Bestselling author and popular Zen Buddhist teacher the Ven. Haemin announced late Sunday night that he was ceasing all activities and returning to a meditation center. The announcement came upon criticisms concerning his lifestyle and alleged profiteering from a real estate transaction.
The Harvard- and Princeton-educated author of “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” and “Love for Imperfect Things” appeared on Nov. 7 on tvN entertainment show “On & Off,” which shows the lives of celebrities on both their working days and days off. When the Ven. Haemin was shown living in a house with a view of Seoul’s iconic Namsan Tower and using AirPods and a Macbook, people questioned whether the Buddhist monk was following his teachings of a “life of no possession.”
“As a Buddhist monk, I have been trying my utmost to spread the Buddhist teachings to the world. However, my shortcomings have caused discomfort to many people. I am to blame for not living up to the monk’s principles. I deeply apologize to everyone hurt and disappointed by this situation. Starting today, I will stop all activities and return to a meditation institute to study Buddha’s words and focus on prayer,” said the Ven. Haemin via social media on Sunday.
In March, the Ven. Haemin faced an allegation that he owned a building after actor Hong Seok-cheon urged him to lower the rent for people struggling to pay bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Ven. Haemin refuted the allegation, saying that he was paying rent, another person claimed online last week that in 2015 the monk bought the house under the name Ryan Bongseok Joo. The building was sold to his meditation institute in 2018, the person claimed, who alleged that the Buddhist monk made 100 million won in the transaction. The Ven. Haemin is a naturalized US citizen.
With the controversy in full swing over the weekend, the Ven. Hyongak, an American Buddhist monk who left Korea in 2016 after criticizing Korean Buddhism, attacked the Ven. Haemin on social media on Sunday.
“Don’t be deceived! Just a celebrity. Just a thief who doesn’t know a thing about Buddha’s teachings... He is a parasite that is heading to hell by selling Buddha’s teachings,” said the Ven. Hyongak.
On Monday, however, the Ven. Hyongak said through social media that he had “a 70-minute call full of love and mutual respect and profound gratitude for one another” with the Ven. Haemin. He added that “Hae Min Sunim is an unbelievably beautiful human being of great sincerity with many many gifts to offer humanity.”
Meanwhile, the Ven. Haemin has been working at a startup company that created meditation and relaxation app Kokkiri. The app, with over 360,000 users, became the most used meditation app in Korea following its launch last year, with the Ven. Haemin leading the meditations.
Saying the company was having difficulties contacting the Ven. Haemin as he has returned to his meditations, an official at Kokkiri told The Korea Herald, “It remains uncertain whether Haemin will continue working with the app, but we will do our best to provide the best possible service.”
The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, of which the Ven. Haemin is a member, gave no comments on the events surrounding him. However, an official of the Jogye Order drew a line on the matter, telling The Korea Herald that the events were the two monks’ business, not that of the Jogye Order.
By Lim Jang-won (firstname.lastname@example.org