soon as a baby is born his family and friends should make him wear the robe and insist that he wear it.
  • They should absolutely be forgiven and allowed to move forwards... however, I do feel that being a monk is a personal choice to dedicate yourself to a certain path, and so to take blatant actions that contradict that path is a little bit... well, silly. If you wish to gamble, drink and smoke, then a life as a monk is probably not for you... which is fine! If they wish to live that lifestyle then there should be no judgement attached, and I can certainly understand that many individuals may become monks with good intentions but become disillusioned if they do not attain what they were seeking... and it is clear how this disillusionment can lead to unclear 'wrong' actions of sort, but theft, gambling, drinking and smoking?! Ha! If you have arrived at THAT point then maybe - just maybe - have a little think about whether monkhood is really for you, especially if you are an example to so many. And let's keep in mind that irrespective of their curious actions, they surely cannot be as ignorant as their actions would suggest... they must have some awareness of the (contextual) wrongness of their actions and how they will affect others and reflect upon their tradition.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited July 2012
    The Jogye Order was in the news again this past Saturday, when it issued a formal request that a Buddhist delegation from mainland China apologize for an incident at a Korean Buddhist conference this past June. The Chinese delegation had demanded that Tibetan Buddhists attending the conference leave; when they didn't, the Chinese delegation walked out. Not sure why the Catholics are tracking this, but at any rate:

    http://sundayex.catholic.org.hk/node/688
«1
Sign In or Register to comment.