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Engaged Buddhism: Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Shares the Fruits of Compassion to Mark the Birth of the Buddha

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

Jungto Society, the international Buddhist community founded by the revered Korean Seon (Zen) master and social activist Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님),* has continued its practice of sharing the fruits of Buddhist compassion in May. To mark the birth of the Buddha, celebrated on 8 May this year in Korea, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and team of Jungto volunteers delivered fresh produce to support vulnerable communities.

“On the Buddha’s birthday, I hope we can help those in need,” Ven. Pomnyun Sunim announced to Jungto Society volunteers at the Jungto retreat center in the village of Dubuk, near the southern city and former ancient capital of Gyeongju. “So today we will provide offerings of watermelons, tomatoes, and melons, which have been donated by our Dharma teacher HyangJon, as well as the rice we have farmed here in Dubuk. I would like to support Aegwangwon, a facility for the mentally disabled, a nursing home for the elderly, and also support the elderly living in the village around the training center through the Senior Citizens Center. Yesterday, we also made a donation to the local temple here in Gyeongju.”

Traditional temple breakfast offering. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

Jungto Society is a volunteer-run community and humanitarian organization that aspires to embody the Buddhist teachings through social engagement, and by promoting a simple lifestyle that is less centered on consumption than mainstream society. Jungto Society seeks to address the problems and crises of modern society, such as greed, poverty, conflict, and environmental degradation, by applying a Buddhist worldview of interconnectedness and in line with the principle that everyone can find happiness through Buddhist practice and active participation in social movements. Jungto Society connects communities of practitioners across South Korea and the world, each offering online Dharma instruction and other Dharma-based programs.

The Jungto truck is loaded with produce. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

Following a formal Korean temple breakfast at Dubuk, the volunteers quickly loaded a truck with the rice, watermelon, tomatoes, and melons to be donated.

The first stop for the Jungto team was Aegwangwon, a residential center for mentally handicapped people on Geoje Island, near the southern city of Busan. Aegwangwon’s 98-year-old founder and director Kim Im-soon came out to greet Ven. Pomnyun Sunim as he arrived.

“The day after tomorrow is the Buddha’s birthday, so I’ve brought rice and fruits for the residents,”  Ven. Pomnyun Sunim said. “We have brought 10 bags of rice, 20 watermelons, 20 boxes of tomatoes, and 10 boxes of melons.”

Originally founded as a refuge for orphaned babies during the Korean War, Aegwangwon is now a home for the differently abled. Although the center is run by a Christian organization, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim has maintained a working relationship with the center since 2003.

After greetings were exchanged, the team quickly set about unloading the produce from the truck.

Aegwangwon’s 98-year-old founder, Kim Im-soon, greets Ven. Pomnyun Sunim.
Image courtesy of Jungto Society
Unloading donations for Aegwangwon. Image courtesy of Jungto Society
Sharing the fruits of compassion. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

The next stop on the itinerary was Cham Jo Eun Kindergarten in Jinhae. The Buddhist nun who runs the kindergarten had recently contacted Ven. Pomnyun Sunim to say that she would like to offer a donation after being deeply impressed by Sunim’s online Dharma talks. The Jungto team took the opportunity to pay a visit while driving to the city of Busan.

“I am farming these days. So I’ve brought some of our farmed rice to share with you. I’ve also brought some fruit to serve on Buddha’s birthday,” Ven. Pomnyun Sunim told the well-wishers at the kindergarten.

Arriving at Cham Jo Eun Kindergarten in Jinhae. Image courtesy of Jungto Society
Sharing greetings and good wishes. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

There was only time to stop briefly before continuing onward to the next destination—a short visit to Jungsaeng-sa, the temple in Busan that is home to Ven. Master Bulshim Domoon Sunim, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s own teacher. The great monk was returning to the temple just as the Jungto team arrived, in time to greet and share a moment with his lifelong student before duty called the team onward. 

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim shares precious moments with his teacher, Ven. Master Bulshim Domoon Sunim,
at Jungsaeng-sa in Busan. Image courtesy of Jungto Society
An enthusiastic welcome at Jajae Palliative Care Hospital in Ulsan. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

The final consignment of fresh produce was delivered to Jajae Palliative Care Hospital in the city of Ulsan, run by Buddhist nuns. The director, Ven. Neunghaeng and her colleagues, ran out to offer an enthusiastic greeting for Ven. Pomnyun Sunim. Although they had hoped for time to talk more deeply with the monk, the afternoon was drawing to an end and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim was due back in Dubuk, where he was scheduled to give his weekly online Dharma teaching.

Image courtesy of Jungto Society

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim is a widely respected Dharma teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives, and projects across the world. Among them, JTS Korea is active as an international aid organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger, while Jungto Society is a volunteer-based community founded on the Buddhist teachings and dedicated to addressing modern social issues that lead to suffering. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

In October 2020, The Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan presented the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of the revered monk’s international humanitarian work, environmental and social activism, and his tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, toward the goal of world peace.**

* Sunim is a Korean title of respect for Buddhist monks.

** Buddhist Monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Awarded the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)

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Jungto Society
JTS Korea
JTS America

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