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Ganhwaseon Practice(看話禪修行) in Europe: Present Situation and Future
From International Symposium of Bojo Thoughts Institute, 16, November, 2005

Written by  Bernard Senecal sj
Faculty of Religious Studies,
Sogang University,
Seoul, South Korea


The practice of Ganhwaseon1) in Europe is in line with the broader context of the introduction of Buddhism into the Western world. Accordingly, in order to study that practice we must first examine the context it belongs to. The English historian Arnold Toynbee(1889-1975) did not hesitate to say that the introduction of Buddhism in the West constituted the most important historical event of the 20th century. It may perhaps be compared with the introduction of Indian Buddhism into China some two thousand years ago. As a result, the encounter of Buddhism with the West most certainly represents and event of extremely broad and deep meaning.

Many scholars have strove to define the boundaries of the encounter of Buddhism with the West. In 1952, Cardinal Henri de Lubac (1896-1991) published La Rencontre du bouddhisme et de l’Occident, a work that would become a classic.2) In 1999, Frederic Lenoir published another book,3) on the same topic and with exactly the same title, in which he updated de Lubac’s work. And in 2000, the famous Singer-Polignac foundation, located in Paris, organized a colloquium on the understanding of the encounter of Buddhism and the West since Henri de Lubac(L’Intelligence de la rencontre du bouddhisme, La rencontre du bouddhisme et de l’Occident depuis Henri de Lubac).4) This colloquium may be understood as an attempt to understand the main events having marked the history of Western Buddhism during the second half of the 20th century. In 2002, also came out a book entitled Westward Dharma, Buddhism Beyond Asia.5) According to its authors the study of Western Buddhism has begun only recently6) and it is still to early to describe its outcome.7)

In fact, it is quite difficult to define in a fully satisfactory way such broad entities as Buddhism and the Western World. Consequently, in 2003, willing to favor a complete, precise and balanced understanding of Buddhism by Westerners, Paul Magnin published Bouddhisme, unite et diversite-Experiences de liberation.8) Of course, the seven hundred and fifty pages of this synthetic introduction to Buddhism represent the culmination of the author’s thirty years of scholarly research and reflection. But as I began writing this paper, I would have appreciated to find a work capable to match Paul Magnin’s book, and that would have been entitled L’Occident, unite et diversite-Experiences de liberation. If such a book existed, it ought to state clearly the ground on which the unity of the Western world and its experiences of liberation may be defined. Nevertheless, in order to talk about the encounter of Buddhism and the West coherently, one has to provide at least a minimal definition of those two concepts. But such definitions should be dynamic, that is, capable of taking into account the fact that reality is constantly changing. And that is even more so when we begin to realize that Buddhism and the West are already engaged in a process of mutual transformation. Such is the context in which we have to examine the practice of Ganhwaseon in Europe.

Since our research is limited to Europe, it may look easier at first sight. But such is not the case. That is because the Ganhwaseon practiced in Europe comes from at least four different countries : China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Moreover, things may be complicated by the fact that  traditions that existed independently in their homeland may now interact freely as they have to coexist within the European countries they have been imported to.9) In addition to that, one has to take into account the fact that the activity of Masters like Seungsahn and Thich Nhat Hanh goes well beyond Europe. That may make it all the more arbitrary to try to describe the practive of Ganhwaseon in Europe. We should also keep in mind that Europe is a huge continent of 3.900.000 square kilometers, with a population of 456.000.000 people, living in 25 different countries and speaking 20 official languages, not to talk about dialects. Even as it is strugling to achieve its unity, Europe keeps expanding by accepting new countries.10) As the result of those geographical characteristics, the context in which Buddhism is expanding in Europe is very different from that of America.11) Similarly, Buddhist-Christian dialogue has started later in Europe than in America.12)

There are two ways to approach the practice of Ganhwaseon in Europe. The first one consists in reducing the dimensions of the topic. In order to do that we can limit our study to the three main European schools offering Ganhwaseon practice to their followers.

The first one has been founded by the Japanese Taisen Deshimaru(1914-1982), a disciple of K?d? Sawaki(1880-1965) from the S?t? school(曹洞宗). Arrived in Paris in 1967, Taisen Deshimaru trained a lot of disciples and founded the Association Zen d’Europe, which later became the  Association Zen Internationale(AZI).13) In 1979, he acquired the estate of la Gendronniere(Loir-et-Cher) and founded the first European Buddhist monastery. His several thousand disciples have founded over a hundred temples all over Europe. At present, the AZI runs over  two hundred temples worldwide.

The second one is the Sanbo Kyodan(三寶敎團),14) a minority group among the Japanese Zen schools, also called the Kamakura school. It has been founded by Hakuun Yasutani(1885-1973)15), a disciple of Harada Dauin Sogaku(1871-1961)16), who had inherited the Dharma of both the Rinzai(臨濟宗) and the S?t? schools. This school distinguishes itself by two characteristics.  First, it never required from its Western followers that they convert to Buddhism. On the contrary, it still claims that anybody, including non Buddhists, can benefit from the practice of Ganhwaseon. For this reason, the Sanbo Kyodan has transmitted the Dharma to a number of Westerners that were working in Japan, including Christian pastors, sisters and priests, as well as rabbis. As those people went back to their native countries, they created branches of the Sanbo Kyodan.

The third group has been founded by Thich Nhat Hanh and is based on the practice of the Vietnamese version of Seon called Thien. Thich Nhat Hanh came to the West in 1970 and created several meditation groups in a number of countries. In 1982, he decided to settle down in France at the Village des Pruniers(Dordogne), and created an association called l’Ordre de l’Inter-Etre,17) which very strongly emphasizes both the practice of meditation and the importance of social work.18)

Each of the above three groups reckons approximately thirty thousand people. Nevertheless, with around half of its members practicing hwadu(話頭) meditation, the Sanbo Kyodan from Japan is by far the most important European school of Ganhwaseon. There are, of course, other schools of Ganhwaseon in Europe, like for instance from the Japanese Rinzai or the Korean Kwan?m(觀音)19) lineages. However, since they numerically much less important, just like Taisen Deshimaru’s AZI or Thich Nhat Hanh’s Ordre de l’Inter-Etre, in the fourth part of this paper we shall focus our attention on a more detailed description of the Sanbo Kyodan.20)

A second way to study the practice of Ganhwaseon in Europe, which we shall also use in this paper, consists in observing how the Western mind interacts with the spirit of the Seon school. More precisely, we will try to show how this mind encounters the religious tradition that has most contributed to the shaping of the Western mentalities. Even though Western Christianity is facing a deep crisis it undoubtedly remains the main religious tradition of the West. Therefore, the first part of this paper will be a synthetic introduction to the encounter of the practice of Ganhwaseon with the Occident. The second one will point to some aspects of Christianity that may facilitate the adaptation of Ganhwaseon practice to the Western world. A third one will describe what kind of help and transformation Christianity may expect from such a practice. A fourth and final part will describe some of the concrete attempts that have been made to integrate hwadu meditation to traditional Christian methods of meditation.

1. Understanding the Encounter of Ganhwaseon with the West


Above all, one should keep in mind that Ganhwaseon has a very long history. A rapid glance at a book like Jeong Seongbon S?nim’s Seon’?i Sasanggwa Yeoksa21) is enough to realize it. In order to understand Ganhwaseon practice as it has been completed and established under the Song dynasty by Wono K?kk?n(?悟克勤,22) 1063-1125), from the Yanggi  branch of the Imje school(臨濟宗 楊岐派23)), and his Dharma heir Taehye Chonggo(大慧宗?,24) 1089-1163), one has to trace the remote beginnings of its history back to the third millenium B.C. in Indian Antiquity. As a result, the development of Ganhwaseon has taken place over several centuries and left us a considerable amount of litterature. It is a well known fact that Ganhwaseon  practice may be considered the ultimate fruit of the encounter of Indian Buddhism with Chinese thought. Moreover Seon also is the most Confucian form of Buddhist.25) As a result, Ganhwaseon practice not only represents the result of a long encounter of Chinese thought with Indian Buddhism but also the complete emancipation of the latter from the speculative tendencies of the former.26)

This all means that Ganhwaseon is inseparable from very concrete situations. Consequently, one cannot but wonder how harmoniously the result of such a long historical process in the Far East can integrate itself as such to the West. Accordingly, it certainly isn’t an exaggeration to say that a full integration of Ganhwaseon to the Occident may require several centuries. Moreover, in order to be successful, the result of such a process should involve both faithfulness to the original spirit of Ganhwaseon  and its perfect adaptation to Western culture. Maybe it will be possible, then, to talk about the quintessence of the encounter of Far East Buddhism with Western culture.

However, we may wonder if our scholarly knowledge of Buddhism and the sophisticated means of communication and transportation that are available in today’s world will not greatly accelerate and facilitate the settling of Ganhwaseon in the West. This could then mean that the Occident does not need, in order to understand the Buddha’s teachings correctly, a phase of adaptation similar to the one China went through as it interpreted Buddhists concepts through Taoist categories during two centuries.27) As a result, quoting the worldwide achievements of Masters like Hakuun Yasutani, Seungsahn or Sheng-yen,28) some do not hesitate to claim that Ganhwaseon has already taken root in the West.

Nevertheless, Victor So?gen Hori29) from McGill University does not hesitate to say that the Dharma still has to come to the West. Such a statement does dot deny the existence of a great number of Seon centers throughout the Western world, but challenges the validity of the meditation practiced and the authenticity of the Dharma  transmitted in those places.30) I also believe that it is to early to claim that the Dharma has already arrived to the Occident. Indeed Ganhwaseon practice only represents a fraction of Western Buddhism’s practice and, even though the Buddha’s tradition seems destined to enjoy a bright future, its followers still do not represent more than a tiny minority.

The following table displays the number of Buddhists and Buddhist groups found in ten European countries in the late 1990s.31)



Buddhists from Asia

Groups and


Approximate Total Population


Percentage of Total Population That Were





























































                            note: ~denotes very rough estimate

As we can see, in England, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland the numbers of Buddhists coming from Asia is far superior to that of the native converts. We must also notice that the statistics corresponding to French Buddhism are nothing but a gross approximation. That is because good information remains difficult to find and because it is hard to define who really is a Buddhist.32) But this identification problem seems to go well beyond France.33)

We should also be careful to keep in mind that the figures displayed in the above table do not correspond to the Seon school but only to Buddhism as a whole. However the following chart gives an idea of how Buddhism from five European countries may be categorized according to tradition.34)


Great Britain



































It has to be noticed that, with the exception of France, Tibetan Buddhism has a majority in all countries. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that a certain number of Seon centers in France have had to close their doors because of the fierce competition coming from Tibetan Buddhism. In other words, Europeans are strongly attracted by Buddhism from Tibet.

According to Martin Baumann, Buddhism is destined to remain a minority religion in Europe during the 21th century.35) That is enough to make some people in the Far East hastily conclude that Westerners cannot achieve enlightenment. Such statements recall us the Roshis(老師) claiming that being  Japanese was a condition sine qua non to achieve enlightenment. Such a declaration is not only founded on ultranationalism, it also denies the core teaching of Mah?y?na Buddhism, according to which all sentient beings are endowed with the Buddha nature(佛性). In order to refute it, let us quote the dialogue that took place between the young and illiterate Hyen?ng(慧能, 638-713) and the Fifth Patriarch Hongin(第五祖弘忍, 594-674).

“The priest Hung-jen asked me : ‘Where are you from that you come to this mountain to make obeisance to me ? Just what is it that you are looking for from me?’ I replied : ‘I am from Ling-nan, a commoner from Hsin-chou. I have come this long distance only to make obeisance to you. I am seeking no particular thing but only the Buddhadharma.’ The Master then reproved me, saying : ‘If you’re from Ling-nan then you’re a barbarian. How can you become a Buddha?’ I replied : ‘Although people from the south and people from the north differ, there is no north and south in Buddha nature. Although my barbarian’s body and your body are not the same, what difference is there in our Buddha nature?’ The Master wished to continue his discussion with me ; however, seeing that there were other people nearby, he said no more. Then he sent me to work with the assembly. Later a lay disciple had me go to the threshing room where I sent over eight months treading the pestle.” T.2007, vol.48, p.337a27-b7. Translation from The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, the text of the Tun-Huang manuscript, translated, with notes, by Philip B. Yampolsky, New York, Columbia University Press, 1967, p. 127-128.36)

Needless to say that it is very contradictory to pretend that the Dharma has to be transmitted to the West while harboring such prejudices.

Roshi Albert Low from the Montreal Zen Center insists to say that it is quite counter-productive to claim that the Dharma has not come to the West yet. Instead, he suggests to work at discovering or rediscovering the elements of Western thought and culture that may favor the acceptance and integration of the Dharma to the Occident.37) In a sense, what Albert Low says may be understood as Buddhism already existing in the West even before the coming of the Dharma.  Nevertheless, however seductive such an idea may be, it ought to be handled carefully. Because if the Dharma already exists in the West, then its introduction from Asia shouldn’t make any difference.

In the next chapter, we shall examine closely some aspects of Christianity that may facilitate the adaptation of Ganhwaseon to the West.

2. Christian Hermitic life and Ganhwaseon

In order to understand how Ganhwaseon may be adapted to the West, it is very important to grasp thoroughly what constitutes the core of hermitic life in the Christian tradition.38)

1)  The Age of the Desert Fathers

Western hermitic life began in the third century with Saint Antony of Egypt(250-356). He retired alone to the desert39) in order to begin living as a hermit. People being attracted by his life of asceticism, he soon found himself surrounded by many followers. Moreover, Antony’s influence rapidly reached the rest of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Arabia and all parts of Europe where thousands of people made the decision to become hermits.

The appearance of Western hermitic life corresponds to the time when Constantine(? -337) converted to Christianity. Christians naturally rejoiced greatly as a long dreamed of event finally materialized. But such a triumph also had its side effect. Indeed, as the political power of the Church started to rise, the fervor of its followers began to cool down. Since it is precisely that fervor that had favored the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire, its loss could not but be deplored by lucid believers. Therefore, it certainly is no coincidence if the beginning of hermitic life corresponds to an overall weakening of the Christian faith. In other words, hermitic life can be understood as the strong reaction of some believers willing to recover the spirit that had animated the martyrs throughout three centuries of harsh persecutions. The Christians who animated that very powerful renewal movement are called the fathers of the desert.

In fact, in order to find the origins of Western hermitic life, one has to go back to great figures of the Old Testament like Abraham(19th c. BCE), Moses(13th c. BCE) and Elijah(9th c. BCE). And, of course, one also has to remind John the Baptist(1st c. BCE-1 c. CE)40), who lived in the desert during several decades, and Jesus the Christ, who did the same during forty days, fasting and overcoming all temptations.41)

The desert fathers left us a huge inheritance : “collections of their sayings, letters, sermons, ascetical treatises, biographies, monastic rules, and historical and theological essays of great value.”42) Among the praying methods that they have thaught us, one deserves a special attention. It is called ?prayer of the heart? and chiefly consists in repeating, day and night, to the rhythm of one’s breath, the name of Jesus. In many ways, this technique of meditation resembles the continuous(omae iryeo 寤寐一如) observing(kan 看) of the critical phrase(hwadu 話頭) of a kongan(公安).43) The practice of the prayer of the heart began in the Eastern church from where it has spread all over the world. Its goal consists in achieving continuous peace of the heart. The literature left to us by the desert fathers has considerably influenced all currents of Christian spirituality.44)

Over the centuries, Christian hermitic life has taken a great variey of forms. It is neither necessary nor possible to describe them all in this paper. Therefore I will only indicate briefly the role played by hermitic life at some key moments of the history of Christianity.

2)  The Middle Ages and Saint Francisco of Assisi


 Francisco of Assisi(1182-1226), the famous Italian saint who created the religious order that bears his name, may well be considered one of the chief representatives of hermitic life in the Middle Ages. In his time, the Church enjoyed considerable power and wealth. The extreme poverty that characterized Francisco’s life style has been a powerful challenge for an institution that had moved away from Christ’s spirit. There is no doubt that the long time that Saint Francisco spent in solitude, praying and fasting, allowed him to gather the spiritual energy necessary to accomplish his mission .45) It is also well worth noticing that he wrote a rule for hermits.   

3) The Renaissance and Ignatius of Loyola

The Church of the Renaissance saw the rising of the Basque Ignatius of Loyola(1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus, also called the Jesuit Order. Ignatitus came to realize that the Church of his time was to narrowly centered on Europe and that it had to open itself up to the rest of the world. That is the reason why he founded an international religious order which he placed directly under the authority of the pope. As a result, the members of that congregation could go anywhere in the world in order to answer rapidly and efficiently to any demand of the supreme authority of the Church. But the most amazing is the fact that Saint Ignatius not only lived as a hermit for over a year, but also considered seriously dedicating all his existence to that life style. Indeed, he wanted to enter in the Carthusian Order, whose most famous monastery, la Grande Chartreuse,46) is located in the French Alps. That religious congregation has been founded by Saint Bruno(1030-1101) for people desiring to spend their whole life in a community of hermits. Though Saint Ignatius’ desire has not been realized as such, it has considerably influence all the spirituality of the Jesuit Order. That is why it may be said that the Jesuits are Carthusians living right in the middle of the world. This means that there is a common ground between the desire of a hermit to enjoy the freedom of a complete solitude, that allows the total entrusting of oneself to the action of the Spirit, and the apostolic freedom, to be found in the middle of action, aimed by Saint Ignatius to realize the same goal. This means that the contemplation of a hermitic life can be fully combined to a radical social commitment. It is written in the constitutions of the Society of Jesus that any Jesuit willing to become a Carthusian monk is perfectely free to do so. This means that for the fully awakened one there can’t be any contradiction between living in complete solitude and being present to the whole world. It also signifies that as it is possible to contemplate right in the middle of highly dynamic action,47) it is also possible to be active in the depth of the most profound contemplation.48) Here we can discover one of the main characteristics of the way of life embodied by Christ himself.49)

 4) Today’s Hermitic life

Hermitic tradition remains very lively in today’s world. The mere fact that it exists offers to people the possibility to take some distance from a society that is so full of itself that it believes that its high technique and industry is capable of satisfying all of human desires. Indeed, even though they lived in solitude, hermits have always played the role of spiritual director for those that came to beg their help. Moreover, when hermits live in communities, they often run retreat houses allowing those willing to do so to share their life style for some time. Here, rather than describing the multiple forms of hermitic life found in today’s world, I will briefly recall some of its key figures. This should allow us to detect the main trends of hermitic life in today’s world.

The French Charles de Foucauld(1858-1916) has spent his life as a hermit in the Hoggar Mounts of southern Algeria. By doing so, among other things, he aimed at entering into dialogue with Islam.

The Frenchmen Jean Monchanin(1895-1957) and Henri le Saux(1910-1973),50) as well as the Englishman Bede Griffiths(1906-1993) have dedicated their lives to a dialogue between Christianity and Hindouism by living with the hermits of the Saccidananda region of India.

As one of the most famous hermits of the 20th century, the American Thomas Merton(1915-1968) considered that the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers “enables us to reopen the sources that have been polluted or blocked up altogether by the accumulated mental and spiritual refuse of our technological barbarism.51) Such words remind us (8 c. BCE) what God  said, through the prophet Hosea, to the Hebrews who once more had abandoned Him to worship idols :  “I shall seduce you, take you to the desert and speak to your hearth.”52) One of Merton’s biggest contribution is his beginning of dialogue between Christianity and the Buddhists monks and nuns of Asia. This dialogue has kept developing ever since.53)  

Catherine de Hueck Doherty(1896-1985), from Russian descent, has written over thirty books, the best known of which is Poustinia. In that work she encourages people living in huge modern cities to create a space of silence and prayer, ie of desert, right in the middle of their homes. That is in order to become more intimate with God in every day life.  

 Finally, we can think of the Swissman Brother Roger(1915-2005), assasinated lately, whose Taize community in France has considerably favored the development of Christian ecumenism worldwide.

The above examples allow us to draw the following conclusions. Although the meaning of hermitic life is very often misunderstood by people, it has always had a considerable influence on all the Christian tradition. Indeed, even though they dwelled in solitude, hermits have always strongly influenced not only the life of the Church but also the societies on the fringe of which they lived. In this sense, it is not exaggerated to say that hermitism is the life of Christianity.

Even though hermits have never been more than a very small minority, it is important to underline that they have kept recalling all Christians the irreplaceable importance of silence and meditation whenever one wishes to deepen his understanding and knowledge of truth. Moreover, today’s hermits are inviting all Christians to achieve unity and to dialogue with the world religions.

All the above facts on hermitic life allow us to realize that Western society has at its disposal a strong tradition that can considerably facilitate its acceptation of Ganhwaseon practice.

3. The Help that Western Christianity can get from Ganhwaseon

Like all religions Christianity has been victim of its success. This is true to such an extent that we may say that as failure is the mother of success, success is the mother of failure.54) Western Christianity, despite having had to face challenges coming from atheism and inner divisions, has managed to maintain the same shape during several centuries. Moreover, it has had no serious contacts with another well organized religion, like Buddhism for instance, also dealing thoroughly with the problems of suffering and death.

