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10/24/2016 HYU News > Academics


Buddha-in-Eye Community, Utopian Solution for Contemporary Society

Professor Lee Do-heum (Department of Korean Language and Literature)


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Professor Lee Do-heum of the Department of Korean Language and Literature is interested in finding solutions to problems in the current society by comparing and contrasting Eastern and Western philosophy and Buddhism. He is the chairman of an alternative university established by the Knowledge Circulation Cooperation Association, was an editor for the Buddhism Review, and the head of HYU Research Institute for Korean Studies until 2008. His paper, “Buddhist Countermeasure against Obstacles to Sustainable Development”, explains how to solve environmental and economic crises of the modern day with Buddhistic solutions. The paper was presented at the 2016 Asia Youth Academy and Asian Theology forum held on August 24th this year, which drew in scholars from 14 nations.
Professor Lee is interested in finding solutions for problems of the modern society by observing philosophical thoughts of the East and West, including Buddhism.

“Today's environmental crisis is severe enough to render all of human civilization extinct. 38% of life on Earth has already diminished, and there are approximately 1.8 billion who are starving to death, or are in desperate need of clean water.” According to Lee, if societies continue as they are, the world would be at the verge of dystopia or might not exist altogether by the 22th and 23th century. Lee says that the core reason for these issues is capitalism, and that coming up with a new form of societal order is the responsibility of every human being.
“The fundamental obstacle that prevents sustainable development is capitalism. Capitalistic societies do not have respect toward humans, life or ecology. Every value is converted to money.” According to Lee, mud flats are destroyed to secure more lands and develop constructions, eliminating living things and thus destroying nature. A criminal can kill a woman, a wife and a mother of two children, for 150,000 won, with no consideration for her family or friends. Lee said that capitalism could not last long, pointing out that the earned gains, which stood at 46% in the year 1869, is now greatly reduced to 5%. In addition, government debts have exceeded GDP at present. As a solution for the problems caused by capitalism, Lee suggested his own idea of society, named 'Buddha-in-eye community'.
Buddha-in-eye community is a world that breaks the law of competition. Individuals find freedom by aiding others, reach self-realization by laboring, and reform by performing ascetism. Buddha-in-eye means that we acknowledge people's differences by looking into one another's eyes. Accepting discrepancy for coexistence is very important in order to prevent evil and the violence that occur due to reinforcements for conformity. Lee referred to the Nazis' hate speech, which brainwashed Germans to oppress the Jews, as a corresponding example that intensifies the idea of extreme 'oneness'. This led to tragedies such as the Holocaust. When one is aware and receptive of diversity among people, one should sympathize with others’ pain with love and mercy and try to help one another. Lee believes that all humans possess the nature of Buddhahood, which allows them to form a moral society by cooperating towards ethical development- not only for individuals but for entire communities.
“Buddha-in-eye community is operated through a system of shared economy. For instance, if a design corporation needs more energy, the company would receive it via a control tower from where the leftover energy is. Then the company may offer a design program to where it was granted energy- like a barter economy.” Lee also gave real-life examples of Buddha-in-eye community. Sungshimdang, a famous bakery in Daejeon for its fabulous taste and its hearty business culture, donates 3,000 loaves of bread to 150 places and pays employees only 15% of its profits. Currently, Lee is trying to apply this concept to the real world by establishing an alternative university in 2015, located in Eunpyung-gu, Seoul, to allow students to learn the spirit of cooperation and sympathy in political, economic, cultural, and social aspects.
Professor Lee believes that we are able to develop an ideal society where coexistence and fair allocation prevail.

Lee is planning to continue developing ideas that merge philosophical thoughts of the East and West, and actualizing beliefs by putting his ideas to practice in the local society even after his retirement. Coming up with ideas that deal with environmental and economic problems of the modern society, participating in social movements, and instituting alternative universities are his plans. “Some say my ideas are great but difficult to materialize in reality. Even so, consider the fact that in the 18th century, it was preposterous to think that every man should be treated equally.” Lee believes that if an idea is legitimate, it has the potential to be fulfilled. Ideal dreams and limitations of reality coexist. Perceiving the confines of reality and suggesting the kind of utopia that fits in with the situation at hand is needed for the creation of a better society.

Jang Soo-hyun
Photos by Kim Youn-soo
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