dongguk university

Humanizing Buddhist Monks

Dongguk University must be one of the few academic institutions on Earth where you can see significant portions of the student body wearing either miniskirts or the thick gray robes of Korean Buddhist monks, but now that everyone’s on vacation the campus is dead and all but a few stragglers have scurried away into their alcoves throughout the rest of the half-peninsula. I was working in the library today for two very short, very precious hours on the best part of my book, perhaps, indeed, the only good part at all, which deals with describing the riches-to-rags-to-middle-class journey of my wife’s family, when a nearby monk got a call on her cellphone. At once the silent study room exploded with the chants of Korean Buddhism, as well as that telltale sign of ancient far eastern spirituality—the moktak, or wooden fish.

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