Questions on Korean Buddhism

Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Vidyaraja » Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:34 pm

Recently I have been reading Chinul and some other resources on Korean Buddhism and have some questions I hope someone can help me with.

1) What are the differences, if any, between the Jogye and Taego orders besides the issue of married clergy? Are there any differences in regards to doctrine or practice? I read somewhere that some monks of the Taego order are celibate, so it made me wonder if there were differences beyond the issue of married clergy.

2) Aside from the works of Chinul which I have, are there any recommended resources for learning more about Korean Buddhism?

3) I've read about Westerners (Americans and non-Americans as well) who have become monks in Korea. How would someone interested go about accomplishing such? What are the legal issues regarding visas, residency, etc. for foreign monks in Korea?

I imagine these questions may be fairly obscure, but if anyone can assist me with some further information I'd be greatly obliged.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:32 pm

I have nothing substantive or verifiable for questions 1 or 3; I do have friends who practice in a Taego temple, led by a sunim I admire greatly. I look forward to learning from others on these.

Regarding question 2, I find myself coming back again and again to Wonhyo's commentary on the Vajrasamadhi Sutra, published as Cultivating Original Enlightenment, trans. R Buswell. I've also found the published writings of Seung Sahn Sunim to be very helpful, especially Compass of Zen, and Kihwa's commentary on the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, trans. C Muller.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby yan kong » Sat Sep 14, 2013 10:22 am

Vidyaraja wrote:3) I've read about Westerners (Americans and non-Americans as well) who have become monks in Korea. How would someone interested go about accomplishing such? What are the legal issues regarding visas, residency, etc. for foreign monks in Korea?


Your best bet is to look into your nearest Korean temple.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Vidyaraja » Sun Sep 15, 2013 6:59 pm

yan kong wrote:Your best bet is to look into your nearest Korean temple.


Unfortunately it doesn't seem any are close by. Some Korean Protestant churches around me, but no Buddhist temples.

In any case, I will try to research more and see if I can find the answer to any of these questions, if I do I will share them. I based my question on Western monks in Korea off of an interview I read of a Polish monk in Korea named Chun moon where he said:

S.A.L: You are probably one of the few western born monks living in Korea and I for one was surprised when I met you.

C.M: There are actually quite a few western monks in Korea. There are American monks, Russian monks, some Argentineans; there are over fifty monks living in the Cho Gye Jong Order.


So it seems based off that interview that becoming a monk in Korea must be a possibility.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Matt J » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:06 pm

The Jogye Order has made available the Collected Works of Korean Buddhism for free:

http://www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist/resources/article.asp?parentid=127396
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby seeker242 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:45 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:
2) Aside from the works of Chinul which I have, are there any recommended resources for learning more about Korean Buddhism?



One of the best books I have read on the subject is "The Way of Korean Zen" by Kusan Sunim

http://www.amazon.com/The-Way-Korean-Ku ... 1590306864

It was one of the very few english books here at the library room in the local Korean temple. Quite good!
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:00 pm

Matt J wrote:The Jogye Order has made available the Collected Works of Korean Buddhism for free:

http://www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist/resources/article.asp?parentid=127396


Wow, thank you for that resource! This will most certainly be helpful to me.

seeker242 wrote:
One of the best books I have read on the subject is "The Way of Korean Zen" by Kusan Sunim

http://www.amazon.com/The-Way-Korean-Ku ... 1590306864

It was one of the very few english books here at the library room in the local Korean temple. Quite good!


Thanks, I have this on my Amazon wishlist, so hopefully it will be a future purchase of mine.

I just asked my question regarding becoming a monk in Korea on a Zen forum, so hopefully I can receive some information there. If I get any I will be sure to share it here in case present or future members of this forum may happen to have a inquiry.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:53 am

Hello!

Over at other places on the interwebs I had come across an American monk resident in Seoul called Chonggo Sunim. I got a really good impression of him and afterwards also heard good stuff from other people. http://wakeupandlaugh.wordpress.com/author/chonggo108/ I think he has a group in Seoul, but I am not certain. Also John, a member at Zen Forum International, http://www.zenforuminternational.org/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=133 has been a long-term Son practitioner and would be a good person to contact.

As far as books go, there is The Zen Monastic Experience by Robert Buswell Jr http://www.amazon.com/The-Monastic-Experience-Robert-Buswell/dp/069103477X who was a monk at Ssongwan-Sa (Kusan Sunim's temple) that you should check out if interested in ordaining in Korea. Times have of course changed and I am not sure if there is something like Bul-il Centre that Kusan had built at Ssongwan-Sa for Western monastics but there must be still a lot of opportunity to ordain and study there. It's a great Buddhist tradition!
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Vidyaraja » Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:52 am

Dan74 wrote:Hello!

Over at other places on the interwebs I had come across an American monk resident in Seoul called Chonggo Sunim. I got a really good impression of him and afterwards also heard good stuff from other people. http://wakeupandlaugh.wordpress.com/author/chonggo108/ I think he has a group in Seoul, but I am not certain. Also John, a member at Zen Forum International, http://www.zenforuminternational.org/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=133 has been a long-term Son practitioner and would be a good person to contact.

