Haemin Sunim and Religious Syncretism in Korea

I’ve been reading Haemin Sunim‘s Love for Imperfect Things the past few days. It’s not one of those books you finish in one seating. Rather, you read a little at a time as you digest his stories and sayings. Sunim is considered one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers and writers in the world. He was born in South Korea and was educated at Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton.

Unlike many other books in the spirituality genre, I feel Sunim’s teachings have concrete real-world application. It is not a brand of spirituality that espouses renouncing the world–but instead focuses on how to apply spiritual teachings to modern life. 

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Sunim’s book inspired me to re-read Religion in Korea: Harmony and Co-Existence. It’s a little book that I borrowed from the library a while back. I mainly picked it up because I was interested in studying about Korean Shamanism–a practise that prehistoric Koreans brought with them as they migrated to the peninsula from Central Asia. According to the book, Koreans have respected religious diversity since ancient times. 

“Indeed, if there is one overriding religious tendency in the Korean population, it is a preference for syncretism, of finding essential and common truths amidst diverse and often competing doctrines.”

granite buddha statue in carton package

Published by Seoul Selection, the volume takes us through Korea as a remarkable case study in religious coexistence. 

Now I’m deeply curious to know more. As much as I love books, I believe there is only so much we can gleam from them. For it to really come to life, you have to experience it or talk to someone who’s got first hand knowledge based on experience.

If anyone has any book recommendations or folklore to share–my ears and eyes are wide open. 

Author: Dipa

Editor-in-Chief & Founder | Mith Books | The Merchant of Stories

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