The Words of Hyung Jin Moon From 2009
We should acknowledge the fact that we are all connected, and practice peace, love, and understanding.
A man wearing conventional hanbok (traditional Korean clothes) offered three thousand bows a day for a whole week. If you are wondering what might drive a Buddhist to do such a thing, you are only half-right. He is, in fact, interested in Buddhism but not a Buddhist himself.
The man in question is none other than the world president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church) Rev. Hyung Jin Moon. Rev. Hyung Jin Moon is the youngest son of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who is the founder of the church.
The Buddhist community, which has recently been at odds with Christians and the government due to religious prejudice, now seeks to resolve conflicts through academic seminars, debates and forums. Given the current religious climate in Korea, the fact that the president of the Unification Church, who believes in the Christian God, offered a set of bows came as a surprise. As the feeling of pleasant surprise evolved into an epiphany that he could aid in seeking a solution to religious conflict, we visited Rev. Hyung Jin Moon in the church he pastors, the Unification Church World Headquarters Church in Chung-Pa Dong on Aug. 12th.
Despite the fact that he had finished the 21,000-bow devotion only a few days ago, Rev. Hyung Jin Moon looked to be in good health.
First, I asked him about his motivation for offering bows. His answer was simpler than I expected.
He said, “In the Unification Church, we bow to God as a sign of respect. There is nothing wrong about bowing to your own parents out of respect. It is customary for our church members to offer a predetermined number of bows.” He added, “The reason I offered a set of 21,000 bows was so that the holy temple of our church could be established smoothly. In the Unification Church, the number 21 symbolizes the period which is needed for human beings to achieve perfection.”
Then he added, “I’ve always felt beauty in the Buddhist bowing tradition. Though you offer bows to Buddha, it seems to me that your bows are also beneficial to you.”
Rev. Hyung Jin Moon majored in philosophy while studying in Harvard as an undergraduate, and in philosophy and comparative religion while in Harvard Divinity School. Since then, he has shown great interest in Buddhism, along with other religions and oriental philosophies. Last year, he even visited the patriarch leader of Buddhism in Korea, Beob Jun.
Reverend Moon noted,
“In the Western world, oriental traditions such as bowing tend to be looked at negatively. The tradition of respecting elders, which can be found in the Oriental world, is not a tradition of obedience; it is a tradition of respect that helps us liberate ourselves.”
The subject of the Western world’s tendency to misunderstand Eastern traditions came up and the conversation naturally moved to the religious problems erupting in Korea, where Western and Eastern religions co-exist.
Reverend Moon explained,
“As a wife presupposes a husband, and children parents, all beings are intertwined. Most religions uphold values such as love, understanding and worship. There are many similarities and people find themselves in conflict when they forget the fact that we are all interconnected and interdependent.”
“Many people have the tendency to focus on differences rather than similarities. Because of this, it is difficult for them to acknowledge that everyone is connected to each other. Though it may be difficult to practice, Jesus taught us to love our enemies and the Unification Church goes beyond this and teaches us to get married with our enemies.”
Reverend Moon commented,
“After learning to accept differences and realizing that all beings are interconnected, I became active in the inter-religious context. Through attending inter-religious forums, I am engaging in theological discussions and building friendships with religious leaders of many faiths. I have made friends with and been inspired by both Buddhist monks and Catholic priests.”
Although the Unification Church seeks harmony with other religions, it has been persecuted as heretical because its interpretation of scripture differs from mainstream Protestantism..
Reverend Moon explained,
“When I was young, bodyguards followed me when I traveled outside. I realized as I grew that it was because of threats my family had received from Protestants.”
When asked if he had any remaining resentment caused by Protestants’ threats, Reverend Moon answered,
“There is a percentage of believers who lean toward fundamentalism in every religion. I don’t hold any resentment against Protestants in general.”
When asked if we should merely endure prosecution and turn a blind eye to other religions’ wrongful actions, Reverend Moon answered,
“I understand that Buddhists organized a rally last year urging the government to cease its discrimination between different religions. I felt that their rally was peaceful and loving -- it gave the impression that they were embracing those who had wronged them. He continued, “The way to be good is neither through silently letting the other person step on you, nor is it through confronting the other person and fighting him. Although it may be difficult, it is through showing the other person his mistakes without expressing any animosity, as the Buddhists did last year.”
Rev. Hyung Jin Moon added,
“We talk about religious conflicts but actually conflicts that manifest themselves in the name of religion are activated by various non-religious factors, such as political, economical and geographical circumstances. Each religious tradition brings with it a unique culture. Therefore, a variety of factors need to be considered when seeking to find solutions to “religious” conflicts.
If we treat each other with the heart of True Parents, who would sacrifice even their own lives in order to save their children in need, if we acknowledge our differences and the fact that we are all connected, I believe we will be able to reduce many of the conflicts that arise in the name of religion. Also, religious leaders should take on the mission of serving others from the lowest positions.”
Reverend Moon has incorporated within the Unification Church Holy Temple elements of Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist places of worship, so that members of other religions could come and practice their own religious rituals, while learning to love other religions. He proclaimed,
“I think every individual has to find the religion that is most suitable for him. Fundamentally, all faiths seek to help people change for the better. Therefore, I will respect other faith traditions and people of those faiths. If we do our best within our own faith and work toward religious harmony, I firmly believe that the world will become one.”
Media Buddha will interview more leaders of other religions in order to alleviate religious conflict and promote harmony.
The preceding interview of Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, World President of the Unification Church, appeared in Korean in Media Buddha, an online Buddhist news publication, on August 14, 2009. Translation by Daniel Elder. Edited by Tossa Cromwell. Original article www.mediabuddha.net/detail.php?number=4033andthread=29r01