As far as books go, there is The Zen Monastic Experience by Robert Buswell Jr http://www.amazon.com/The-Monastic-Experience-Robert-Buswell/dp/069103477X who was a monk at Ssongwan-Sa (Kusan Sunim's temple) that you should check out if interested in ordaining in Korea. Times have of course changed and I am not sure if there is something like Bul-il Centre that Kusan had built at Ssongwan-Sa for Western monastics but there must be still a lot of opportunity to ordain and study there. It's a great Buddhist tradition!


Thanks for the reply. That is the forum I asked a similar question as I did on here, so hopefully John will see that thread and reply. If not I will contact him. Thank you also for the link to the blog and what information you have given me.

I suppose my main concern comes down to realistic possibilities. Sometimes we dream but we find that the reality on the ground doesn't allow for our dreams to come into fruition. I've been trying to figure out where I can become a monk outside of the West and experience authentic Buddhism for some time. It hasn't been an easy search. From what I posted earlier from the interview with a Western monk in South Korea saying he knows of multiple Western monks and what information I've received here and elsewhere, it does seem possible, so that does give me hope. I agree, from what I can see Korean Buddhism is a great Buddhist tradition. After doing more researching and discovering if this plan is realistic, my task will be to learn the language. Thankfully I enjoy Korean historical dramas, so I think if I saturate myself with them in conjunction with Pimsleurs, Rosetta Stone, and books resources, I should be able to build a nice foundation.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby KeithA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:40 am

Hello Vidyaraja,

I have a monastic friend who keeps a few blogs, one of which might be interesting to you: From this Shore It is a photoblog and if you scroll down a bit, Sunim writes about her ordination with accompanying photos.

n addition to Dan's excellent recommendations, another book I can highly recommend is The Mirror of Zen. To my mind, it is the marrow of Korean Buddhism.

Good luck in your search!
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:07 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:After doing more researching and discovering if this plan is realistic, my task will be to learn the language.


I've heard Korean monastic institutions are extremely strict.

Bear in mind that if you do go to Korea, it'll probably be like a lot of East Asian Buddhist institutions in that you will have to surrender all free will and thought to the sangha authorities. You'll be directed in how to do everything from folding your bedsheet to prostrating, plus you'll have to tow the party line with respect to doctrine and prescribed practices. Any deviation from the official plan would never be tolerated, especially as a junior.

East Asian monasteries are generally quite authoritarian. The bigger they are, the stricter they are. A lot of it has nothing to do with liberation or wisdom, and is more about archaic social norms concerning hierarchy and subjugation of one's will to the group effort. If you play by the rules, you never go hungry, but it comes at a price.

There's very little room for creativity and flexibility, which is incidentally maybe the undoing of many Buddhist institutions over the long-term (Korean Buddhism is in decline).
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:40 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Vidyaraja wrote:After doing more researching and discovering if this plan is realistic, my task will be to learn the language.


I've heard Korean monastic institutions are extremely strict.

Bear in mind that if you do go to Korea, it'll probably be like a lot of East Asian Buddhist institutions in that you will have to surrender all free will and thought to the sangha authorities. You'll be directed in how to do everything from folding your bedsheet to prostrating, plus you'll have to tow the party line with respect to doctrine and prescribed practices. Any deviation from the official plan would never be tolerated, especially as a junior.

East Asian monasteries are generally quite authoritarian. The bigger they are, the stricter they are. A lot of it has nothing to do with liberation or wisdom, and is more about archaic social norms concerning hierarchy and subjugation of one's will to the group effort. If you play by the rules, you never go hungry, but it comes at a price.

There's very little room for creativity and flexibility, which is incidentally maybe the undoing of many Buddhist institutions over the long-term (Korean Buddhism is in decline).


Broadbrush?
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Vidyaraja » Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:59 pm

Indrajala wrote:I've heard Korean monastic institutions are extremely strict.

Bear in mind that if you do go to Korea, it'll probably be like a lot of East Asian Buddhist institutions in that you will have to surrender all free will and thought to the sangha authorities. You'll be directed in how to do everything from folding your bedsheet to prostrating, plus you'll have to tow the party line with respect to doctrine and prescribed practices. Any deviation from the official plan would never be tolerated, especially as a junior.

East Asian monasteries are generally quite authoritarian. The bigger they are, the stricter they are. A lot of it has nothing to do with liberation or wisdom, and is more about archaic social norms concerning hierarchy and subjugation of one's will to the group effort. If you play by the rules, you never go hungry, but it comes at a price.

There's very little room for creativity and flexibility, which is incidentally maybe the undoing of many Buddhist institutions over the long-term (Korean Buddhism is in decline).


That doesn't sound too wonderful if such is the case. I am not sure if it is still practiced today or not, but one thing that attracted me was I heard that Korean Buddhist monks live an itinerant lifestyle going from temple to temple while not on retreat, leaving some room for individualistic practice and a sort of free, "wandering where thou wilt" element to their monastic lives.

