100% Crazy

A talk after a kong-an reading, by Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim

Sometimes a student will decide to fast during Yong Maeng Jong Jin or a seven-day retreat. He begins strong. First day, second day, only water. Third day, “…maybe I’ll have a little orange juice…” Fourth day, “…just a half slice of bread…” Fifth day, the student gets a headache; “…think I’ll take a little nap…” Seventh day, starving, he stuffs himself. This is what is called “head is a dragon, tail is a snake.”

I decide, then I don’t do. This means I don’t believe in myself. Ask a child, “What is one plus two?” “Three.” “Is that correct?” “Sure, it’s correct.” He believes in himself, so he doesn’t think about it. “One plus two doesn’t equal three…” “It does too! My teacher said so!” A child’s mind doesn’t shake so easily. But Zen students! They cling to words and thinking.

Your mind is always one of these three: lost mind, empty mind, or clear mind. On the street, a thief comes up. “Give me your money!” How is your mind then? Somebody says sex mind is Zen mind, but if you suddenly found a gun in your face while you’re making love, would your mind move? If you’re afraid you’ll lose your life, you have lost your mind.

Empty mind won’t move. “This is a hold up!” “Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum.” “You want some lead in your head?” “Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum…” “Are you crazy?” “Om mani padme hum…” Crazy/sane, alive/dead. It is all one to empty mind.

And clear mind? “Give me money!” “How much do you want?” “Shut up, you… give me all of it!” No fear. Just check the mind behind the gun.

Ma Jo one day took his student Pae Chang riding on the river. They had a good time. A flock of birds flew overhead, going south. Ma Jo asked, “What is that?” “Birds.” “Where are they going?” “South.” “Is that right?” “Yes.” Ma Jo grabbed his nose and twisted it hard. “Aaaggghh!” Very painful! “Where did the birds go?” Pae Chang couldn’t answer. They came back to the temple. Later Pae Chang’s friends came upon him holding his nose and crying, “Oh my nose!” His friends asked him, “Why are you crying?” He just kept right on. They kept asking, “What’s wrong?” Finally Pae Chang said, “Ask the master.” So they went to Ma Jo. “Why is he crying?” “Ask him!” So they went back. “The master said to ask you.” Pae Chang suddenly stopped crying and began laughing just as hard. His friends were very surprised. “Are you crazy?” “Ma Jo is the crazy one!” They all went back to Ma Jo. “Now he’s laughing and says you’re crazy!” Ma Jo understood Pae Chang’s mind then. So what does it mean? Crying mind and laughing mind: are they the same or different? Crazy mind, sane mind. Completely crazy, 100% crazy, believe-in-myself crazy – that’s completely clear mind.

At Jong Hae Sah Temple in Korea they had three months of sitting, three months vacation. During vacation, everybody had to collect money or food and bring it back for the sitting period. At that time Zen Master Mang Gong was just beginning the temple and had no money. So the students would go around to the homes of lay people, recite the Heart Sutra, get rice or money and bring it back to the monastery. But when my teacher Ko Bong got rice, he’d sell it at the end of the day and go out drinking – laughing and singing. Everybody else came back at the end of vacation with sacks of rice. All he ever brought back was alcohol. Then he’d be drinking and shouting all night, “This temple’s no good! Buddhism is full of shit! Mang Gong doesn’t understand Dharma! He’s a low class master!”

Once Mang Gong showed up during one of Ko Bong’s rampages and screamed at him, “What do you understand?” Everybody was waiting to see what would happen. “KO BONG!” “Yes!” “Why are you always insulting me behind my back?” Ko Bong looked completely surprised and offended. “Zen Master, I never said anything about you! I was talking about this good-for-nothing Mang Gong!” “Mang Gong? What do you mean, Mang Gong? I’M MANG GONG! What’s the difference between me and Mang Gong?” “KAAAATZ!” Ko Bong yelled, loud enough to split your ears. “Go sleep it off,” Mang Gong said, and left the room.

My teacher’s actions were very bad, but he always kept clear mind. Drink and sex did not hinder it. He always kept just-now mind. ”Mang Gong? What’s the difference between me and Mang Gong?” “KAAAATZ!” That katz is very important. Better than money or bags of rice. Mang Gong never bothered Ko Bong for anything after that. Dragon head, dragon tail; Ko Bong believed completely in himself.

Zen Master Seung Sahn

The Story of Seung Sahn

Seung Sahn Soen-sa was born in 1927 in Seun Choen, North Korea. His parents were Protestant Christians.

Korea at this time was under severe Japanese military rule, and all political and cultural freedom was brutally suppressed. In 1944, Soen-sa joined the underground Korean independence movement. Within a few months he was caught by the Japanese police and narrowly escaped a death sentence. After his release from prison, he and two friends stole several thousand dollars from their parents and crossed the heavily-patrolled Manchurian border in an unsuccessful attempt to join the Free Korean Army.

In the years following World War II, while he was studying Western philosophy at Dong Guk University, the political situation in South Korea grew more and more chaotic. One day Soen-sa decided that he wouldn’t be able to help people through his political activities or his academic studies. So he shaved his head and went into the mountains, vowing never to return until he had attained the absolute truth.

For three months he studied the Confucian scriptures, but he was unsatisfied by them. Then a friend of his, who was a monk in a small mountain temple, gave him the Diamond Sutra, and he first encountered Buddhism. “All things that appear in this world are transient. If you view all things that appear as never having appeared, then you will realize your true self.” When he read these words, his mind became clear. For the next few weeks he read many sutras. Finally, he decided to become a Buddhist monk and was ordained in October, 1948.

Soen-sa had already understood the sutras. He realized that the only important thing now was practice. So ten days after his ordination, he went further up into the mountains and began a one-hundred-day retreat on Won Gak Mountain (the Mountain of Perfect Enlightenment). He ate only pine needles, dried and beaten into a powder. For twenty hours every day he chanted the Great Dharani of Original Mind Energy. Several times a day he took ice-cold baths. It was a very rigorous practice.

Soon he was assailed by doubts. Why was this retreat necessary? Why did he have to go to extremes? Couldn’t he go down to a small temple in a quiet valley, get married like a Japanese monk, and attain enlightenment gradually, in the midst of a happy family? One night these thoughts became so powerful that he decided to leave and packed his belongings. But the next morning his mind was clearer, and he unpacked. A few days later the same thing happened. And in the following weeks, he packed and unpacked nine times.

