Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post Reply
KiwiNFLFan
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:15 am

Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:21 am

I have accepted a job offer to go and teach English in South Korea. I'm a practicing Buddhist (kind of Japanese Pure Land with devotion to Kannon Bosatsu) but have no experience of Korean Buddhism.

I know that Seon is the predominant sect of Buddhism in Korea, but that doesn't really tell me much. Zen in the West is associated with plainness and austerity and raked gravel gardens. However, I know that Chan Buddhism in Korea (the "father" of Zen Buddhism) is basically a term for general Chinese Buddhist practice, including Pure Land practice. Is the situation the same in Korea?

I have a few basic questions.

1. What does daily Korean Buddhist practice look like? Chanting the Heart Sutra? Chanting Namu Amita Bul?
2. What role does Gwanseum play in Korean Buddhist practice? Is She a popular bodhisattva in Korea? What about Amitabha (Amita Bul)?
3. How are the Five Precepts treated in Korean Buddhism? Japanese Buddhism doesn't place as much emphasis on them (Jodo Shinshu says that precept keeping is unnecessary as faith in Amida Buddha is all that is required to be born in the Pure Land, and SGI doesn't require them at all). How are the first and the fifth precepts treated? Are most Korean Buddhists vegetarian? Do they abstain from alcohol? I know that like Japan, drinking plays a big part in Korean culture.
4. Has traditional Korean shamanism (shindo) influenced Korean Buddhism the way that Shinto has influenced Japanese Buddhism and Taoism and Shenism/Chinese folk religion has influenced Chinese Buddhism?
5. Is it common for Koreans to practice both shindo and Buddhism? Do Koreans go to both shindo places of worship and Buddhist temples?
6. Do Korean Buddhists use prayer beads to count the repetitions of Namu Amita Bul? If so, what do they look like?

Does anyone know of a good introduction to Korean Buddhism (how to visit temples, how to set up a home altar etc)?

User avatar
Dan74
Former staff member
Posts: 2665
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:59 pm

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by Dan74 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:49 pm

I am no kind of expert, so I hesitated to answer as I not only lack the knowledge but most of the answers will depend on the particulars of the school and the lineage. Regarding Chogye, the main Seon school, Robert Buswell's The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea, would be a good description of what monks do. There is also Kusan Sunim's The Way of Korean Zen and the very extensive koreanbuddhism.net site.

Korea is more Christian than Buddhist, but there are some vibrant monasteries and wonderful teachers around. On the English-speaking front, I believe Chonggo Sunim has a group in Seoul. He used to be active online and I always found him to be a pleasure to read and interact with.

I've practiced in the tradition for the better part of the last 15 years and frankly find it striking a beautiful kind of balance both in form and the teachings.

Sorry I hardly answered anything you've asked, but maybe here are some leads for you to start with.

Good luck!!!

_/|\_

KiwiNFLFan
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:15 am

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:43 pm

Thanks for the reply. I'll look into the resources.

What do you know about Cheontae Buddhism? I know it's derived from the Chinese Tiantai school, which came to Japan as Tendai (although I think Japanese Tendai has esoteric practices that Tiantai doesn't). They believe the Lotus Sutra is the highest Buddhist scripture and I know that Japanese Tendai practitioners chant portions of it along with doing nembutsu. Is Korean Cheontae the same?

User avatar
Dan74
Former staff member
Posts: 2665
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:59 pm

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by Dan74 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:44 pm

I don't know anything about it, sorry. I practiced under a Seon teacher, so little that I know is from Seon, square in the Chogye.

User avatar
rory
Posts: 1508
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by rory » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:56 pm

Yes, there is Chontae, which is the Korean school of Tiantai/Tendai. Here is their website:
http://www.cheontae.org/
and of course you will find Kannon-sama 관세음보살 is very important.( Gwanseeum Bosal) Because of the famous ch. 25 of the Lotus Sutra devoted to Kannon.
from their website in English:
he Cheontae Order of Korean Buddhism encourages all devotees to recite Lotus Sutra and offers a wide vari- ety of courses which help people understand the scriptures. The 25th chapter, The Universal Gate of Bodhisattva Kanzeon, is used as a chant.
Guinsa is the head temple and looks beautiful :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinsa and here is the sect university:
https://www.ggu.ac.kr/ and wikipedia says they have a temple stay and language program
[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geumgang_University[/url

gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Tenma
Posts: 936
Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:25 am

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by Tenma » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:07 pm

1. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source= ... 1zNA7JVfq1

2. Very high, she's like the main bodhisattva of Korea(though there is the occasional Ksitigarbha practice and the other bodhisattva practices like Maitreya and Manjushri that are pretty obscure). Amitabha is also pretty common, but so are Vairocana and Shakyamuni(Seokga-moonee).

