Seon(zen) Meditation Retreat
Seon(zen) Meditation Retreat in Korean Buddhism
Baekdamsa Mugumseonwon(Nothingness Now Seon Meditation Hermitage) at Inner Seorak Mountain
In Seon(zen) tradition in Korean Buddhism there are Gyulje(結制) and Heje(解制) system for vasa(rainy season). But we do not have a rainy season in summer time as like the tropical regions in India and the South-East Asia such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. We have Jangma(the rainy spell) which is a sort of wet season. There is not much rain. So unlike Theravada countries, we have two vasas during the year in Korean Buddhism. So we have two Gyuljes and Hejes for meditation retreat. We have Haangeo(夏安居) and Dongangeo(冬安居). Angeo(安居) means Korean Buddhist term for a three-month period of intense training for students of Seon meditation. Therefore Korean Buddhist Seon monks have summer retreat and winter retreat a year. Summer retreat starts 15h(the full moon day) April by the lunar calendar(Gyulje) and ends 15h July by the lunar calendar. Seon students practice meditation eight hours a day for ninety days.
In China, Korea and Japan, Angeo system is same. Angeo is typically held twice a year, the first period from spring to summer and the second period from fall to winter. The word angeo literally translates as ‘dwelling in peace’; the summer angeo is referred to as ha-angeo and the winter period is dong-angeo.
Concerning Seon(Zen) practice in the United States, author Ellen Birx writes,
“Many centers now allow members to attend retreats on a part-time basis. Many have angeo, a three-month-long period of intensified practice, that members can participate in while continuing to go off to work during the day.”
Taigen Dan Leighton writes
“A more traditional definition, These are ninety-day training periods of concentrated practice without leaving the monastic enclosure (except for monks going out for necessary temple business). They date back to the summer rainy season retreats of Shakyamuni's time. In Japan, they have been held twice a year, summer and winter.”
As a matter of fact, twenty percents of Korean monks join Gyulje which means two thousand monks and nuns out of twelve thousand monks and nuns in Jogye Order. Seon was gradually transmitted into Korea during the late Silla period (7th through 9th centuries) as Korean monks of predominantly Hwaeom (華嚴宗) and East Asian Yogācāra(唯識宗) background began to travel to China to learn the newly developing tradition. Seon received its most significant impetus and consolidation from the Goryeo monk Jinul (知訥) (1158–1210), who established a reform movement and introduced gongan(kōan) practice to Korea. Jinul established the Songgwangsa (松廣寺) as a new center of pure practice.
Now Jogye Order appointed Master Seorak Musan as a patriarchal master for the elementary Seon hall of the Jogye Order of the Korean Buddhism. The elementary Seon hall of the Jogye Order of the Korean Buddhism located in Baekdamsa monastery. Baekdamsa monastery is a branch temple of Shinhungsa temple which is the third parish under the Jogye Order of the Korean Buddhism. About hundred monks had a ceremony of Gyulje at Shinhungsa temple on 21st May in 2016 on the occasion of a signboard of one pillar gate for Shinhungsa temple. Seon students of three meditation halls under the third parish main temple of Shihungsa joined Gyulje. They are Hyangseong Seonwon(香城禪院) of Shinhungsa, Mugumseonwon(無今禪院nothingness now seon hermitage) and Jogye Order elementary seon hall(基本禪院) of Baekdamsa monastery.
One of the most famous seon hall is Mugumseonwon(nothingness now Seon hermitage) which is located at the precincts of Baekdamsa monastery where great seon(zen) master Seorak Musan resides there to inspire seon students and lay buddhist leaders as well.
He gave a dharma talk on the occasion of Gyulje ceremony and insisted on focusing gongan(公案) which is ganhwa(看話) method. ㅎanhwa method is to hold Hwa Du(話頭) which is a form of Buddhist meditation common in the teachings of Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon and Rinzai Zen. Hwa Du can be translated as 'word head', 'head of speech' or 'point beyond which speech exhausts itself'. A Hwa Du can be a short phrase that is used as a subject of meditation to focus the mind.