History of Korean Buddhism
Buddhism was adopted as the official state religion in the Goguryeo,Silla and Baekje kingdoms during the Three Kingdoms Period (57 B.C.E. – 668 C.E.),and the Unified Silla kingdom(668-935) succeeded in applying Buddhism as thepsychological force for the unification of the peninsula.
During the Unified Silla Period, Buddhism played a preeminent role in cultural development, resulting in the construction of such world-renowned historical sites as Bulguksa Temple and Sokguram Grotto.
In addition, the world's earliest known printing using woodblocks for the Mugujeonggwang Dharani followed by the first metal type print for the Jikjisimcheyojeol(Jikji in short), a Buddhist sutra, at Heungdeoksa Temple (in today’s city of Cheongju) attest the advanced development of the culture.
Pre-dating Guttenberg by 78 years, the text was printed in 1377 C.E. and it is currently in the possession of the French National Library. It was designated a UNESCO “Memory of the World” in 2001.
The sutra is an outline of Buddhist teachings necessary for spiritual development as well as indications as to how to pass on the Dharma, including religious songs, chanting, engravings, writings, glossaries of technical terms, and Seon verbal combat. During the Unified Silla Period, the teachings of Chan (known as Zen in Japanese and Seon in Korean) were brought from China and led to the development of a Seon order, thereby adding another dimension to philosophical advance and eventually providing a psychological foundation for the post-Silla period, the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).
Goryeo, too, adopted Buddhism and it became a unifying factor and the grounds for further national and cultural flourishing. In particular, Goryeo followed the teachings of Unified Silla National Monk Doseon (827-898) and had temples built on famous mountains around the nation, adding further impetus to the dissemination of the Dharma. Also during Goryeo, the Tripitaka Koreana was carved into more than 80,000 woodblocks as an offering for national protection from outside forces and invasion, and Buddhism gave birth to such creative national festivals as the P'algwanhoe and the Yeondeunghoe (Lotus Lantern Festival).
During Goryeo, the number of Buddhist orders diversified and flourished. However, the increasing economic and political influence of the monks led to condemnation by the common people, and, ignored by the aristocracy, Buddhism came into a period of political repression with the ensuing Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
During Joseon, Neo-Confucianism rapidly gained favor, and although royalty continued to practice Buddhism privately, Confucianism ruled administration and society. Under a continuing policy of repression, Buddhism was banished to the mountains and monks were generally treated harshly. However, this banishment proved to be quite valuable to Buddhism in two respects: the temples became centers for the communal flourishing of Seon practice, and Buddhism established strong bonds with the common people.
During the first half of the 20th century, Korean Buddhism necessarily fell under the influence of Japanese Buddhism during the Japanese Occupation (1910-1945). It was only after liberation in 1945 that traditional Korean Buddhism could once again be established in the form of Korean Seon and that the Jogye Order to once more come to the fore.
Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
During the first half of the twentieth century, Korean Buddhism fell under the influence of Japanese Buddhism, which allowed monks to marry. During the Japanese Occupation (1910-1945), Korean Buddhism declined rapidly. It was only after the liberation of the country from Japan in 1945 that Korean Buddhism could once again be established in the form of traditional Korean Seon, and the Jogye Order would once more become the main order representing traditional Korean Buddhism.
The Jogye Order is the representative order of the 1700-year-old Korean Buddhist tradition. The order’s roots go back twelve hundred years to the United Shilla Period’s National Master Doui, who brought Chan (Seon) and the practices taught by the Sixth Patriarch Huineng from China around 820 C.E. In 826, the "Nine Mountains Seon Schools” adopted the name Jogye Order, which became instrumental in the development of the nation during the United Shilla Period and thereafter. During the Goryeo Dynasty, National Masters Bojo Jinul (1158-1210) and Taego Bou (1301-82), the first patriarchs of the Korean Imje (Rinzai) order, led major Seon movements and were regarded as revivers of Korean Buddhism. The Jogye Order was first founded as a representative Seon order of Buddhism during the Goryeo Period. However, for nearly five hundred years, Buddhism was repressed in favor of Confucianism. During the reign of King Sejong (r. 1418-1450) of the Joseon Period, two sects were formed, one of all the doctrinal schools and another of the Seon meditation schools. Great confusion resulted when these were disbanded for a time under the reign of King Yeonsan-gun (r. 1494-1506). However, during the Japanese invasion of the country from 1592 to 1598, the highranking monks Seosan and Samyeong raised a volunteer monastic army to protect the nation, improving the situation of Buddhism for a time while helping to preserve the tradition in the deep mountains. Nevertheless, it was not until the political reform of 1895 that monks were again permitted in the capital. Then, in 1899, under the leadership of Seon Master Gyeongheo (1849-1912), monks organized a pact at Haeinsa Temple to reestablish the traditions and the philosophical basis for a reconstructed Buddhist order. Eventually, the Wonjong (Hwaeom and Cheontae) and Imjejong (Rinzai) orders were founded. Attempts were made to revive the doctrinal school and to reestablish activities in the cities, but these movements were soon suppressed following the onset of the Japanese Occupation in 1910.
Leading the resistance and liberation fighters against the occupying forces included such famous monks as Yongseong and Manhae, both of whom would be signatories of the Declaration of Independence proclaimed on March 1, 1919. Efforts by the resistance continued to keep the Korean Buddhist tradition alive. In 1921, the Seonhak won Meditation Center was established. In1929, a monastic conference for Korean Buddhism was held. In1937, the conference was followed up by a movement for the establishment of a central headquarters, which resulted in building the main dharma hall of Jogyesa Temple in the heart of Seoul in 1938. Finally, in 1941, the Jogye Order of Joseon Buddhism , distinctly Korean and free from Japanese influence, was established. This was the first legitimate Buddhist order in modern Korea and the precursor of the present-day Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Between 1947 and 1949, a group of monks organized a reform movement at Bongamsa Temple advocating "Living According to the Teachings of the Buddha." This provided an opportunity for establishing the fundamental principles and traditions as well as the accepted ceremonies of the order. Among the twenty participants of the movement, four became Supreme Patriarchs, and five became heads of administration of the Jogye Order. Following the liberation from Japan in 1945, Seon monks who had preserved the Korean Buddhist tradition began a purification movement to restore the celibate monastic tradition and take back the temples from married monks, a remnant of the Japanese colonial occupation.
Finally, in 1955, the order was firmly reestablished as a celibate order. However, as a result of mediation between the elder monks and the government, already-married monks continued to be included. The current Jogye Order consists exclusively of celibate monks. On April 11, 1962, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism was officially established with three main goals: training and education, translation of sutras from traditional Chinese into modern Korean, and dharma propagation. These goals continue to constitute the guidelines for the Jogye Order today.