The former head of the Buddhist Jogye Order, Venerable Jaseung, died in a fire that occurred at a temple in Gyeonggi Province on Thursday.
The police are carrying out an investigation into the cause of the fire while considering that the death may have been a suicide in light of a note written by the monk stating that an autopsy is unnecessary and everything was captured by security cameras.
The notes reportedly included an apology for the inconvenience caused and an assurance that the damage inflicted on the Chiljang Temple dormitory will be restored by his disciples.
The order stated later on Thursday that they believe the monk took his own life by immolation, following the Buddhist practice of burning oneself alive as an offering.
Born in 1954 in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, Venerable Jaseung became a monk in 1972 and began working for the Jogye Order in 1986, going on to serve as its leader twice after being elected with the highest-ever approval rate in 2009 and earning another four-year term in 2013.
After stepping down from the top post, the monk had served as an adviser in the Buddhist world as a senior monk in Bongeunsa Temple in Seoul’s Gangnam District.