A novice to Eastern thought asks Doyeon Park about Won Buddhism. She recommends looking up the Four Great Principles.
One of those is Selfless Service to the Public. Doyeon doesn’t need to say it, but the evidence is clear: she has dedicated her life to that principle.
Doyeon, a native of Korea, came to the United States intent on encouraging others, particularly in the United States and in the West, to learn about Won Buddhism. A 2007 graduate of Won Institute, Doyeon holds a diverse set of jobs, all united by devotion to Won Buddhism.
Doyeon was introduced to Won Buddhism in high school in Korea. The Won Institute provided for her an introduction to Western culture and ideas, as well as an opportunity to improve her English skills and learn more about the tenets of Buddhism.
She is Buddhist chaplain at New York University, Buddhist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University, and minister of Won Buddhism on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Doyeon’s master’s degree in Won Buddhism studies at the Won Institute paved the way for her ordination as a Buddhist minister.
Ordination, says Doyeon, is evidence of “a commitment to dedicate my life to the community.”
This dedication is evident in her teaching meditative practices, often to students at New York City’s two elite universities.
For Doyeon, the principles of meditation she teaches needn’t be confined to monastic life. They have something to offer to the outside world, particularly in a highly-pressured environment such as New York City,
“We have our focus on a practical application of Buddhist Dharma, to be useful and practical in our daily life,” she says. Social research indicates that many American youth see themselves as “spiritual, not religious.” For many young people attracted to being spiritual, the teachings provide ways to cope with modern life or, ultimately, discover the path to enlightenment.
The students she encounters are often attracted to Won Buddhist meditative practices, such as mindfulness. Often raised in American culture, they view the ancient tradition as something new, a way to approach modern life in a spiritual way.
“It’s quite different from other religious traditions here,” said Doyeon. At the same time, Won Buddhism is flexible enough to be open to those of other traditions. While it’s different, Won Buddhism offers a vision that in many cases is compatible to what people already experience.
“We bring in our own principles,” Doyeon says. “Religions are different expressions of the truth,” she notes. “It’s like hearing a different language.”
Besides her ministerial and student work, Doyeon also works at the United Nations, promoting interfaith harmony and international understanding.
At the UN, she works with representatives of other world religions with the goal of bringing more love and compassion to the world by bridging differences. Among her concerns are issues such as world poverty, gender equality, and sustainability in world development and peace, particularly on the Korean peninsula.
South Korea, with its mix of Buddhist and Christians, has modeled a way for different groups to live in harmony.
“The relationship with other religious people through interfaith dialogue is strong in South Korea,” she says. That inclusivity continues to mark both Won Buddhism and Doyeon’s work as she makes an impact on Buddhist life in New York City and the world.