Korean Buddhism

February 13, 2011

Korean Buddhism is the eighth volume of the Korean Studies Series by Jipmoondang Publishing Company. This book is divided into two parts: Tradition and Transformation. The author views that tradition is a continuous process of selection and adaptation. The Tradition part comprises of Son Buddhist Tradition in Korea, The Philosophical Foundation of Korean Zen Buddhism and Jinul’s Place in East Asian Buddhism. Transformation is also a part of tradition as long as the participants in the transformation are aware of its traditional root and of what they are going to change. The Transformation part is composed of: Buddhist Responses to the Modern Transformation of Korean Society; General Characteristics of Korean Buddhism; A Buddhist Approach to the Perfection of Man; Geomancy, Korean Buddhism, and Tourism; and Modernity and Religiosity of Korean People Today. Thus the author describes Korean Buddhist transformations throughout the last seven hundred years up until the 20th century in various facets, focusing mostly doctrinal and institutional changes. Having received influences from Indian and Chinese Buddhism, and in turn having given influences, Korean Buddhism, in the course of the past 1,600 years of history has shown three major paradigm shifts. By merging with native Shamanist practices, traditional Korean Buddhism provided the cornerstone for this-world affirming aspects of Korean culture. In the course of establishing various religious orders and in systematizing its doctrinal teachings, Korean Buddhism has not completely freed itself from the framework provided by Chinese Mahayana Buddhism and its this-word affirming aspects. In the latter half of the 20th century, there were signs of movements from within Korean Buddhist circles to reform Buddhism in accordance with the spirit of the original teachings of Buddha, which later was manifested in the Minjung (People’s) Buddhism movement. Korean Buddhist tradition has been consolidated during the Goryeo period (935-1392) and subsequently transformed during the following Joseon period (1392-1910). Since the present Jogye Buddhist Order is definitely maintaining Son (Zen) Buddhist tradition, the author also tried to trace the root of the Order. The author attempts to explore and explicate the nature of Korean Buddhist tradition from the vantage point of Korean Son Buddhism organized by Korean master priest Jinul (1158-1210).

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