By now fifty days had passed, and Soen-sa’s body was very exhausted. Every night he had terrifying visions. Demons would appear out of the dark and make obscene gestures at him. Ghouls would sneak up behind him and wrap their cold fingers around his neck. Enormous beetles would gnaw his legs. Tigers and dragons would stand in front of him, bellowing. He was in constant terror.

After a month of this, the visions turned into visions of delight. Sometimes Buddha would come and teach him a sutra. Sometimes Bodhisattvas would appear in gorgeous clothing and tell him that he would go to heaven. Sometimes he would keel over from exhaustion and Kwan Se Um Bosal would gently wake him up. By the end of eighty days, his body was strong. His flesh had turned green from the pine needles.

One day, a week before the retreat was to finish, Soen-sa was walking outside, chanting and keeping rhythm with his moktak. Suddenly, two boys, eleven or twelve years old, appeared on either side of him and bowed. They were wearing many-colored robes, and their faces were of an unearthly beauty. Soen-sa was very surprised. His mind felt powerful and perfectly clear, so how could these demons have materialized? He walked ahead on the narrow mountain path, and the two boys followed him, walking right through the boulders on either side of the path. They walked together in silence for a half-hour, then, back at the altar, when Soen-sa got up from his bow, they were gone. This happened every day for a week.

Finally it was the hundredth day. Soen-sa was outside chanting and hitting the moktak. All at once his body disappeared, and he was in infinite space. From far away he could hear the moktak beating, and the sound of his own voice. He remained in this state for some time. When he returned to his body, he understood. The rocks, the river, everything he could see, everything he could hear, all this was his true self. All things are exactly as they are. The truth is just like this.

Soen-sa slept very well that night. When he woke up the next morning, he saw a man walking up the mountain, then some crows flying out of a tree. He wrote the following poem:

The road at the bottom of Won Gak Mountain
is not the present road.
The man climbing with his backpack
is not a man of the past.
‘fok, tok, tok – his footsteps
transfix past and present.
Crows out of a tree.
Caw, caw, caw.

Soon after he came down from the mountain, he met Zen Master Ko Bong, whose teacher had been Zen Master Mang Gong. Ko Bong was reputed to be the most brilliant Zen Master in Korea, and one of the most severe. At this time he was teaching only laymen; monks, he said, were not ardent enough to be good Zen students. Soen-sa wanted to test his enlightenment with Ko Bong, so he went to him with a moktak and said, “What is this?” Ko Bong took the moktak and hit it. This was just what Soen-sa had expected him to do.

Soen-sa then said, “How should I practice Zen?”

Ko Bong said, “A monk once asked Zen Master Jo-ju, ‘Why did Bodhidharma come to China?’ Jo-ju answered, ‘The pine tree in the front garden.’ What does this mean?”

Soen-sa understood, but he didn’t know how to answer. He said, “I don’t know.”

Ko Bong said, “Only keep this don’t-know mind. That is true Zen practice.”

That spring and summer, Soen-sa did mostly working Zen. In the fall, he sat for a hundred-day meditation session at Su Dok Sa monastery, where he learned Zen language and Dharma-combat. By the winter, he began to feel that the monks weren’t practicing hard enough, so he decided to give them some help. One night, as he was on guard-duty (there had been some burglaries), he took all the pots and pans out of the kitchen and arranged them in a circle in the front yard. The next night, he turned the Buddha on the main altar toward the wall and took the incense-burner, which was a national treasure, and hung it on a persimmon tree in the garden. By the second morning the whole monastery was in an uproar. Rumors were flying around about lunatic burglars, or gods coming from the mountain to warn the monks to practice harder.

The third night, Soen-sa went to the nuns’ quarters, took seventy pairs of nuns’ shoes and put them in front of Zen Master Dok Sahn’s room, displayed as in a shoe store. But this time, a nun woke up to go to the outhouse and, missing her shoes, she woke up everyone in the nuns’ quarters. Soen-sa was caught. The next day he was brought to trial. Since most of the monks voted to give him another chance (the nuns were unanimously against him), he wasn’t expelled from the monastery. But he had to offer formal apologies to all the high monks.

First he went to Dok Sahn and bowed. Dok Sahn said, “Keep up the good work.”

Then he went to the head nun. She said, “You’ve made a great deal too much commotion in this monastery, young man.” Soen-sa laughed and said, “The whole world is already full of commotion. What can you do?” She couldn’t answer.

Next was Zen Master Chun Song, who was famous for his wild actions and obscene language. Soen-sa bowed to him and said, “I killed all the Buddhas of past, present, and future. What can you do?”

Chun Song said, “Aha!” and looked deeply into Soen-sa’s eyes. Then he said, “What did you see?”

Soen-sa said, “You already understand.”

Chun Song said, “Is that all?”

Soen-sa said, “There’s a cuckoo singing in the tree out- side the window.”

Chun Song laughed and said, “Aha!” He asked several more questions, which Soen-sa answered without difficulty. Finally, Chun Song leaped up and danced around Soen-sa, shouting, “You are enlightened! You are enlightened!” The news spread quickly, and people began to understand the events of the preceding days.

On January 15, the session was over, and Soen-sa left to see Ko Bong. On the way to Seoul, he had interviews with Zen Master Keum Bong and Zen Master Keum Oh. Both gave him inga, the seal of validation of a Zen student’s great awakening.

Soen-sa arrived at Ko Bong’s temple dressed in his old patched retreat clothes and carrying a knapsack. He bowed to Ko Bong and said, “All the Buddhas turned out to be a bunch of corpses. How about a funeral service?”

Ko Bong said, “Prove it!”

Soen-sa reached into his knapsack and took out a dried cuttlefish and a bottle of wine. “Here are the leftovers from the funeral party.”

Ko Bong said, “Then pour me some wine.”

Soen-sa said, “Okay. Give me your glass.”

Ko Bong held out his palm.

Soen-sa slapped it with the bottle and said, “That’s not a glass, it’s your hand!” Then he put the bottle on the floor.

Ko Bong laughed and said, “Not bad. You’re almost done. But I have a few questions for you.” He proceeded to ask Soen-sa the most difficult of the seventeen-hundred traditional Zen kong-ans. Soen-sa answered without hindrance.

Then Ko Bong said, “All right, one last question. The mouse eats cat-food, but the cat-bowl is broken. What does this mean?”

Soen-sa said, “The sky is blue, the grass is green.”

Ko Bong shook his head and said, “No.”

Soen-sa was taken aback. He had never missed a Zen question before. His face began to grow red as he gave one “like this” answer after another. Ko Bong kept shaking his head. Finally Soen-sa exploded with anger and frustration. “Three Zen Masters have given me inga! Why do you say I’m wrong?!”