There is no need to describe in this paper the actual situation of European Christianity. As we have said above, this Christianity is facing a crisis. The decreasing number of its faithfuls should be enought to prove it. As an explanation of this situation, we may say that European Christianity has lost a huge part of its vitality. Consequently it has also lost a lot of its capacity to attract people. In front of such a situation some naturally ask whether Chrisitianity still has a future or not.55) That is why so many Europeans are looking for a new source of hope. It is against that backdrop  that Ganhwaseon is being introduced into the Western world. My argument is that as a transfusion of blood may save the life of a dying person, so may Ganhwaseon practice, without loosing its identity, become a source of renewal for Western Christianity. Of course, Christianity may end up developing a new shape through such an encounter.

From here on , before explaining what kind of help Christianity may get from Ganhwaseon practice, I will recall briefly what is the original spirit of the Christian tradition and what are the consequences of its lost .

1) The Original Spirit of Christianity

In the New Testament Christ says of himself that he has nowhere to rest.56) In many ways such a statement may resemble one that is found in the Platform S?tra of the Sixth Patriarch(六祖壇經) and according to which non-abiding is set as the main doctrine(無住爲本).57) In order to understand the meaning of Jesus? words, we have to go back to Abraham, the common ancestor of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

As a Bedouin, Abraham lived in the solitude and silence of the deserts he wandered about. As a nomad, he had a tent for abode and did not store surplus products. He lived entrusting himself to the circumstances and believing that all he needed, beginning with water and food, would be given to him day after day.58) Even though the land Abraham was waking toward had been promised to him,59) instead of being thought of as a country like today’s Israel, that land should rather be understood as the true self60) that one has to find within him. In other words, in some ways, it resembles a lot the Pure Land.61) In that sense, Abraham was walking toward himself, that is toward his true nature. As he was following his course, Abraham was always opened to God and the others, so that he kept experiencing new realities. That is why it may be said that God kept surprising him. As God was not where Abraham expected him to be, He also was where Abraham did not expect Him to be.62) Similarly, Abraham did not know whom he would meet during his journeys across the desert. Such unexpected encounters kept transforming him. Consequently, as we can discover through Abraham’s experience, truth is not an abstract reality such that we could take hold of it. On the contrary, truth is a dynamic and lively reality we are being seized by through concrete experience. Such a truth is given at every step and rediscovered at every instant. If there were some signs along the desert roads followed by Abraham they kept indicating contradictory directions. In other words it was a road without road.63) . Some of Jesus’ words may help us to understand what this means : “The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound it makes, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So is it with everyone who is borne of the Spirit.”64)

It is in order to rediscover the nomadic spirit of Abraham that hermits made and still make the decision to entrust themselves to the solitude and the silence of the desert. It is this very spirit that has allowed them to act as reformers within Christianity. As this spirit when it is fully-fledged is the Spirit of Christ, it has to be the spirit of all Christians. In other words, as all Buddhists have to become living buddhas so should all Christians become living christs.65) But unfortunately, the descendants of Abraham tend to forget his spirit.

 2) The Problem with Christianity

History teaches us that Christians, Jews and Muslims keep displaying a tendency to forget the common root of their respective faith : the spirit of Abraham. In other words, they tend to prefer a sedentary life to a nomadic one, noise to silence, and gathering together rather than solitude. That is why they abandon nomadic life, and build houses in cities well indicated by road signs and in which they can store in large quantities just about anything they want. However such a transformation of their way of living has a considerable impact on their conception of truth. Truth loses its concrete and dynamic character to become a fossilized an absolute abstraction. At the same time, the Christians lose their ability to deal with reality inductively and their thinking becomes more and more deductive. Instead of being constantly transformed by constant and unpredictable encounters with God and others, they try to control those encounters by reducing God and others to their limited horizon. In a word, instead of living by the truth, they become administrators of the truth. As a result, the clerics harboring such a state of mind end up transforming the temple of Jerusalem into a place where a stuffed god is being worshipped. Such was Judaism in Jesus’ time. It may be said that Christianity is a reformist reaction to such a temple. Jesus said to the clerics of his time : “Woe to you experts on the law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. And not only haven’t you gained access, you have stopped others who were trying to enter.”66)

Of course, all that we have just said represents a dramatized and condensed view of Western Christianity. Nevertheless, it may be said that a  constant conflict, between a nomadic and a sedentary paradigm, constitutes one of the main impulses behind the unfolding of Christian history. Each time that the course of events has had an excessive tilt toward the latter, a reformist movement based on the former has arisen. This is exactly what a synthetic look at the history of hermitic life within Christianity has allowed us to highlight. And it may be said that the Christian conscience is always tempted to rebuild the Jerusalem temple,67) let it be in Rome or elsewhere. Such a tendency deepened as the Catholic church became split with the Orthodox church in 1054 and with the Protestant church in 1517.68) But the ecumenical council of Vatican II(1962-1965), as it has emphasized both the unity of all Christians and opened dialogue with all religions of mankind, has made a historical effort to put the situation right. And Pope John Paul II(1920-2005) has been perfectly faithful to that spirit of renewal.69) Such an opening in an effort to renew Christianity reminds us of the one made by some adepts of Seon desiring to renew their tradition through contacts with the West.70)

3) The Contribution of Ganhwaseon

I think that Ganhwaseon can bring something to a Christianity eager to renew itself. Indeed, Ganhwaseon practice can remind Christians of the traditional values hermitism and of Abraham nomadic life : silence, solitude, the mobility of non-abiding and meditation. Such a reminding cannot come from a inner challenge alone, it must necessarily also come from an external one. This means that a genuine reform is possible through an epoch-making event like the encounter of Ganhwaseon with Christianity.

Ganhwaseon has the advantage that it can be practiced, either individually or in group, even in the middle of cities. It suffices to regularly create a space of silence and solitude in the place where we dwell. Ganhwaseon may allow our troubled minds to get rid of their endless and sterile calculations to recover their original simplicity. As a result, it helps us to acquire a right view71) as he faces the world he lives in.

It cannot be said that Christians do not have traditional methods of prayer. On the contrary, though they have many, most of the time they either do not know them or do not use them. Moreover, if they want to recover a dynamic understanding of truth, these methods of prayers may gain much from an encounter with techniques of meditation coming from another tradition. For instance, though there exist both an affirmative and a negative way (Via Affirmativa and Negativa)72) within Christianity, the vast majority of those who pray usually tend to rely solely on the latter. As a concrete example, let us recall one of the sayings of Jesus to his disciples : “Still, I must tell you the truth : it is much better for you that I go.”73) In fact, this means that in order to fully understand who He is and what He has said, Christians must let him go. Even though Jesus has clearly told them not to do so, Christians keep being attached to him in an excessive way, as if they were hooked to a finger pointing the direction of the moon.74)  In many regards the dialectical relation of the affirmative and negative ways found in Christianity is very similar to the one found in Buddhism and especially in Seon .75) But the mutual complementarity of the two ways being much more clearly emplasized within Buddhism, the practice of Ganhwaseon can certainly help Christian to discover, or rediscove, and use a much more balanced approach of those two paradigms. In a word Christians have to be born again from above. As Jesus has said : “Unless one is born from above, one cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is exactly what the practice of Ganhwaseon may allow Christians to discover. And if I say it, it is because I have experienced it.

Of course, some people could easily argue that the main ideas developed in this paper tend to reduce the understanding of the practice of Ganhwaseon to some of the needs of Western Christianity. But D. T. Suzuki did exactly the same when he introduced Seon Buddhism to the West as the non historical essence of all religions. It can be said that this is an extremely limited and selected view of Buddhism. Because by introducing Seon as such in his most famous works,76) D. T. Suzuki repackaged Buddhism according to the expectations and hopes of his Western readers.77) Such an attitude may deserve many criticisms.78) Nevertheless, it is precisely because of that repackaging that D. T. Suzuki could successfully introduce Seon Buddhism to the Occident. And even though what he did may be considered some flawed, since he intended to remain faithful to the spirit of Seon, it is hard to say that such a repackaging was completely wrong. Moreover, it is possible to say that the whole history of Buddhism is filled with similar examples. For instance, in his History of Buddhist Philosophy, David J. Kalupahana introduces Buddhism to Westerners through occidental categories,79) to such an extent that some critics claim that what he talks about isn’t Buddhism anymore. But in fact, since Buddhism has kept doing the same thing, for the sake of its adaptation, each time that it entered in a new area, such criticisms seem misplaced. The birth of Mah?y?na or of Tantric Buddhism may be considered other examples of the same phenomena.80)

I shall now talk about the concrete attempts that have been made to integrate the practice of Ganhwaseon to Christian methods of prayer.

4. Attempts to Integrate Ganhwaseon Practice and Christian Methods of Cultivation

Since there exist both common points and differences between Buddhism and Christianity, the attempts to integrate Ganhwaseon practice to Christian teachings have sparked off a number of reactions. I am now going to mention some of these reactions. Afterwards, I will describe the Sanbo Kyodan and give an account of the past history and of the prospects of the attempts made to achieve an integration of Ganhwaseon practice to the Christian tradition.

1) Western Reactions to Seon Buddhism


A first reaction consists in believing that the practice of Seon is the sole way to achieve truth. As a result the advocates of such a position consider that Seon Buddhism is superior to all other religious traditions and they look down at them. The Dalai Lama is very critical of such people.81) They believe that the followers of traditions others than theirs cannot discover what they find in Seon Buddhism. Such a feeling of superiority may make them look endlessly for an ever purer form of Seon tradition. As a result, they may end up looking and sounding very fundamentalist. They may end up confusing unessential matters like, for instance, clothes, furniture, or the tea ceremony, with essential ones. Such people make the Dalai Lama laugh .82) At the opposite extreme some people consider that Seon Buddhism is nothing but a hoax destined to fooling people. This is exactly the position of H. Van Straelen in his Le Zen Demystifie.83)

The two fundamentalists attitudes that we have just described are clearly opposed to a dialogue between Seon Buddhism and the West. Between these two extremes, we can find positions that are opened to a dialogue between the cultural and religious context to which Seon Buddhism has to adapt. But the problem is to find a good balance between mutual transformation and the maintaining of each partners identity.

Let us take a look at some attitudes regarding Christian Seon. According to Jacques Brosse, any attempt to disconnect the practice of Seon from Buddhism amounts to its neutralization.84) Similarly, Eric Romeluere claims that the teachings of the Seon school and of Christianity are so different that Christian Seon amounts to pure schizophrenia.85) On the other hand, the Benedict monk and priest Willigis Jager86) has got so deeply into the practice of Ganhwaseon within the Sanbo Kyodan that he has obtained the Dharma seal and became, though still a Roman Catholic priest, Ko-un Roshi. He also runs a very successful meditation center, called the Benediktushof,87) near Wurzburg, in Germany. Moreover, at an international level, Father Jager is one of the three highest persons in charge of the Sanbo Kyodan.  But recently, the Vatican has decided to prevent Father Jager from teaching, declaring that the overall content of his predications was not conform to the tradition of the church. We may wonder if such a decision does not come from difficulties to understand the thought of a man who is too far ahead of his time. But even if it were so, let us remember the case of Thomas Merton who has managed to dwell in between the two extremes that we have just quoted. He declared that the more he got to know and love Buddhism, the more he could live as a good Christian.88) He also said that he felt closer to Buddhist monks practicing meditation than to Christians that did not. Nevertheless, Thomas Merton’s orthodoxy has never been challenged and he is unanimously recognized as a beacon of the encounter of Christianity with Buddhism.

2) The Sanbo Kyodan(三寶敎團)


With thirty thousand members, the Sanbo Kyodan is by far the largest organization teaching Ganhwaseon in Europe. Its followers have the choice between two different paths.89)

The first one, called ‘shikantaza(只管打坐)’90) merely consists in sitting down, observing one’ breath and physical sentations or the sensations coming from outside the body but without developing any attachment to them. In addition to that, those who wish to do so may pronounce the sound mu(無) with their mouth and lips, but without producing any sound. About half of the members of the Sanbo Kyodan practice shikantaza.

The second method adds Ganhwaseon practice to shikantaza and is practiced by the other members of the Sanbo Kyodan.

The Sanbo Kyodan uses about seven hundred kongans(公案) coming from five different collections(konganjip 公案集). They are given to the adept one by one and in a predetermined order. He must find the answer to a given kongan in order to get the next one, and must solve all the seven hundred kongans to get the Dharma seal. The first collection contains twenty two kongans. It has been made for Westerners by the founders of the Sanbo Kyodan. In general, these kongans have been selected from the other collections and their content does not refer too much to the Chinese background they come from.91) 

The other collections are the Mumungwan(無門關), the Pyeogamnok(碧巖錄), the Jongyongnok(從容錄) and the Jeond?ngnok(傳燈錄). Yamada Koun Roshi(1907-1989) has made commentaries(chech’ang 提唱) for the all the kongans found in those records. As he wanted his students to understand easily, he thaught in English and explained to them the Chinese cultural, spiritual and religious background of each kongan. A commentary is not an answer to a kongan but an explanation that allows the student to getter a better grasp of the question asked by it. The commenteries of Yamada Koun Roshi have been translated in English, French, German and other European languages. The making of the commentaries is based on the kongans. As the content of the kongans is extremely diversified it allows the writers of commentaries to deal with just about every aspect of the adept’s life, either internal or external. In the Sanbo Kyodan, all the people that have either taken the direction of an already existing meditation center or created a new one have written commentaries in European languages.

The people practicing Ganhwaseon can do it individually or with a group meditating on a regular basis, generally weekly, or during an intensive training period lasting several days(yongmaeng jeongjin 勇猛精進). The encounter with the Roshi can take place during the weekly practice meeting, or twice a day during a period of intense training, or during an individual visit of the adept to the Roshi.  The adept enters the room where the Roshi is sitting, bows in front of him, reads the text of the kongan that he is meditating and keeps silent during a brief moment. That silence is kept in order to allow the Roshi to say something or ask a question if he wishes to. Afterward, the adept displays the state of mind that he has achieved(ch’ed?khan kyeonggye 體得한 境界). In 99% of the cases, the answer must be non verbal. In other words the state of mind achieved has to be expressed through a gesture or an attitude. If the answer is correct, the Roshi may say a few words to help the student expand his conscience even more. Afterwards, the adept may start meditating the next kongan of the collection that he is going through. If the answer is wrong, the Roshi tells it to the student and then sends him back. In such a case, the adept has to keep trying to find an answer by himself, a process that may take several months if not years.

Kongans do not have logical answers. Consequently, an answer has to be found in an other dimension than that of reason. By doing so, a level of conscience different from the ordinary one may be stimulated. A correct answer cannot come out of a logical process. It must rather spring up from the deepest part of the human being. The answer must be non verbal in order to prevent the mind from playing the endless game of its rational tricks. Here, the Roshi’s attitude is very important, because he must discern instantly whether the state of mind displayed by the adept is rational or not. If it is, he must uproot the cause of the wrong answer on the spot. Here, ‘wrong’ does not mean that the answer is bad from a rational standpoint, but rather that it cannot arouse a deeper state of conscience. Indeed, the goal of kongans is to spark off small or big awakenings. The intense observation of the critical phrase of a hwadu(話頭) continuously trains the mind of the practitioner and leads him toward an ever greater opening to the hidden reality of the world.

Two main reasons may be given to explain why the members of the Sanbo Kyodan are attracted by the practice of Ganhwaseon. The first one is because they believe that such a practice will allow them to discover something that does not exist in the Western tradition. The second one is because they hope that Ganhwaseon will help them to get the indomitable and countless passions of their mind under control. It is interesting to notice that they all start looking at kongans with a considerable amount of curiosity, believing that they are simple enigmas that they will be able to solve through rational thinking. However, most of them overcome this first approach. But the most essential problem comes from the Chinese cultural background in which Ganhwaseon was born. Its understanding requires the learning of an entirely new language with its symbols and metaphors. This is the reason why Ganhwaseon will never be popularized. Of course, a considerable number of works explaining the context in which Ganhwaseon was born, as well as translations and interpretations of the records of the sayings of the patriarchs, or of the s?tras and treaties, keep being published in Western languages.92) In addition to that many efforts have been made to create kongans for Westerners and there are numerous possibilities. Material like some short stories coming from the Bible, as well as sayings of Christ or of the desert fathers could be used. But to my knowledge nobody has really succeeded yet in taking advantage of that material. Above all, there should be specific answers to the kongans thus made, but nobody has done yet the research necessary to find and test them.

The above informations allow us to see that the Sanbo Kyodan can rightly claim that it has a clear Dharma lineage. In addition to that, it also offers a fully-fledged course of kongans, to be solved one by one, and each having a distinct answer. On the other hand, it is important to mention that some masters attach no importance to these three elements, claiming that a course of kongans to be covered step by step, each with its own answer, is against the genuine spirit of the Seon school. In addition to that, the Sanbo Kyodan also enjoys a good international organization and all its masters agree to abide by a strict and clear code of ethics.93) In that regard, the Sanbo Kyodan is unlike so many Seon centers that do not belong to a specific organization.

Beside the reasons that we have just mentioned, there are two others that may help to understand the success of the Sanbo Kyodan. The first one is that its first Western members are people who went to Japan to learn the culture and the language. It is with such a first hand knowledge that they went back to their native countries to transmit the teachings of the school. The second is its openness toward other religions, including Christianity. But the AZI of Taisen Deshimaru and the Association Inter-Etre of Thich Nhat Hanh, the two other main Seon groups of Europe, even though it doesn’t seem to be the result of a systematic policy like in the case of the Sanbo Kyodan, also attract a number of Christians. For instance, many French Christians listen attentively to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh whose great openness toward other religions is well known. Among the many books that he has written, one is entitled Going Home-Jesus and Buddha as Brothers. Similarly, it is not difficult to find many Christians among the members of the AZI. In 2004, during an encounter with Yuno Roland Rech,94) one of the high responsible of this group, he told me : “So much the better if the practice of Seon may be of some help to the Christians.” Of course, the great interest taken by some Christians in Seon does not necessarily mean that they intend to give up their religious identity.

Master Seungsahn of the Kwan?m Seonjong has said : “I myself am the way, I am truth, and I am life.”95) Even though he interpreted this powerful Christian statement in a Buddhist sense, the mere fact that he used it should be enough to let us guess that he too kept Christians in mind.

The above facts show us that, whether we like it or not, Buddhism and  Christianity are actually coexisting in the Western world.

3) Concrete Attempts of Integration

It is important to realize that quite often  the Japanese Roshis themselves  have suggested the creation of kongans adapted to Christians. A good  example is Tae?i Roshi(大義 老師), from the Japanese Rinzai school and the master of Chongdal Nosa 宗達 老師(1905-1990),96) the Korean who has created the Han’guk Seondohoe(韓國 禪道會) in 1965.97) But let us now take a look at the way such a task should be accomplished. In order to do that, I will examine the work done by some Jesuits that have worked in Japan during the last fifty years. Indeed, the specific contribution of each one of them is an indispensable link  for the creation of a Christian Ganhwaseon .

The German Heinrich Dumoulin(1905-1995) is an academic who was thaught at Sophia University in Tokyo and gained an international reputation. Unfortunately, his famous work Seon Buddhism : a History, does not talk about Korean Seon.98)

 Enomiya Lassalle(1898-1990) is another German but who became a Japanese citizen. Moreover, rather than studying Seon, he dedicated his whole life to its practice, going as far as going through all the kongans of the Sanbo Kyodan several times. In one of his works, he systematically compares the practice of the spiritual exercices created by Saint Ignatius of Loyola with that of Ganhwaseon.99) His numerous books have made him known worldwide and very much contributed to the propagation of Seon in the West.100)

The Irish William Johnston, also an academic teaching at Sophia University, has both practiced and studied Seon. He has compared Christian and Buddhist meditation methods, and especially the thought expanded by mystics like Master Eckhart with the negative way of the Seon school.101) His books keep selling very well worldwide.

The Japanese J. K. Kadowaki also is an academic teaching at Sophia University and who both studies and practices Seon. In his book Seon and the Bible he systematically compares kongans with the content of the Old and New Testaments.102) But, most interestingly, he got the inspiration to write that book in the 1950s, from a professor called I. Ratzinger,103) who later became a Cardinal before becoming lately Pope Benedict II. This shows us that the man who now holds the highest responsibility in the Catholic church had already realized, some fifty years ago, the considerable importance of the encounter of Seon Buddhism with Christianity.


Instead of being centered on the Sanbo Kyodan, this research could have chosen a more global approach to the study of Ganhwaseon practice in Europe. Or, on the contrary, it could have focused on the Korean share of the European market. Nevertheless, I have chosen to set back the practice of Ganhwaseon in the global context of the encounter of Buddhism with Western culture, and especially with Christianity. Each of the other approaches would have had a value of its own. But the one that I have chosen has the advantage of avoiding to deal with an extremely broad question in a vague an abstract way. Instead, without losing the broadness of the topic, it has remained very concretely focused. Refusing to recognize the value of such an approach would be tantamount to trying to understand the Buddhist conquest of China without knowing anything about Chinese religions. Of course, the present research study should be completed by a number of others based on issues like feminism, philosophy, psychology, social justice, sociology,  etc.