Do you think the East Asian Buddhist monastic institutions that exist in the West are much the same?

In any case, threads like these are just for my tinkering with ideas and exploring. I haven't made a firm commitment to pursue any particular school or tradition yet as I still feel I have more to learn and explore before making such a commitment.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby KeithA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:02 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
Vidyaraja wrote:After doing more researching and discovering if this plan is realistic, my task will be to learn the language.


I've heard Korean monastic institutions are extremely strict.

Bear in mind that if you do go to Korea, it'll probably be like a lot of East Asian Buddhist institutions in that you will have to surrender all free will and thought to the sangha authorities. You'll be directed in how to do everything from folding your bedsheet to prostrating, plus you'll have to tow the party line with respect to doctrine and prescribed practices. Any deviation from the official plan would never be tolerated, especially as a junior.

East Asian monasteries are generally quite authoritarian. The bigger they are, the stricter they are. A lot of it has nothing to do with liberation or wisdom, and is more about archaic social norms concerning hierarchy and subjugation of one's will to the group effort. If you play by the rules, you never go hungry, but it comes at a price.

There's very little room for creativity and flexibility, which is incidentally maybe the undoing of many Buddhist institutions over the long-term (Korean Buddhism is in decline).


Broadbrush?


Apparently,"I've heard" is the same as personal experience. :shrug:
Last edited by KeithA on Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby KeithA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:05 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:
Indrajala wrote:I've heard Korean monastic institutions are extremely strict.

Bear in mind that if you do go to Korea, it'll probably be like a lot of East Asian Buddhist institutions in that you will have to surrender all free will and thought to the sangha authorities. You'll be directed in how to do everything from folding your bedsheet to prostrating, plus you'll have to tow the party line with respect to doctrine and prescribed practices. Any deviation from the official plan would never be tolerated, especially as a junior.

East Asian monasteries are generally quite authoritarian. The bigger they are, the stricter they are. A lot of it has nothing to do with liberation or wisdom, and is more about archaic social norms concerning hierarchy and subjugation of one's will to the group effort. If you play by the rules, you never go hungry, but it comes at a price.

There's very little room for creativity and flexibility, which is incidentally maybe the undoing of many Buddhist institutions over the long-term (Korean Buddhism is in decline).


That doesn't sound too wonderful if such is the case. I am not sure if it is still practiced today or not, but one thing that attracted me was I heard that Korean Buddhist monks live an itinerant lifestyle going from temple to temple while not on retreat, leaving some room for individualistic practice and a sort of free, "wandering where thou wilt" element to their monastic lives.

Do you think the East Asian Buddhist monastic institutions that exist in the West are much the same?

In any case, threads like these are just for my tinkering with ideas and exploring. I haven't made a firm commitment to pursue any particular school or tradition yet as I still feel I have more to learn and explore before making such a commitment.


When you become a monastic, by definition you are giving a lot of things up. Imho, it would be best if you spoke with actual monastics in the Korean traditions, as opposed to forming opinions based on internet forums.

Good luck!
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:54 pm

KeithA wrote:Apparently,"I've heard" is the same as personal experience. :shrug:


A reliable testimony from a good authority is a valid means of knowing.

Hence I say I've heard of some monasteries which are authoritarian.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:56 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:That doesn't sound too wonderful if such is the case. I am not sure if it is still practiced today or not, but one thing that attracted me was I heard that Korean Buddhist monks live an itinerant lifestyle going from temple to temple while not on retreat, leaving some room for individualistic practice and a sort of free, "wandering where thou wilt" element to their monastic lives.


I've heard that is possible, too, but as a foreigner you might not be afforded the same luxury.

If you want to be a wandering monk, don't sign up to join a monastery.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby KeithA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 6:27 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Vidyaraja wrote:That doesn't sound too wonderful if such is the case. I am not sure if it is still practiced today or not, but one thing that attracted me was I heard that Korean Buddhist monks live an itinerant lifestyle going from temple to temple while not on retreat, leaving some room for individualistic practice and a sort of free, "wandering where thou wilt" element to their monastic lives.


I've heard that is possible, too, but as a foreigner you might not be afforded the same luxury.

If you want to be a wandering monk, don't sign up to join a monastery.


This is false. There is a monastic living at the place I practice here in the states. She is fully ordained and her home temple is in Korea, where she spent the summer doing retreat. Hence, she is allowed to wander. I know of plenty of Western-born monastics who don't live in a temple. Sorry, I don't mean to be so confrontational, especially since I rarely post here. But, the information which you are presenting seems to be very biased opinion or, in the case of the above statement, simple not true.
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby Alfredo » Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:06 am

Out of curiosity, what prevents the Taego order from allowing married nuns?
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Re: Questions on Korean Buddhism

Postby rory » Fri Sep 27, 2013 5:29 am

My guess from knowing Won Buddhist nuns is - patriarchal culture. Wives are unpaid assistants to their priest husbands and, have kids, do the housework, cook. Married nuns, then who does all the domestic work and acts as the unpaid assistant...
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