Ko Bong said, “What does it mean? Tell me.”

For the next fifty minutes, Ko Bong and Soen-sa sat facing each other, hunched like two tomcats. The silence was electric. Then, all of a sudden, Soen-sa had the answer. It was “just like this.”

When Ko Bong heard it, his eyes grew moist and his face filled with joy. He embraced Soen-sa and said, “You are the flower; I am the bee.”

On January 25, 1949, Soen-sa received from Ko Bong the Transmission of Dharma, thus becoming the Seventy-Eighth Patriarch in this line of succession. It was the only Transmission that Ko Bong ever gave.

After the ceremony, Ko Bong said to Soen-sa, “For the next three years you must keep silent. You are a free man. We will meet again in five hundred years.”

Soen-sa was now a Zen Master. He was twenty-two years old.

From Dropping Ashes On The Buddha: The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn
edited by Stephen Mitchell (Grove Press, New York, NY, 1976)

Story of the Dead Bones

In 1957, Ko Bong Sunim became seriously ill and so Soen Sa Nim was appointed as the abbot of Hwa Gae Sah temple.

In the course of his duties as abbot, Soen Sa Nim heard of a Japanese temple in Seoul which contained the bones of 500 dead Japanese people. The temple was troubled with finances and fell under the control of lay people. The lay people were not interested in Japanese bones. They wanted to throw the bones out of the temple. When Soen Sa Nim heard about this, he went to the temple. He told the officials, “Whether these bones were once Korean or Japanese, dead people’s bones are all the same. Dead bones are dead bones!”

Then he brought the bones back to Hwa Gae Sah. For days and days, he only chanted Namu Ami Ta Bul over the bones; the chanting was for the dead spirits.

A few years later, Korea and Japan resumed diplomatic relationship. Then some Japanese came to Korea to Hwa Gae Sah to claim the bones of their dead ancestors and carry them back to their homeland.

Out of great appreciation and deep respect for Soen Sa Nim’s action the Japanese invited him to go to Japan. This invitation became an opportunity for him to live abroad which became a turning point in his life.

It has been said by some Koreans, “We lost a great master to Japan and to America because of some dead bones.”

— Do Gong (formerly John Barrouzzol from Canada)
Seoul International Zen Center, Korea

When Soen Sa Nim First Arrived in the U.S.A.

In September, 1970, 1 received a phone call from my sister, Mrs. Kimura, who lives in Japan. She told me my mother was very ill. So I decided to go see her. I prepared to leave and was on an airplane within 24 hours. When I arrived in Japan I was met at the airport by my sister and Soen Sa Nim. My sister introduced us and my first impression of Soen Sa Nim was that he was a happy, hyper person. That was it. That’s all I thought. At that time I knew nothing about Buddhism. He drove us to his temple where we spent the night.

He asked me what American life is all about. I told him about America and invited him to come and see it for himself.

In May, 1972, 1 received a phone call from my sister. She told me Soen Sa Nim would be arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport in a couple of hours. Luckily I was home. I went to meet him at the airport and brought him to my home. I gave him my son’s room. He made a small altar on which sat a statue of Kwan Seum Bosal. That evening he started chanting and told me to follow along if I would like to. I felt drawn by the sounds of Soen Sa Nim’s chanting and tears started to flow from my eyes for no apparent reason. From that day forward a new life began for me. I remember being amazed at Soen Sa Nim’s humbleness. He helped with the house cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc… Needless to say I loved his company and his help.

My children and their friends accepted him into the family without hesitation. They seemed to get a kick out of it. My oldest daughter who was thirteen at the time bought some English books to teach Soen Sa Nim English. He in turn was teaching her Buddhism. That was the start of a great teaching for all Americans.

I would like to end in saying that the happiness and contentment he brought into my life and to my children is immeasurable. I cannot think of a word that describes Soen Sa Nim – only that he is vaster than the ocean and boundless as the sky and can probably best be described by the feeling, that there is no word for, that a person attains through meditation. We love him and wish he could live forever. Thank you, Soen Sa Nim.

— Judy Barrie
Santa Monica, California

Doyle Avenue

Soen Sa Nim’s first attempt at establishing an American Zen Center was in a small apartment in Providence, Rhode Island. The apartment was located on a street named Doyle Avenue. Soen Sa Nim probably didn’t care about the fairly violent and unhappy mood of the street, which would at times stage drunken brawls and knife fights. What he saw was a house with two relatively large bedrooms and a very low rent of $150.00 a month.

At that time Soen Sa Nim was totally self-financed and, of course, totally independent. Only the spiders and a stray cat (later named Abigale) know what the apartment looked like when Soen Sa Nim first moved in, and how he spent his time. It was not long before an Eastern Religions professor from Brown University became interested in him, and with him came some of his curious students.

One or two of those brave souls decided to move in with Soen Sa Nim, surely having no idea what they were getting themselves into. There was literally no furniture in the apartment except a small kitchen table and a few assorted wooden chairs. Soen Sa Nim had brought a small electric rice cooker and a few bowls and spoons. There was an old aluminum pot in which he would create the most incredibly delicious soups.

One day a Buddha from Korea arrived in a large wooden box. It was broken into about 15 pieces. Undaunted, Soen Sa Nim asked one of his newly arrived disciples to fetch some glue and then he proceeded to meticulously and patiently convert emptiness back into form.

And that was how he did his best teaching in those days. English was awkward and difficult for him. He was a master at pantomime and example. His enthusiasm was delightful. And his examples were sometimes quite surprising. Once, objects began to be missing in the Zen Center and it soon became obvious that the thief was one of the small boys that lived in the neighborhood. The reason it was obvious was that he would be found blatantly crawling through one of the windows. He was also fond of throwing rocks at Abigale (the cat) and hanging around the driveway, making fun of Soen Sa Nim’s strange clothes. One morning the little n’er-do-well was enthusiastically teasing Soen Sa Nim while he was working in the garden and Soen Sa Nim suddenly charged towards him, screaming wildly and swinging his arms. Then he began to advance toward the then trembling youth and act out karate kicks. The boy charged out of the yard, never to be seen at close range again. One of his students questioned his methods and Soen Sa Nim simply said, “Most demons only understand demons.”

