Korea's Religious Places - 4.3 Won-Buddhism
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|2) Daejonggyo (Religion of Dangun)_* Mt. Manisan (Ganghwado Island, Incheon)||3) Won-Buddhism_* The Sacred Territory of Iksan (Iksan, Jeollabuk-do)||4) Shamanism|
The Sacred Territory of Iksan (Iksan, Jeollabuk-do)
Won-Buddhism is a new and simplified form of Buddhism. There is no image of the Buddha. The symbol is a circle—that is what won means. It implies simplicity and also completeness. There is no requirement to be a monk, but one can if one wants to. A monk can wear the monk’s (or female monk’s) habit, or not. One can be a celibate monk or a married monk, if one feels called to be a monk. There was a time, when saving money was more important, when the nun’s garb included a skirt to the knees, not to the floor. But today’s Won-Buddhist monks wear floor-length skirts.
Economy and simplicity are the rule. The founder of Won-Buddhism, Park Chung-bin (1891–1943), could foresee the coming of a materialistic age at the time when he attained enlightenment at age twenty-five. In a society overwhelmed with materialism, religion needed to respond by becoming simpler and accessible to everyone. He declared eight years later, in 1924, the founding of the Society for the Study of the Buddha dharma, based in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do. At the time of his death in 1943, he published his doctrine in The Correct Canon of Buddhism. Four years later, the second patriarch, Song Gyu (1900–1962) changed the name to Won-Buddhism, and he published his book of doctrine, The Scriptures of Won-Buddhism.
For Won-Buddhism, the worship hall is simple. No images at all. No temple paintings like those so common in other Buddhist temples. At other temples, eventually, the monks will say, you do not need the image or the paintings—they are all expedient means to help you to understand and to reach enlightenment. In Won-Buddhism, you skip that stage, and go straight to the doctrine for understanding since we are now in an age of literacy and enlightenment.
Iksan is the center of Won-buddhism. There remain old buildings where Park Chung-bin and early members of the order used to practice and propagate their religion. Also, Iksan is home to Wonkwang University, which was founded by Won-Buddhism.