Part Two: Dharma Discourses

Chapter Three: On Korea’s National Prospects


26. A politician asked, “At this early stage of nation-building, the times are still unsettled and there are many national matters that urgently need attention. Even religion is an affair that should come after building a state. May I ask, therefore, that you turn your efforts to nation-building?” The Master said, “Although I have little ability, I am doing my utmost for the nation through this religious order. So, what do you mean when you ask me to work toward nation-building?” The guest replied, “I mean that you should participate in a political party or initiate a national movement.”
The Master said, “When you are building a house, the foundation, pillars, and beams each have their roles, and unless their functions are combined so that each fulfills its own role, you won’t be able to construct the house. Likewise, when you are founding a state, government, religious edification, and domestic production all have their own roles, and unless each provides support through its incumbent role, the state cannot be constructed. Hence, politicians must concentrate on governing well through whatever means are appropriate, religious leaders must concentrate on edifying the people through appropriate means, and manufacturers must likewise concentrate on producing goods; thus, with their power joined, a whole state will be constructed. As you have said, these are unsettled times, so, in the task of founding a new state, properly guiding public sentiment is the most urgent matter. Hence, a desirable path for nation-building would be for the government first to examine each religious order and support those orders that are most helpful to the times, allowing them to be more active in the task of religious edification. It has not been long since our Order was established, so we still do not have many adherents. However, along with relief operations right after Liberation (from Japanese colonial rule in 1945), I believe we have rendered lots of background support in properly guiding public sentiment through the means we had available.”
The guest asked, “Then, in your Order, do you intend only to render background support but not to let your members assume public office?” The Master said, “The ordained adherents must devote themselves to the affairs of the Order, so it would be difficult for them to engage in both roles. However, lay adherents can engage in politics as much as they wish. I surmise that, in the future, only those who have been correctly edified by religion will make excellent politicians.”