Question about Korean Zen

Question about Korean Zen

Postby Sara H » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:01 am

So I'm familiar with the fact that Korean Zen exists,
but not much more than that.
How is it different than say Japanese decended Soto Zen or Rinzai Zen for instance?

Thank you!

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Dan74 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:29 pm

Hi Sara :hi:

It's hard to say something generally applicable to Korean Zen. In the West the one school that is well known is Kwan Um and my understanding is that it is very similar to Japanese Rinzai, though of course it has a distinct liturgy and a special organisational structure.

In Korea, the main order is Jogye order where monks and nuns take vows that are practically the same as the Southern Buddhist (Theravada) monastics. So they are celibate and generally don't take on paid employment but live in temples or hermitages and engage in either religious or social work.

The style of Zen that is most practiced is what Koreans call hwa-du (Chinese: hua-tou) or "head of speech". It is the punch line of a koan, like "No" for Joshu's Mu or one taught by Kusan Sunim - "what is this?"

There are some great books like The Way of Korean Zen and The Zen Monastic Experience. Back in the 70ies, there was a vibrant scene for Western Zen monastics in Korea. Folks like Stephen Batchelor, his future wife Martine, Robert Buswell Jn were at Ssongwan-Sa, one of the main temples. At the moment there are still some Western monks and nuns in Korea. One is Chong-go Sunim, who has a group in Seoul, I believe, and who used to post occasionally on the old E-Sangha. A good man, I hear and worth contacting if you are in the vicinity.

This video is a bit monotone but informative:



This website has some good stuff:

http://koreanbuddhism.net/
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby seeker242 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:59 pm

Sara H wrote:So I'm familiar with the fact that Korean Zen exists,
but not much more than that.
How is it different than say Japanese decended Soto Zen or Rinzai Zen for instance?

Thank you!

In Gassho,

Sara H


One of the main differences I can see is it's emphasis on Hua Tou meditation practice. The Hua Tou practice permeates nearly everything in the entire tradition. It is the cornerstone of the tradition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hua_Tou Another difference, at least in the way it is practiced in the US in the Kwan Um school, there is very little emphasis on intellectual study or book study. As one zen master monk in the kwan um school said "we don't read books to gain understanding, we read books to gain motivation to practice".
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Meido » Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:06 pm

seeker242 wrote:
One of the main differences I can see is it's emphasis on Hua Tou meditation practice.


Just as an aside, hua tou (Jp. wato) is also used extensively in Japanese Rinzai practice. Rinzai folks tend to say "koan practice", but this encompasses the use of wato whether they come from koan cases (e.g Mu) or not (e.g. "Who am I, Who is it who sees/feels/thinks" etc.). So I don't see this as a major difference.

I would say that more definite differences include Seon's more free incorporation of Pure Land-influenced practices and devotional content. Due to Japan's period of isolation, Zen there was not influenced by later syncretic trends that arose on the mainland.

But in general, my observations have been that Korean Seon and Rinzai Zen students, at least, are cousins that easily understand each other's practices and experiences.

~ Meido
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Sara H » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:03 am

Dan74 wrote:
In Korea, the main order is Jogye order where monks and nuns take vows that are practically the same as the Southern Buddhist (Theravada) monastics. So they are celibate and generally don't take on paid employment but live in temples or hermitages and engage in either religious or social work.


Ah, so it's a bit like the OBC in that regard, that's interesting and kindof neat.

I'll take a look at those links you posted, that'll be good to check out. : )

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Astus » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:57 pm

As mentioned, Korean Zen is diverse. There is the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist organisation, but there are also other ones, like the Taego Order or the Kwan Um Zen School that are not part of Jogye. Within the Jogye Order there are different vocations monastics can take (meditation, scripture, ritual) as their primary field of study before full ordination. That means that while Zen may seem the main form of Buddhist tradition, in fact all monastics are required to be proficient to some extent in the essential Mahayana doctrines as it is defined in Korea based on outstanding teachers like Wonhyo, Uisang and Jinul. And when we look into a narrower subject like the hwadu practice, different teachers instruct it in their own unique ways, if they use hwadu at all (mostly the Hanmaum School to which Chonggo sunim belongs where they don't use hwadu meditation).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby icylake » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:14 pm

in fact, traditional korean buddhist orders (jogye, taego) are the synthesis of all of traditional buddhist tradition. so zen practice is just an aspect of korean buddhism. basicaly korean buddhism consists of two main polar - scholary tradition(avatamska sutra), and zen practition (hwadu zen, ganhwaseon). big monasteries have three traditional institutes, 1)seminary(gangwon講院)2)zen retreat hall (seonwon禪院) 3)vinaya school(yulwon 律院)all of prime monasteries have their own zen dharma linages(禪脈), vinaya linage(律脈),sutra study linage( 經脈 )which often retro acted to over hundre years.
and the big manastries satisfying these conditions are called chonglim(叢林)。

based on ven Chinul's theory, the founder of jogye order in the 12th century(sutra is buddha's word, zen is buddha's mind, one must understand buddha's word before understsnd buddha's mind) novice monks and nuns(sami/ni)are required to study seminary for 4years. but there is another primary zen institute for sami, who want to directly participate zen practiton, called basic zen hall( 基礎禪院)。 in there, samis/nis participate in retreats with another bhikhus/nis, while during wandering season between winter retreat and summer retreat, they study sutras and zen commentaries.

