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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