Engaged Buddhism for the Curative Self among Young Jungto Buddhist Practitioners in South Korea
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines the contemporary surge in young South Koreans’ interest in and engagement with the Buddhist community of the Jungto Society. Meaning ‘‘Pure Land,’’ the Jungto Society is a Buddhist organization established in 1988 by Ven. Pomnyun. For three years the authors participated in diverse activities offered by the Jungto Society and conducted in-depth interviews with 40 young Jungto practitioners. Today’s young Koreans are exposed to the harsh reality of high youth unemployment, which threatens to deny them the normative stages of life, including a secure job, marriage, and family. They face constant stress and depression as they endure the ‘‘burn-out cycle of life’’ in a highly competitive education environment and job market. This article interprets Jungto Society’s social messages, practices, and teachings to analyze the critical juncture between this popular Buddhist community and the social conditions of young Korean people’s lives. In doing so, this article analyzes how the young practitioners interpret Buddhist teachings, including the concept of the middle way, dependent origination, and renunciation to strive to establish certainty within their precarious and competitive lives, and to transform their identities. This article shows how young Koreans engage Buddhism for the formation of the curative self in terms of perception, affect, and practice amidst their radical identification as religious practitioners.