3. Yes, vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol is key. There's a reason to the different vegetarian dishes that vary(especially ones that depend on mountain vegetation) like using acorns or tofu.

4. While shamanism does adopt some Buddhist parts amongst the mudangs, it varies. Temples usually don't go towards shamanistic styles, but the two correspond well with each other for laymen culturally(shamanic superstition and traditions alongside Buddhist traditions such as funerals that correlate with each other in ways). However, I wouldn't quite put Shintoism as a comparison as shamans vary by region and it's not as "organized" as Shintoism with priests(either way, historically speaking, Japan and Korea don't quite have a good relationship with each other, so I'd advise stepping away from thinking Japanese culture in Korea), it's more like Mongolian shamanism(but rather fancy and elaborate in rituals and objects from an urban perspective instead of nomadic and pastoral styles) especially as Korean shamanism and its people originates from there.

5. Perhaps in villages, yes, though not quite. Their goes shamanic traditions and superstition such as the color red, but Buddhism gets in, especially in funerals when they correlate with each other in a way(but then, it varies by region). Still, some Korean gods and spirits are protectors of monasteries(you'll see this amongst different mountain deities). There's even a folklore myth(in a region of North Korea unfortunately, so I wouldn't recommend trying to go there) of the creation of the world with Shakyamuni and Maitreya(or Mireuk Bosal)

6. Of course! Like any other(though you might pronounce it "Namu Amida-bul")

That, I don't have any remembered experience(I was only a toddler when I was in Korea), though make sure to take off shoes before entering the temple and be prepared to make 108 prostration! Home altar, like any other Buddhist altar. Though an abbot or monk would know more. Just be careful with the radical Christian Koreans that want to destroy temples and kill off the sangha alongside seeing mudangs as devil worshipers. Anyhow, have a nice trip!

Tenma
Posts: 936
Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:25 am

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by Tenma » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:09 pm

rory wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:56 pm
Yes, there is Chontae, which is the Korean school of Tiantai/Tendai. Here is their website:
http://www.cheontae.org/
and of course you will find Kannon-sama 관세음보살 is very important.( Gwanseeum Bosal) Because of the famous ch. 25 of the Lotus Sutra devoted to Kannon.
from their website in English:
he Cheontae Order of Korean Buddhism encourages all devotees to recite Lotus Sutra and offers a wide vari- ety of courses which help people understand the scriptures. The 25th chapter, The Universal Gate of Bodhisattva Kanzeon, is used as a chant.
Guinsa is the head temple and looks beautiful :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinsa and here is the sect university:
https://www.ggu.ac.kr/ and wikipedia says they have a temple stay and language program
[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geumgang_University[/url

gassho
Rory
It says Kwan Seu Um Bosal(관세음보살)

jmlee369
Posts: 403
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:22 am

Re: Introduction to Korean Buddhism

Post by jmlee369 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:29 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:21 am
I have accepted a job offer to go and teach English in South Korea. I'm a practicing Buddhist (kind of Japanese Pure Land with devotion to Kannon Bosatsu) but have no experience of Korean Buddhism.

I know that Seon is the predominant sect of Buddhism in Korea, but that doesn't really tell me much. Zen in the West is associated with plainness and austerity and raked gravel gardens. However, I know that Chan Buddhism in Korea (the "father" of Zen Buddhism) is basically a term for general Chinese Buddhist practice, including Pure Land practice. Is the situation the same in Korea?

I have a few basic questions.

