Buddhist Performs Interfaith Hymn for Buddha’s Birthday

Buddhist performs in cathedral

Everyone likes a surprise for their birthday, and at Buddha’s age — currently estimated to be around 2,575 years old — it’s nice to be remembered. A recent inter-faith service at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul saw members of the Buddhist community participate in a Catholic mass, with one well-known Buddhist nun taking centre stage to perform both a Catholic hymn and a Buddhist one. Her gently display of religious solidarity across the two faiths may hardly seem revolutionary, but how has Korea reacted to the news? When an article detailing the nun’s efforts was reposted on Daum, it attracted considerable interest from Korean netizens, who both cheered and chastised the idea of inter-faith services. In particular, the article appears to have highlighted various tensions between the major religious groups in South Korea, namely Buddhist, Catholic, and Protestant with stern opinions on the more fundamental practitioners of Christianity emerging in comments.

From Daum:

Through harmony and communication… The monk who sang Ave Maria at Myeongdong Cathedral

During the Parochial mass on the 27th, the day before Buddha’s Birthday, ‘Ave Maria’ rang across the cathedral. Ave Maria was composed by an Italian composer Giulio Caccini to the words of the annunciation made by Archangel Gabriel to Maria of Nazareth with the words ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, our Lord is with thee’ in Luke 1:30.

Celebrating the Birthday of Buddha

Bhiksuni (biguni) Jung-yul Sunim sang the song. When she finished singing her own Buddhist hymn ‘Hyang-sim’ (向心) it was greeted with thunderous applause.

Jung-yul Sunim is the top vocal singer for the Korean Buddhist community, making her debut while she was still a Samaneri in 1988. Having performed over 1,000 times, she helped found the tri-religious women’s musical group ‘Samso (三笑) Music Society’ between Catholics, Buddhists and Won Buddhists. The performance today was made possible by a request from a Catholic nun, herself a member of the Samso group.

Buddhist nun performs in cathedral

Jung-yul sees no point of hiding behind the walls of religious dogma and said ‘other religions should be embraced much as we should embrace other people’s parents as they were our own.’ She added that ‘Cardinal Jung Jin-suk is to give a welcoming message for Buddha’s birthday this year at Jogye Temple and I thought I would make a meaningful contribution by coming here and singing a song. That brought me here.’

The Archdiocese of Seoul has put on a banner welcoming Buddha’s Birthday on the cathedral front gate since the 25th.

Comments from Daum:


This is the End. Jesus is about to return. The slush religion Catholicism celebrates Buddhist songs in their church and gets praised for it. Jesus will not praise you.


My friend’s parents are Catholics~ my friend is a Buddhist but they still respect each other’s religion and show mutual support. How good it looks. If you had a gaedok in your family, would that be possible?


I am sorry but we are the descendant of Dangun. Do we look like Jesus? Wake up guys… How many of you actually know of the cruelties committed by the Catholic Church throughout its history? Our ancestors and Dangun must be spinning in their graves.


Before Jung-yul Sunim left the secular world, she studied vocal music.


A good way to achieve interfaith harmony


Interfaith conflicts are all caused by gaedok.


I am Catholic and believe in God but I do believe that Buddhism has a lot to teach us. Yesterday was the Solemnity of Pentecost and today is the Birthday of Buddha. I sincerely pray all the Buddhists a day of happiness and I hope this world would be full of generosity as Buddha wished.


Buddhists Catholics = We are friends
Protestants -> Buddhists, Catholics = You are the spawns of Satan…
Buddhists, Catholic -> Protestants = what is this knock-off?


Don’t put on a show. This may look pleasing to your eyes but who let this idol-worshipper in? God is only one and this is only a mockery of God.


Ah, should have gone to Myeongdong mass… When can I see such a magnificent view?


Only if the protestants could be half as good as the Catholics. We are the same neighbors but why can’t they love thy neighbour?


Gaedok has no such tolerance. Gaedok, Gaedok, Gaedok, Gaedok, Gaedok~


She sang for harmony and communication yet here people are ripping each other apart. We brag about our vast knowledge but we cannot tolerate one tiny sliver of difference, but I wish everyone a happy day nonetheless.


There are some confusions over the communication between Catholicism and Buddhism. They communicate not because their beliefs are weak but out of respect for each other. Just because parents and children have different religion does not mean they will not respect each other. If our state religion is different from that of your own, you cannot still deny your own country. So the same goes for the tolerance and respect for other religion and that is how it ought to be.


This is really wrong. Korean Catholics, how did you end up like this?


The Korean protestants will never understand this. If your God actually exists, would he/she be so petty? You guys really should repent.


Whether protestants or Catholics, they are all swindlers in denial over evolution

li qingshan:

This is the idol-worship at its best. The blind leading the blind, so how can they attain salvation?