Everyone that came to the apartment in those first six months only needed to be there a half an hour before they understood his purpose and direction. Soen Sa Nim wanted to make a Zen Center out of the apartment. He wanted the altar to be the heart, the Dharma Room to be wide and clean so many people could gather and practice together and find their own hearts. He made his students feel comfortable and warm by laughing and joking with them in the kitchen. He’d suddenly decide to make a huge batch of kimchee, containing every vegetable imaginable. Or he’d be sitting at the kitchen table for hours, diligently writing letters to unknown people in Korea and suddenly look up and ask everyone if they liked noodles. Often he’d have to look the word he was searching for up in his Korean-English dictionary, that never left his side. “Noodles! You like noodles?” Of course everyone would smile inside and out, loving his accent and his enthusiasm and give him a big nod. Then he’d proceed to convert the entire kitchen into a flour-filled noodle factory, producing in less than an hour a soup that surpassed even his last, filled with delicious homemade noodles. And he’d be so unabashedly pleased that everyone liked it, telling them repeatedly, “In Korea, anytime this style soup. This style is #1. Eat this, become strong – much energy, yah?” Then he’d laugh.

He slowly introduced his brand of Zen, his tradition. First it was putting bright red and yellow cloth around the altar, which held the newly assembled Buddha. Then he insisted on the meditation mats being bright and multi-colored. Once in a while another wooden box would arrive from Korea with objects for the altar, or gray robes and incense, or a big bag of expensive black mushrooms for the famous soups.

One day Soen Sa Nim sat his students down. At that time there were about seven regular “customers” (that was one of Soen Sa Nim’s jokes, calling anyone who ate his soup or came to his Sunday night talks a “customer”). He explained that it was time for the Zen Center to have a practicing schedule. This was the end of an era. The practice began to shift from the kitchen into the Dharma Room. He even asked them to wear those gray robes. The chants were transliterated and bows were counted. Cushions were even assigned and Sunday night Dharma talks got better and better. At first they were always translated from Japanese to English by the Brown University Eastern Religions professor, but in time Soen Sa Nim became more confident with his vocabulary and he began to create talks as warm and nurturing as his soups. As a matter of fact, he got so busy with his English lessons and growing “customers” volume, that the kitchen became the newly-appointed and titled Housemaster’s domain and he came there only to write, study, and offer spontaneous talks on the Dharma. He was almost always willing to answer any questions and if nothing else seemed helpful, he would tap the student’s head with a chop stick and say, “Too much thinking! Put it down, OK?”

In the two year span of Doyle Avenue, the tone and rhythm of the future Zen Center was created. Soen Sa Nim started it all with his warmth, then introduced the practice – always stressing how important it is to practice every day, no vacations. And then he began giving Precepts, as he taught why it was so important for the mind to be able to openly take the Precepts.

So it always appeared that he was sometimes obviously making up a lot of the form as he went along, closely watching the young American mind and finding the right remedies for the sometimes powerful imbalances. The other thing that appeared like grass in spring was his ageless knowledge of practice and Dharma and how to pass that on to others … the knowledge that was way beyond following a particular form …the knowledge that would give each of his students a warm and powerful boost toward understanding themselves and understanding their original jobs.

Zen Master Seong Hyang (Barbara Rhodes)
— one of Soen Sa Nim’s very first “customers.”

These three stories are from Only DOing it for Sitxy Years
Compiled and edited by Diana Clark; published by Primary Point Press, Cumberland, RI, 1987

Supreme Patriarch Jinje: the new appointed spiritual leader of Jogye Order

The 13th Supreme Patriarch was appointed unanimously by the Council of Elders

On December 14th, The Council of Elders had an election at the Center for Korean Buddhist History and Culture for the selection of the new spiritual leader. The Great Patriarch Jinje-beopwon, a member of Council of Elders was appointed as the 13th Supreme Patriarch unanimously. This election was attended by Ven. Jongsan (Head of Council of Elders) along with 20 other members from the Council, The Most Ven. Jaseung (President of Jogye Order), The Most Ven. Boseon (The Head of Central Council), and The Most Ven. Beopdeung (Executive Director of Precepts Council). The supreme patriarch’s term will begin on March 26th, 2012 for the next five years.

Followed by the election, ceremony to announce the new patriarch to the Buddha, along with incense offering and the three prostrations ritual took place at the main Buddha Hall of the Jogye-sa Temple to show respect to the Buddha. In addition, Ven. Jaseung and the members from the Central Directorate of Religious Affairs celebrated the event in the congratulatory ceremony. The new Patriarch then returned to Donghwa-sa Temple, the Head Temple for the 9th District of the Jogye Order where he currently resides.

The Supreme Patriarch Jinje stated in his acceptance speech, “I am very grateful that great masters from the Council of Elders have chosen me as the leader to represent the Jogye Order” and added, “I will follow the definitive opinions from the Council of Elders to create peaceful future of Jogye Order. I will try my utmost best to propagate Ganhwa Seon (Traditional Korean Buddhist Meditation) to the world, which can be considered as the essence of oriental spiritual culture.

The Great Patriarch Jinje was born on 1934 in Gyeongnam Province. He received his novice precept on 1953 in Haein-sa Temple under Ven. Seokwu and received his full ordination under Ven. Hyewun, also in Haein-sa Temple. He also received numerous Dharma lineages from great Seon masters of Korea, such as Ven. Hyanggok, Gyengheo, Hyewol, Wunbong, and Hyanggok. On 1971and 1999,        he established Haewun monastery in Busan City Haewundae and Geumcheon-sa monastery in Gyeongju City respectively, to propagate Buddhism in the region and establish Seon lineage.

He became the member of Council of Elders in 2003, and on 2004 received the great Patriarch Dharma status from the Jogye Order, which is the highest status in Jogye Order after the Supreme Patriarch.

Some of the Dharma books published by the Great Patriarch include, <100 Questions and Answers of Seon Buddhism> < Godamnokwol> published in Korean and published in English.

Article from Korean Buddhist Newspaper
Written By: Park Intak
Website Address: http://www.ibulgyo.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=115154

15 Virtues of Korean Buddhism

Naesosa Temple
[Naesosa Temple]

There are 15 virtues of Korean Buddhism. In this column you can learn what those 15 virtues are.

1. Temples 
The temples temples are beautiful. They blend with nature as if Mother Nature herself built them. They are cradled by the mountains and replenished by brooks and rivers. The temple buildings are simple yet ornate. One could hardly find a more serene and beautiful sanctuary anywhere in the world.


