THE Happy Man
An interview of a Korean Buddhist Monk living in Uzbekistan by Nabila Laajail and Fred Daudon
« Is there a lot of Buddhists in Central Asia?
– No, not yet. Ten years ago, there were many Uzbek people did not understand what Buddhism is. They were confusing Buddha with God. (…) In the 7th-8th century, Islam arrived in Central Asia. Many people did not understand what Islam is at that time. For 100 years, buddhist temples had been transformed into mosques.
Many monks were killed by the Muslim soldiers. They took off the buddhist temples and symbols. A large number of islamic buildings which are still visible today have been built over buddhist temples. »
Located at the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, these remains of caves where monks were meditating next to a stupa (previous picture) prove the presence of Buddhists in the region.
« This area, Uzbekistan and Central Asia, was really important for Buddhists. Usually people and historians think that Buddhism expanded first to China and then to Central Asia but it is a mistake. Buddhism arrived in Central Asia before China.
The remains that you can find in the area confirms this theory (ndlr: he monk is also archeologist). The statues of Buddha destroyed by Talibans were really ancient.
– What do you think about this destruction?
It is not only about Humanity. They fear « logos », they were afraid of truth. They are not true, if they know the truth, they will not touch these statues. In Uzbekistan, the same kind of people killed Ulugbek, they fear people with truth and knowledge, because they don’t know future. »
« – Can you tell us more about Buddha? About his life?
– What is Buddha? Meaning of Buddha is « enlightment ». If you get enlightment, you are Buddha. Why are you coming here? You are not Buddhists. You want to change your environment. How? You want it more glorious, more aware, more mercy, more richy.
So you want to change your nature. The way you are following, we can call it the Buddha’s way.
Which enlightment? Always I want to help the other, always i want to stay, always I want to be healthy. Who is Buddha? Being happy and going that way. In Buddhism, there are many Buddhas, you are a Buddha (pointing me), she is a Buddha (pointing Nabila), I am a Buddha.
I am not Buddisht, I am Christian, I am Muslim. No problem, you are a Christian Buddha or a Muslim Buddha. Why? Because you want to change your nature with better qualities. »
The longest sleeping Buddha in Dushanbe Archeological museum, Tadjikistan.
An old mosque in Bukhara, built on a Buddhist temple
JOJU SUNIM, An HAPPY MAN
« Why are we studying? For which goal? Which enlightment? Why?
It is very simple: it is to reach happiness. This is Buddhism. Happiness is the first concept.
The monks say that happiness is important.
For example, when I eat chocolate, I am happy. She is a woman and she has some chocolate, she is weak. I can beat her and take the chocolate from her and I can eat the entire chocolate and do not share with her. You are following your instinct. Then she cries. Only I want to eat, you do not care about her, be it your sister, or friend. You just eat the entire chocolate. Are you happy? Of course not.
When people are together, they feel happy. The most important relationship is husband and wife. The second one is parent and children. The third is friends, the next is society, nationality, community. Monk scan be alone, but it can be difficult and he needs company. We cannot be alone, because we have a body. Body is a material, we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need toilets. Someone must help me.
If you want to be happy, you have to be with people.
You have to look after them, take good care of them and then you will have strong friendships and relationships. Then you will be happy.
If you only follow your instinct, pure instinct, you will have short moments of happiness and not strong relationships.
When you are simply seeing or feeling, it is not Buddha, but when you act, it is Buddha’s way. It is the way which is important. »
« Incense represent soul, purity, rememberance. Candles have the same meaning. Buddha wrote this.
That is Medicine Buddha.
– What is the meaning of the lotus?
Lotus has roots in very dark water and yet when they grew, delivers a beautiful flower. It is a symbol of life, Buddha’s way.
– How you fund your temple?
Without my parents who are supporting me I could not live here. Monks are not businessmen. We live thanks to people’s donations.
– You said that family is important for happiness. As a monk, can you have a family?
There is no prohibition against marriage, I can have children. Chinese Shan Buddhism prohibit marriage. Korean Buddhist monks can. It is a different school. »
Interview made in Tashkent in December 2016, Uzbekistan.
To our knowledge, Joju is the only Buddhist monk living in Central Asia. He spent some weeks each year in a temple in Seoul, Korea, to learn with his masters and to reach hapiness.