As we have seen in this paper, hermitic life, that has tremendously influenced the Western world, constitutes an excellent ground for the encounter of Ganhwaseon. Moreover, the present crisis of Western Christianity favors its acceptance of a tradition that may contribute to its renewal. We have also examined the reasons of the success of the Sanbo Kyodan, as well as the role played, during the last fifty years, by Jesuits working in Japan for the development of a Christian Ganhwaseon.

The firs reason of the success of the Sanbo Kyodan is the fact that its teaching has spread to the West through people that often had an outstanding first hand knowledge of Japanese language and culture. Secondly, it has a well defined Dharma lineage, proposes a step by step course of seven hundred kongans, each having a specific answer, and all its masters write commentaries on the kongans. Its also is well organized at an international level, sticks to a clear code of ethics, and is opened to a dialogue with other cultures and religions. But we have also learnt from Victor So?gen Hori that the practice of capping(ch’akeo 著語) should form an indispensable part of Ganhwaseon training.

The study of the work done during the last fifty years by some Jesuits working in Japan allows us to say that the following elements are required for the creation of a Christian Ganhwaseon : a deep, broad and accurate knowledge of Buddhism, a thorough experience of the practice of Ganhwaseon, as well as a good understanding of the Bible, of Christian mystics, and of philosophy.

In Europe, Korean Ganhwaseon is far from being as well known as Japanese Zen. At present, nothing allows us to predict that things are susceptible of changing, let it be on the short or on the long run. So much the better if the conclusions of this paper may somehow contribute to change that situation.

Let us now enumerate some of the distinctive traits of Korean Ganhwaseon.

First, the fact that it remains unknown may play in its favor since people are often attracted by what is entirely new, especially in America.

Secondly, from the view point of the history of Buddhism, Jinul(知訥)’s tono jeomsu(頓悟漸修) doctrine is very innovative.104)

Thirdly, though the sudden-sudden(tono tonsu 頓悟頓修) conception of enlightenment advocated by Master Seongcheol(性徹) has provoked a huge controversy it has also enriched Korean Buddhism and made it even more attractive.105)

Fourthly, the fact that Korean Buddhists and Christians each represent approximately 25% of the population of Korea constitutes a unique situation, providing exceptionally good conditions for the development of a Christian Ganhwaseon that could be exported.

Fifthly, the existence in Korea of associations of lay people(在家修行者) like the Han’guk Seondohoe (韓國禪道會) can serve as a model for the creation of similar groups abroad.

The encounter of Ganhwaseon with Western culture is a process that will most probably take several centuries rather than just a few decades. It is an extremely complex phenomena, the understanding of which will require the collaboration of many people during a great number of generations. Right now, among the Westerners that practice Ganhwaseon, some do it as Buddhists and others as Christians. But the two types are necessary and it would be desirable that they work together in harmony instead of clashing. That is because the coexistence of the two groups is indispensable to guarantee both the preservation of Ganhwaseon’s specific identity and its full integration to the Occident. While the Western Christians will work at the integration of Ganhwaseon to their faith, the Western Buddhists will keep helping them to acquire a correct understanding of Buddhism. And conversely, the former will recall the latter that the Occident is not a religious tabula rasa. Needless to say that it would be of the outmost importance for the adepts of Ganhwaseon, let them be Buddhist or Christians or of any other religion, that they maintain strong ties with the Far East tradition they can trace their roots back to.   

Sometimes ago, I heard a French Buddhist scholar say to some people attracted by Buddhism : “Please do not come if you are not very seriously motivated.” These words came from the fear, shared by many, that Buddhism may be in danger of becoming an easy fashion. I want to say the same thing to the Westerners attracted by the practice of Ganhwaseon. But to all those that feel strongly committed to that practice, despite its difficulties, I want to communicate my certitude that, on the long run, the encounter of Far East Buddhism with Western Christianity will most probably bear fruits profitable to all humankind.



  1. Throughout this paper, for the sake of clarity and unity, but for a few exceptions, I will keep using the terms Seon, Ganhwaseon, kongan(公安) and hwadu(話頭), even when dealing with non Korean contexts.

  2. Henri de Lubac, Paris, Cerf, 2000.

  3. Paris, Fayard.

  4. Paul Magnin (ed.), Etudes lubaciennes II, Paris, Cerf, 2001.

  5. Edited by Charles S. Prebish and Martin Baumann, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, University of California Press.

  6. “Studying the Spread and Histories of Buddhism in the West,” id. p. 66-81.

  7. “The full nature and extent of this impact on Western ideas, values, and ways of life can hardly be anticipated this early in the story of Buddhism’s unprecedented globalization”. Westward Dharma, p. 48.

  8. Paris, Cerf.

  9. For instance, some Westerners will not hesitate to attempt an integration of the teachings of the Japanese Rinzai school(臨濟宗) with those of the Vietnamese Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

  10. At present, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Turkey are in the process of becoming members, and, recently, Macedonia has applied to become one.

  11. “In contrast to the geographic expanses of Canada, the United States, South Africa, in Europe as a religion Buddhism faces an unusually wide variety of social, cultural, and legal contexts. The differences at times have a lasting impact on the (1) spread, (2) institutionalization, (3) form of organization, (4) doctrinal standardization, and (5) representational issues of Buddhism in a country.” Westward Dharma, p. 96.

  12. John B. Cobb, Boudhhisme-Christianisme, Au-dela du dialogue ? Geneve, Labor et Fides, 1982, p. 7.

  13. AZI, 175 rue de Tolbiac, Paris, 75013, France(






  19. The Kwanum Seon school(觀音禪宗) founded by Master Seungsahn(1927-2004) runs over thirty meditation centers in some fifteen European countries( One of Seungsahn’s disciples, Master Ubong (우봉 禪師), alias Paul Jacob, runs the Paris downtown center( He has also created some ten centers in Western and Eastern Europe(Han’kyeorae Sinmun[한겨레 신문] 2004.10.21). A complete list of all the European centers can be found at

  20. Some of those smaller groups are mentioned briefly by Philippe Cornu in the Dictionnaire encyclopedique du bouddhisme, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 409.

  21. 정성본, 『禪의 思想과 歷史』, Seoul, Pulgyo Sidaesa(서울, 불교시대사), 2000.

  22. Yuanwu Keqin.

  23. Yangqipai.

  24. Dahui Zonggao.

  25. “Chan is the most Confucian form of Buddhism, and it has been in constant rivalry with neo-Confucianism.” Robert E. Buswell, Jr, Encyclopedia of Buddhism, New York, Thomson Gale, 2004, p. 136.

  26. Robert E. Buswell, Jr., “The ‘Short-cut’ Approach of K’an-hua meditation: The Evolution of a Practical Subitism in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, ” in Sudden and Gradual, Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1987, pp. 321-377.

  27. Kyeog?i pulgyo(格義佛敎). See Sim Chaeryong 심재룡, Chungguk Pulgyo Cheorhaksa(中國佛敎哲學史), Seoul 서울, Cheorhakkwa Hyeonsilsa 철학과 현실사, 1998, pp.40-41.

  28. Master Sheng-yen, Subtle Wisdom, London, Doubleday(Dharma Drum Publications), 1999.

  29. Zen Sand(禪林句集), The Book of Capping Phrases for Ko?an Practice, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 2003.

  30. According to Professor Hori, the importance attached to capping(ch’ageo 著語) in Western Seon schools if far from being sufficient.

  31. Westward Dharma, p. 96.

  32. According to a French joke, depending on the statistics consulted, there would be between 18.000 and 18.000.000 Buddhists in France.

  33. Thomas A. Tweed, “Who is a Buddhist,” Westward Dharma, pp. 17-33.

  34. Westward Dharma, p. 94.

  35. “Notwithstanding the increased interest in things Buddhist, Buddhism will certainly remain a minority religion in Europe during the twenty-first century.” Westward Dharma, pp. 101-102.

  36. T.2007, vol.48, p.337a27-b7. Translation from The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, the text of the Tun-Huang manuscript, translated, with notes, by Philip B. Yampolsky, New York, Columbia University Press, 1967, p. 127-128.

  37. Albert Low, Tokyo, the Charles E. Tuttle Company, An Invitation to Practice Zen, 1989; The World : A Gateway-Commentaries on the Mumonkan, 1995.

  38. See Bernard Senecal (Seo Myeongwon 서명원), K?ris?dokyo Cheont’ong ?nsu Senghwal「그리스도교 傳統의 隱修生活」, Han’guk ?nsu Munhwawa Kogun Kugok『韓國의 隱士文化와 谷雲九曲』, Hwach’eon Munhwawon 華川文化院, Chei ch’a Han’guk Haksul Taehoe 第2次 國際學術大會, 2005年度, pp. 57-71.

  39. With the exception of the Nile valley, 99% of Egypt is a desert.

  40. Luke 1, 80.

  41. Matthew 4, 1-11 ; Mark 1, 12-13 ; Luke 4, 1-13.

  42. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion, A/E, Washington, edited by P. Kevin Meagher, T. C. O’Brien and C. M. Aherne, D.C., Corpus Publications, 1979, A/E, p. 1034.

  43. See Robert E. Buswell Jr., The Zen Monastic Experience, Princeton, Princeton University Press, p. 150.

  44. The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota p. 353.

  45. Id.

  46. Un Chartreux, La Grande Chartreuse, 17eme edition, Sadag, Bellegarde(France), 1998.

  47. Dongjungjeong(動中靜).

  48. Jeongjungdong(靜中動).

  49. Bojo Sasang(普照思想) che 24 chip(제24집), pp.400-401 and Pulgyo P’yeongnon(불교평론), che 7 gwon(제7권) che 3 ho(제3호) pp.162-167.

  50. J. Monchanin, H. Le Saux, Ermites du Saccidananda, Casterman, 1951.

  51. “Our time is in desperate need of this kind of simplicity.”The Wisdom of the Desert, Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth, translated by T. Merton, New York, New Directions, 1960, p. 11.

  52. 호세아 2, 16.

  53. Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Commissions, Ed. P. de Bethune, Monastere Saint-Andre Belgium-1340 Ottignies.

  54. We can think, for instance, of Goryeo’s Buddhism or Joseon’s Confucianism.

  55. Jean-Marie Ploux, Le Christianisme a-t-il fait son temps ?, Paris, Les Editions de l’Atelier, 1999.

  56. Luke 9, 58.

  57. 我自法門 從上已來 皆立無念爲宗 無相爲體 無住爲本. 退翁性徹, 懸吐編譯, 『敦煌本 六祖壇經』, p.54 (大藏經2007, vol.48, p.338c2-4).

  58. It is in the same sense that Christians say whenever they recite the Our Father “give us today our daily bread.”

  59. Genesis 12, 1-3.

  60. China 眞我.

  61. Jeongt’o 淨土.

  62. H. Laux, Le Dieu excentre, Paris, Beauschesne, 2001.

  63. Kil eobn?n kil 길 없는 길.

  64. John 3, 8.

  65. The difference is that while Buddhists follow the path discovered and thaught by the Buddha ??kyamuni, the Christians rely upon the words of Jesus-Christ.

  66. Luke, 11, 52.

  67. In 70 CE, the Roman general Flavius Vespasianus Titus destroyed that temple as he conquered Jerusalem. In today’s Israel, the far right is planning its reconstruction.

  68. As the Catholic and Orthodox churches became split, Catholicism lost most of its mysticism, and as it became split with the Protestant churches, it prevented its followers from reading the Bible.

  69. “… the differences are a less important element, when confronted with the unity which is radical, fundamental and decisive.” Sebastian Painadath, Pope John Paul II, On Inter-Religious Dialogue, Kottayam, Jeevadhara, 2005, p. 356.

  70. “The adaptation of Seon to the West, therefore, is not simply a Western invention. In the post-Meiji and postwar periods, many Japanese adherents of Seon advocated the modernization and revitalization of the tradition. Some saw the West, especially America, as an arena where such revitalization could flower.” Westward Dharma, pp. 219-220.

  71. Jeonggyeon 正見.

  72. Respectively pujeong?i kil and k?njeong?i kil 不定의 길과 肯定의 길.

  73. John 16, 7.

  74. Jiwol 指月.

  75. Pyojeon ch’ajeon 表詮遮詮.

  76. D.T. Suzuki, Essais sur le Bouddhisme Zen, Paris, Albin Michel, 1972.

  77. Westward Dharma, p. 220.

  78. Id. p. 222; H. Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism : A History-India and China, London, Macmillan, 1994, p. XIX-XX.

  79. A History of Buddhist Philosophy, Continuities and Discontinuities, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1992.

  80. “The new phase brought about by the blend of Mahayana Buddhism with the beliefs and practices of a primitive agricultural society is commonly called Tantric or Esoteric Buddhism. By the seventh century, it had become fully systematized in northeastern and northwestern India.” K. S. Ch’en, Buddhism, The Light of Asia, Canada and U. K, Barron’s Educational Series, 1967.

  81. Jean Boisselier, La Sagesse du Bouddha, Paris, Decouvertes Gallimard, 1993, p. 180-181.

  82. I have heard him say so during a symposium organized by the Buddhis-Christian Conference and that took place at University de Paul of Chicago during the summer of 1996. Toni Packer gives a totally contrary example. She is one of the disciples of the American Seon Master Philip Kapleau and “represents the most striking example of a Western Seon that has virtually ceased to be Seon … Toni Packer and her center are not typical of Seon in the West. While nearly all Western Seon centers and teachers have adapted their forms in significant ways to meet the character of their Western practitioners, few have gone as far as Packer in abandoning elements of traditional Seon. … In this sense, Packer is `post-Seon’..” Westward Dharma, p. 227-228. See “Can clear seeing be attained without koan practice?'” (

  83. Paris, Beauschesme, 1985.

  84. “Mais desarmorcer le Zen en le detachant de la tradition millenaire, qui, encore aujourd’hui, l’actualise et surtout en le retranchant de sa racine, l’enseignement silencieux de Bouddha Shakyamuni, serait non seulement le trahir, mais rendre vaine son introduction dans la societe technocratique et destructrice dont il pourrait constituer l’antidote.” L’Univers du Zen, Paris, Albin Michel, 2003, p. 263.

  85. I have heard those remarks during a symposium held at Centre Sevres in Paris in April 2004.



  88. “This is just like the case of Gandhi who, the more he studied Christianity, the more he discovered the treasures of Hinduism, and the case of Thomas Merton who, the more he studied Buddhism, the more he got to know Christianity(이것이 바로 기독교를 배울수록 더욱 힌두교의 훌륭한 점을 발견했던 간디의 경우와, 佛敎를 배울수록 더욱 가톨릭교의 순수성을 알게 된 토마스 머튼의 경우입니다).” Hwang P’ilho황필호, Haengbog?i mesijir?l jeonhagi wihae「행복의 메시지를 전파하기 위해」, Chonggyo gan?i taehwa wa?i inyeomgwa panghyang 『종교간의 대화의 이념과 방향』, Han’guk chonggyo kan?i taehwa hakhoe 韓國宗敎間對話學會, 2005. 10. 23, Jeonnam taehakkyo 전남대학교, p.13.

  89. Most of the information provided here has been gathered through encounters with members of the Sanbo Kyodan.

  90. Let us notice that, in Europe, the Sanbo Kyodan systematically uses the Japanese romanization of all technical terms.

  91. Ecole zen du Sambo-Kyodan, Ecole des koanes, Volume 1, Koanes pour debutants, traduit de l’allemand et de l’anglais par B. Billot (La Maison de Tobie, 8 av. Leon Gourdault, Choisy le Roi, 94600 France).

  92. Here are some example of books that came out recently : Thomas Y?h? Kirchner, Entangling Vines, Kyoto, Tenryui-Ji Institute For Philosophy And Religion, 2004 ; Andy Ferguson, Zen’s Chinese Heritage, Boston, Wisdom Publications, 2000 ; Steven Heine, The K?an, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000.

  93. (Diamond Sangha Teachers Ethics Agreement).


  95. John 14, 7.

  96. 1941년 일본 臨濟宗 妙心寺派 韓國 개교사, 1942년 일본대학 철학과 졸업, 1965년 大韓佛敎 禪道會 지도법사. 韓國 佛敎禪道會가 保任禪院과 修禪會와 함께 韓國에 三大在家修行 모임을 이룬다.

  97. “In connection with the “poverty” I remember that once a British gentleman came to study Seon under Master Daigi(大義), who used to be my fellow student in our training days. For a koan Master Daigi gave him the famous Christian saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” I do not know what the orthodox traditional interpretation of this passage may be in Christianity. It would be interesting to see how Master Daigi took it up from the Seon standpoint and used it as a Seon koan.” Zenkei Shibayama, Zen Comments on the Mumonkan, New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1974, p. 84.

  98. Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A History-Japan, London, Macmillan, 1990; Zen Buddhism: A History-India and China, London, Macmillan, 1994.

  99. Enomiya Lassalle, Zazen y los Ejercicios de San Ignacio, Madrid, Ediciones Paulinas, 1985. A Korean book also deals with the same topic, Kim Kyeongsu 김경수 저, Yeongsin Suryeongwa Seon『靈神修練과 禪』, Seoul 서울, Kat’ollik ch’ulp’ansa 가톨릭출판사, 1998.

  100. Enomiya Lassalle, Meditation zen et priere chretienne, Paris, Albin Michel, 1992.

  101. Willian Johnston, Christian Zen, Fount Paperbacks, 1990.

  102. J. K. Kadowaki, Le Zen et la Bible, Paris, Epi, 1983.

  103. Id, p. 7.

  104. “By demonstrating that Hwa?m thought can be used for the philosophical under pinnings of the Seon approach, this work(W?ndon Seongbullon 圓頓成佛論) can, without exaggeration, be considered Jinul’s most important contribution to East Asian Buddhist philosophy.” The Collected Works of Jinul, translated by Robert E. Buswell Jr., Hawaii, University of Hawaii Press, p. 198.

  105. On this point, my position slightly diverges from that expresses by Kim Pangnyong(金邦龍) in “Ganhwaseon gwa Hwa?m(話禪과 華嚴),” Pulgyo Py?ngnon(불교평론), 2005 ny?n ka?l (년 가을), che 7kw?n che 3ho(제 7권 제 3호).

Saving“ Mahatma”Gandhi


Saving“ Mahatma”Gandhi
Woosung HUH(Kyung Hee University)

1. There are various kinds of desire in us, to name a few, desire for sex, desire for money, desire for fame, desire for power, most importantly, desire for self-preservation. It appears that all these desires are compounded. For example, when we want to fulfill sexual desire, we feel that in order to get our sex partner(s) we should have money, fame, power, seduction, or all of these. It is also true that when we fail in fulfilling our desires for these objects, we often feel frustrated or get angry.

Let’s call it a complex of desire and violence. Each human being is almost always being driven by this complex. This complex belongs to the domain of ka – ma(ka – ma – vacara), if expressed in a Buddhist term.

2. The builders of our nations well understood that basic desires or instincts should be sufficiently fulfilled. Therefore, they do not decree the prohibition of ka – mic activities, for example, sexual activities. But they do think that people should not harm the life and property of other nationals. The basic aim of the constitution of each nation is, thus, to establish the system which enables most of those nationals to fulfill their basic instincts.

3. According to Aggan˜ n˜ a Sutta: On the Knowledge of Beginnings in D¦¯ gha Nika – ya, sometimes an ordinary human being takes life, takes what is not given, commits sexual misconduct, tells lies, indulges in slander, harsh speech, or idle chatter, is grasping, malicious, or of wrong views.1) All these may be called ten evils. We must understand that all sexual conduct is misconduct, as far as a celibate is concerned. About two millenium has passed since this sutta began to be handed down to us. But there seemed no progress made in that modern human beings are morally not different from those peoples of the ancient India.

4. In his short writing “Why War?”[Warum Krieg?, 1932], Sigmund Freud(1826-1939) argues that there are two kinds of human instincts: one is erotic instincts which seek to preserve and unite, and those which seek to destroy and kill. The first group is called erotic or sexual; the second is called aggressive or destructive instinct.2) Both of them are essential to the phenomena of life, which arise from the concurrent or mutually opposing action of both.3) In most cases, these two instincts are intermingled. For

1) See Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, D¦¯ gha Nika – ya, trans. M. Walshe (Wisdom Publications London, 1987), p. 408 ff.
2) Sigmund Freud The Standard Edition of The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud(London: The Hogarth Press And The Institute of Psycho-Analysis), vol. 22, p. 209 ff.

example,“ the instinct of self-preservation is of an erotic kind, but it must nevertheless have aggressiveness as its disposal if it is to fulfill its purpose.
So, too, the instinct of love, when it is directed toward object, stands in need of some contribution from the instinct for mastery if it is in any way to obtain possession of that object.”4) Freud continues:“ It is very rarely that an action is the work of a single instinctual impulse (which must in itself be compounded of Eros and destructiveness.)”5) According to the last passage, a single instinctual impulse, whether it appears erotic or destructive, is not single but compounded of eros and destructiveness.

