Jinul’s Zen Thought

February 17, 2011

Jinul’s Zen Thought comprehensively explains the thoughts of Jinul who is regarded as the most venerable monk of zen Buddhism in the history of Korea. Many theses and academic papers have been written about the achievements of Jinul; but there is only limited research that systematically synthesizes the teachings and philosophy of the monk. This book therefore is significant because it is the first attempt to explain the theory, as well as life, of Jinul. This book is composed of seven parts. The first part briefly outlines the life of Jinul and discusses the historical context in which he lived and wrote. The second chapter explains the characteristics and the structure of Jinul’s thought about zen Buddhism. The remaining four chapters explore his theory of mind, sudden awakening, gradual cultivation of mind and zen practice based on “hwadu” (“koan” in Japanese; “”gongan”” in Korean). The Buddhist monk Jinul (1158-1210) in Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) declared that zen (meditation) is the mind of Buddha; and the doctrine is the lesson of Buddha. During his lifetime, Ji-nul tried to harmonize and unify the two seemingly opposite ideas of zen and doctrine. Since that time, Jinul’s teaching has become the basis for Korean Buddhism. Jinul lived during the period of military officers’ involvement in politics, revolution, and political corruption. Political disturbance was at its peak. Buddhism also was closely linked with corrupt domestic politics. Ji-nul thought that through the purification of Korean Buddhism, the nation would be cleansed of political corruption and disturbances. WANG Geon founded Goryeo after the chaotic periods ended. Korean became divided into two sects: one which advocated the importance of zen and the other the importance of the doctrine. Although some Buddhist monks tried to bridge the gap between the two, such an attempt failed. The result was further corruption of the religion. Jinul, however, suggested a new method of zen practice. Jinul is known as the propagator of“jeonghye-ssangsu” (the parallel cultivation of mental concentration and insight) that embraced all Buddhist sects at that time, and“dono-jeomsu”(sudden awakening first and gradual cultivation later). Basically, he wanted to unify the doctrine with zen. The author GIL Hui-seong sees Jinul as a mediator between the two masters: monk Wonhyo (617-686) of the Silla Dynasty (57 BC -668) and Seosan (1520-1604) of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The three are the most prestigious Buddhist monks in Korean history. Ironically, the three had never traveled to or studied in China. They acquired the consummate level of zen without going abroad to study. Inheriting Wonhyo’s theory of“harmonization of doctrinal disputes,”Jinul mediated the teachings of Wonhyo and Seosan, thus narrowing the gap of 1,000 years. Ji-nul was zen Buddhist monk and a prolific writer.

For more information about this and similar books from Korea, please visit: http://www.koreanbooks.or.kr/

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