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  • Andrew


  • A gawd dang Mongolian

    Religious debate abound!

  • Paul M

    It’s nice to see some religious people getting along. The way most of them argue and fight you would think that their god had died and left them nothing but a confusing collection of bronze age books to go by – oh snap!

  • skippy

    What is sofa?
    Do you mean SOPA? I’m confused.

    • skippy

      Sorry for the add on but I feel like I should comment on this inter-faith thing.
      I have no problem with this happening – it is a buddhist singing in a catholic church. From what I remember, didn’t many other church heads partake in the funeral of pope John Paul II? All the churches are political anyway. I’m sure they, as well as the buddhists are worried about the rise of all the red crosses around Seoul. (The red crosses always remind me of satan crosses hehehehe)
      What I do have a problem with, is the “jesus heaven, no jesus hell” bs around Myeongdong and sometimes in Gangnam. I have a problem with the religious processions / religious preachers on the subways. I have so many problems with organised religion!
      People telling me I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in stuff they do is far more worrisome than a buddist nun singing in a catholic church.
      Summary: Religion in Korea scares me.

      • Ami

        if you don’t believe in hell (assuming you dont) then why does it bother you?

  • matt30

    Do you watch The Simpsons? Then you know what a sofa is. And why its important to be first.

    • skippy

      ahhhhh!!! sofa! Thanks for the explanation.

  • Brett Sanbon

    Lack of tolerance, IMO, is the worst human trait and it is most readily viewable when discussing religion. The main reason I left the church is the general lack of tolerance, followed closely by corruption.

    • James

      koreaBANG Ladygate special on page 9 of today’s Korea Times Brett. Grab one on your lunchbreak!

      • Brett Sanbon

        Just read the article. Thats awesome, congrats James and Raphael!

        I’m still on the lookout for new stories. Today I saw a girl put her gum under her seat!!! Missed the photo op though :(

        Keep up the good work!

    • Web of Lies

      …and the fact the church and all religions are nothing but rubbish. Though, I always like the part of the bible where it says woman are basically the servant of men. Sounds about right.

      • Brett Sanbon

        Actually I didnt factor that into my decision to leave the Church. I never poke fun at specific religions (Mormon and Jahova’s Witness aside). You exhibit the same kind of intolerance I was talking about.

        • Web of Lies

          Ah, but that was my decision to leave the church. I was a Christian for about half my life until I woke up to sensibility. I actually read the bible, which most profess Christian tend to shun. What I said was true, the bible looks down on woman, the words are borrowed from the bible itself. if you’ve read the bible you’d known this. Poking fun of this tidbit was just a paltry example. God performing genocide because he deemed man evil and corrupt is just a laundry list of nonsense provided in the bible. I poke fun of any religion, not any specific religion. It’s no different from the Swedish cartoonist who drew the caricature of Allah wearing a turbine bomb or when South Park or Family Guy mocks religions. It is our liberty to poke fun of what we deem as pure rubbish and it is people who should tolerant this. I can assure you, poking fun of a religion or having an opinion does not exhibit intolerance.

          • Brett Sanbon

            No you misunderstand me. I wasnt arguing what you wrote about the bible and women. What I was referring to was you posting that all religions are rubbish.. well maybe its not blatantly intolerant, but its just one of those comments that are on the same lines of religious people who turn away every other religion. You have your ways and thats great, but if another faith helps someone else to get through a tough life experience then that is great too.

            IMO poking fun is fine, we just have to be conscious of good taste vs. calling everyones beliefs stupid.

          • Brett Sanbon

            Also, you never picked up on my intentional hypocrisy in say “I never….except…”

          • Web of Lies

            Then I apologize good sir. It is easy to have misunderstandings online. I see your point how it can help a person find direction in life. However, I still don’t condone religion for use in any situation. Leading a person on false promises that God will be there savior is wrong in every sense.

  • Yohan

    Love thy neighbour is something many Christians seem to forget when dealing with people of other faiths, homosexuals and basically anyone who doesn’t share their faith. I wish we could see more of inter-faith harmony in Korea, but as most commentators say it’s the protestants that are the main problem with religious conflict in this country.

  • Frank Zappa

    i’m almost sure that this position about interreligion is not at all supported by vatican.

    • Brett Sanbon

      I was thinking the same thing… Regardless, it was pretty badass of that priest to allow it.

      • glenn

        I only get to see this kind of stuff in Korea. They said that some people who have embraced other religions are not ready to let go of their Buddhist/Confucianist traditions,etc… so the other religion adopted, specially the Catholic church in Korea.

  • as Chatolic i’m so proud with my fellow South Korean
    “They communicate not because their beliefs are weak but out of respect for each other. “

  • Stories of butts

    I guess we have to look like a prophet of a religion in order to believe in it..?
    Nice to see religious tolerance, even for a day.

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