Based on his understanding of instincts, Freud points out “a lust for aggression and destructions”6) as one of several motives of war, and he adds:“ there is no use in trying to get rid of men’s aggressive instincts.”7) He only suggests an indirect method of employing eros to counter against the aggressive instincts.8) Freud sadly but understandably ended with a rather pessimistic note about the future of mankind.

5. Those ten evils can be roughly put into two camps of sexual and destructive instincts, although we have to admit that there is no absolute distinction between them. Taking life, harsh speech and being malicious appear to belong to the destructive instincts, but committing sexual

4) Ibid., pp. 209-210.
5) Ibid., p. 210.
6)Ibid., p. 210.
7) Ibid., p. 211.
8) See Ibid., p. 212 ff.

(mis)conduct looks a direct expression of eros. Stealing, telling lies, indulging in slander, idle chatter, grasping, and having wrong views apparently belong to both camps.

6. The reason why this author discusses Aggan˜ n˜ a Sutta and Freud together, is to argue that sexual desire and aggressiveness are almost inseparably compounded, and that we are not able to know the full implication of the Celibacy/Enlightenment theme unless we widen our scope to include the issue of violence and its national, racial, and religious origin.

7. M. K. Gandhi(1869-1948) was the one who had a strong conviction that sexual desire, violence, and even palate, are inseparably related to each other, as he demanded unwavering pledge from ashram(community) residents. An example is the pledges of Satyagraha Ashram, founded in 1915 with the objective:“ Its members should qualify themselves for, and make a constant endeavor towards, the service of the country, not inconsistent with the universal welfare.”9) The ideal human character, namely, self-realization, is achieved only through service to the country and the world. To qualify oneself to do such service, one had to pledge to practice the following virtues: truth, nonviolence or love, celibacy(brahmacharya), control of the palate, nonstealing, nonpossession or poverty, physical labor, self-reliance(swadeshi), fearlessness, abolition of

9) R. Iyer(ed.), The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.2, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 535.

untouchability and tolerance.10) Gandhi believed that only through the observance of the pledges could human beings with the physical body commit only the minimum degree of violence and become active beings capable of constructing a nonviolent society.

Gandhi was convinced that practicing nonviolence and celibacy is indispensable to realizing truth as he maintained:“ That a man who has known truth can be lecherous is as inconceivable as that darkness may exist despite the sun shining.”11) Gandhi also believed that achieving celibacy is directly related to control of the palate as he explained as follows:

The observance of brahmacharya has been found, from experience, to be extremely difficult so long as one has not acquired mastery over taste. Control of the palate has, therefore, been placed as a principle by itself. Eating is necessary only for sustaining the body and keeping it a fit instrument for service, and must never be practised for self-indulgence. Food must, therefore, be taken, like medicine, under proper restraint.

In pursuance of this principle one must eschew exciting foods, such as spices and condiments. Meat, liquor, tobacco, bhang, etc., are excluded from the Ashram. This principle requires abstinence from feasts or dinners which have pleasure as their object.12)

10) R. Iyer (ed.), The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatama Gandhi vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 536-539.
11) Ibid., pp. 157-158.
12) Ibid., p. 537. CWMG E-Book vol. 42, p. 108.

Gandhi’s emphasis upon the relationship between celibacy and control of the palate, reminds us of a passage from the Chapter Organs(Indriyas) in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakos´ abha – s.yam. It runs in this way:“ The sexual organs are absent from the Ru – padha – tu 1) because the beings who are born in this sphere have abandoned the desire for sexual union, and 2) because these organs are ugly.”13) Furthermore, odor, taste, the consciousness of odor, and the consciousness of taste are also lacking in the world of Ru – padha – tu. Odor and taste are lacking there, for they are “morsel-food”and no one is born into Ru – padha – tu who is not detached from this food. Since odor and taste are lacking, the consciousness of odor and taste are lacking too.14)

We should be reminded that in the progressive steps towards realizing Nirvana, one has to go beyond Ka – madha – tu to Ru – padha – tu where the sexual organs dropped.

8. Who killed Gandhi?
It was Nathuram Godse(1910-1949) who assassinated Gandhi, believing in military forces in the struggle against the Muslims. Godse was an activist with the Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist organization, which was originally founded in 1915 to counter the Muslim League and the secular Indian National Congress. For Godse and Hindu Mahasabha, the desire for self-preservation of Hindus against Muslims, was the most important

13) Abhidharmakos´ abha – s.yam, Louis de La Valle´ e Poussin, vol. 1 tr. Leo M. Pruden (Asian Humanities Press, Berkeley), p. 173.
14) See Chapter 1, Abhidharmakos´ abha – s.yam,

one. They wanted to be preserved and protected by military forces and money.

The immediate motive for the assassination is usually ascribed to Gandhi’s January 13, 1948 decision to fast to the death unless the Indian central government reversed a decision to withhold the transfer of 55 crore (550 million) rupees to the government of Pakistan. The transfer had been specified in the partition agreement, but the Indian government had refused to complete it, complaining of continued Pakistani rebel occupation of disputed parts of Kashmir. The Indian government immediately reversed its decision to withhold the funds, which infuriated Godse and his fellow Hindu radicals.15)

9. The death of Tom Fox(1951-2006)
Gandhi, a non-violent person has the vision of a nation of no army, or no common police.16) Then the ultimate destiny he could face was his own death. The similar self-sacrifice was made when Tom Fox, an American Quaker peace activist, decided to go Iraq, protesting American military action against this country, showing solidarity with common Iraqi, his own death was forestalled.

In November 2005, Tom Fox, a member of Langley Hill(Va.) Meeting, and three other members of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq were kidnapped by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.

15) See Wikipedia. July 7, 2007.
16) For this, see the following passage.“ No doubt I cherish a fond vision that we may be able to do without the police, for I would call them not‘ police’but‘ social reformers’. CWMG E Book, vol. 95, p. 19.

Their lives were threatened if all Iraqi detainees were not immediately released. Messages of support for these peacemakers came from around the world, including many from the Muslim community. On March 10, 2006, Tom Fox’s body was recovered in Baghdad. On March 23, his three fellow peacemakers were rescued by multinational forces without a shot being fired. On the wake of this event, Friends Journal, a Quaker Journal, published several excerpts from Tom Fox’s online journal. There is a relevant passage to our discussion of love and violence on the individual and national level. The following passage of Kenneth Boulding(1910- 1993), Quaker economist, peace activist, poet and religious mystic struck Fox:

Those who love their country in the light of their love of God, express that love of country by endeavoring to make it respected rather than feared, loved rather than hated. But those who love only their country express that love by trying to make it feared and succeed all to often in making it hated.17)

On this passage commented Fox:“ The love of country must always be subordinate to love of God. Love of country alone sets us on a course towards the disasters that have befallen other countries over the centuries. Charting a new course must begin now, before it is too late.”18)

17) Quoted from Friends Journal, May 2006, p. 7.
18) Ibid.

10. Those citizens who are mostly working in a specific national k m vacara, do not, more accurately, cannot envision a nation without military forces or police. They do not save Gandhi nor Tom Fox, as long as they live in the realm of k madh tu, since the principle of self-preservation and protection necessitate them to collect the large amount of physical forces in the realms of economics, politics, foreign policy, sciences, and more importantly in their daily lives. It seems that all these physical forces ultimately culminate in military forces, which was, however, not ultimate at all for both Gandhi and Fox.

11.“ Celibacy/Enlightenment”cannot save Gandhi
Celibate monks, not addressing the issue of violence both of individual and national level, know at most the half truth of their own existence, since their sustenance was possible only by the reception of food and clothes from lay persons living in the national complex of k m vacara. Buddhist Scholars of both sexes, committing themselves to ka – mic

activities, including enjoying the odor and taste of the best gourmet coffee or tea, but not asking the relatedness between desire and violence, may be ignorant of their existence in a nation. We indulge ourselves with enjoying all organs including sexual organs, and have become blind not to see violence personal and national level of our life. This ignorance disables our ability to be enlightened to the patriotic mechanism of selfpreservation and protection, which killed Gandhi and Fox.

As long as most citizens live in the complex of desire and violence, and are being constantly driven by it, it may be impossible to save lives of Gandhi and Fox. If that is true, we should be satisfied with saving their

Mahatmas(Great Souls) only, perhaps to the end of human k mic history.
Arguing about the personal and national complex of desire and violence is a way to challenge the self-indulging feature of (Korean) So×n Buddhism, which is suggested in the Celibacy/Enlightenment theme itself. And note that compassionate activities are principally denied in any type of self-indulgence.

Celibacy and Salvation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Celibacy and Salvation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Horace Jeffery Hodges(Kyung Hee University)


In the late 14th century, an anonymous contemporary of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer composed four long poems in an obscure Midlands dialect of Medieval English. All four poems survive in a single manuscript, the Cotton Nero A x, which is housed in the British Library.

Three of the poems — Pearl, Patience, and Cleanness — treat explicitly religious themes that demonstrate the poet’s familiarity with Medieval piety and suggest some knowledge of Medieval learning. The fourth poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, tells the story of one of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain, who sets out from the Arthurian court to seek not the Holy Grail but, rather, an almost certain death under the keen blade of a mysterious Green Knight. Gawain’s quest will lead him through the paradox of Christian salvation wherein his very failure itself prepares him properly for redemption.

The Pentangle and the Virgin

The Pearl Poet, as the author of this Gawain poem is usually called, tells a complex tale, but understanding the point entails knowing the story, so I will attempt to summarize the ongoing plot as I move from point to point.

On a New Year’s Day during the Christmas celebrations at the royal court of a still-young King Arthur, the knights and ladies have just at down to tables heavily laden with food when a large, mysterious knight suddenly gallops on horseback into the large dining hall. Even more astonishing, the large knight’s shirtless torso, the trousers stretching from his waist to his knees, the horse in its trappings proudly bearing up under him, and anenormous axe carried in his hands are all, aside from some gold trimming, entirely green. By literary convention, he is called “the Green Knight.”This bold Green Knight announces a“ game,”but a very odd game it is. He offers to allow one of assembled knights to borrow his axe and chop off his head. If the Green Knight survives, then the other knight must seek out the Green Knight one year later at a certain Green Chapel and allow his own head to be chopped off by the Green Knight.

The young knight Sir Gawain volunteers, perhaps thinking, like King Arthur in lines 372-374, that no dire consequences would follow if he aimed his blow true. Surprisingly, the Green Knight survives the beheading, picks up his head, reminds Gawain of the agreement, jumps upon his horse, and gallops away.

Gawain is an honorable man and keeps his word, setting out 10 months later, on November 2, to find the Green Knight.On the day that he sets forth, Gawain is first brilliantly arrayed, with special attention being given to two images upon his shield ? a pentangle upon the side facing away from him (as well as upon his surcoat (ll 636-637)) and the Virgin Maryupon the side facing him. The pentangle is intricately described in terms that imply Gawain’s perfection and, indeed, lead into a description of his perfection that includes his devotion to the Virgin:

Then they showed forth the shield, that shone all red,
With the pentangle portrayed in purest gold.
About his broad neck by the baldric he casts it,
That was meet for the man, and matched him well.
And why the pentangle is proper to that peerless prince
I intend now to tell, though detain me it must.
It is a sign by Solomon sagely devised
To be a token of truth, by its title of old,
For it is a figure formed of five points,
And each line is linked and locked with the next
For ever and ever, and hence it is called
In all England, as I hear, the endless knot.
And well may he wear it on his worthy arms,
For ever faithful five-fold in five-fold fashion
Was Gawain in good works, as gold unalloyed,
Devoid of all villainy with virtues adorned
in sight.
On shield and coat in view
He bore that emblem bright,
As to his word most true
And in speech most courteous knight.

And first, he was faultless in his five senses,
Nor found ever to fail in his five fingers,
And all his fealty was fixed upon the five wounds
That Christ got on the cross, as the creed tells;
And wherever this man in melee took part,
His one thought was of this, past all things else,
That all his force was founded on the five joys
That the high Queen of heaven had in her child.
And therefore, as I find, he fittingly had
On the inner part of his shield her image portrayed,
That when his look on it lighted, he never lost heart.
The fifth of the five fivesfollowed by this knight
Were beneficence boundless and brotherly love
And pure mind and manners, that none might impeach,
And compassion most precious ? these peerless five
Were forged and made fast in him, foremost of men.
Now all these five fives were confined in this knight,
And each linked in other, that end there was none,
And fixed to five points, whose force never failed,
Nor assembled all on a side, nor asunder either,
Nor anywhere at an end, but whole and entire
However the pattern proceeded or played out its course.
And so on his shining shield shaped was the knot
Royally in red gold against red gules,
That is the peerless pentangle, prized of old
in lore.

Now armed is Gawain gay,
And bears his lance before,
And soberly said good day,
He thought forevermore. (ll 619-669 Pearl Poet, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Marie Borroff (1967), Part 2, in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1, Seventh Edition)

From this extended description of Gawain’s values and piety, we probably form a high opinion of his character. Certainly, his fellow lords and ladies do, for immediately after he has ridden off to his doom, they sigh and observe,“ Ill fortune it is / That you, man, must be marred, that most are worthy! / His equal on this earth can hardly be found”(ll 674- 676). Indeed, Gawain sounds almost flawless.

Note that Gawain’s piety takes a particular form: an already-noted devotion to the Virgin Mary. Indeed, he is so devoted to her that he carries her image on the inner surface of his shield so that he might gain courage from glancing at the image during battle, as we have just seen:

And wherever this man in melee took part,
His one thought was of this, past all things else,
That all his force was founded on the five joys
That the high Queen of heaven had in her child.
And therefore, as I find, he fittingly had
On the inner part of his shield her image portrayed,
That when his look on it lighted, he never lost heart. (ll 644-650)

In effect, Gawain is a knight dedicated to the“ high Queen of heaven.” This emphasis upon the Virgin’s royal status strongly suggests that we are to understand that she is the lady whom Gawain as knight serves in much the same chivalrous manner that other knights would serve their unattainable ladies.

The Problem of Courtly Love

In the Medieval context, however, this chivalrous courtly love would ordinarily entail some problematic elements.In the ideal case, a knight devoted himself to service not only to his liege lord but also to his lord’s wife, whomhe was bound to protect, honor, and love. But what sort of love? Although perhaps modeled on the paradigm of the Christian’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, in which case the ideal courtly love would be a highly sublimated sort of love similar to Christian caritas (Reiss,“ Fin’ amors”), the reality is that courtly love was an unstable complex of sexual desire and spiritual aims. Francis Newman noted that courtly love was“ a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and self-disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent”(Newman, vii).

Similarly, C.S. Lewis described it as “love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love”(Lewis, 2). From a rigorously Christian perspective, courtly love is inherently adulterous, for its practice entails that mature men express their love for an already married lady in language that powerfully emphasizes her physical beauty and sensual charms. From the explicit teaching of Christ as given in Matthew 5:27-28:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (King James Bible, Matthew 5:27-28)

The operative word here in this King James Bible, obviously, is“ lust,” but we should dig a bit deeper into the past and look at the earlier, Wycliffe English translation, for John Wycliffe was a contemporary of the Pearl Poet:

Ye han herd that it was seid to elde men, Thou schalt do no letcherie.

But Y seie to you, that euery man that seeth a womman for to coueite hir, hath now do letcherie bi hir in his herte. (Wycliffe Bible, Matheu 5:27-28:) But we should also check the Latin Vulgate, which the Pearl Poet would surely have known:

Audistis quia dictum est antiques: non moechaberis. Ego autem dico vobis: quoniam omnis qui viderit mulierem ad concupiscendum eam iam moechatus est eam in corde suo. (Vulgate, Matthaeus 5:27-28)

The Middle English and Latin words are thus coueite (covet) and concupiscendum (ardent desire), respectively, and they are even related etymologically. The former derives from the Latin word cupere, meaning “to desire, covet,”and in the 14th century, the time of both Wycliffe and the Pearl Poet, the word coueite meant“ To desire with concupiscence or with fleshly appetite”(OED I, 1106, 2), hence demonstrating why Wycliffe (or one of the Wycliffe ‘team’) rendered the Latin Vulgate’s concupiscendum by the Middle English coueite. As for the latter term, concupiscendum, it derives from the Latin concupere (the intensive prefix con- plus cupere, thus “to long for, desire”). The related Latin term concupiscentia was taken over into English as “concupiscence”as early as the 14th century, appearing in Chaucer, The Parson’s Tale (c. 1386), with the meaning of“ libidinous desire, sexual appetite, lust”(OED I, 777, 2). Given the Pearl Poet’s theological interests and scriptural knowledge, he would surely be aware of Christ’s teaching on adultery as a matter of lusting in one’s heart.

Clearly, this sexual aspect does not characterize the courtly love that Gawain has for the VirginMary, the high Queen of Heaven. Indeed, immediately after the description of his devotion to Mary, which he partly expresses by bearing her image on the inside of his shield, we read of Gawain’s excellent character as signified by the fifth point of the pentangle:

The fifth of the five fives followed by this knight
Were beneficence boundless and brotherly love
And pure mind and manners, that none might impeach,
And compassion most precious — these peerless five
Were forged and made fast in him, foremost of men. (ll 651-655)

What Marie Borroff has rendered as“ pure mind”comes from the Middle English word clannes (line 653), which can have a variety of meanings. Mayhew and Skeat define it in their Concise Dictionary as “purity” (Mayhew and Skeat,“ Clennes”). Scholars have debated whether or not the term conveys a strong implication of sexual purity. Gerald Morgan notes that while“ clannes does not necessarily imply celibacy ⋯ it does imply celibacy or rather virginity outside marriage.”Morgan also insists that “there can be no doubt that the meaning which the poet intends is ‘chastity’⋯ [for the] use of the word clannes in this specific manner is ⋯ well attested in the late fourteenth century”(Morgan, 777). Morgan is referring to the Pearl Poet’s specific use of clannes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but the poet realizes that the word has a broader range of meanings. In his poem titled Cleanness, the use of the word clannes depends upon that rather broad range of meanings. Worthy to note even here, however, is that the Pearl Poet places emphasis upon a particular sort of impurity,“ lechery”(harlottrye), as the one sin that the Savior hates most of all:

Bot non nuyez Hym on na3t ne neuer vpon dayez
As harlottrye vnhonest, hepyng of seluen:
Pat schamez for no schrewedschyp, schent mot he worpe.
(Lancashire, Cleanness, lines 578-580)

But at night or at noon there is nothing He hates
More than lechery, lustful and loathsome and gross!
Of such deeds evildoers shall die without hope.
(Finch, Cleanness, lines 578-580)

As already noted, the Middle English term here is harlottyre, which in the 14th century (1377: William Langland, Piers Plowman B, 13.353 c. 1386: Geoffrey Chaucer, Merchant’s Tale 1018) included the meaning“ profligacy or vice in sexual relations, unchastity”(OED I,“ harlotry,”95, 3). Similarly, the Pearl Poet specifies, among the sins that bar one from experiencing heavenly bliss, the sin of“ marring good marriages,”which surely refers to adultery (Finch, Cleanness, line 186). In his cleanness, which especially includes celibacy (due to his unmarried state), Gawain avoidssexual impurity and focuses his pure devotion upon the Virgin Queen of Heaven.

Lord Bertilak’s Castle and the Testing of Gawain

Let us return to our tale. Gawain has left King Arthur’s court on November 2, the day following All Saints’Day. After about seven weeks of wandering in fruitless search of the Green Knight and his Green Chapel, Gawain finds himself frustrated on the morning of Christmas Eve (or perhaps the day before) at his lack of success and prays to the Virgin Mary that he might find a dwelling (ll 733-739). Later that morning (or perhaps the next day), he prays again, this time to both the Lord Christ and to the Virgin Mary, for the chance to find a haven where he can attend mass and pray his matins (ll 753-762):

⋯“I beseech of Thee, Lord,
And Mary, thou mildest mother so dear,
Some harborage where haply I might hear mass
And Thy matins tomorrow — meekly I ask it,
And thereto proffer and pray my pater and ave
and creed.”
He said this prayer with sighs,
Lamenting his misdeed;

He crosses himself, and cries
On Christ in his great need. (ll 753-762)

Immediately, Gawain glimpses a great castle, which he enters, and finds himself courteously treated there by all, especially by the lord and lady of the place, the Lord and Lady Bertilak, who request that he remain several days, to which he agrees after learning privately, from conversing confidentially with Lord Bertilak, that the Green Chapel of his quest lies within two miles of the castle (ll 1168-1078). The gallant Lord Bertilak, a manly and vigorous hunter, thenproposes a game for diversion during Gawain’s stay:

“And Gawain,”said the good host,“ agree now to this:
Whatever I win in the woods, I will give you at eve,
And all you have earned you must offer to me;
Swear now, sweet friend, to swap as I say,
Whether hands, in the end, be empty or better.”
“By God,”said Sir Gawain,“ I grant it forthwith!
If you find the game good, I shall gladly take part.”(ll 1105-1111)

There follow three daysof hunting in which Lord Bertilak leaves his castle early to return late,coincident with three days of temptation in which Lady Bertilak enters Gawain’s guest room to entice him toward a sexual liaison:

A little din at his door, and the latch lifted,
And he holds up his heavy head out of the clothes;
A corner of the curtain he caught back a little
And waited there warily, to see what befell.
Lo! it was the lady, loveliest to behold,
That drew the door behind her deftly and still
And was bound for his bed ? abashed was the knight,
And laid his head low again in likeness of sleep;
And she stepped stealthily, and stole to his bed,
Cast aside the curtain and came within,
And set herself softly on the bedside there,
And lingered at her leisure, to look on his waking. (ll 1183-1194)

After feigning a bit more sleep, Gawain pretends as if to be just awakening and offers to dress and leave his bed, but Lady Bertilak refuses and insists upon keeping him“ captive,”informing him:

And lo! we are alone here, and left to ourselves:
My lord and his liegemen are long departed,
The household asleep, my handmaids too,
The door drawn, and held by a well-driven bolt,
And since I have in this house him whom all love,
I shall while the time away with mirthful speech
at will.