2. Temple Food


It is delicious, nutritious, and good for the environment and living beings. The 100% vegetarian food served at Korean temples are prepared from fresh vegetable often grown on temple grounds. The preparation is often simple without many spices. Temple food never uses the five pungent vegetables from the onion family, which are supposed to hinder meditation practice. Artificial flavorings are also never used for a clean and light taste.

3. Seon Meditation
The Seon (meditation tradition) has an unbroken lineage back to the founder of Seon, Bodhidharma. The tradition of the three-month summer and winter retreats are maintained at over 100 temples with over 1000 monastics engaging in retreat. 


[ A monk explains what Barugongyang is to Templestay participants]

4. Barugongyang (Formal Monastic Meal)
 It is wonderful way to eat. It is taken in four wooden bowls and nothing is wasted. It is itself a silent meditation.

5. Monastic Lineage

A pure monastic lineage exists, which honors the Vinaya of Bhikshus. Korea is a Mahayana country, but its adherence to the Vinaya and respect for the monastic sangha resembles the Theravada countries such as Thailand and Myanmar. Monks and nuns conduct themselves with dignity and refinement to reflect the noble Buddhist lineage.


6. Form and Etiquette 


m and etiquette are emphasized in Korean Buddhism. There is a purity, straightness, and simplicity to the appearance of Korean Buddhism, which is to reflect the uprightness and wholesomeness of mind. Outwardly straight and inwardly pure is the tenet of Korean Buddhism.

7. Diverse Practices
Korean Buddhism offers diverse practices. Along with Seon (the meditation practice, which is the backbone of the KB’s practice lineage), there are diverse devotional practices for monastics and the laity. Daily chanting (Yebul), Yeombul (deity practice, praying to a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva by chanting the name), bowing (such as 108 daily bows or 3000 bows), reciting the sutras (gangyeong), copying sutras (sagyeong), intensive prayers (jeong-geon kido, chanting intensively for 21 days, 100 days, etc.), and more.


It is the meditation practice of Korean Seon. Korea has uniquely preserved and actively engages in this practice. Ganhwaseon means to observe the hwadu, which is the ultimate inquiry. The Hwadu is a sincere and intense questioning into the nature of self and reality. For example, the most common hwadu is “who am I?” This is not an intellectual question, but a sincere longing to know the true nature of the self. This practice leads directly to the experiential understanding of the nature of reality and ultimately to realization. 

9. Ascetic Practice
It is highly valued in Korean Buddhism. Monks and nuns rise at 3 a.m. in most Korean temples for a rigorous day of practice. There is ruggedness and strictness to Korean temple life. Even the grey color of the monastic robes reflects this mentality. Some examples of Korean Buddhist asceticism are: Yongmaeng Jeongjin (ferocious practice: each retreat season in most meditation temples, practitioners don’t sleep at all for a week or longer), Jangjwa Bulwa (not lying down to sleep), finger burning (this is done as an offering to the Buddha or as a sign of dedication to the monastic life), etc.

10. Monastic Robes
Monastic robes are often very elegant and made of the best materials. Koreans monastics are often criticized for their expensive robes made of fine hemp, cotton, or silk. However, the natural materials also have a practical value (such as coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter) as well as aesthetic appeal. Like Catholic priests in Europe, Buddhist monks in Korea play the role of clergy. Such robes lend to the distinction and importance of the clergy’s responsibility. These fine robes have become an inseparable part of Korean Buddhist monastic culture.

11. Korean Tea Tradition


It is an inseparable part of the Korean Buddhist culture. There is not a single temple without a complete tea set and various wonderful teas. The tea pots and cups are uniquely Korean with an earthy and slightly rough appearance, which reflects the Korean Seon values of naturalness and simplicity.

12. Ulyeok (Community Work Period)

It is an indispensable part of Korean Seon. The Seon tradition values work as much as eating; as the saying goes, “no work, no eat.” As Buddhism came to East Asia, farming was done on the temples for sustenance of the monks. In Korea, farming became a Seon practice with the adage, “Seon and farming are not two.” Ulyeok is part of the daily routine of Korean temple life. It is a way to purify Karma. Every Korean monk must do at least five months of manual labor before receiving precepts. Korean Seon adheres to the adage that “every human being should physically labor every day.” This is good for the body and mind.

13. Process of becoming a monastic 
The process inn the Jogye Order is not at all easy but certainly rewarding. Every prospective monastic begins as a hangja (postulant) and must do manual labor for the temple for at least five months. Then, they go to the hangja training course for four weeks to qualify as a novice. Then, a novice monastic must go through four years of training in one of the following institutions: Sutra School, Meditation School, or Monastic or Buddhist University. Then, after a one-week training course, they receive full monastic ordination. It is this difficult process that gives the monks a sense of pride and dignity of wearing the monastic robes.

14. Buddha’s Birthday

It (eighth day of fourth lunar month) is the biggest day of the year for Korean Buddhists. It is the Buddhist Christmas, when the streets and temples are adorned with colorful lanterns. It is when every Buddhists (even closet Buddhists) make their way to the temple for Dharma service. This is the best time of the year to see and experience Buddhist culture in Korea. The Lotus Lantern Festival with its grand and lavish parades and activities takes place around this time.

15. Korean Buddhist Art 
It is a unique heritage of Korean culture. In fact, most of Korea’s cultural properties are Buddhist. Korean temples are veritable art museums with diverse paintings, sculptures, and design. Likewise, museums 

Korean bhikkhunis, creating a culture of their own

Two bhikkhunis, or female monks, work under the sun at Bulyoung Temple, North Gyeongsang Province. /Korea Times file
By Han Sang-hee

Walk into any Buddhist temple in Korea, and you will readily find female monks, or “bhikkhunis,’’ walking or praying in the temple grounds, just like any other male monk. Sometimes it’s even harder to notice at a glance if they are female or male; which indicates that in Korea, there are almost no hints of discrimination in terms of the Buddhist faith.

Despite the modern trend, where bhikkhunis are treated relatively equally to monks compared to other countries, they do follow some different rules. In daily life, bhikkhunis abide by nearly 348 precepts, some 100 more than male monks who follow around 250, and they also wear five pieces of clothing, while the men wear three.

Korea is one of the few nations that recognizes and continues female monastic lineages, along with only a handful of other countries, including Taiwan. Even today, there are only a few countries where women in training can receive ordination, which has resulted in foreign bhikkhunis coming to Korea to be ordained and also many female Buddhists from around the world come to study the religion.


According to Buddhist experts and historians, it was during the 4th century that the bhikkhunis first appeared in Korea.

Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) records state that the first female Buddhist was the sister of a man named Molae, who was also a devoted Buddhist. Molae was the person who helped Goguryeo monk Ven. Ado find his way to Silla and spread the religion. The first officially ordained bhikkhuni to be reported on record is King Beopheung’s queen, who was given the Buddhist name “Myobeop.’’

Bhikkhunis played a great role during the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-660 A.D.), as many were sent to Japan to spread the religion while others taught Japanese Buddhists to come to learn the religion. The Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C.-A.D. 668) and Goryeo Kingdom period (918-1392) flourished in terms of Buddhism, opening a wider door for bhikkhunis. The female monks were respected as much as their male counterparts.

Things started to change with the rise of Confucianism during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Women’s activities were restricted, thus making it difficult for bhikkhunis to carry out their duties and display their faith openly. Some were forbidden from entering temples while others had to leave their posts. Such difficult times may have made their lives and faith a bit harder to express, but their existence was not completely forgotten. According to Yi Hyang-soon, a comparative literature professor at the University of Georgia, their presence could be seen in Buddhist paintings, also known as “Gamrodo,’’ and eventually these paintings became a way to protect their lineage and also continue their practice. Out of the 60 gamrodos found around the country, 28 of them show bhikkhunis, either praying or reading scriptures in peace.

In modern days, bhikkhunis have now found their rightful position in the Buddhist community and although some may argue that they deserve more equal treatment, it’s quite easy to see that they have created a unique culture and system of their own.

Struggle remains

Jo Eun-su, a philosophy professor at Seoul National University, argues that despite the growing interest and number of bhikkhunis in the modern world, their general status has not seen any development over the past years.

“The bhikkhuni tradition has almost disappeared in other Southeast Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, but Korea’s lineage still stands strong thanks to its systemized asceticism and education,’’ the professor wrote in the quarterly magazine, “Buddhist Review’’ earlier this year.

She added that several factors actually helped the tradition survive, pointing out the bhikkhunis’ cohesiveness, their efficient use and management of temples during economically difficult times and also their open minded approach toward the public.
On the other hand, the professor emphasized the problems of the “The Eight Precepts’’ and called it “old-fashioned.’’

The Eight Precepts were made after Buddha initially refused his stepmother and Aunt Mahaprajapati Gotami’s request to ordain herself along with 500 other women in open assembly. Jo insisted that the precepts include outdated orders, such as the rule that a nun who has been ordained for a hundred years must rise up from her seat and greet respectfully, with joined palms, a monk who has only been ordained a day, or the precept that states that a bhikkhuni must not spend the rains in a residence where there are no male monks.

The professor insisted on the need of a more practical and fair system and doctrine for the bhikkhuni tradition to carry on in a healthier way.

“Fairness is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism. Korean Buddhism must not stay behind and insist on the Eight Precepts. It is time for us to discuss more fundamental and practical issues such as female political rights (in the Buddhist circle) or the progress of bringing gender equality,’’ she said.

Present and future

In 2004, Korea held the Sakyadhita International Conference, inviting more than 900 bhikkhunis, monks and Buddhists from around the world. “Sakyadhita’’ means the daughters of Buddha in Sanskrit.

Some 2,000 monks attended the opening ceremony, while more than 1,500 appeared at the closing event, showing the importance and also the influence bhikkhunis possess in the local Buddhist community.

Along with the ongoing recognition of such bhikkhunis living and meditating in Korea, expectations have also never been higher. Discrimination and ancient precepts are not enough to stop the rich and meaningful tradition they have led throughout the years and it’s most evident in the bhikkhunis we meet in the streets, subways and temples that they will continue to do so in the future as well.

As Ven. Myoeom, who is known as the “Godmother of bhikkhunis’’ in Korea, once said during an interview with The Korea Times last year, “although men wouldn’t believe so, women can do everything men do. We do it with wisdom, which is more powerful.’’
Male or female, meditating and following Buddha’s teachings is the same, for it all comes down to “the maturity of one’s soul.’’


Anthology Teachings of Zen Buddhist Priests

“Baegunhwasang Chorokbuljo Jikjisimcheyojeol” contains the essentials of Zen Buddhism compiled by Priest Baegun in the 21st year of King Gongmin(1372) at the age of 75. It is apparent  that the ideas inherited from his teacher Seogok Cheonggong, a Zen(Buddhist Mediation) master, continue and transmit to this work. It was printed into the metal type by his students Seokchan and Daldam under the auspices of Myodeok, who was a Buddhist nun, in the seventh lunar month of 1377 at Heungdeoksa Temple of Cheongju city.

Jikji comprises of historical biographies such as Gyeongdeok jeondeungnok and Seonmun yeomsong, which were to be studied by the student monks after completing the study of the teachings necessary to understand the essence of Zen, including Buddha’s sayings from his last moments, letters of praise, letters and poems on drawings, educational phrases and sentences, songs, writings, orthodox teachings, and dialogues. It introduced all kinds of literature for providing an understanding of Buddhism, and one hundred and forty-five Priests and Monks of India, China, and Korea are related in the contents of the book.

The key words of the title of the name of the book, “jikji simche” were derived from the famous phrase about attaining enlightenment through the practice of Zen, “Jikji insim gyeonseong seongbul” meaning the attainment of an enlightened state by direct appeal to the mind. It also means that when we come to see through Zen what the mind is, then we come to understand that mind to be that of Buddha. Because human nature is pure from the beginning, when the mind sees that it is pure and practices asceticism, one becomes a part of Buddha and one’s mind becomes that of Buddha. In other words, when one is enlightened through Zen, one’s mind becomes Buddha. The old priest put together a book of high standard by selecting only the essentials of Zen to teach and propagate to pupils.

Priest Baegun, who was an author, was born in the 24th year of King Chungryeol(1282) in Gobu, Jeollabuk-do province and passed away in the 23rd year of King Gongmin(1374) at the age of 77 at Chwiamsa Temple of Yeoju-gun. Priest Baegun entered the priesthood when he was young and devoted to religious ansterities. He inherited the ideas from Seogok Cheonggong, a Zen(Buddhist Mediation) master, and learned doctrines from Priest Jigonghwasang of India. After returning home from abroad, he stood abreast with National Preceptor Taego Bowoo and Priest Naonghwasang Hyegeun as Royal Mentor.

The circumstances under which the book left Korea were as follows. It had been in the collection of Collin de Plancy, a charg d’affaires with the French Embassy in Seoul in 1887 during the reign of King Gojong. The book then went into the hands of Henri Vever, a collector of classics, and when he died in 1950, it was donated to the National Library of France, where it has been ever since. Although Buljo jikji simche yojeol consists of two books, the first volume has not been found yet and only the second volume is currently kept at the National Library in France.

