One student's path to enlightenment

by Cristina Rojas, Daily Free Press, Feb 14, 2008

Boston, MA (USA) -- Brian Hanrahan leaves the hustle and bustle of Boston University each week and retreats to the Won Buddhism of Boston temple in Somerville, where the resonating sound of a gong indicates the start of meditation services.

Though he was born and raised Catholic, Hanrahan, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman, said he sought another religion when the Catholic Mass no longer struck a chord with him, he started attending Won Buddhism services four years ago in his hometown of Glenside, PA.

After he receives an economics degree, Hanrahan said he will pursue his masters in Won Buddhist studies at the Won Institute in Glenside, then go to South Korea to be ordained.

"If I really believe in this, I believe in this all the way," he said. "I'm going to follow [Won Buddhism founder] Sot'aesan and become one of his disciples and try to implement it all the way."

After exploring Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Protestantism, Hanrahan said he became interested in a particular aspect of Won Buddhism. The religion is a form of Buddhism adopted to the fast-paced modern world, he said.

"I was like, 'Whoa, this is great,'" he said. "'I have to find out what these people are all about.' It just happened that the only temple in the area was in my hometown."

Hanrahan said his religious transition was not easy. Surrounded by adults at his first service, he was unable to understand what was going on.

"I mediated, but it hurt and it was hard," he said. "I have no idea what drew me to go back, but I went back every week. It was like a magnet."

"I walked through all these rituals that at the time I felt were very empty," he said. "To me, they didn't mean anything."

The Rev. Hyunoh Kim of Hanrahan's temple said becoming a Buddhist priest is not be easy.

"He would need intensive training in spirituality, in the Scripture, and in morality," she said. "But, I know he can do it."

Though he would eventually like to settle down in a temple as a kyomu, or minister, Hanrahan said he would initially like to work as a humanitarian economist in impoverished and developing countries.

"I see economics and religion together as two sides of one coin," Hanrahan said. "In order to be a better economist, I would be a kyomu; in order to be a better kyomu, I would be an economist."

Based on what he has learned from Hanrahan, former roommate and CAS freshman Elliot Goldman said Won Buddhism could almost be described as a "Buddhist outreach program."

"Rather than sit alone in isolated Tibetan temples and hone their minds for years on end, Won Buddhists go out into the world and aid people in any way they can, guided by the teachings of their religion," he said. "They sound like great people, and [Hanrahan] is no exception."

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