My body is here at hand,
Your each wish to fulfill;
Your servant to command
I am, and shall be still.”(ll 1230-1240)

Lady Bertilak’s offer of her body has a double meaning in Middle English. She could be offering herself as a hospitable host, or she could be offering her body for sexual pleasure.Subsequent remarks by the lady on this and two following occasions make clear that the sexual meaning is intended. However, she manages on this first attempt to receive and give only a ‘chaste’kiss of courtly love in Christ’s name (cf. ll 1305-1307).

Interestingly, when Lord Bertilak returns at evening and presents Gawain with the day’s bounty, manifold venison, Gawain presents Lord Bertilak with a kiss as his own day’s bounty (ll 1388-1389). The lord inquires where Gawain had won such a prize, but Gawain objects that this was not part of their agreement. Lord Bertilak concedes the point, and on the following two days, he presents Gawain with a large boar and a small fox, respectively. Gawain, in turn, bestows upon Lord Bertilak first two, then three kisses (ll 1639-1640; ll 1936), which Gawain himself has received from Lady Bertilak on the second and third occasions of her visits to his bedroom (cf. ll 1505, 1555; ll 1758, 1796, 1868-1869). The three occasions of kissing are described by the narrator in terms that allow us to understand them as courteously given, implying that they are chaste (cf. ll 1300, 1486), but one might have doubts, given the seductive context.Moreover, Gawain seems rather powerfully attracted to the lovely lady, as we learn during dinner of the second day as Gawain sits beside her and is swayed by her charms:

So uncommonly kind and complaisant was she,
With sweet stolen glances, that stirred his stout heart,
That he was at wits’end, and wondrous vexed; (ll 1658-1660)

Gawain is surely close to committing that adultery of the heart that Christ warned against. By Lady Betilak’s third visit to his room, Gawain’s heart seems thoroughly captivated with her physical charms:

He accords her fair welcome in courtliest style;
He sees her so glorious, so gaily attired,
So faultless her features, so fair and so bright,
His heart swelled swiftly with surging joys.

They melt into mirth with many a fond smile,
Nor was fair language lacking, to further that hour’s

Good were their words of greeting;
Each joyed in other’s sight;
Great peril attends that meeting
Should Mary forget her knight. (ll 1759-1769)

The danger for Gawain is clear and present, but he seems to understand this danger in the purely physical sense of betraying Lord Bertilak by committing the act of adultery with that lord’s wife, and he resolves not to commit that sinful act (cf. ll 1770-1776).From a rigorously Christian perspective, however, Gawain is flirting with an adultery of the heart, and his resolution not to commit the physical act itself may imply that he is already guilty in his heart. Moreover, he accepts from Lady Bertilak on the third day something that goes beyond kissing, and this involves him in an even more dangerous connection to the lady.

An Excursus Through Don Quixote

First, however, allow me to take a clarifyingexcursus through another great literary work. In Part 1, Chapter 13 of Don Quixote, Cervantes has the great Knight of the Woeful Countenance describe to a fellow traveler the ennobling sufferings of a knight errant, comparing them to the rigors of a monk’s life and suggesting that it is a divine calling because: [C]hurchmen in peace and quiet pray to Heaven for the welfare of the world, but we soldiers and knights carry into effect what they pray for, defending it with the might of our arms and the edge of our swords, not under shelter but in the open air, a target for the intolerable rays of the sun in summer and the piercing frosts of winter. Thus are we God’s ministers on earth and the arms by which his justice is done therein. (Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part 1, Chapter 13)

The traveler listens carefully to the great Don’s words and courteously agrees, but with a significant caveat:

“That is my own opinion,”replied the traveller;“ but one thing among many others seems to me very wrong in knights-errant, and that is that when they find themselves about toengage in some mighty and perilous adventure in which there is manifest danger of losing their lives, they never at the moment of engaging in it think of commending themselves to God, as is the duty of every good Christian in like peril; instead of which they commend themselves to their ladies with as much devotion as if these were their gods, a thing which seems to me to savour somewhat of heathenism.”

(Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part 1, Chapter 13)

In effect, the traveller is politely calling into question the very thing that he had courteously agreed to. Knights errant may believe that they are carrying out God’s work in this world, but in fact, they fall into something like the pagan practice of worshipping goddesses.

Don Quixote responds by appeal to the custom among knights errant:
“Sir,”answered Don Quixote,“ that cannot be on any account omitted, and the knight-errant would be disgraced who acted otherwise: for it is usual and customary in knight-errantry that the knight-errant, who on engaging in any great feat of arms has his lady before him, should turn his eyes towards her softly and lovingly, as though with them entreating her to favour and protect him in the hazardous venture he is about to undertake, and even though no one hear him, he is bound to say certain words between his teeth, commending himself to her with all his heart, and of this we have innumerable instances in the histories. Nor is it to be supposed from this that they are to omit commending themselves to God, for there will be time and opportunity for doing so while they are engaged in their task.”(Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part 1, Chapter 13)

The great Don has not, of course, truly responded to the traveler’s criticism of the knight errant’s heathen devotion to his lady, for by reemphasizing the knight errant’s practice of“ entreating her to favour and protect him in the hazardous venture he is about to undertake, and ⋯ commending himself to her with all his heart,”Quixote merely restates what the traveler finds troubling.

So, naturally, the traveler politely maintains his difference of opinion: “For all that,”answered the traveller, “I feel some doubt still, because often I have read how words will arise between two knights-errant, and from one thing to another it comes about that their anger kindles and they wheel their horses round and take a good stretch of field, and then without any more ado at the top of their speed they come to the charge, and in mid-career they are wont to commend themselves to their ladies; and what commonly comes of the encounter is that one falls over the haunches of his horse pierced through and through by his antagonist’s lance, and as for the other, it is only by holding on to the mane of his horse that he can help falling to the ground; but I know not how the dead man had time to commend himself to God in the course of such rapid work as this; it would have been better if those words which he spent in commending himself to his lady in the midst of his career had been devoted to his duty and obligation as a Christian.”(Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part 1, Chapter 13) Cervantes, perhaps writing these words around 1600, was not the first to note the problem posed to the Christian knight by the practice of courtly love. In the latter 14th century, the Pearl Poet implicitly sets up the problem in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by first presenting Gawain as a good Christian knight:

And all his fealty was fixed upon the five wounds
That Christ got on the cross, as the creed tells;
And wherever this man in melee took part,
His one thought was of this, past all things else,
That all his force was founded on the five joys
That the high Queen of heaven had in her child.

And therefore, as I find, he fittingly had
On the inner part of his shield her image portrayed,
That when his look on it lighted, he never lost heart. (ll 642-650)

Gawain, a good Christian knight, maintains devotion to the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, which therefore makes him Mary’s knight (cf. line 1769) and thus protected against falling into what the traveler in Don Quixote calls the heathen practice of courtly devotion to a mortal woman.

The Compromising Gift

Yet Gawain’s courtesy and concern for his own life — as well as something called“ covetise,”but more on that later — move him to accept from the beautiful Lady Bertilak the gift of a purportedly magical green belt interlaced with threads of gold that will supposedly protect him from an otherwise certain death:

She released a knot lightly, and loosened a belt
That was caught about her kirtle, the bright cloak beneath,
Of a gay green silk, with gold overwrought,
And the borders all bound with embroidery fine,
And this she presses upon him, and pleads with a smile,
Unworthy though it were, that it would not be scorned.

But the man still maintains that he means to accept
Neither gold nor any gift, till by God’s grace
The fate that lay before him was fully achieved.

“And be not offended, fair lady, I beg,
And give over your offer, for ever I must

I am grateful for favor shown
Past all deserts of mine,
And ever shall be your own
True servant, rain or shine.”
“Now does my present displease you,”she promptly inquired,
“Because it seems in your sight so simple a thing?
And belike, as it is little, it is less to praise,
But if the virtue that invests it were verily known,
It would be held, I hope, in higher esteem.

For the man that possesses this piece of silk,
If he bore it on his body, belted about,
There is no hand under heaven that could hew him down,
For he could not be killed by any craft on earth.”
Then the man began to muse, and mainly he thought
It was a pearl for his plight, the peril to come
When he gains the Green Chapel to get his reward:
Could he escape unscathed, the scheme were noble!
The he bore with her words and withstood them no more.

And she repeated her petition and pleaded anew,
And he granted it, and gladly she gave him the belt,
And besought him for her sake to conceal it well,
Lest the noble lord should know — and the knight agrees
That not a soul save themselves shall see it thenceforth
with sight.

He thanked her with fervent heart,
As often as ever he might;
Three times, before they part,
She has kissed the stalwart knight. (ll 1830-1869)

Up until this moment, Gawain has courteously refused to accept any gift from the lady, for in the act of accepting a parting gift from a lady, a knight setting off on a quest is implicitly accepting the lady herself as his lady. By accepting the magical belt, Gawain has exchanged the higher Queen of Heaven for the lower Lady Bertilak and thus relinquished the Virgin’s protection from harm in return for Lady Bertilak’s protection.

In this manner does Gawain lose his status as Mary’s knight and adopt the practice of other knights errant, who “commend themselves to their ladies with as much devotion as if these were their gods, a thing which seems ⋯ to savour somewhat of heathenism,”and by accepting Lady Bertilak, he does, as do other knights with their ladies, “turn his eyes towards her softly and lovingly, as though … entreating her to favour and protect him in the hazardous venture he is about to undertake,”as both the traveller and Don Quixote, respectively, have already noted.

By means of this excursus through Cervantes, we can now draw together two sorts of infidelity (cf. ll 2383, 2509: vntrawpe) that Gawain falls into through his acceptance of Lady Bertilak’s gift, namely, religious infidelity and marital infidelity. First, as just demonstrated, by accepting the ‘magical’belt, Gawain objectively accepts Lady Bertilak as the object of his devotion, thereby displacing his devotion to the Virgin Mary and no longer relying upon the Virgin as his protectress. Second, by accepting Lady Bertilak’s gift, Gawain makes himself her knight rather than Mary’s knight and thus places himself in a relation ofcourtly lover to Lady Bertilak, a problematic connection since this sort of love can scarcely be distinguished from an adultery of the heart. The narrator emphasizes this latter point by two terms used in referring to this gift. After Lady Bertilak has given her‘ magical’belt as a gift and left the bedroom, Gawain:

Tucked away the token the temptress had left,
Laid it reliably where he looked for it after. (ll 1874-1875)

The Middle English word translated as “token”is actually luf-lace, literally,“ love-belt.”The belt is thus a love-token, a sign of Gawain’s ‘love’for the lady. The other term referring to Lady Bertilak’s gift occurs in the passage in which Gawain puts the belt on just prior to leaving for his encounter with the Green Knight:

Yet he left not his love-gift, the lady’s girdle;
Gawain, for his own good, forgot not that:
When the bright sword was belted and bound on his haunches,
Then twice with that token he twined him about. (ll 2030-2033)

The Middle English word translated as“ token”is actually drurye, which means “love-token”(or even “love-making”!). If we recall now that Gawain had also responded to Lady Bertilak’s amorous glances at him during supper on the second day (cf. ll 1658-1660) and to her seductive appearance during the temptation on the third day (cf. ll 1759-1769), then Gawain has likely fallen into an adultery of the heart so common to courtly love, and we will see still more on this point in the next section.

Judgement Upon Gawain

Gawain’s acceptance of the belt has set up a further problem. Recall that Gawain has confirmed an agreement with Lord Bertilak to exchange their winnings each day, and as already noted, Gawain does give to Bertilak the three kisses received from Lady Bertilak when she last parted from him. He does not, however, hand over the belt. Of course, he cannot do so without losing the magical protection that it supposedly offers, but by keeping it for himself rather than giving it to Lord Bertilak, Gawain breaks an agreement and thereby proves himself less than perfectly honest, as the Green Knight informs him when they meet at the Green Chapel on New Year’s Day to finish their beheading game. The Green Knight has just made two feints to test Gawain before finally bearing down hard, yet only just nicking Gawain’s neck, but nevertheless fulfilling the game started one year before in Arthur’s court. As the Green Knight tells Gawain:

“I owed you a hit and you have it; be happy therewith!
The rest of my rights here I freely resign.
Had I been a bit busier, a buffet, perhaps,
I could have dealt more directly, and done you some harm.
First I flourished with a feint, in frolicsome mood,
And left your hide unhurt — and here I did well
By the fair terms we fixed on the first night;
And fully and faithfully you followed accord:
Gave over all your gains as a good man should.
A second feint, sir, I assigned for the morning
You kissed my comely wife — each kiss you restored.
For both of these there behooved two feigned blows
by right.
True men pay what they owe;
No danger then in sight.
You failed at the third throw,
So take my tap, sir knight.

“For that is my belt about you, that same braided girdle,
My wife it was that wore it; I know well the tale,
And the count of your kisses and your conduct too,
And the wooing of my wife ? it was all my scheme!
She made trial of a man most faultless by far
Of all that ever walked over the wide earth;
As pearls to white peas, more precious and prized,
So is Gawain, in good faith, to other gay knights.
Yet you lacked, sir, a little loyalty there,
But the cause was not cunning, nor courtship either,
But that you loved your own life; the less, then, to blame.”(ll 2341-2368)

Interestingly, the Green Knight ?who we now learn is also Lord Bertilak — does not ascribe to Gawain any adulterous motive. He is, however, judging from appearances. We know differently, for we have been privy to Gawain’s heart, courtesy of the narrator, who informed us in lines 1658 through 1660, as noted above:

So uncommonly kind and complaisant was she,
With sweet stolen glances, that stirred his stout heart,
That he was at wits’end, and wondrous vexed; (ll 1658-1660)

Nor should we forget lines 1760 through 1762:

He sees her so glorious, so gaily attired,
So faultless her features, so fair and so bright,
His heart swelled swiftly with surging joys. (ll 1760-1762)

Moreover, Gawain himselfproceeds to suggest that Lady Bertilak’s seductive charms have succeeded with him, for in a somewhat misogynist monologue, he compares himself to other men seduced by women:

But if a dullard should dote, deem it no wonder,
And through the wiles of a woman be wooed into sorrow,
For so was Adam by one, when the world began,
And Solomon by many more, and Samson the mighty ?
Delilah was his doom, and David thereafter
Was beguiled by Bathsheba, and bore much distress;
Now these were vexed by their devices ? ’twere a very joy
Could one but learn to love, and believe them not.
For these were proud princes, most prosperous of old,
Past all lovers lucky, that languished under heaven,

And one and all fell prey
To women that they had used;
If I be led astray,
Methinks I may be excused. (ll 2414-2428)

Traditionally, all these men had been seduced by the sensual, physical charms of the women. Gawain is thus claiming the same thing in his case, tantamount to a confession of having committed an adultery of the heart. Moreover, Gawain accepts the Green Knight’s offer of the belt as a gift:

But your girdle, God love you! I gladly shall take
And be pleased to possess, not for the pure gold,
Nor the bright belt itself, nor the beauteous pendants,
Nor for wealth, nor worldly state, nor workmanship fine,
But a sign of excess it shall seem oftentimes
When I ride in renown, and remember with shame
The faults and the frailty of the flesh perverse,
How its tenderness entices the foul taint of sin;
And so when praise and high prowess have pleased my heart,
A look at this love-lace will lower my pride. (ll 2429-2438)

Note that Gawain emphasizes the weakness of his “flesh perverse” (flesche crabbed), which can have a sexual connotation, and he does refer again to the belt as a “love-lace”(luf-lace). Also, one should note the perhaps not too remote possibility of still other sexual innuendo in the Middle English original of lines 2437-2438:

And pus, quen pryde schal me pryk for prowes of armes,
Pe loke to pis luf-lace schal lepe my hert. (Finch, Sir Gawain, lines 2437- 2438)

Translated more closely to the original:

And thus, when pride shall prick me for prowess of arms,
A look at this love-belt shall humble my heart. (My Translation)

The word “pride”(pryde) has the connotation of “sexual desire”in Middle English, albeit only recorded in writing about 100 years after the Pearl Poet (OED 2, “pride,”1351, 11). The word “prick”(pryk) is a notorious wordplay in Middle English, as noted by Stephen Knight in his discussion of the Pearl Poet’s contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer, who uses the word“ priketh”in line 13 of the“ General Prologue”to his Canterbury Tales, playing on its vulgar meaning, for “the sexual pun on ‘prick’ operates in Middle as well as Modern English”(Knight, 12). If“ prowess of arms”could also be taken as sexual innuendo (cf.“ prowes”line 1249(- 1251) and line 1305 (cf. line 1541), “cachez hym in armez”), then the significance of the luf-lace for Gawain’s probable adultery of the heart is further enhanced.

Gawain’s confession to King Arthur in the presence of his fellow
knights after returning to that royal court seems to distinguish two sins:

“Behold, sir,”said he, and handles the belt,
“This is the blazon of the blemish that I bear on my neck;
This is the sign of sore loss that I have suffered there
For the cowardice and coveting that I came to there;
This is the badge of false faith that I was found in there,
And I must bear it on my body till I breathe my last.
For one may keep a deed dark, but undo it no whit,
For where a fault is made fast, it is fixed evermore.”(ll 2505-2512)

Gawain accuses himself of “cowardice”(couardise) and “coveting” (couetyse). Both contribute to his“ false faith”(vntrawpe,“ unfaithfulness” (marital) or“ unbelief”(religious), OED II, 382“ untruth”(i.e.,“ infidelity”)), a self-reproach by which Gawain confesses his unworthiness to wear the pentangle, that“ endless knot”(endeles knot) that stands for trawpe — the Middle English of“ troth”— which combined the meanings“ truth”and “loyalty.”Gawain’s sin has loosened that endless knot, and the baldric crossing over the shoulder where the shield with pentangle had been hung (line 621) has been replaced with the belt as a substitute baldriccutting across the pentangle upon his surcoat and tied with a knot at his left side (line 2486). In Gawain’s confession, the fault that he has committed will stain him as long as he lives, but what precisely does Gawain confess to? His couardiseis clear enough: fear for his life partly led him to accept the belt offered by Lady Bertilak. But what was the object of his couetyse? This recalls the earlier discussion of Matthew 5:27-28:

Ye han herd that it was seid to elde men, Thou schalt do no letcherie.

But Y seie to you, that euery man that seeth a womman for to coueite hir, hath now do letcherie bi hir in his herte. (Wycliffe Bible, Matheu 5:27-28)

In that earlier discussion, we learned that in the 14th century, the time of both Wycliffe and the Pearl Poet, the word “covet”(coueite) meant “to desire with concupiscence or with fleshly appetite”(OED I, 1106, 2). The term here, however, is the noun “covetise”(couetyse), so what did it mean? According to the Oxford English Dictionary,“ covetise”had a sexual connotation in the 14th century (OED I,“ covetise,”1106, 1). In Daniel 13:7 of the 1382 Wycliffe Bible, we read these wordsconcerning the men who saw the beautiful Susanne bathing:

Thei brennyden in the couetise of hir. (OED I,“ covetise,”1106, 1)

They burned with covetise for her. (My Translation)

And Chaucer uses the noun “covetise”to warn against lechery in his Parson’s Tale, written about 1386 (OED I,“ covetise,”1106, 1). Speaking of the sin of lechery worked by the devil’s hand, Chaucer identifies the specific work of the devil’s first finger:

This is that other hand of the devel, with five fyngres to cachethe peple to his vileynye. / The firste finger is the fool lookynge of the fool woman and of the foolman, that sleeth right as the basilicok sleeth folk by the venom of his sighte, for the coveitise of eyen folweth the coveitise of the herte.
(Fisher, page 385, Lines851-852)

This is the other hand of the devil, with five fingers to draw people to his villainy. / The first finger is the foolish glancing of the foolish woman and of the foolish man, which slays [people] exactly as the basilicok slays people by the venom of its glance, for the covetise of the eyes follows the covetise of the heart. (My Translation)

Chaucer’s parson thus identifies “covetise”with lechery and emphasizes that “the covetise of the eyes follows the covetise of the heart,”which fits rather nicely with the view that Gawain has fallen into an adultery of the heart, given his confession of “coveting”(couetyse).