It originally consisted of 39 chapters, of which the first chapter is missing. Although we do not know the year Cheongju Heungdeoksa Temple was built or its size, there is an inscription on the last page that the second volume of Jikji was printed with movable metal type at Cheongju Heungdeoksa Temple during the reign of King U in 1377. The time was about 70 years earlier than the Gutenberg Bible printing in Germany. It was introduced in one of the articles of the UNESCO Courier in 1972 that the work is the oldest extant example of printing with movable metal type in the printing history of the world.

However, no one knew the exact location of Heungdeoksa Temple until a drum and Buddhist bowls made of bronze and inscribed with the word Heungdeoksa Temple were unearthed. The location of Heungdeoksa Temple, where the book was printed, was confirmed when the museum of Cheongju University excavated the site in 1985.

The book was printed using metal type, which makes printing technology more convenient, economic, easier correcting, and makes production of books quicker. Also, it served as momentum to invent an oiled ink which is appropriate to print metal type. This practical printing method invented by Korea influenced the history of Oriental printing, and it is thought that it was spread to Europe. It is the world’s oldest movable metal type printing evidence available and shows us an important technical change in the printing history of humanity. According to these values, the book was registered as Memory of the World in September 2001

Buddha’s Teaching Can Help Global Peace – UN Sec Gen

Narinjara News, May 8, 2009
United Nations, New York — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message delivered to the world communities on Wednesday that the Buddha’s teaching could help the world become peaceful.

“All of us can learn from the Buddha’s spirit of compassion. His timeless teachings can help us to navigate the many global problems we face today,” said Ban Ki-moon in his message.

His message came ahead of the Buddha’s birthday, traditionally known as Vesak or Visakah, a full-moon which this year fell on 9 May, 2009.

Vesak is the name of the month of the Buddha’s birth in the Indian lunar calendar. Buddhist communities around the world celebrate the full-moon day with great reverence and piety as the day synchronized the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha.

“The need for global solidarity may seem like a modern concept, but it is not. More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that nothing exists in isolation, and that all phenomena are interdependent. Just as profoundly, he taught that we cannot be happy as long as others suffer, and that when we do reach out, we discover the best in ourselves,” he added.

He also urged every individual to resolve to help people who are suffering, in order to secure a better future for all, in his message marking Vesak.

Lumbini mesmerizes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Posted:10 Mar 2009 02:50
Lumbini mesmerizes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Lumbini- the birthplace of Lord Buddha, one of the most popular site for tourists in general and global Buddhist community in particular on November 1, 2008.

On his two day visit to Nepal, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Lumbini- the birthplace of Lord Buddha, one of the most popular site for tourists in general and global Buddhist community in particular on November 1, 2008. Former UN Secretary General U Thant who visited Lumbini in 1967 initiated the Lumbini Restoration project and the Lumbini Master Plan(LMP) is the result of his untiring effort.

After his short trip to holy shrine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in the visitor’s book of Lumbini Development Trust,” I am awestruck by the beauty and profound significance of this sacred site, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

I am moved by the life journey of Prince who left behind all comfortable circumstances to comfort the hard realities of life, late becoming founder of one of the largest religions.

As Secretary General of the United Nations, I sincerely hope that the life, philosophy and the teaching of Lord Buddha will guide us to promote peace, harmony and reconciliation among people of different religions, belief, culture and creed.”

UN Secretary General Ban also inspected various monuments, monasteries and other places of archeological importance, including the Mayadevi Temple, the Ashoka Pillar, during the visit. He was briefed about LMP, which was designed by late Japanese engineer Kenzo Tange in 1978, and about the UN assistance so far for its development.

Of the five UN General Secretaries who have visited Nepal, Ban is the fourth one to visit the birthplace of Buddha. Lumbini is a major pilgrimage site for more than 350 million Buddhists spreading all over the world. Recently conducted survey shows that the segment of pilgrimage visitors to Nepal has increased considerably over the last few years and, Lumbini is expected to attract a large number of Buddhist pilgrimage tourists in near future. Last year 71,053 from 84 countries visited Lumbini. This year, 55,652 tourists have already visited Lumbini from 86 countries till August. To achieve substantial growth in tourism industry through new programmes, the Government has also declared 2011 as “Nepal Tourism Year” to revolutionize the tourism sector. Since peace and stability has already been established in Nepal, New Nepal is embracing all kind of social, economical and political agendas to keep country’s economic prosperity on the track focusing particularly on tourism.

With the visit of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his inspiring comment on Lumbini, Nepal Tourism Board expects that it would boost the tourist inflow in Lumbini creating an image of a must-visit-in ?a lifetime.

A Lifelong Fascination with Korean Buddhism

Robert Buswell
Robert Buswell

An American university student full of existent questions took off and got on a plane to Bangkok in 1972. He studied Hinayana Buddhism for a year in Thailand, met Korean Buddhist monks there and was attracted to Korean Buddhism. In 1974, he finally visited Korea, was given the Buddhist name of Hyemyeong at the Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province and trained and meditated for five years.

Now a 56-year-old professor of Asian languages and cultures, Robert Buswell is director of the Center for Buddhist Studies at University of California, Los Angeles and one of the foremost Western scholars on Korean Buddhism.

Last month, Buswell was appointed as the head of the Academy of Buddhist Studies at Dongguk University for one year. “I received the appointment certificate from Dongguk University on June 15. I agreed to come during the summer and winter vacations to Korea because I also teach at UCLA,” he says.

Buswell won PhD from UC Berkeley in 1985 with a dissertation titled, “The Korean Origin of the Vajrasamadhi-Sutra: A Case Study in Determining the Dating, Provenance, and Authorship of a Buddhist Apocryphal Scripture.” He established himself as a leading scholar on Korean Buddhism by translating Wonhyo’s Vajrasamadhi-Sutra and the writings of Jinul.

“I think it is a good opportunity for me as well as for Dongguk University to make Korean Buddhism globally known,” he says in his succinct Korean, “The biggest advantage of this appointment is that it lets me stay in Seoul longer. I can meet with many scholars and learn the latest research trends.” When asked if he believes in karma, Buswell says yes. “I think I would be doing the same thing in the next life as well.”

Priest teaches lessons from many faiths

joongangdaily   June 20, 2009

Every religion has a unique philosophy and instills its own distinct methods for seeking the meaning of life. But most don’t teach followers about other religious beliefs, meaning many believers think only of their own faith, neglecting others.

