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South Korea's Rapping Nuns Lay It Down At Buddhist Prayer Competition

By Antonia Blumberg, The Huffington PostJul 18, 2014

Seoul, South Korea -- In case you needed any more reason to believe that nuns are the coolest people (and this, this and this didn't convince you) then look no further. South Korea has some amazing Buddhist nuns ready to win your heart -- and they can rap like no one's business.

More than 300 nuns and monks convened in a Seoul temple on Thursday to participate in a prayer competition hosted by the Jogye Order, Korea's largest Buddhist organization. While most recited traditional prayers, several brave nuns took to the stage with rap and hip hop performances.

A group of three nuns performed a variation on the classic Heart Sutra, beating on traditional drums and rapping their own lyrics: "Great wisdom, perfect wisdom. Buddha's teachings that show you the way!"

One nun, Hye-Kang, told AFP that the alternative performance was aimed at attracting a more youthful following to Buddhism. "I wanted more young people to take an interest in Buddhism and the message of its prayers," she said.

A senior member of the Jogye Order and one of the judges of Thursday's event, Venerable Yin-Mook, agreed with Hye-Kang's sentiments. "We wanted to let people, especially young people and children, know Yumbul (Buddhist prayers) can be more interesting and easier to practice than they think," he told AFP.

A prize of three million won, or roughly $2,900, was at stake for Thursday's competition.

The rapping nuns of the Jogye Order may have taken inspiration from an Italian nun rap group dubbed 'Sister Act' in the late 1990s. These Catholic nuns similarly used rap music to bridge the misconceptions often projected upon them by people biased against nuns. Group leader Sister Alessandra told The Guardian in 1999:

"It is true that we are nuns but [rapping] is a more modern and different way of bringing the word of the Lord to young people. It isn't often easy."

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