Photo1: Fundamental Seon Hall of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism at Baekdamsa Monastery
In Korean Buddhism there is intensive meditation system which has summer retreat and winter retreat for three months each time. Now Jogye Order has a number of monks and nuns. There are about fourteen thousands who have official certificate card for monks and nuns. Among them more than two thousand monks and nuns registered at names of list being approved of Jogye Order officially in this summer retreat book. As you know Buddhism came to China via central Asia and was transmitted to Korea where conveyed it to Japan. Of course later period Japan accepted Chan(zen) Buddhism from China directly.
The fullmoon day of July red monkey year 2016 by lunar calendar, it is the day for opening the gateless gate of Seon meditation hall after three months intensive retreat which ran eight hours a day as sitting meditation mainly. An hours’ sitting meditation and ten minutes working concentration on moving feet. Baekdamsa monastery is located at inner Mt Seoraksan under branch temple of Shinhungsa main temple which is the 3rd archdiocese of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Baekdamsa monastery is designated fundamental Seon meditation hall(school) for those who took higher ordination under diamond precept altar of Jogye Order officially in order to educate novices for 5 years courses. Even if one takes a high ordination, he(she) must practice mediation for 5 years and he(she) can be recognized as a monk or nun. Baekdamsa monastery fundamental meditation school of Jogye Order is for monk and novice only.
Spiritual Master of Jogye Order fundamental meditation school, Seorak Musan Cho Oh-hyun gave Dharma talk in front of eight hundred numbers of monks and laity gathered at fundamental meditation hall of Jogye Order. He mentioned life is just like heat haze in the air. So he said “practice hard to attain what real life is through meditation. And see deep water which flows underneath rocks and sands in a stream of a valley. The worldy life is just same as like flowing water in a valley. The surface of the worldy is just like bubble and waves of haze. Life is impermanency. So find out the truth of life through Seon meditation.” Master insisted on all novices who completed three months intensive meditation courses here at Baekdamsa monastery at inner Mt Seoraksan.
Photo 2: Monks and laity took off shoes under the doorsill of meditation hall in order to hear Master’s Dharma Talk.
I came to Baekdamsa monastery one month ago. At that time Baekdamsa monastery was very calm and no one was in the yard of the temple. All of monks and novices were in the hall where they had devotion themselves to meditate desperately. However on the occasion of opening the gateless gate hall, there were many people in the yard of the monastery. Many lay people came to see master and heard his Dharma talk. Seon(chan) Buddhism was formed in China and transmitted to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. I think that the original tradition of Chan(Seon) practice has been kept by Korean Buddhist sangha. Before Seon tradition there was doctrinal(sutra) Buddhism in Korea. After Seon Buddhism was introduced into Korea in the late Silla dynasty and the early days of the Koryeo dynasty. In the Yi dynasty Buddhism was suppressed and the Yi dynasty made Confucianism as a state religion. As a result Most of monks and nuns stayed in the mountain temples and focused on studying sutras and seon meditation. Therefore 《the Avatamska Sutra》 became the main text and Hwado Gongan seon(話頭 公案禪:seon of word head and public question) was common practice for monks and nuns. That is why 《the Avatamska Sutra》 is being called as the great teaching. Generally one studied 《the Avatamska Sutra》 first and entered seon school. After seon school monk and nun practiced seon meditation and read 《The Transmission of the Lamp》. After reading 《The Transmission of the Lamp》, monk and nun studied 《Seonmunyeomsong: Reciting Verses of Seon school》 and 《Seonmunyeomsong seolhwa: Reciting Verses Tales of Seon school》 written by national master Jingak Hyesim and his disciple Kagwoon in 1234 CE Goyreo dynasty.
So Seon Buddhism dominated Korean Buddhist circles and korean monks and nuns learned 《the Avatamska Sutra》 and practiced Seon Gongan meditation. After Japanese Empire occupied Korea and made korean monks married and polluted seriously. However Korea regained independence and Korean Buddhism restored sangha of Bhikkus and Bhikkunis. So Korean Buddhist sangha is completely celibacy unlike Japan. So Korean Seon tradition is very fresh and pure.
Writer: Dharma Master Bogeom(Dr. Lee Chi-ran)
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