Gawain takes rather hard his self-knowledge as one guilty of breaking faith for the low motives of cowardice and lechery. Indeed, he tell us in line 2512 that“ where a fault is made fast, it is fixed evermore,”as though he believes that his sin has brought him into a fallen stateas low as original sin brought Adam. While Gawain’s self-reproach might seem excessive, it represents an important stage in his development as a Christian knight, for he has previously been held in thrall to pride, as the Green Knight tells us in revealing that Morgan le Faye sent him:

She guided me in this guise to your glorious hall,
To assay, if such it were, the surfeit of pride
That is rumored of the retinue of the Round Table. (ll 2456-2458)

The Middle English word translated by Borroff as the phrase“ surfeit of pride”is surquidre (cf. sourquydrye, line 311) which the OED traces to as early as 1225 and renders as “arrogance, haughty pride, presumption” (OED II,“ surquidry,”243). Gawain does, in fact, recognize his fault of pride, for in the punning passage of lines 2437-2438, Gawain has already agreed to keep the belt, saying that it will remind him of his pride and humble his heart. Although the Green Knight assures Gawain that his confession of all his failings has left him as pure as if he had never sinned (lines 2391-2394), Gawain remains troubled over his fall and considers himself stained for life, as we have already seen. Indeed, Gawain needed to fail for this story to be a Christian one, for such is the Christian view of human nature, that it is fallen and must therefore fail due to its innate sin.Moreover, through being brought to an awareness of his sins, be they pride or infidelity, Gawain is humbled and thereby better prepared to accept God’s grace.

An Aside on Buddhism

Sir Gawain’s encounter with Lady Bertilak and his subsequent entrapment in an adultery of the heart thus works as a type of felix culpa —a fortunate fall — that leads him to deeper knowledge of himself and thereby to the possibility of salvation. There exists something perhaps like a felix culpa within a major Buddhist text. In the“ Gandavyuha Sutra,”the last chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of East Asian Buddhism’s most important Mahayana texts, we can read the story of the young Buddhist Sudhana as he seeks enlightenment on a pilgrimage that leads him through a sequence of 52 different masters. The twenty-fifth of these is the courtesan bodhisattva Vasumitra, from whose seductive powers, Sudhana must learn a lesson. In Thomas Cleary’s translation of this encounter in The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, we read:

People there [in Ratnavyuha, the city of Vasumitra,] who did not know of Vasumitra’s virtues or the scope of her knowledge, said to Sudhana,“ What has someone like you — with senses so calm and subdued, so aware, so clear, without confusion or distraction, your gaze focused discreetly right before you, your mind not overwhelmed by sensations, not clinging to appearances, your eyes averted from involvement in all forms, your mind so cool and steady, your way of life profound, wise, oceanic, your mind free from agitation or despondency — what have you to do with Vasumitra? You should not have any lust for her, your head should not be turned by her, you should not have any such impure thoughts, you should not be ravaged by such desires, you should not be under the power of a woman, you should not be so bewitched, you should not enter the realm of temptation, you should not sink into the mire of sensuality, you should not be bound by the snares of the devil, you should not do what should not be done.”(Cleary 1270-1271)

Others, however, urging Sudhana to seek out Vasumitra, provide directions to a house that in its greatness resembles a castle. There, he sees her:

There he saw Vasumitra, who was beautiful, with golden skin and black hair, her limbs and body well-proportioned, more beautiful in form than all celestial and human beings in the realm of desire, her voice finer even than that of the god Brahma. (Cleary, 1271)

Vasumitra tells Sudhana:

“[A]ll who come to me with minds full of passion, I teach them so that they become free of passion.”(Cleary, 1272)

She then adds:

“Some attain dispassion just by embracing me, and achieve an enlightening concentration called ‘womb receiving all sentient beings without rejection.’Some attain dispassion just by kissing me, and attain an enlightening concentration called‘ contact with the treasury of virtue of all beings.’”(Cleary, 1272)

From a commentary on Sudhana’s encounter with Vasumitra, we learn:

This woman was settled in a polluted, fearsome realm, making it hard for people to believe in her; so the land was called Danger. By means of meditation, she entered into defiled realms and turned them all into spheres of knowledge; by virtue of great compassion, she remained in the ordinary world, and by virtue of knowledge she remained unaffected, so her city was called City of Jewel Arrays. (Cleary, 1599)

Her compassion and decision to remain in the ordinary world and lead others to enlightenment is, of course, characteristic of the bodhisattvasof Mahayana Buddhism. The commentary tells us how she leads others to enlightenment:

Vasumitra went on to speak of holding her hand, getting up on her couch, gazing at her, embracing her, and kissing her. Holding her hand means seeking salvation. Getting up on her couch means ascendancy of formless knowledge. Gazing at her means seeing truth, embracing her means not departing from it. Kissing her means receiving instruction.
(Cleary, 1600)

The commentary then explains:

This illustrates how all who come near enter a door of total knowledge, unlike those who only seek to get out of bondage and do not arrive at the ultimate dispassion — supreme knowledge of the real universe that remains in the polluted world without being defiled, freely helping the living, neither bound nor freed. (Cleary, 1600)

The commentary does not clearly state whether or not Sudhanaactually has sex with Vasumitra, but many have interpreted the sutra as meaning this. At any rate, the sutra teaches that one can achieve dispassion by an encounter with passion and thereby attain fuller enlightenment. As a sufficiently general level ? and allowing for differences in the two religions ?this might be what is happening to Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


As noted at the outset of this paper, Gawain’s quest has led him through the paradox of Christian salvation wherein his very failure itself has prepared him properly for redemption.Although a pious Christian devoted to the Virgin Mary, Gawain is too proud in his virtues despite his courteous air of humility. As with the others at the court of Arthur, Gawain suffers a surfeit of pride, and his faith must be tested through the various games set up by the Green Knight. Specifically, he is tested in his courage, his troth, and his celibacy.Readers see clearly that he fails in his faith by placing his trust in the green belt rather than the Virgin Mary. This reliance upon the‘ magical’belt calls his courage into doubt as well. Retaining the belt rather than handing it over to Lord Bertilak shows that he fails in his troth. The Green Knight observes that Gawain fails in his courage and his troth, so this is also quite clear to readers. Readers might miss the way in which Gawain falls into a lecherous adultery of the heart, for he seems to have displayed remarkable restraint in resisting the advances of an extraordinarily beautiful, charming, and seductive lady, and the Green Knight himself states that Gawain has not failed due to “wooing” (wowyng, line 2367 (cf. 2361)). However, from Gawain’s self-condemnation, one sees that he focuses upon two failings, his cowardice and his sexual coveting (couetyse, line 2374) of Lord Bertilak’s wife.Gawain may have satisfied the Green Knight on this point, but the falseness of his own heart condemns him, for he has failed to remain chaste within ? he has failed to stay celibate and true to the Virgin Mary. His fall, however, can become a felix culpa, a happy fault, if the blow dealt his pride leads him to true repentance. Concerning this final stage of redemption, the text remains silent. Perhaps, then, Gawain has yet a few more quests to undertake in his path toward self-knowledge.


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Enlightenment through Celibacy or Celibacy through Enlightenment?

Enlightenment through Celibacy or Celibacy through Enlightenment?
Yuki Sirimane(University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka)

I. Introduction

Twenty One out of the Two Hundred and Twenty Seven disciplinary rules for a bhikkhu concern sexual behavior. The four Parajika rules laid down for the bhikkhus have been increased to eight parajika rules in the disciplinary rules applicable to the bhikkhunis. Three out of these additional four rules applicable to the bhikkhunis pertain to sex life and can be considered as secondary rules deriving from the first parajika rule.

Hence half the number of the parajika rules laid down for bhikkhunis deal with sex in one way or another.1) Similarly amongst the many additional

1) Jothiya Dheerasekara, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, Colombo, 1992, 149.

disciplinary rules introduced for Bhikkhunis in the category of Sanghadisesa and Pacittiya rules too, a substantial number deal with sexual behavior and impairment to the life of brahmacariya.

There is a tendency to interpret the essence of the brahmacari life as celibacy. However Mohan Wijeratne in Buddhist Nuns writes No where in the Buddhist doctrine or its discipline do we find any praise of perpetual virginity, or any notion such (as) physical saintliness or ecclesiastical celibacy. Moreover the Buddha does not attach any importance whatsoever to sacred ritual nor does it search for any ritual purity through abstaining from sexual relations’2)

In the light of the heavy stress on celibacy in the Disciplinary Code for monks and nuns in Theravada Buddhism and the general understanding of the philosophy as expressed by Mohan Wijeratne above, it is necessary to investigate in to the role of celibacy on the Path of Enlightenment.

Hence this paper investigates in to the role of celibacy on the Path of Enlightenment; ‘Is it celibacy through Enlightenment or Enlightenment through Celibacy?’with special focus on the recorded practice of Buddhist female disciples. In doing so we will first examine the place of celibacy in the Disciplinary Code for bhikkhunis in the Theravada Tradition. Secondly the Buddhist text refer to female disciples of the Buddha who have attained mental development or attained fruits of the Path as very young girls , entered marriage thereafter , produced children and continued to lead a perfectly normal married life. Hence we will examine the role of celibacy in the lives of the lay female disciples who

2) Mohan Wijeratne, Buddhist Nuns, Colombo, Wisdom, 2001, p. 116.

are reported to have attained significant mental development as recorded in the Theravada Texts.

In the recent field research done by the writer addressing certain controversies surrounding ‘Enlightenment’in the Theravada Tradition i.e. interviews with contemporary meditators of the Theravada tradition, both monks, nuns and layman and lay women who are believed to be with specific religiousexperiences, it has been found that whilst some have attained the fruit of Stream-entry (first stage of Enlightenment) whilst leading a ‘spotlessly clean’celibate life, some laymen observed the prescribed sila, i.e. indulging in permitted sexual activity, whilst some others claim that before their experience which lead them to the‘ entry in to the Path’, as a layman they lived a life breaking all possible norms including the third precept which is an undertaking to abstain from sexual misconduct. Therefore thirdly this paper will investigate the results of field research done with contemporary meditators in the Theravada tradition.

II. The place for celibacy in the Disciplinary Code for bhikkhunis

The process of the evolution of the Universe and man kind accordingto Buddhism is set out in Agganna Sutta (A Book of Genesis). The first referenceitself to sexual intercourse between man and woman as set out in this sutta portraits it as an act of immorality and vulgarity. Accordingly in the process of evolution, with the physical appearance of‘ sex distinction’ in the beings who up to such time had no such distinction, the newly evolved male and female, being overcome by lust, indulged in sexual intercourse with each other which lead to the on- lookers in the rest of the community throwing sand, ash and cow – dung at them saying‘ perish you foul (impure) one, how can a being treat a being so?3) Nibbana the ultimate goal of Buddhism being the complete destruction without remainder, of lust, aversion and ignorance (raga dosa moha) , the emphasis on restraining or abstaining from sensual pleasures including sexual relations in the practice towards this goal is understandable. More over the Buddha says Monks I know of no other single form by which a man’s heart is so enslaved as it is by that of a woman. Monks a woman’s form obsesses a man’s heart . I know of no other single sound by which a man’s heart is so enslaved as it is by the voice of a woman. Monks a woman’s voice obsesses a man’s heart ⋯ scent ⋯ savour ⋯ touch ⋯. The explained that the same holds true for the heart of a woman.4) Hence the Disciplinary Code for monks and nuns who have dedicated their lives to the Practice commences with a heavy emphasis on celibacy.

The disciplinary rules of the Pali Vinaya for a monk or a nun who has received Higher Ordination fall in to eight categories i.e. 1) Parajika 2) Sanghadhisesa 3) Aniyata 4) Nissaggiya Pacittiyas 5) Pacittiya 6) Patidesaniya 7) Sekhiya 8) Adhikarana Samatha.

The Parajika offences being the most serious of all result in the expulsion from the Order of monks or nuns. The ‘parajika’means ‘defeat’and by transgressing these the monk or the nun gets‘ defeated’

3) T.W. and C.A.F. Rhys David, Dialogue of the Buddha Vol III, PTS, 2002, 85
4) Anguttara Nikaya Vol.1, PTS, 2000, 1.

meaning he or she has not being able to resist temptation and has been being defeated by defilements (kelesa).5) Once defeated, such a person is unworthy of belonging to the Community. All offences other than Parajika are remediable by subjecting himself or herself to the stipulated punishment and/or the procedures and thereafter conducting according to the Code of Discipline.

Sanghadisesas are the most serious remediable offences. A Sanghadisesa offence by a bhikkhuni reduces her to a probationary period called‘ manatta’of 15 days . The bhikhuni’s period of manatta was equal to the‘ parivasa period’, the probationary period a bhikkhu is subject to for this category of offences. During the probationary period the offender’s status in the community is reduced by depriving him or her of certain rights and privileges he is entitled to and alsoby making it known to the rest of the community thereby making it a deterrent for wrong doing. Nissaggiya Pacittiya do not involve any punishment, the object improperly acquired is given up. The Pacittiya rules are less severe involving only a confession.

The four Parajika rules laid down for the bhikkhus have been increased to eight Parajika rules in the disciplinary rules applicable to the bikkhunis.Three out of these additional four rules applicable to the Bhikkhunis pertain to sex life and can be considered as secondary rules deriving from the first parajika rule. Hence half the number of the parajika rules laid down for Bhikkhunis deal with sex in one way or another.6) Out

5) Mohan Wijeratne , Buddhist Nuns, p. 74.
6) Jothiya Dheerasekara , Buddhist Monastic Discipline, Colombo, 1992, p. 149.

of these, Parajika rule No. 1 which is held in common with the bhikkhus and rules 5 and 8 of the additional four rules applicable to the bhikkhunis are direct references to sexual acts.

Parajika rule 1- Whatever bhikkhuni should deliberately indulge in sexual intercourse, even with an animal, she becomes one who is defeated. She cannot live any more with the other bhikkhunis.7) The equivalent of the above rule for the bhikkhus is as follows;‘ If a monk who has accepted the discipline , without rejecting it, without pronouncing his ability to continue (monastic life), has sexual intercourse, even with a female animal, he commits an offence entailing defeat⋯⋯.’ In the bhikkhuni’s rule the words ‘without rejecting it, without pronouncing his ability to continue (monastic life)’has not being included. Accordingly a monk had to make known his intention to abandon the discipline before the assembly of the Community or before a group of monks or before an individual monk who has obtained Higher Ordination or at least before a layman who can understand what he says.

However a bhikkhuni could leave the order without such declaration.8) As applicable to the bhikkhus the above rule extends to restraining from sexual activities with not only animals, but also with non-humans such as demons and celestial beings, with dead bodies, hermaphrodites (ubhatobyanjanako) , eunuchs (pandakas) , with a person asleep etc.

7) Mohan Wijeratne , Buddhist Nuns, p. 182.
8) – do – Note 6, 116.

Whilst the Parajika rule 1 deals with active participation in sexual activity, the following Parajika rules preclude a bhikkhuni from even being a passive sex partner.

Parajika rule 5- Whatever bhikkhuni filled with desire, should consent to rubbing, or rubbing up against, or taking hold of or touching or pressing against a male person who is filled with desire, below the collor bone and above the circle of the knees, she becomes one who is defeated⋯⋯.

Parijika rule 8- Whatever bhikkhuni, filled with desire, for the sake of following this unsuitable thing , should consent to a male person who is filled with desire, taking her hand, or should consent to his taking hold of even by the edge of her outer cloak (sanghati), or should stand or should talk or should go to rendezvous, or should consent to a man coming towards her , or should enter a covered place or should dispose her body for such a purpose, she becomes one who is defeated⋯⋯.

In both above rules though it appears as a passive role physically, the words‘ filled with desire’and‘ consent to’(sadiyeyya) indicates the role of the mind.

Psychologically‘ to consent’does not mean simply‘ to give in’or‘ to let things go’or‘ to give way to’. It means‘ to agree with’,‘ to approve’, and particularly in the case of Parajuka 5, to accept and actively indulge in the pleasures that are felt, that have been felt, and that are going to be felt.9) It is for the same reason that the victim of rape in the event the victim being an Arahant or emission of semen in a dream do not fall within the definition of this offence. The Arahant theri, Uppalavanna who was raped by a young man in the woods was declared by the Buddha not guilty of Parajika 1 as, an Arahant is one who has eradicated lust and therefore can not be guilty of consenting to the act .

The following Sanghadisesa rules10) applicable to bhikkhinis are noteworthy.

Sanghadisesa 3 – No bhikkhuni shall, alone leave the village , cross the river and go beyond, shall stay a night out, or be out of the company of the group. Whoever does so shall be guilty of an Sanghadisesaoffence.

Sanghadisesa 5 – No bhikkhuni shall with lustful intentions receive and partake of any food from a lustful man with similar intentions.

Sanghadisesa 6 – No bhikkhuni shall tell another ‘whatever will this man do to you. whether he is lustful or otherwise, as long as you entertain no such thoughts. Therefore you accept and partake of whatever he offers you’

The above rules seem to be with the objective of not only to curtail the opportunities to entertain lustful thoughts and conduct but also to safeguard the bhikkhunis from being victims of rape, molestation and

9) – do – , 118.
10) Jothiya Dheerasekara, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, 149.

other physical dangers and also to safeguard the community of bhikkhinis as an Institution from disrepute and unwarranted accusations from the public, supporters of the community and other interested parties. Some of these have been considered so grave that it warrants the guilty bhikkhuni to be reduced to a probationary period.

The following Pacittiya rules11) are also for the same objective.

Pacittiya rule 11 – No bhikkhuni shall in the darkness of the night, at a place there is no lamp, stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him. Whoever does so will be guilty of a Pacittiya offence.

Pacittiya rule 12 – No bhikkhuni shall stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him in a secluded place.

Pacittiya rule 13 – No bhikkhuni shall stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him in an open place.

Pacittiya rule 14 – No bhikkhuni shall, in the street, in a blind alley or at the cross roads, stay alone in the company of a man, converse with him, whisper in his ear, or send away the bhikkhuni who is her only companion.

It is noteworthy that the above conduct is considered an offence what ever the state of mind of the bhikkhuni may be, whether she acts with or

11) – do – 150.

without lust. The following rules serve the same purpose.12)

Pacittiya rule 51 – Whatever bhikkhuni who knowingly enter a monastic residence where a bhikkhu lives, without asking for permission, she is guilty of a fault of Pacittiya category.

Pacittiya rule 102 – Whatever bhikkhuni should lie down in the lodging where a male person lives ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 103 – Whatever bhikkhuni who teaches Dhamma to a man in more than five or six sentences , unless a knowledgeable woman is present ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 125 – Whatever bhikkhuni should sit down and wait in private in a secluded seat with a man ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 126- Whatever bhikkhuni should sit down and wait together with a man ⋯⋯.

In the bhikkhuni Vinaya there seem to be several rules to safeguard against sexual practicessuch as masturbation, homosexuality etc. The restrictions in the Vinaya againstsharing the same bed, couch, sharing the same blanket, from rubbing each others bodies, applying oils etc on another could be multi purpose including to safeguard against possible

12) – do – 197, 201, 203.

sexual activity. Some of these are as follows ; Pacittiya rule 3 – In slapping with the palms of the hands (on the private parts of the body), a bhikkhuni is guilty of a Pacittiya offence Pacittiya rule 4 – In penetrating some thing e.g. some thing made out of wax (in the private part of the body) a bhikkhuni is guilty of an offence There is a reference in the Pali text to a bhikkhuni inserting a ‘jatumutthaka’inside her genitals. The term jattumuthaka is translated in to English as a‘ decking with lac’(Pali English Dictionary – PTS London), a device used by women in society at that time to prevent conception. It is something made of wood, flour or clay. Subsequent to this incident the Buddha laid downa rule which not only forbids them from using jatthumuttaka but also touching their genitals even with a blade of grass.13) Pacittiya rule 5 – states that when bhikkhunis wash their genitals, their fingers should not be inserted for more than two inches inside the vaginas.14)

Pacittiya rule 31 – Whatever two bhikkhunis who should share one couch , they are guilty of a fault⋯⋯.

13) Chamindaji Gamage, Buddhism and Sensuality, Colombo, 1998, 63.
14) – do – , 64.

Pacittiya rule 32 – whatever two bhikkhunis should share one blanket or one bed sheet, they are guilty of an offence⋯⋯. Pacittiya rule 90 – Whatever bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment massaged by a nun, she is guilty of a fault of pacittiya Pacittiya rule 91 – Whatever Bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment or massaged by a postulant , she is guilty⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 92 – Whatever bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment or massaged by a female novice, she is guilty ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 93 – Whatever bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment or massaged by a woman householder, she is guilty ⋯⋯.

The Vinaya rules also safeguards against the bhikkhunis conducting themselves in such a manner that would arouse lustful feelings in men i.e.

wearing ornaments, scents, bathing naked in public places etc.

Pacittiya rule 96 – Whatever bhikhuni who should enter the village without her vest , she is guilty ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 86 – What ever bhikkhuni should wear a sanghani, she is guilty of ⋯⋯(a sanghani is a decorated cloth or an ornamental chain to wear around the hip).15)

Pacittiya rule 87 – Whatever bhikkhuni would wear women’s ornaments, she is guilty of ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 88 – Whatever bhikkhuni should bath with scent and skin lotions , she is guilty of ⋯⋯.

Pacittiya rule 21 – Whatever bhikkhunishould bathe naked, she is guilty ⋯⋯.

