Mindful Tuesday- such a great day, and occasion to conclude my journey in South Korea- a special nation I will always look back to and reflect on all the eye-opening and creative experiences. Time has finally come conclude the trip with an article about religion in South Korea, especially because it represents the analogue of religious tolerance and understanding.
South Korea is a patchwork of interlinking yet separate religions- there are four main religions and dozens of smaller, interlinking ones. The four main religions, folk, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian are open ended and over-lapping. Because of Korea’s dynamic history, marked by eclectic periods and influences as varied as tribal rituals from Siberian and Mongolian descent, Chinese Buddhist and Confucian influences and Christianity imported from the Occident- religious practice was almost always a free and a matter of personal preference (except, briefly during the reign of the Joseon dynasty when Confucianism was predominant).
Today, Confucianism is felt indirectly, deeply rooted in South Korean culture, its economic system and family values. Religion and spirituality is most evident in ordinary every-day life through Korean families emphasis and love for their children, which of course is natural and all-encompassing in general but is especially prevalent in Korea- every child in Korea receives all the love and attention not only from their parents but from people surrounding them, even strangers. This to me was a very sweet and touching experience, a spiritual and religious utopia- kindness, tolerance and acceptance towards strangers and even foreigners, made me feel very happy and peaceful.
This reality is of course reflected in religious practice as well- Buddhists visit churches, Christians visit temples, folk traditions are practiced in temples and so on. Just Confucianism is in the background, an umbrella casted upon all beliefs, a bridge linking culture, philosophy and basic personal and inter-personal values; education is important, family, company and social hierarchy is to be respected, discipline and humbleness are highly regarded.
This is South Korea; religious invisibility is at the same time religious bliss- I fully support and believe that religion is a personal practice, a personal choice whose universal values are love and acceptance. Temples and churches are holy equally and beautiful both spiritually and artistically.