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Senior Korean Buddhist Monk Who Died in Temple Fire Self-Immolated, Says Jogye Order

Ven. Jaseung. From

The former head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, died in a temple fire on Wednesday. In an official statement yesterday, a spokesperson for the order said the prominent monk, Venerable Jaseung, had self-immolated.

Ven. Jaseung served as president of the Jogye Order from 2009–17. He was 69 years old at the time of his death.

“Ven. Jaseung left a warning to all Buddhists with his self-immolation, praying for the stability of the religious group and the salvation of the world through the dissemination of the Dharma,” Jogye Order spokesperson Ven. Wubong was quoted as saying on Thursday. (Yonhap News Agency)

The Jogye Order is a school of Seon (Zen) Buddhism that traces its roots back 1,200 years to the Unified Silla (also known as the Later Silla) kingdom (668–935). The Jogye school as a distinct entity emerged in the late 11th century when the monk Bojo Jinul, credited as the school’s founder, sought to combine Seon practices with the theological underpinnings of sutra-based Buddhist schools, including Korean Pure Land Buddhism. The order now represents the largest segment of South Korea’s Buddhist population, administering about 1,900 active temples, more than 13,000 monastics, and seven million lay followers nationwide.

Firefighters work to extinguish Wednesday’s dormitory fire at Chiljang-sa. From

Ven. Wubong stated that Ven. Jaseung had died in a fire at Chiljang-sa, a Buddhist temple in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, at 6:50 p.m. local time on Wednesday. The senior monk’s body was discovered in a monastic dormitory building, where he was visiting overnight and staying alone, after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Police reportedly discovered two notes left by the monk in a nearby parked car and intended for the temple’s head monk, which read in part: “I’m sorry for causing a lot of troubles by ending my life here. . . . This building will be restored by my disciples, and I’m both sorry and grateful.” (Korea Times)

Ven. Jaseung was born in 1954. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of 19. He chaired the Korean Council of Religious Leaders from 2011–17 and served as co-chair of the Korean Conference of Religion and Peace from 2014–17. Before his death, he was the head abbot of Bongeun-sa, an historic temple in southern Seoul’s Gangnam District.

Investigators examine the circumstances of Ven. Jaseung’s death at Chiljang-sa.

The Jogye Order has said that it will observe a five-day period of mourning, led by the order’s current leader, Ven. Jinwoo, at Jogye-sa, the order’s main temple in downtown Seoul. A final funeral ceremony for Ven. Jaseung is to be held on Sunday morning.

“As a former president of the Jogye Order, Ven. Jaseung had been concerned about the status and role of Buddhism,” the head of the order’s legislative organization, Ven. Jugyeong, explained. “He had a strong will to solve the problems facing the order, such as the declining population.” (Korea Times)

In the wake of Ven. Jaseung’s death, which has shocked South Korea’s Buddhist community, Ven. Jinwoo noted that his predecessor had “always pursued nirvana and had apparently decided to come to that moment on Thursday.” (Korea Times)

Despite the notes and official statements from the Jogye Order, police are continuing to investigate the circumstances of Ven. Jaseung’s demise, and said that they planned carry out DNA testing for a definitive confirmation of the body’s identity. 

Monks pay tribute to Ven. Jaseung at Jogye-sa in central Seoul on Thursday. From

According to survey data from 2021, the majority of South Korea’s population—60 per cent—holds no religious affiliation. Christians make up the largest religious segment of the population at 23 per cent, while Buddhists account for 16 per cent.

See more

Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
Jogye Order says ex-leader Ven. Jaseung self-immolated (Yonhap News Agency)
Ex-leader of Buddhist Jogye Order dies in temple fire (Yonhap News Agency)
Ven. Jaseung dies in fire at temple (Yonhap News Agency)
Jogye Order: Ex-Leader Venerable Jaseung Died by Self-Immolation (KBS World)
Fmr. Buddhist Jogye Leader Dies in Fire, Order Claims Self-Immolation (KBS World)
Former Head of Buddhist Jogye Order Dies in Fire (KBS World)
Additional Notes from Ven. Jaseung Found at Residence Following Fire (KBS World)
Jogye Order says ex-leader Ven. Jaseung self-immolated (Korea Times)
Death of Jogye Order heavyweight Ven. Jaseung shocks Buddhist world (Korea Times)
Late Ven. Jaseung’s additional notes on last will found at his residence (Korea Times)
Police leaving all possibilities open in prominent Buddhist monk’s death, despite suicide notes (Korea JoongAng Daily)

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4 months ago

Reminds me of the scene from the Korean movie ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring’ (highly recommended) in which the old Buddhist master nearing the end of his life decides to follow an old tradition and voluntarily end his life through immolation ritual.

As strange as it appears I think it maybe be part of Korean Buddhism. Also I believe that in the Sutta Pitaka there are stories of Arahants voluntarily ending their life when having some kind of deadly disease and Buddha accepting it.