Sexual intercourse has been commonly referred to in the text as not true dhamma, it is a village dhamma, low-caste dhamma, wickedness, the final ablution, secrecy, having obtained in couples. The extent of the sexual taboo on the Path to Enlightenment of a monk or a nun who has renounced the household life can be determined by the Buddha’s advice to Sudinna at the time of promulgation of the first parajika rule as follows; It were better for you, foolish man that your male organ should enter the mouth of a terrible and a poisonous snake , than it should enter a woman. It were better for you, foolish man , that your male organ should enter the mouth of a black snake⋯⋯. charcoal pit ⋯⋯ burning ablaze, a fire than enter a woman.16)

15) Mohan Wijeratne, Buddhist Nuns, note 4, 200.
16) I.B.Horner, The book of Discipline, Vinaya Pitaka, Vol.1, London, Oxford University Press, 1938, 36-37.

Based on these statements there is a tendency to interpret the essence of the brahmacari life as celibacy. However in Methuna Sutta of Anguttara Nikaya, replying to brahmin Janussoni the Buddha declared a bhikkhu or Brahmin who declares himself to be a person of perfect brahmacariya, may not enjoy sexual intercourse with a woman, but this is not enough to warrant such a declaration.17) It is further said that if he allows a woman to rub his body with oil or perfume, to give him a bath and shampoo him and enjoys or longs for it, if he laughs sports or enjoys with a woman, if he looks in to, watches with expectation, the eyes of a woman who does the same in return, if he listens through a wall or a fence to the noise of a woman who is laughing, reciting, singing, or weeping , if he remembers that he has formally laughed, talked , and sported together with a woman, if he sees a householder or a householder’s son, in possession of five sorts of pleasure and being attended by a woman or if he practices brahmacariya desiring to join a class of celestial beings, such brahmacariya cannot be called unbroken, uninterrupted, unvaried, unadulterated, perfect and pure brahmacariya.18)

The above clearly shows that abstinence from sexual activity is not the essence of the practice towards Enlightenment even in the case of a monk or a nun . Mohan Wijeratne in Buddhist Nuns writes;

17) Anguttaranikaya, Buddha Jayanthi Tipitaka Series, Colombo, 1960-77, Vol. 21, Pt. 4, 362 / Chamindaji Gamage, Buddhism and Sensuality, Colombo, 1998, 83.

18) – do- 362-364.

No where in the Buddhist doctrine or its discipline do we find any praise of perpetual virginity, or any notion such (as) physical saintliness or ecclesiastical celibacy. Moreover the Buddha does not attach any importance whatsoever to sacred ritual nor does it search for any ritual purity through abstaining from sexual relations. Attaching a sense of spiritual value to the human body was foreign to Buddhism. ⋯⋯ we should also note that with regard to abstinence, Buddhist nuns never had a notion such as‘ giving one’s life completely to a divine spouse”, nor were they tied to a spiritual marriage.19)

A married woman is permitted to enter the order of nuns at the age of twelve years provided there is permission from her husband or the parents to do so (Pacittiya rule 65 and 80). However in the case of a unmarried woman she is not permitted to enter the Order until 20 yrs (Pacittiya rule 71). These rules seem to be giving sufficient time for a unmarried woman to make a decision about entering in to wedlock and in the case of married women this also serves to protect the Institution of marriage.

Hence it can be concluded that despite the heavy emphasis on celibacythere is no sacrosanct value attached to celibacy within the Buddhist philosophy except that these rules have been enacted both for molding a mind conducive for treading the Path and for safeguarding and supporting the Community of monks and nuns.

19) Mohan Wijeratne, Buddhist Nuns, 116.

III. The role of celibacy in the practice of lay female Buddhist disciples who have attained fruits of the Path

Once a lay disciple, Migasala questioned Ven. Ananda as to how to understand the dhamma thought by the Tathagata, as it seems that both, one who lives brahmacari life (celibate life) and one who doesn’t, after death takes a similar birth.

She said ‘my father, sir, Purana, lived the godly life (brahmacari life), dwelling apart, abstaining from common carnal things ; and when he died the Exalted One explained : He is a once-returner, dwelling in Tusita. My uncle, sir Isidatta, did not live the godly life but rejoiced with a wife; and of him also, when dead, the Exalted One said : He is a once-returner, dwelling in Tusita. Reverend Ananda how ought one to understand this Dhamma?’

This incident was reported to the Buddha by Ven. Ananda seeking an explanation.

In this sutta , the Buddha comes out very strongly against the attempt of Migasala to pass judgment about the attainments of others.20)

The Buddhist Path to Nibbana, its ultimate goal is marked by four land marks , the four fruits of the Path. They are (a) Fruit of Stream- entry (Sotapatti-Phala) (b) Once Returner (Sakadagami-phala) (c) Non Returner (Anagami-Phala) and (d) Arahatta-Phala (Nibbana). These are progressive stages of development of the mind. This sutta highlights that celibacy by

20) Anguttara Nikaya Vol.III, PTS Edition, 246.

itself is not a factor for the attainment of mental development expected on this Path nor a pre-condition for enlightenment at least up to the third fruit of the Path, as both, the one who‘ rejoiced with a wife’and the one who practiced celibacy have progressed up to the same fruit. At this point it is important to note that at the third fruit of the Path, a Non-returner (Anagami) eradicates all sensual pleasures, naturally reverting to a celibate life whether he or she has renounced lay life or not.

In the light of the above sutta it is important to examine the recorded lives of disciples of the Buddha to determine the role of celibacy on their Path to Enlightenment. Most of the recorded cases of the disciples who attained fruits of the Path are of monks and nuns who are expected to lead celibate lives. Celibacy is a pre-condition for them .Therefore the extent of the impact of celibacy on their practice or its success can not be assessed externally. Hence the extent of the role of celibacy for the purposes of Enlightenment can be examined only by dwelling into the recorded lives of lay disciples who had the freedom to lead a non-celibate life. Following are some accounts of such disciples-

I) It is said of Visakha (the chief female lay disciple of the Buddha) who attained sotappatti phala at the age of seven years; Visakha got married at the age of fifteen or sixteen years ⋯⋯ In the course of time she gave birth to ten sons and ten daughters and all of them had the same number of descendants down to the fourth generation. Visakha herself lived up to the remarkable age of 120⋯⋯. She was strong as a elephant and worked untiringly throughout the day looking after her large family. She found time to feed the monks every day, to visit monasteries, and to ensure that non of the monks lacked food, clothing, shelter, bedding and medicine.

Above all she still found time to listen to the dhamma again and again⋯⋯ she wore her valuable bridal jewellery even when she went to listen to the dhamma⋯⋯. She was declared by the Buddha as the foremost among women lay supporters who serve as supporters of the Order.21)

Accordingly having attained the first fruit of the Path as a seven year old she entered marriage and continued to have ten children and enjoy sensual pleasures. She was obviously not leading a celibate life. With the first fruit of the Path one is assured of completing the Path to Nibbana, at the latest within seven more lives and is assured of not falling back from the Path . He or she is said to have firmly entered the ‘Stream’to Nibbana. Further from this point onwards he or she is said to continue to progress towards the final goal and only the time taken to reach the final goal differs from one another depending on each one’s commitment to the Practice. Hence Visakha having attained first fruit of the Path and whilst continuing towards her final goal and associating the Buddha so closely as his chief lay female disciple, yet celibacy had no real role in her practice.

ii) Nakulapita and Nakulamata (Father Nakula and Mother Nakula) arementioned by the Buddha amongst his foremost lay disciples, and their unfaltering faithfulness to each other has been highlighted in the Text. The Pali Canon depicts their relationship with each other as exemplary and a 21) Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmut Hecker, The Great Disciples of the Buddha, Chapter 7 (Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society, 1997, 247-255.)

conjugal love of divine stature accompanied by absolute trust based upon their common faith in the Blessed One. An old couple by the time they met the Buddha, the wife and husband declared to the Buddha that though married to each other very young they had not even once broken the faith with each other throughout the years , not even in thought leave alone in deed. They had not deviated for a moment from their mutual fidelity. In their devotion to each other, both of them expressed to Buddha their longing to be together in the future births and asked for advice from the Buddha to achieve it and they were advised by the Buddha accordingly.22)

Once when Nakulapita, the husband fell gravely ill and Nakulamata addressed him was as follows;

Do not harbor distress at the thought of my being left behind. To die like that is agonizing, so our Master has advised against it. ⋯⋯ I am skilled in spinning and so shall be able to support the children, after having lived the home life chastely with you for sixteen years I shall never consider taking another husband; I shall never cease seeing the Master and his bhikkhus, but rather visit them even more frequently than before; I am firmly established in virtue and have attained to peace of mind; and lastly I have found firm footing in the Dhamma and I am bound for final deliverance.23)

22) – do-, 375.
23) – do -, 377.

The above words of Nakulamata shows that the couple though been flawless in their conjugal love towardseach other and having had children from this marriage still have lived a celibate life for sixteen years (gahatthakan brahmacariyan samacinnam). Further the words I am firmly established in virtue and have attained to peace of mind; and lastly I have found firm footing in the Dhamma and I am bound for final deliverance is an indication that Nakulamata had attained the first fruit of the Path, Sotapatti-phala.24)

This gives us an indication that though very much in love and attached to each other to the extent of wanting to meet in the future births, the spiritual attainment of the couple had lead them to a celibate life.

iii) Khema was the beautiful chief consort of king Bimbisara who was himself a Stream-enterer. Though the King was a great benefactor of the Buddha and she had heard so much about the Buddha from the King, she never wanted to visit the Buddha as she had heard that the Buddha preaches about the vanity of beauty and sensual pleasures. However once the King managed to get her to visit the monastery where the Buddha was residing and she went with her royal splendor with silk and sandalwood and gradually got drawn in to the hall where the Buddha was preaching. The Buddha having read her mind, through his psychic powers created a beautiful women, more beautiful than her, standing behind him and fanning him while he was preaching. She was enthralled by the beauty of the woman. Gradually the Buddha created the‘ woman’to change from

24) – do -, Note 7, 392.

youth to middle age, and then to old age, with broken teeth grey hair and wrinkled skin until it finally fell to the ground lifeless. Having made her realize the vanity of beauty the Buddha preached her a stanza at the conclusion of which she was established in the first fruit of the Path. The Buddha continued to preach and at the conclusion of the sermon she attained Arahanthood dressed in her royal clothes itself. She obtained permission from the King and entered the order of nuns.25) Later she was declared by the Buddha as one of the two foremost bhikkhunis in the Bhikkhuni Sangha.

The above account shows that at the time of this incident, both the King who himself was a Stream-enterer and Khema who was his chief consort were very much enjoying sense pleasures. At the time of attaining Arahanthood she was not leading a celibate life as a part of her practice to Enlightenment. However upon full Enlightenment naturally she renounces lay life. Hence in this case celibacy had no real role in her Practice towards Enlightenment.

When we consider the above reports and many other accounts of enlightened disciples of the Buddha as recorded in the Pali text, it is difficult to conclude conclusively to what extent celibacy plays a role in Enlightenment.

25) – do -, 263-264.

IV. Findings of field research

In the recent field research done by the writer addressing certain controversies surrounding‘ Enlightenment’in the Theravada Tradition i.e.

interviews with contemporary meditators of the Theravada tradition, both monks, nuns and layman and lay women who are believed to be with specific spiritual experiences, it has been found that whilst some have attained the fruit of Stream-entry (first stage of Enlightenment) whilst leading a‘ spotlessly clean’celibate life, some laymen observed the prescribed sila (indulging in permitted sexual activity), whilst some others claim that before their experience which lead them to the‘ entry in to the Path’, as a layman they lived a life breaking all possible norms including the third precept which is an undertaking to abstain from sexual misconduct.

– A 54yrs monk who is 27yrs in robes, the chief preceptor of a well established forest hermitage in Sri Lanka related the impact of his first significant religious experience on this Path as an irreversible change in his morality. He who was ridiculing virtue (sila) and laughing at those abiding in sila realized the power of sila, became virtuous, began to worship the virtuous, preach to others about the power of sila.

⋯⋯ I first realized the power of sila. That is, the sila that I ridiculed all this time or that I considered as being restricted to a jail, became the sole purpose of my life .

⋯⋯ I who was poking fun at or ridiculing sila began to worship the virtuous and also to preach to others about the importance of sila. That is, there occurred an irreversible change in morality ⋯⋯ Later for years I examined myself, can I kill, can I steal, can I engage in sexual misconduct etc and shame, fear, disgust arise towards these⋯⋯. Before this experience I had the desire to investigate in to lust, therefore I had distorted ideas about it, that I need to experience everything about it. Similarly with hatred , to chop a creature alive knowing well that its alive and struggling, to steal from the most heavily guarded place, to taste all the possible intoxicating drugs in the world , in cheating, to cheat even my mother and father etc.

Having done all this I have been fairly successful. But there has been nothing achieved. Then when I came on to this side the opposite happened. I wanted to stay away from even thinking of lust and hatred. ⋯.

He began to feel enormously indebted to the Buddha and to Buddha Sasana, in return wanted to serve unreservedly for Dhamma, felt a need for a teacher and entered monkhood.26) This is the impact of his first fruit of the Path, Stream-entry. Here is a case where Enlightenment has lead to celibacy to say the least.

In the above recent field research out of the three married female disciples interviewed by the writer on their significant religious experiences on the Path, it was found that at the time of their first fruit of the Path, two were leading a normal lay life with their spouse and family and were abiding in the five precepts which is the minimum level of sila

26) Yuki Sirimane, Religious experience in a Buddhist perspective with specific focus on Sotapatti -phala, 2006 (Unpublished) Interview No. 4. (This research has been done for the purposes of her Doctoral Thesis).

expected of a lay disciple. However all these three disciples being in practice for over 10-20yrs, eventually, a few years down the line from this experience, have shifted to a higher mode of virtue including a celibate life whilst continuing in lay life. Except for abstinence from sexual relations, in all other aspects they continued to lead a‘ normal’and a complete lay life. The following is a brief account of the relevant field research.

Case study -1

A 66yr old married lady , a house wife, with two children had her first significant religious experience (Fruit of Stream-entry) 30yrs ago during a meditation retreat at a meditation Center. During the time of this experience she was observing the eight precepts as she was on a formal meditation retreat. However during this time she was leading a perfectly normal married life fulfilling the responsibilities of a mother and of a wife and was observing the five precepts as her regular sila. Though she continued to fulfill her responsibilities as a mother and as a wife in all other aspects, after a period of‘ four to five’years from this experience she started leading a celibate life, observing a‘ higher sila’. Although she was not observing all eight precepts (i.e. abstaining from perfumes, juwellery etc and abstaining from solid foods after the noon meal hich are included in the eight precepts) she was inclined to abstain from sexual relations. Though initially her relationship with the husband was strained due to this reason, with time it was accepted by him. As of today she continues to lead a harmonious married life whilst striving for higher fruits of the Path.

Case Study -2

A 56yr old married lady, a mother of two children, who is a teacher by profession had her first significant religious experience 19yrs ago. She had her first religious experience (which she describes as the Fruit of Streamentry) at home. During this time she was managing a home and was discharging her duties as a mother and as a wife, however was observing a ‘higher sila than the five precepts’. Today several years after this experience though she is leading a normal lay life in all other aspects, she is observing the eight precepts abstaining from not only sexual relations but from many other sensual pleasures including not having solid foods after the noon meal. At the time of this experience her relationship with her husband was already strained and with time it became worse and ended up with separation. However as of today she maintains a harmonious relationship with her husband though not ‘living together’ but living under the same roof.

Case Study -3

– A married lady in her early forties, who is a senior executive in the mercantile sector, had her first significant religious experience (Fruit of Stream-entry) 11yrs ago. She had her experience at home whilst observing the five precepts and leading a perfectly normal lay life. However around 4yrs from this experience she found herself naturally inclining towards abstaining from sexual relations with her husband and today she is leading a celibate life though not observing all eight precepts. The celibate life has not affected the harmonious relationship between her and her husband who is appreciative of the Dhamma. She continues to lead a perfectly normal lay life in all other aspects including perusing her career as she continues her quest for Nibbana.

In all above cases it is noteworthy that the practioners concerned have opted for a celibate life whilst being young enough to be sexually active. In the case of males interviewed by the writer who attained the fruits of the Path as lay disciples, few years after their first experience, both males ended up entering the Order of monks leading a completely celibate life.


Having examined the lives of disciples above it is difficult to conclude that celibacy is a pre-condition for Enlightenment. Nor can we determine the extent of the contribution of a celibate life towards one’s Enlightenment. However given the extreme sexual taboos enforced on the Community of monks and nuns in the form of disciplinary rules, the role of celibacy on the path to Enlightenment can not be under-estimated.

The disciplinary rules have been laid down by the Buddha for the following reasons;

a) Well-being of the Sangha
b) Convenience of the Sangha
c) Restraint of evil minded persons
d) Ease of well behaved monks
e) Restraint amongst the defilements of this life
f) Eradication of the defilements of the life after
g) Conversion of new adherents
h) Enhancement of the faith of those already converted
i) Stability and continuance of the Dhamma
j) Furtherance of the good discipline27)

Hence Disciplinary rules are not merely for Enlightenment. It is also meant to serve multiple purposes vital for the sustenance of the Community of Sangha as an Institution.

Therefore the rule of celibacy imposed on the monks and nuns too is not merely for Enlightenment. With progress on the Path, realizing the true nature of sensual pleasures and the mind and body one progresses through to a celibate life naturally. Some reach such a state of mind earlier than others . In any event at the latest, with the attainment of third fruit of the Path, Anagami-phala one switches over to complete celibacy. Ajahn Brahmavamso writes; ⋯ since sensual desire has been totally transcended, there is no spark left to ignite the passion for sex. All Arahants are ‘potently impotent’.28)

27) Jothiya Dheerasekara, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, 51.
28) Ajhan Brahmavamso, Dhamma Journal, Vol.5, Perth, Western Australia, Buddhist Society, 2004 , 55’.

