Seon Master’s Episode

1] Heavy Sacks

Gyeongheo and Mangong, his disciple, were returning to their temple in the evening after getting some rice for their food. Especially that day, they got rice full of sack. Apart from their satisfaction, the sacks were heavy and it was still distant to their destination. Mangong felt tired and got pain on the shoulder, so it was very difficult to follow his master. Noticing this, Gyeongheo said, “I will use one method to get fast. Please see.” They were passing a certain village. Then, a beautiful young woman was coming from the opposit side of them with a water jar on the head. She was apparently a bride just over 20 years old. When Gyeongheo faced her, he held her both ears and kissed her lips. The woman screamed, dropped and broke the jar, and ran back into her house. A distubance arose. Villagers ran out of their houses with sticks or clubs and shouted, “Wicked monks, stop there.” The two monks began to run away. They ran so desperately that villagers couldn’t follow them to the last. After a while, when they took a rest, Gyeongheo said, “Was the sack heavy?” Mangong said, “Regardlessly, I don’t know how I could run so long way with it.” Gyeongheo said, “Don’t I have talent?” They laughed together looking at each other.

2] A Preach for Mother

One day, Gyeongheo gathered people to preach for the sake of his mother and told his student to fetch her. His mother was very glad, so she dressed herself with new clothes and paid her respects to him, and took a seat. Thereupon, Gyeongheo took off his own clothes piece by piece until he became all naked. He said, “Mother, please look at me.” His mother waiting for a great preach was very surprised, got angry and said, “How can you preach like this ? How outrageous !” She returned to her room right away and locked the door of her room. Then, he smiled bitterly and said, “How can she be my mother ? When I was a child, she took off my clothes, washed my body, hugged and kissed me. Why can’t she do that now ? How pitiful are those worldly customs !” His students had to beg her parden saying that it had been a great and special preach.

3] A Leper

Master Gyeongheo was dwelling at Cunggyesa temple, when a leper woman knocked at the door of his room.He noticed that she had wandered lacking in love. He allowed her to enter his room. Since then, he shared his mattress together with her for a week, until his disciple Mangong said, “I notice your Dharma is supreme, but we can’t endure it. Please have her get out of here.” Gyeongheo said, “You seem to have many boundaries catching you. Then I can’t help it.” So he had to tell her to leave.

Contestations over Korean Buddhist Identities

The “Introduction” to the Gyeongheo-jip

Gregory Nicholas Evon

This article partly derives from research contained in a Ph.D. dissertation (Evon 1999), and it represents a re-articulation of certain basic points made therein. Here, the fundamental point I seek to make is simply this: there exists an inherent conflict between the assumptions that a self-conscious Korean Buddhist identity can be founded on the singular notion of purity, or celibacy, and that this singular notion of identity, in turn, reasonably can be judged to be nationalistic or patriotic in the context of the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945). Such a general notion of identity, I would argue, at once elides the contestation over identity among Korean Buddhists themselves during the colonial period and ultimately conflates religious for national identities. Further, such elision and conflation seem to be products of post-liberation discourse. Throughout this paper I will use the expression post-liberation in order to allow for a distinction suggested elsewhere: that post-colonialism ought to refer to all that follows the “beginning of colonial contact” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 1999: 2). In that sense, however, post-colonialism is inaccurate to the extent that it allows for little distinction between the colonial period and its aftermath.
Such a distinction is, in part, what this paper seeks to address?hence my employment of post-liberation. In this connection, it should be admitted that this paper makes some general claims in regard to post-liberation Korean Buddhist discourse without always staking these claims to definite examples. Yet as with all generalizations, these claims are not necessarily applicable to the entirety of specific cases, or to be exact, the entirety of the work of all scholars. On the other hand, at least this shortcoming can be explained partly in reference to Whitehead’s dictum that much
can be learned about an era through what it assumes rather than expresses. By the very definition of assumption, we are forced to deal with frameworks of inquiry in which ideas are embedded, or assumed. These frameworks and implicit ideas limit the questions asked and the answers given, thus demanding an “unearthing of silences” which requires “a project linked to an interpretation” so we may locate “the retrospective significance of hitherto neglected events” (Trouillot 1995: 58).1 In this paper, the neglected events to be addressed are those surrounding the publication of a Korean Buddhist text in the colonial period, and the silences are those of post-liberation scholarship on these events. This paper, then, is an interpretation.

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