In the words of Father Bernard Senecal, 56, a professor in the department of religious studies at Sogang University in Mapo, northwestern Seoul, focusing on one’s own religion without attempting to understand others carries the risk of a narrow worldview.

Father Senecal, who also goes by the Korean name Seo Myeong-won, is a Catholic priest with the Society of Jesus, but he also studied Buddhism, ultimately becoming a scholar in that field.

He was born in Quebec, Canada, and lived there until he moved to France at the age of 19. Senecal studied medicine for six years and earned his bachelor’s degree at the Universite de Bordeaux in Paris in 1979. But he grew disappointed that medicine did not attempt to explain why human beings get sick and why they die, focusing instead only on treatment.

So he decided to become a priest and religious scholar. Senecal’s monastic life began during his study of theology at the Centre Sevres in Paris in early 1984. In the summer of that year, Father Senecal had the chance to visit Korea for the first time, touring the country for seven weeks.

During that period, he was impressed with Korea’s natural beauty, the kindness of the Korean people and the Buddhist temples. His interest grew, and he eventually considered moving to the country.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1985, he was dispatched to Korea as a missionary. In Korea, Senecal took three years of Korean language courses at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute. He returned to France in 1990 and earned master’s degrees in theology and literature in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Fascinated by Buddhist meditation, Senecal flew back to Korea to conduct research on Korean Buddhism. In 2004, the priest earned a doctorate in Korean Buddhism at the Universite Paris.

He says his ancestors were Vikings, and that their frontier spirit endures in him, leading him to push himself to attain a broad and balanced view. Senecal was interested in what people do not know about life, and wanted to challenge human nature.

One of his conclusions is that we can learn more about the meaning of life by bridging understanding between Christianity and Buddhism. But for that to happen, and for these two very different faiths to share disciplines and teachings, a great deal of dialogue must take place.

“Recently, several Korean monks stayed in an abbey in France for two years to learn about Christianity. Both priests and monks have to know and understand each other. Each ought to view the other side in an earnest manner,” the priest says. “Both Christianity and Buddhism are religions that have long traditions. Both have contributed much to humanity. So both still have to exist throughout human life,” said the professor. “Jesus and Buddha did not live in the same age. But they both can exist within our minds and hearts and manage our way of life. There are a lot of characteristics that can be exchanged and shared.”

According to Senecal, there are two ways in which Buddhism and Christianity can come together. First, Christians can learn from Buddhist spiritual training. Buddhist meditation can also find applications in Christianity as a way to explore one’s faith.

On the other hand, Buddhists should take lessons from Christianity’s involvement with society. Korean Buddhism, the priest says, has maintained a tradition of isolation from the outside world for hundreds of years and is therefore not accustomed to communicating with human society.

“It is inappropriate to think that one’s own religion is superior to others,” Senecal says. “Everyone’s efforts to seek the authentic truth of life have to be pushed forward at the same time. Communication with another religious group with even a small hidden agenda of conversion is improper.”

For this scholar-priest, religion plays a crucial role in forging a connection with God, awakening one to enlightenment by helping one learn the purpose of life. It is only upon reaching that status that people can enjoy true freedom.

One of the unique characteristics of Buddhism is its radical quest for the truth. Such efforts lead humans to overcome their hardships, Senecal says. In order to do so, three behavioral elements – morality, meditation and wisdom – are necessary, and among them, the priest singles out meditation as the most important.

In other words, Senecal says, Buddhism is the medicine of reality, or the medicine of medicines.
By Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

“Best Goryeo Buddhist Painting” returns from Japan for Local Exhibition at Tongdosa Temple

The Korea Times, June 3, 2009
Seoul, South Korea — One of the best Buddhist painting of Suwol-Gwaneum-Do or literally Painting of Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva in Sanskrit, which had been in a Japanese jinja (??) or a Shinto Shrine for nearly 600 years, came to South Korean for a special exhibition at a Buiddhist temple.

Buddhist painting of Suwol-Gwaneum-Do or literally Painting of Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva

The Suwol-Gwaneum-Do Buddhist painting is from Kagami Jinja or Kagami Shinto Shrine in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan.

The Buddhist painting was created by eight court painters in 1310 on the order of a Queen Kim of Goryeo Dynasty, but was pillaged by the Japanese pirates soon after. Japanese invaders took the painting to Japan and kept it there for nearly 600 years.

Queen Kim was the second wife of King Chungseon,the 26th monarch of Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Dubbed “the largest and most beautiful Suwol-Gwaneum-Do Buddhist painting” by art historians, this Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva painting on the one silk scroll, started to be on exhibition from April 30, 2009 at Tongdosa Buddhist temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province.

The special public display of the Suwon-Gwaneum-Do, 4.19 by 2.54 meters, in Tongdosa Museum will continue until June 7, 2009.
Tongdosa Temple announced that it hosted the exhibition of the special Buddhist painting on the occasion of the 10 year anniversary of the opening of its Tongdosa Museum.

It is the second time for this greatest masterpiece Buddhist painting of Goyreo Dynasty to be exhibited in South Korea. In 1995 it was on displayed at Hoam Art Gallery south of Seoul.

Experts say that this Suwol-Gwaneum-Do is one of the world’s 38 Buddhist paintings of Goryeo Dynasty, depicting Suwol-Gwaneum or Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva.

It was Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty that top-quality Buddhist paintings were produced. There are some 160 Goryeo Buddhist paintings that exist in the world.

But there are no more than 10 of them that remain in South Korea. Japan has them all. There are only 20 Goryo Buddhist paintings scattered in Europe and America.

The rest of the paintings, over 130, were taken by force or sold illegally at best, to Japan long time ago. Most of them were pillaged by the Japanese invaders throughout history.

Experts agree that this Suwol-Gwaneum-Do painting is the most beautiful, the oldest, the largest one that still exists in the world.

Some art critiques compare this Buddhist masterpiece to “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. Others argue that it’s much better than “Mona Lisa.”

In Japan this painting is on public display for only 38 days per year out of concerns for conservation.

The temple souces said that they started contacting the Japanese Shinto shrine one year ago for this exhibition.

In 2003 the Suwol-Gwaneum-Do painting was displayed for 20 days at a San Francisco museum under the tile of “Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment (918 to 1392).”

But, exhibition period this time is double that of San Francisco exhibition. It is on exhibition at Tongdosa Temple for the full 40 days.

For details or inquiries please visit Tongdosa Museum’s website.