The Locus of Creative Interpretation in Buddhist Thought and Culture

The Locus of Creative Interpretation in Buddhist Thought and Culture

Vol. 1, February 2002
The Essence-Function Formula as a Hermeneutic Device: Korean and Chinese Commentaries on Awakening Mahayana Faith (by Sung-bae Park) Vol01_01_Sung-bae Park.pdf
Ontology and Self-Certainty in the prasannapada (by Bibhuti S. Yadav) Vol01_02_Bibhuti S Yadav.pdf
Introduction of Buddhist Ethics into the Korean Peninsula (by Yong-kil Cho) Vol01_03_Yong-kil Cho.pdf
The Concepts of Buddha and Bodhisattva (by S.R. Bhatt) Vol01_04_S R Bhatt.pdf
The Practice of Self-Power and Faith in Other-Power in Mahayana Buddhism (by Ho-ryeon Jeon) Vol01_05_Ho-ryeon Jeon.pdf
Double Tragedy: A Reappraisal of the Decline of Buddhism in India (by K.T.S. Sarao) Vol01_06_K T S Sarao.pdf
Hermeneutical Circle of Prajna-Paramita Thought in Candrakirti and Seungnang (by Yong-pyo Kim) Vol01_07_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
On the Problem of the Origin of Cakravartin (by Kyoung-joon Park) Vol01_08_Kyoung-joon Park.pdf
Sunyata in Chinese Hua-yan Thought (by Ae-soon Chang) Vol01_09_Ae-soon Chang.pdf
On the Buddha as an Avatara of Visnu (by Geo-lyong Lee) Vol01_10_Geo-lyong Lee.pdf
Relic Worship: A Devotional Institute in Early Buddhism (by Yang-Gyu An) Vol01_11_Yang-Gyu An.pdf
Supplement and Suchness in Deconstruction and Buddhism (by Sung-ja Han) Vol01_12_Sung-ja Han.pdf
Dharma, Interpretation and Buddhist Feminism (by Seung-mee Jo) Vol01_13_Seung-mee Jo.pdf
The Logic of Reconciliation and Harmonization (Hwahoe) in Wonhyo’s Thought (by Young-tae Kim) Vol01_14_Young-tae Kim.pdf
The Buddhist Reform Movement in Modern Times (by Jeung-bae Mok) Vol01_15_Jeung-bae Mok.pdf
On Translating Wonhyo (by Robert E. Buswell, Jr) Vol01_16_Buswell.pdf

Vol. 2, February 2003
Wonhyo: A Study of his Compilations (by Lewis Lancaster) Vol02_01_Lewis Lancaster.pdf
Wonhyo’s Faith System, as seen in his Commentaries on the Awakening of Mahayana Faith (by Sung-bae Park) Vol02_02_Sung-bae Park.pdf
Wonhyo and the Commentarial Genre in Korean Buddhist Literature (by Robert E. Buswell) Vol02_03_Robert Buswell.pdf
An Investigation of Wonhyo’s Achievement in the Samgukyusa (by Sang-hyun Kim) Vol02_04_Sang-hyun Kim.pdf
Wonhyo’s Interpretation of the Maha-prajna-paramita-sutra: Apparatus Criticus and Translation (by Yong-pyo Kim) Vol02_05_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
Wonhyo’s View of the Huayan Doctrine (by Pokan Chou) Vol02_06_Pokan Chou.pdf
Wonhyo on the Muryangsugyongchongyo and the Yusimallakto (by Richard D. McBride) Vol02_07_Richard McBride.pdf
Wonhyo’s Interpretation of the Hindrances (by Charles Muller) Vol02_08_Charles Muller.pdf
Wonhyo’s Writings on Bodhisattva Precepts and the Philosophical Ground of Mahayana Buddhist Ethics (by Jin-Young Park) Vol02_09_Jin-Young Park.pdf
Wonhyo’s View on Rebirth of the Sentient Beings to the Pure Land (by Hwee-ok Jang) Vol02_10_Hwee-ok Jang.pdf
Wonhyo’s Conception of Buddha-nature in his Thematic Essential of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra (by Young-suk Kim) Vol02_11_Young-suk Kim.pdf
Ontology, Language, and Deconstruction (by Bibhuti S. Yadav) Vol02_12_Bibhuti S Yadav.pdf
Belief in Indra and Development of this Belief in the Koryo Dynasty (by Yoon-kil Suh) Vol02_13_Yoon-kil Suh.pdf
Nagarjuna as Viewed in Korean Buddhist Prayer Books (by Hae-ju Jeon) Vol02_14_Hae-ju Jeon.pdf
Translation of Sutras and Its Characteristics in the Period of North and South Dynasties in china (by Ae-soon Chang) Vol02_15_Ae-soon Chang.pdf
A Comparative Study of the Concept of Dharmakaya Buddha: Vairocana in Hua-yen and Mahavairocana in Shingon Buddhism (by Kwangsoo Park) Vol02_16_Kwangsoo Park.pdf
How does Buddha recognize a forest? (by Ho-duck Kang and Sung-hyun Shin) Vol02_17_Ho-duck Kang and Sung-hyun Shin.pdf
Formation of the Practice System of Anuttarayoga-tantra, with Special Reference to the Accomplishment of Physical Body (by Seong-joon Cheong) Vol02_18_Seong-joon Cheong.pdf
A Problem of the Lankavatara-sutra (by Suah Kim) Vol02_19_Suah Kim.pdf
The Best War Against Terrorism: Dialogue Among The Religions (by Leonard Swidler) Vol02_20_Leonard Swidler.pdf
Buddhism and World Peace (by D.R. Bhalerao) Vol02_21_D R Bhalerao.pdf

Vol. 3, September 2003
On the Nature and Message of the Lotus Sutra in the Light of Early Buddhism and Buddhist Scholarship (by Karel Werner) Vol03_01_Karel Werner.pdf
Navayana Buddhism: The Dawning of a New Tradition (by Byung-Jo Chung) Vol03_02_Byung-Jo Chung.pdf
The Heart Sutra in Chinese Yogacara: Some Comparative Comments on the Heart Sutra Commentaries of Wonch’uk and K’uei-chi (by Dan Lusthaus) Vol03_03_Dan Lusthaus.pdf
Becoming a Buddhist Nun in Korea: Monastic Education and Ordination for Women (by Hyewon Kang) Vol03_04_Hyewon Kang.pdf
Religious Diversity in a Buddhist Majority Country: The Case of Islam in Thailand (by Imtiyaz Yusuf) Vol03_05_Imtiyaz Yusuf.pdf
An Intra-Buddhist Dialogue between Theravada and Mahayana: A Hermeneutical Search for Common Unity (by Yong-pyo Kim) Vol03_06_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
Sot’aesan’s Essays on the Reformation of Korean Buddhism (by Kwangsoo Park) Vol03_07_Kwangsoo Park.pdf
The Theoretical Meaning & Cultural Artistic Value of Temple Cymbals Dance (by Jong-hyung Kim) Vol03_08_Jong-hyung Kim.pdf

Vol. 4, February 2004
The Japanese Missionaries and Their impact on Korean Buddhist Developments (1876-1910) (by Vladimir Tikhonov) Vol04_01_Vladimir Tikhonov.pdf
Traditional Story Telling and Poetry Grammar in Korea 7-8 Century A.D. (by Ki-chung Im) Vol04_02_Ki-chung Im.pdf
Interaction and Harmonization between Hwa-eom and Seon in Korea during the late Silla and Early Goryeo Period (by Ho-ryeon Jeon) Vol04_03_Ho-ryeon Jeon.pdf
Teachings on Abortion in Theravada and Mahayana Traditions and Contemporary Korean Practice (by Frank M. Tedesco) Vol04_04_Frank M Tedesco.pdf
On the Meaning of the First Jhana in Nikayas (by Seung-taek Lim) Vol04_05_Seung-taek Lim.pdf
The Mind-only thought in the Commentaries on the Lankavatarasutra (by Suah Kim) Vol04_06_Suah Kim.pdf
Wonhyo’s Human Character Education: Principles and Practice Methods (by Young-suk Kim) Vol04_07_Young-suk Kim.pdf
The Middle Path of No Abiding and No Leaving in the Immutability of Things by Seng-chao (by Sung-ja Han) Vol04_08_Sung-ja Han.pdf

Vol. 5, February 2005
Buddhism and Peace: Peace in the World or Peace of Mind? (by Karel Werner) Vol05_01_Karel Werner.pdf
A Commentary on Venerable Songchul’s Method for Seon Practice (by Hyewon Kang) Vol05_02_Hyewon Kang.pdf
On the Sinin and Ch’ongji Schools and the Nature of Esoteric Buddhist Practice under the Koryo (by Henrik H. Sorensen) Vol05_03_Henrik H Sorensen.pdf
Reconciling the Actual with the Potential : Wonhyo’s Theory of Buddhahood (by Eunsu Cho) Vol05_04_Eunsu Cho.pdf
Dialogue between Islam and Buddhism through the Concepts of Tathagata and Nur Muhammadi (by Imtiyaz Yusuf) Vol05_05_Imtiyaz Yusuf.pdf
The Present Actualization of Buddha-Nature in Buddhist Education (by Yong-pyo Kim) Vol05_06_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
The Uses of Buddhist and Shamanistic Symbolism in the Empowerment of Queen Sondok (by Pankaj Mohan) Vol05_07_Pankaj Mohan.pdf
Relationship between Confucianism and Buddhism in Early Choson (by Hongkyung Kim) Vol05_08_Hongkyung Kim.pdf
Sung Tonang(僧 道朗) (a.k.a. Sungnang (僧朗), fl. 476?-512) from Koguryo and his Role in Chinese San-lun (by Joerg Plassen)  Vol05_09_Joerg Plassen.pdf
Animal Liberation and Mahayana Precepts (by Sung-huyn Shin) Vol05_10_Sung-hyun Shin.pdf
The Concept of Personality in the Abhidhamma Schools (by Sang-hwan Bae) Vol05_11_Sang-hwan Bae.pdf

Vol. 6, February 2006
On the Religiosity of Hwadu Meditation (by Sung-bae Park) Vol06_01_Sung-bae Park.pdf
Cross-Cultural Consensus Between Buddhist Reality and Modern Science (by Joon Lee) Vol06_02_Joon Lee.pdf
Wonhyo’s Essentials of the Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra: Translation of Chapters 1-2 with Annotated Notes (by Yong-pyo Kim) Vol06_03_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
Theravada Methods of Interpretation on Buddhist Scriptures (by Veerachart Nimanong) Vol06_04_Veerachart Nimanong.pdf
An English Translation of the Banya paramilda simgyeong chan: Wonch’uk’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra (by B. Hyun Choo) Vol06_05_B Hyun Choo.pdf
Han Yongun’s Buddhist Socialism in the 1920s-1930s (by Vladimir Thikhonov) Vol06_06_Vladimir Tikhonov.pdf
The Origin and Practice System of Ganhwa Seon (by Hyewon Kang) Vol06_07_Hyewon Kang.pdf
An Analysis of the Buddha’s Paradoxical Silence: Neither the Positive nor Nihilistic View (by Kwangsoo Park) Vol06_08_Kwangsoo Park.pdf
Yulgok’s Perspective on Buddhism (by Heejae Yi) Vol06_09_Heejae Yi.pdf
A Crisis of Biodiversity and the Buddhist Precepts of Not Killing (by Sunghyun Shin) Vol06_Abs10_Sunghyun Shin_1.pdf
The Body and Practice In Western Philosophy and Buddhism (by Hye-jung Jung) Vol06_11_Hye-jung Jung.pdf

Vol. 7, September 2006
Dialogue between Korean Buddhism and World Buddhism in the Global Era (by Sung-bae Park) Vol07_01_Sung-bae Park.pdf
Buddhism in the Kingdom of Siam: Its Past and Its Present (by Ven. Phra Rajpnyamedhi) Vol07_02_Phra.pdf
Wonhyo’s Buddhism from the Perspective of Tathagatagarbha-vada (by Pyong-rae Lee) Vol07_03_Pyeong-rae Lee.pdf
Esoteric Buddhism under the Koryo in the Light of the Greater East Asian Tradition (by Henrik H. Sorensen) Vol07_04_Sorensen.pdf
Uisang’s View of Buddha in the Silla Period (by Ven. Hae-ju) Vol07_05_Hae-ju.pdf
Comparative Study of Vairocana Buddha in Tantra Yoga and Tantra Anuttarayoga (by Seong-joon Cheong) Vol07_06_Seong-joon Cheong.pdf
Buddhist Ideals and Practice for Ageing Welfare: With Reference to the Sutra of Filial Piety (by Kyung-yim Kwon) Vol07_07_Kyung-yim Kwon.pdf
The Dialogue Decalogue: Ground Rules for Interreligious, Interideological Dialogue (by Leonard Swidler) Vol07_08_Swidler.pdf
Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic (by Leonard Swidler) Vol07_09_Swidler.pdf

Vol. 8, February 2007
Rationality and Early Buddhist Teachings (by Karel Werner) Vol08_01_Karel Werner.pdf
The Taehyedogyongchongyo of Wonhyo: Translation of Chapters 4 & 5 with Annotated Notes (by Yong-pyo Kim) Vol08_02_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
Faith and the Resolution of the Four Doubts in Wonhyo’s Doctrinal Essentials of the Sutra of Immeasurable Life (by Charles Muller) Vol08_03_Muller.pdf
The Buddhist Faith of the Nobility in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (by Ven. Gye-hwan) Vol08_04_Gye-hwan.pdf
The Historical Origins and Development of Gandhara Art (by Iqtidar Karamat Cheema) Vol08_05_Cheema.pdf
The Dragon in the Buddhist Korean Temples (by Hye-young Tcho) Vol08_06_Hye-young Tcho.pdf
Buddhist No-Self and Mindful Consumerism (by Ryan Long) Vol08_07_Ryan Long.pdf
Why Korea? Why Buddhism? (by Marian Werner) Vol08_08_Marian Werner.pdf
Western Buddhism: Past, Present and Future (by Timothy V. Atkinson) Vol08_09_Atkinson.pdf

Vol. 9. September 2007
Buddhist Reflections on Life and Death Vol09_Abs.pdf
Buddhist Reflections on Life and Death (by Suk-Ku Song) Vol09_01_SK Song.pdf
Elements of Hwa-eom Faith and Philosophy in Korean Buddhist Ritual Invocations (by Ven. Hae-ju) Vol09_02_Ven Hae-ju.pdf
The Life and Letters of Son Master Hanam Vol09_03_Ven Chong Go.pdf
Challenge of Modern Age to Thai Buddhism (by Piyadee Prasertsom) Vol09_04_Piyadee Prasertsom.pdf
The Tibetan Book of the Dead (by Annie Shapiro) Vol09_05_Annie Shapiro.pdf
Enduring, Endearing Korea (by Marian Werner) Vol09_06_Marian Werner.pdf

Vol. 10. February 2008
Wonhyo: Coming to the West ―Yet No One Recognizes Him (by Sung-bae Park) Vol10_Abs.pdf
Wonhyo: Coming to the West-Yet No One Recognizes Him Vol10_01_Sung-bae Park.pdf
Death, Rebirth and Personal Identity in Buddhism Vol10_02_Karel Werner.pdf
Acceptance of Prajna Thought in Chinese Buddhism Vol10_03_Ven Gye-hwan.pdf
Korean Patriot and Tea Master: Hyodang Choi Beom-sul(1904-1979) Vol10_04_Br Anthony of Taize.pdf
Suffering and Liberation in Theravada Buddhism Vol10_05_Asanga Tilakaratne.pdf
Where is the One Dharma to Which all Dharma Return?: The Horizon of Buddhist Inclusivism in Religious Pluralism Vol10_06_Yong-pyo Kim.pdf
The Letters of Hanam Sunim: Practice after Enlightenment and Obscurity Vol10_07_Ven Chong Go.pdf
Dependent Arising in Abhidhamma Philosophy Vol10_08_Sang-hwan Bae.pdf
Review of Cultivating Original Enlightenment: Wonhyo’s Exposition of the Vajrasamadhi-Sutra, by Robert E. Buswell Jr. Vol10_09_Charles Muller.pdf

Vol. 11. September 2008
Korean Buddhism on the International Stage (by Eamon Adams) Vol11_01_Eamon Adams.pdf
Consciousness-only Theory and Modern Neuroscience Vol11_02_Byung-jo Kang.pdf
Buddhism, Politics, and Statecraft Vol11_03_Laksiri Jayasuriya.pdf
Mind and Consciousness Discourse in East Asia: Spectrum of Three Countries, Korea, China and Japan, during 7th-8th century Vol11_04_Young-Seop Ko.pdf
A Study of the Apocryphal Sutra: Fumu Enzhong Jing Vol11_05_Guang Xing.pdf
Restoration of Tibetan Buddhism in its Later Propagation Period Vol11_06_Chi-won Kim.pdf
‘Gender Trouble’ in Early Buddhism Vol11_07_Jess Nossiter.pdf
Pictorial Representation of Hwaeom Thought-With Special Reference to the Goryeo Period Painting ‘Vairocana and Three-thousand Buddha’ Vol11_08_Soyon Kang.pdf
Review of Cultivating Original Enlightenment: History of Korean Buddhism, by Byung-jo Chung Vol11_09_Nam Kyol Heo.pdf

Vol. 12. February 2009
Meditation as Instructional Technology: A Literature Review (by Sanghyeon Cheon) Vol12_Sanghyeon Cheon_Meditation as Instructional Technology.pdf
Interreligious Dialogue toward Overcoming the Eco-crisis Vol12_Hyun Min Choi_Interreligious Dialogue.pdf
Beyond Theological Essentialism and Ethnic Reductionism Vol12_Torkel Brekke_Beyond Theological Essentialism.pdf
A Study of the Apocryphal Sutras as Popular Sutras Vol12_Chang Ae Soon_A Study of the Apocryphal Sutras.pdf
On the Meaning of “Faith (信)” in Early Chan School Vol12_Munsun Kang_-On the Meaning of Faith.pdf
An Investigation of Two Buddhist Tomb-Inscriptions from 12th Century Kory? Vol12_Henrik H. Srensen_An Investigation.pdf
Scriptural Words and Silence Vol12_Yong-pyo Kim_Scriptural Words and Silence.pdf
Buddha’s Idea concerning Food and a New View of Nutrition Vol12_Hyeon-Sook Lim_Buddha’s Idea concerning Food.pdf
The Place of Relic Worship in Buddhism: An Unresolved Controversy? Vol12_Karel Werner_The Place of Relic Worship in Buddhism.pdf

Method of Overcoming Sexual Desire and Sleep

Sexual desire and sleep are instinctual habits that have matured over thousands and ten thousands of eons. To the extent that they are connected to to life, they are instinctual appetites that are difficult to remove. It is said that there are no sentient beings lacking sexual appetite and no sentient beings that do not sleep. Sexual desire and sleep naturally accompany sentient beings. How should one accept the instinctual appetites related to the opposite sex and sleep that have taken on attitudes and views as various and complex as the numerous cultural forms or the length of history?

Desire and liberation are in the same locations as the appearances of life. But that life differs as to whether it is the life of opposition and trouble that is centered on desire, or whether it is the peaceful and free life with its roots in the no-self. If the practitioner perfects study, he becomes free from all instinctual desire. This is because it has gotten rid of the life criteria of “I”.  The love and compassion that are the perfection of the conditionally-produced life is the light of no-self mind, so leaves no place for the sexual appetite and its images. Therefore, according to the extent to which one has escaped from the bonds of such instinctual appetites, one can estimate this extent of practice by the practitioner.

Method of controlling sleep

Realistically the most difficult thing for practitioners to overcome is sleep. Can one name anything that is a greater hindrance to study than “sleep” or “sleepiness”? Anybody at all who sits on the cushion and calms down the spirit a little bit is immediately assaulted by sleepiness. Each time sleepiness comes, it is important that one gets rid of the impediment to meditation practice by disciplining the body well in the midst of everyday life so that one can go on to overcome it and to spur one on to taking up the hwadu. Sleepiness comes from false thoughts. That is definitely not an absolute thing. If one tries to continue practice well, the time for sleep diminishes bit by bit. Do not try to keep to the sleeping time, but rather, if one honestly sits in meditation, one can continue on the vigorous practice that brims over energetically with energy that does not trap one in sleep. Now let us talk about a number of methods of overcoming sleep.

First, it is easy for beginning meditators to close their eyes. But one must have one’s eyes open. The patriarchs of the past said that those who meditated with their eyes closed were like sitting in the cave of the demons in the gloomy mountains. If one closes one’s eyes, although it seems that the mind is concentrated and is still, it is easy to fall into dullness not knowing that. Especially, when sitting in meditation in the afternoon or at daybreak, shutting one’s eyes is the same as requesting sleep. Therefore, when sitting in meditation, one must keep one’s eyes about half open. In particular, unable to keep sleep in check, it is best to clench the molars hard together, open the two eyes clearly, breathe deeply and repeat that slowly. If one does so, generally the sleep disappears. During the sitting in meditation, one must try not to sleep. It is also best when sitting and not chasing away drowsiness, to stand up, and having concentrated on the body, to breathe as above. If one does so, the sleep that does not disappear will go away.

Second, regulate one’s food and drink. One must ingest food suitably. If one sits inmeditation when eating too much, in making them digest that food, the organs of the body will feel easily fatigued and immediately drowsiness will be thrust on you. It is very important to ingest suitably the food needed to help in the life of practice. Knowing the amount and eating, the practitioners must have a correct mental attitude, and in fostering a practice environment one cannot be negligent about important elements. One soup and one vegetable is said to be the menu of the Seon School. If one can, one must eat little, have little desire and be content with that. If one does not consume evenly, eventually the mind is not even, and the study cannot be consistent.

And so, in the Xiuxing daodijing it says, “People who practice must not relax the body so that it becomes heavy. If one eats suitably, the body will become light and drowsiness will lessen, and even when one sits, rises and walks, one will be at ease and not short of breathe, and seeing that evacuation and urination are lessened, even in one’s own polishing of practice, the carnal desire, anger and foolishness will become less.”

Third, one must go to bed early and rise early. It is not good to meditate at night and get up late. Even if the night study time is lessened, it is best to keep the morning study.

Fourth, sitting in meditation is like stretching out one’s waist and thinking that there is a thousand-fathoms deep precipice right in front of one’s nose, and that one is sitting on it. There are also practitioners who really do sit on top of a precipice in order to overcome sleep.

Fifth, one must give harsh admonishment. One must be cruel in the admonishment. The admonishing person and admonished person both must have minds that are frugal and thankful.

The method of controlling sexual appetite

Seon Master Seosan said the following about sexual appetite and behavior that violated the precepts:

    Meditating while lustful is like trying to cook rice by steaming sand, and meditating while breaking the precepts is like carrying water in a leaking vessel. (Seonga gwigam).
Without distancing oneself from sexual desire, one cannot practice meditation properly. If one is inclined to sexual desire one’s mind is confused and cannot be calm because the mind is captured by a thirsty love that cannot be fulfilled. But it is not easy to cut off sexual desire.

As a method of distancing oneself from sexual desire a method that really observes the feeling of impermanence is recommended. That is, if one is clearly enlightened to the fact that sexual desire is false, it is possible to overcome it. Therefore, when sexual desire occurs it is hoped that one will try to see the rising of an appearance that disappears as soon as the object of that sexual desire is scattered into the four elements and changes into dust. This is to become distinctly aware of the falsity of sexual desire.

But for the person meditating with hwadu the correct path is that one should overcome that through hwadu study. Just when that sexual desire has arisen is when the hwadu is taken up. The Shuzhuang says in relation to this that when the habits of the past life, such as sexual desire, arise, combat it with the hwadu:

    When suddenly the habituation accumulated in the past arises one should only looks at the hwadu that answered with “mu” upon the question “Does a dog have a Buddha-nature or not?”.  At just that time your habituation will become a like a snow flake that has fallen into a red-hot brazier. (Shuzhuang, In reply to Controller-general Liu)
If one earnestly takes up the hwadu in this way when the sexual desire arises, the sexual desire disappears without a trace. And to the extent that sexual desire and sleep have prevented the realization of the Way over broad eons, one must make an effort, without rest in order to overcome them and be conscious that they are great enemies.