The Ven. Jaseung, a former leader of the Jogye Order, the nation's largest Buddhist sect, has died in a fire at a temple in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, according to the Jogye Order on Thursday.
The Ven. Jaseung was visiting Chiljangsa temple in Anseong when a fire erupted at one of the buildings there at around 6:50 p.m. Wednesday. His body was found after firefighters extinguished the blaze in about three hours. He was 69.
The Jogye Order said during a press conference at the Korea Buddhist History and Cultural Memorial Hall in Jongno-gu in Seoul on Thursday that “he performed self-immolation as a dedicated offering.”
Meanwhile, authorities investigating the incident said they are open to all possibilities. Local media have reported that police and the National Intelligence Service are investigating the cause and circumstances of the Ven. Jaseung’s death.
The Jogye Order also unveiled Ven. Jaseung’s "yeolbansong," or final teaching, that reads: “Though it is said there is no life or death, there is no place without life and death.” The yeolbansong is a message left by a monk before entering nirvana to share the enlightenment gained through practice with followers.
Local media outlets have reported that notes were discovered at the site reading: "There is no need for an autopsy. I'm simply taking my own life, and it is all captured on security footage, so please do not take the trouble."
The Buddhist order will host a funeral that will last for five days, until Sunday.
Born in 1954, the Ven. Jaseung became a Buddhist monk at the age of 19 and served as president of the Jogye Order from 2009 to 2017. Considered one of the representative monks within the Jogye Order specializing in administration, the Ven. Jaseung presided over large gatherings at Bongeunsa temple, located in Samseong-dong, and held several other important positions.
He served as the chair of the Korean Council of Religious Leaders from 2011 to 2017 and as co-chair of the Korean Conference of Religion and Peace from 2014 to 2017.