Quality rating: satisfactory (3/5)

Korean Buddhism

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to: navigation, search
Korean painting of Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara, 1310 CE, ink on silk.

Korean Buddhism refers to the forms of East Asian Buddhism practiced in Korea.

Buddhism was introduced into the Korean peninsula from China beginning in the fourth century, and by the sixth century it had reach the whole peninsula. Korean monks studied in China during the sixth and seventh centuries, and brought back most of the schools of Chinese Buddhism. By the twelfth century, the entire Chinese canon was translated into Korean. In the fourteenth century, Buddhism dominated Korean cultural life.[1] Beginning around the late fourteenth century, Buddhism began suffering from government repression, and began to decline in influence.

Contemporary scholar Robert Buswell asserts that pre-modern Korean scholarship has had a significant influence on the rest of East Asian Buddhism. He notes that "Korean commentarial and scriptural writing were all composed in literary Chinese."[2] He asserts that the texts written in Korea were often able to exert the same influence throughout East Asia as were texts written in China proper.[2]

History

Buddhism was introduced into the Korean peninsula from China beginning in the fourth century, and by the sixth century it had reached the whole peninsula. Korean monks studied in China during the sixth and seventh centuries, and brought back most of the schools of Chinese Buddhism. By the twelfth century, the entire Chinese canon was translated into Korean. In the fourteenth century, Buddhism dominated Korean cultural life.[3]

During this period of Buddhist influence in Korea, there was also competition from the neo-Confucianist tradition. Beginning around the late fourteenth century, Buddhism began suffering from government repression. Peter Harvey explains:

Buddhism suffered a reversal in the Yi dynasty (1392–1910), when Neo-Confucianism from China came to be adopted as the state ideology. In the early fifteenth century, monastery lands were confiscated, monasteries were reduced to 242, then 88, and schools were reduced to 7, then to 2 umbrella organizations. These were the Seon, or Meditation school, dominated by Seon, but including Kyeyul (Ch. Lü), Ch’ont’ae and Milgyo (Ch. Zhenyan), and the Kyo, or Textual school, which included the remaining schools. Monks were banned from entering the capital (1623), and aristocrats’ children were forbidden from ordaining. Buddhism therefore retreated to mountain monasteries, and ticked over as a religion of the masses, as in China, with a revival developing in the 1890s.[4]

Distinctive characteristic of Korean Buddhism

Charles Muller writes:

The most distinctive general characteristic that can be seen in the Korean Buddhist tradition is the tendency for its most noted thinkers to be holistic in the interpretation of doctrine and to be exasperatingly thorough in the resolution of doctrinal and “loose ends” passed on from Buddhist predecessors. Korean scholars and monks not only devoted unusually large portions of their time and energy toward the resolution of sectarian debates and apparent doctrinal inconsistencies; they produced a strain of Buddhism of a significantly new character from that which had been initially transmitted to them. This Korean ethnic color of Buddhism, termed by its most important exponent Wonhyo (元曉; 617–686) as tong bulgyo (通佛教 “interpenetrated Buddhism”) remanifests itself in various forms in the works of one major Korean thinker after another throughout the history of the tradition.[5]

Korean influence on East Asian Buddhism

Contemporary scholar Robert Buswell asserts that Korean scholarship has had a significant influence the rest of East Asian Buddhism. He notes that "Korean commentarial and scriptural writing were all composed in literary Chinese."[2] He asserts that these texts written in Korea were often able to exert the same influence throughout East Asia as were texts written in China proper.[2]

Buswell suggests that the traditional Western view of Korean Buddhism as simply "a bridge for the transmission of Buddhism from China to Japan" is misguided. Buswell asserts that "Korea was not a bridge. It was instead bastion of Buddhist culture in its own right."[2] He asserts that the influence of Korean Buddhist thought extended as far as Tibet.[2]

Buswell asserts that throughtout the pre-modern era, there was continuous communication between Buddhist monasteries in Korea on those on mainland China. He notes that Korean seaports were centers of trade, and he suggests that it would have been relatively easy for Korean monks to travel with traders to mainlain China.[2]

Buswell notes that there were established Korean communities along the Chinese seaports, and that some Korean monks travelled to India.[2]

Buswell suggests that the "ready interterchange of Buddhist ideas between China, Korea and Japan (and other traditions as well)" reflects an East Asian Buddhism that is "something more than the sum of its constituent parts".[2]

Buswell suggests that Buddhist monks saw themselves "not so much as Korean monks, Chinese monks, or Japanese monks. But instead as joint collaborators in a religious tradition that transcended contemporary notions of nation and time."[2]

Example of Kim Hwasang

Kim Hwasang is an example of a Korean native who was influential in the early development of the Chan tradition within China. Kim Hwasang, known as Wuxiang in China, was based in Sichuan, and is credited as being the teacher of the Chan Master Wuzhu, who is written about in the Chan text Lidai fabao ji (The Record of the Dharma-Jewel Through the Generations).

Schools

Traditional schools within Korean Buddhism include:

Pure Land in Korea:

  • Pure Land practices are known in Korea, but it is not necessarily considered a separate school[5]>

Modern schools include:

  • Won
  • The Jingak Order

See also

References

  1. Harvey 2012, p. 224.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Korean Buddhism in an East Asian Context (Video) by Robert Buswell (relevant part starts at 21 minute mark)
  3. Harvey, Peter (2012-11-30). An Introduction to Buddhism (Introduction to Religion) (pp. 224). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Harvey, Peter (2012-11-30). An Introduction to Buddhism (Introduction to Religion) (pp. 225-226). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Korean Buddhism: A Short Overview, by Charles Muller


Further reading

  • Buswell, Robert E. (2005). Currents and countercurrents : Korean influences on the East Asian Buddhist traditions. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. ISBN 0824827627.
  • Buswell, Jr, Robert E (1992), The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea, Princeton, New JErsey: PUP.
  • Buswell, Robert E., ed. (2004). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 430–435. ISBN 0-02-865718-7.
  • Muller, Charles. Korean Buddhism: A Short Overview

Videos

See for instance

Description: “Robert Buswell, and Director of the Center for Buddhist Studies and Center for Korean Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles: Keynote address, The Western Conference of the Assocation for Asian Studies. (Note: first 21 minutes of video are introductory remarks for the conference.)”

Esternal links