the core of sutra eucation is hwayan, avatamska sutra, whole the fourth year of gangwon would be dedicated to Avatamska study. unlike other east asian buddhist traditions(china, japan, vietnam) lotus sutra is optional in Korean tradition. and yombul(nian fo, nenbutsu) and pure land belief are not that important compared with other east asian traditions either. even between laities, mantra chanting is more popular. kwan um(guayin), jijang faith are more popular than Amitabah worshp.
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby icylake » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:00 pm

and when it comes to zen practice. it's very different of Rinzai zen and soto zen). Soto zen itself is just sitting with empty mind. don't use hwadu..so basically different. Rinzai zen is more simmilar and can be seen cousins of Korean zen . but the understanding koan(Kong an), hwadu is quite different.

in Korean tradition, Kong an case itself is not important. because Kong an is former master's story and anecdote. that's THEIR understanding. not practitioners' . so Korean zen monks take enpasis on hwadu itself. not Kong an case,
and a traditional Korean zen practitoner doesn't change Hwadu like Rinzai zen or Kwan un zen school. because they think hwadu is just a tool to make doubt to down to sammadhi. like tibetan buddhism uses many symbols to deepen sammadhi, Ganhwaseon uses Doubt itself to deepen sammadhi. so the most important is Doubt itsef, not kong an case. so they think if a pratitioner changes hwadu(kong an) during practice, that means, there still is the differntiating mind(difference of object, subject , cause it means a specific kong an has it's own characteristics). that's the gretest difference.

and korean zen pratition(esepecially in the monastic one) is more esoteric than rinzai zen, or kwan um zen. the relationship between masters who give the practioners Inka and the practitioners are very simmilar to that of tibetan buddhism. all of korean monastery zen factions have dharma trasmission system and linages. and teachers give the eveidence for enlightments. -kashas, bowls, poems-. but, yes not so fit for lay people. and the inderstaning of gyunsung(kensho 見性)is quite different too. in Korean tradition gyunsung seemed to be to feel ultimate emptiness(like tibetan practition)or sometimes arhant(there are MANY debates on it)
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Thus-gone » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:02 pm

Meido wrote:Just as an aside, hua tou (Jp. wato) is also used extensively in Japanese Rinzai practice. Rinzai folks tend to say "koan practice", but this encompasses the use of wato whether they come from koan cases (e.g Mu) or not (e.g. "Who am I, Who is it who sees/feels/thinks" etc.). So I don't see this as a major difference.


I believe the difference is that, in Korea, they don't use koans, but use a single hwadu for the entire duration of their practice.
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby icylake » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:09 pm

so they think it's really hard for ordinary people to get to "Kensho" through practition. so many monks practice closing themselves in the hermatages during whole life, or burning fingers to remind themselves that they still have far long way to go..but i think Rinzai zen is more practical and friendly to lay-practitioners.

as a whole korean zen's religious, esoteric, monasteric atmosphere is far more strong than Rinzai counterpart. whereas Rinszai zen is more friendly to commoners.

so i've heard many Rinzai zen practitioners say "zen is the way of living"(the same goes to many korean lay people). but typical Korean zen monk would say "zen is the boat sailing suffering ocean". the mindset is quite different.
Last edited by icylake on Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Jikan » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:30 pm

icylake wrote:so they think it's really hard for ordinary people to get to "Kensho" through practition. so many monks practice closing themselves in the hermatages during whole life, or burning fingers to remind themselves that they still have far long way to go..but i think Rinzai zen is more practical and friendly to lay-practitioners.

as a whole korean zen's religious, esoteric, monasteric atmosphere is far more strong than Rinzai counterpart. whereas Rinszai zen is more friendly to commoners


There may be some variables on this one. I've never been to Korea, but I have visited Korean Buddhist temples in the US such as the one linked below. I've found them to be friendly, welcoming, genuine. My experience was somewhat parallel to Meido's; the devotional practices & chanting service reminded me somewhat of Tendai-shu and I felt right at home.

http://www.taegowashington.com/home.htm

YMMV.
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby Astus » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:09 pm

As I've said here before, Korean Zen should not be reduced to a single entity. It shows a great diversity in terms of how Zen and Buddhism in general is approached and taught. Within the Jogye Order there are different groups with their own ideas and methods. Hwadu practice is the prevalent technique, but there are teachers who instead of that emphasise yeombul (buddha-remembrance), kongan or something else. The ganhwa method itself can be used in different ways. It shouldn't be forgot that calling it "Korean" Buddhism defines only its geographical and cultural situation, not its content.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Question about Korean Zen

Postby icylake » Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:38 pm

it would be helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHJ2i3nkQKc
it is quite different from Samurai-like japanese style :smile:
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