How a Buddhist Nun Cured Herself Through Healthy Eating

by KnowingKorea

Seonjae decided at age 24 to became a Buddhist nun, and now at age 61 she has dedicated half of her life to developing recipes and raising awareness about the necessity of a good diet through cooking classes and counselling for parents with picky children. She has even written a thesis on Korean temple food, which, beyond simply being healthy, she claims includes an added dose of wisdom to help you on your way to achieving awakening. Seonjae defines temple food as "food that makes the mind and body purified,” and it tends to involve seasonal vegetables grown naturally without use of any pesticide or fertiliser, and eaten with minimal seasoning, with emphasis given to the natural taste and color of the ingredients. Her latest book, “What Do You Eat For Living?” is a cookbook sharing her personal story of cultivating her body and mind through simple, healthy food.

In 1994, Seonjae was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. As even short walks began to cause her great difficulty, her doctor told her there was nothing more he could do for her, and gave her a year left to live. Immediately, she began to be more careful with what she ate, cooking only with home-grown ingredients and avoiding eating out. Having prided herself on living a life without greed, Seonjae realised just how many things she was still holding onto, so after throwing these all away, she decided to allow nature to take care of her and rely on the healing properties of food following old Buddhists beliefs that ‘All food is medicine’. She also changed her habits by no longer eating after the sun had set, and restricting herself to hand-made meals made from traditional Korean ingredients like kimchi. Within the year her doctor had given her left to live, she had cured herself completely. Having achieved such an incredible feat, she knew she had to double down on her mission to let others know the benefits of monastic eating habits, and spend the rest of her newfound life promoting temple food.

In particular, Seonjae wishes to promote healthy eating among Korean children, and regularly tours the country giving talks in elementary schools. She explains that children do not begin with a dislike for healthy foods such as lotus root or soybean paste, but simply develop a fear of them as nobody ever explains to them where they come from or how they are made. Seonjae feels that while chewing these natural foods, one can feel the wind, water, sunshine and soil of nature held within them.