1. What does daily Korean Buddhist practice look like? Chanting the Heart Sutra? Chanting Namu Amita Bul?
2. What role does Gwanseum play in Korean Buddhist practice? Is She a popular bodhisattva in Korea? What about Amitabha (Amita Bul)?
3. How are the Five Precepts treated in Korean Buddhism? Japanese Buddhism doesn't place as much emphasis on them (Jodo Shinshu says that precept keeping is unnecessary as faith in Amida Buddha is all that is required to be born in the Pure Land, and SGI doesn't require them at all). How are the first and the fifth precepts treated? Are most Korean Buddhists vegetarian? Do they abstain from alcohol? I know that like Japan, drinking plays a big part in Korean culture.
4. Has traditional Korean shamanism (shindo) influenced Korean Buddhism the way that Shinto has influenced Japanese Buddhism and Taoism and Shenism/Chinese folk religion has influenced Chinese Buddhism?
5. Is it common for Koreans to practice both shindo and Buddhism? Do Koreans go to both shindo places of worship and Buddhist temples?
6. Do Korean Buddhists use prayer beads to count the repetitions of Namu Amita Bul? If so, what do they look like?

Does anyone know of a good introduction to Korean Buddhism (how to visit temples, how to set up a home altar etc)?
1. Korean lay people often pick one of the four methods for their daily practice: Buddha name recitation (yeom bul, 염불), prostrations (jeol, 절), mantra/dharani recitation (juryeok, 주력), and sutra recitation (dokgyeong, 독경). Meditation is often considered the domain of monastics (with notable exceptions). They may often prepare themselves for these practices by reciting Thousand Hands Sutra (cheonsugyeong, 천수경, a liturgy based on the Nilakantha dharani of Avalokitesvara and often used as a preliminary practice before other rituals), the Heart Sutra, and doing the Seven Homages (chiljeongrye, 칠정례).

2. Gwaneum is a major object of popular devotion. Often times, the prayer ceremonies at temples will be based around the chanting of her name. Amitabha practice is also very popular, but often limited to practices for the deceased.

3. The five preepts are transmitted in ceremonies, but observance can be quite lax. Majority of Korean Buddhists (even many monastics) are not vegetarian, and do not abstain from alcohol (despite taking the precepts).

4. Buddhism has had a bigger influence of Korean shamanism than the reverse, I think, but practically all Buddhist temples in Korea have a shrine for the mountain god, along with the Buddha-fied Big Dipper spirits and sometimes also the dragon (naga) king. (btw, Korean shaminism is referred to as musok-shinang 무속신앙)

5. Most card carrying Buddhists these days do not associate with shamanism, but there is still a significant overlap. In terms of the general population, you can say roughly 50% are non religious, 25% Buddhist, 25% Christian. Many of the non-religious are somewhat sympathetic to shamanism and Buddhism, but are more likely to treat temples as tourist attractions more than anything. You only really seek out shamans when you have a problem.

6. Yes, Koreans use beads, usually 108 for recitation counting, otherwise a bracelet as a marker of faith (like Christian crucifix necklaces) is common. Just google 염주 for images or look here, but I must say they're getting much fancier than the old wood and seed ones I'm used to seeing.

As a general resource, if you're still in NZ (even Auckland?) I think Auckland Libraries had an introduction to Korean Buddhism published by the Jogye Order. You can also visit the two Korean temples, one in Kumeu and the other in Titirangi. I would second Buswell's The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea as a good look into monastic life (albeit a slightly dated view).
What do you know about Cheontae Buddhism? I know it's derived from the Chinese Tiantai school, which came to Japan as Tendai (although I think Japanese Tendai has esoteric practices that Tiantai doesn't). They believe the Lotus Sutra is the highest Buddhist scripture and I know that Japanese Tendai practitioners chant portions of it along with doing nembutsu. Is Korean Cheontae the same?
The Cheontae Order really comes as a charismatic movement around its (Korean) founder Sangwol Wongak. While it claims succession to the Korean Cheontae lineage, there is a 500 year gap. Furthermore, the modern Cheontae order is very much based on the core practice of Gwaneum recitation rather than Lotus Sutra recitation. They are also caught up in the legacy of Japanese colonialism when the colonial government tried to impose Japanese style priesthood in Korea (abandoning Vinaya celibacy). In the post war chaos, the monastic lineage in Korea almost died out at the notion of non-celibate monks became quite widespread. The founder of the modern Cheontae lineage never received formal monastic training or ordination, so the Cheontae order has adopted the 10 precept ordination often found in Japan.

Post Reply

Return to “Seon”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests