Korean Buddhist Cultural News

2014 Buddhism Expo and the 2nd Buddha Art Festival
Held from March 6th to 9th

The 2014 Buddhism Expo was a showcase of Korean traditional culture. Its goal was to inform the public of the variety and excellence of Buddhist culture. It also aimed to stimulate dialogue and the sharing of information between businesses related to Buddhism and traditional culture. It was also a cultural feast open to the general public, as well as Buddhists, and featured temple food demonstrations, theme exhibitions, experiential programs, Dharma gatherings and performances. The Expo and the Buddha Art Festival, held from March 6th to 9th at the Seoul Trade Exhibition & Convention Center (SETEC), were hosted by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and organized by the Buddhist newspaper, The Bulgyo Sinmun, Bulkwang Publishing and Mind Design.

With the participation of some 180 businesses, this year’s exhibition was largely divided into general and special exhibitions. These were further divided into industrial exhibits, cultural exhibits, a traditional cultural art fair, traditional culture travel exhibits, a Myeongwon Tea Exhibit and a Sharing Together Exhibit. Visitors could see various cultural products related to temple architecture, food, clothing, tea culture, Buddhist practice, Dharma propagation, design and art.

As the biggest art festival within the Buddhist community, the 2nd Buddha Art Festival displayed diverse works under the themes of Buddhism and traditional culture such as paintings, sculpture, cartoons, photos, installation art, media art and art prints. Especially noteworthy were the exhibits of Buddhist cartoons which included the cartoonist, Ju Ho-min, who drew public attention with his webtoon Together with the God. There were also Seon (Zen) cartoons and Buddhist illustrations that reinterpreted Buddhism from a contemporary perspective. The Two Hundred Thousand Won Exhibit, showcasing works priced from 200,000 won to 299,000 won, was an art donation project that donated part of the profits to The Promise, an international relief organization. 

How Should We Live and How Should We Die?

Ven. Tenzin Palmo, the first British-born fully-ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun, visited Korea last year from November 6th to 13th. Her visit was made at the invitation of Sakyadhita Korea and was funded by the Buddhist Women’s Development Institute, the Korean Women’s Institute at Ewha Women’s University, and the Institute for Gender Research at Seoul National University.
On the 10th, she gave a Dharma talk to more than 300 attendees at the Korean Buddhist History and Culture Memorial Building under the theme, “How should we live and how should we die?”
To answer this question, she explained the Six Perfections (paramitas) while exhorting Korea’s lay Buddhists to sincerely practice them in their daily lives. The Six Perfections are: generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, meditation, and wisdom. She said that there is no better place for us than the secular world to practice generosity, moral conduct, patience, and meditation, doing all of these enthusiastically and consistently. And, according to her, we must understand that all of life’s pain comes from the idea of or attachment to a fixed concept of “I” and that diligent practice to return to our original mind is the perfection of wisdom.

She emphasized that everyday life events can be the invaluable tools that help us grow closer to our pure original mind. After all, life and practice are not two separate things. Happiness starts with changing self, not others. She ended her inspiring talk by saying that Buddhists also need the 7th paramita, the perfection of humor, as it helps them laugh and relax.

“Scenes of Buddhist Meditation in
Contemporary Korea and its Applications”
The Korean Society for Buddhist Studies held its biannual workshop on Feb. 15th at Manhae Village near Baekdam-sa Temple with the theme, “Scenes of Buddhist Meditation in Contemporary Korea and its Applications.” Especially interesting were presentations by two monks who practiced both Korean Ganhwa Seon and Vipassana meditation.

Ven. Dohyeon, who has practiced Ganhwa Seon and Vipassana for 20 years in a small mountain hut, about 100 square feet in area, in Hadong, shared his experience in simple, understandable terms. He even used his own poems to explain the techniques and process of meditation: “Close your eyes and observe your breaths flowing like water in silence. Imagine your emotions floating on the breaths like flower petals. When you see things as they are, you will also understand that all things change.” Ven. Dohyeon also argued that it is high time to develop Vipassana meditation tailored to Korean Buddhist practice and thought because over 30 years have passed since Vipassana was first introduced to Korea.

Ven. Ilseon, who practiced both Ganhwa Seon and Vipassana at the Geumcheon Seon Center on Geogeum Island, said that he attained wisdom through Ganhwa Seon’s hwadu practice after entering meditative concentration based on Vipassana. Maintaining that our mundane daily routines are the best place for practice, Ven. Ilseon says the purpose of Ganhwa Seon is to cultivate bodhisattva conduct based on the non-duality of self and others. 

Ven. Jingyeong, from the Buddha Seon Center in Geochang, discussed the 16 stages of insight to explain the progress of Vipassana meditation based on her own practice experience. Prof. Jeong Jun Young, Seoul University of Buddhism, presented various Vipassana meditations, taught by several meditation centers in Myanmar, in an organized and systematic way. Prof. Ahn Hui-young, Seoul University of Buddhism, presented the characteristics of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and its connection to Buddhist meditation.

Yale University Students Experience
Monastic Culture at Beomeo-sa

Some 30 students from Yale University visited Beomeo-sa in Busan on March 16th to experience both monastic and Korean traditional culture. They toured the temple compound to learn about temple culture and had a conversation over tea with the abbot, Ven. Subul.
Students asked him questions about Buddhism, and he answered them kindly, emphasizing that of all the religions on earth, Buddhism is unique in that its goal is to overcome ignorance and awaken the fundamental wisdom inherent in all of us.

Great Doubt, Great Enlightenment

by Seon Masters Gou, Muyeo, Hyeguk, Uijeong and Seoru
to be published by Jogye Order Publishing in April 2014
The Association of Korean Seon Monks, affiliated with the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, published the Korean edition of Ganhwa Seon in 2005 after several years of effort to systematically organize the Seon (Zen) meditation technique called Ganhwa Seon. It was intended as a guidebook so that contemporary society could understand and practice Seon more readily. Later they launched a project to translate Ganhwa Seon into English for the benefit of foreign monks who joined the Jogye Order and for foreigners who wanted to practice Ganhwa Seon. That book is Great Doubt, Great Enlightenment and is due to be published in April.

“Part 1 Basics” gives an overview of Ganhwa Seon practice. “Part 2 Seon Practice” covers Seon meditation on a practical dimension and explains receiving a hwadu (koan), investigating the hwadu, and overcoming difficulties and diseases. “Part 3 Enlightenment” deals with how to have your enlightenment verified and how to proceed after enlightenment. For ease of reference, it includes: an index, an appendix, a bibliography, a glossary and a list of Seon masters.

Seon Masters: The Timeless Wisdom of Korean Seon Masters

by Yoon Chung-kwang | illustrations by Kyeon Dong-han | published by Bulkwang Publishing in December 2013

The life, Buddhist practice and teachings of ten major Korean masters who practiced Seon (Zen) meditation are featured in this English edition, published by the Korea Buddhist Order Association as part of their efforts to globalize Korean Buddhism. The virtuous teachers include: Muhak, Gyeongheo, Hanam, Mangong, Hyewol, Hanyeong, Hyobong and Goam. Also discussed are Wonhyo, the monk who practiced “non-hindrance” after realizing all things depend on mind, and Samyeong, who defended Korea against the Japanese invasion by organizing a monk militia. The book is to be distributed free of charge to non-Korean monastics, temples that run Templestay programs for foreigners, foreign embassies in Korea and Korean Cultural Centers around the world.

An Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism

by Ven. Hyewon & David A. Mason | published by Unjusa in December 2013  

An English guidebook on Korean Buddhism has been published, co-written by Ven. Hyewon, professor at Dongguk University and David A. Mason, professor at Namseoul University. The book covers Korean Buddhism in a broad spectrum including: its history, its characteristics during changing historical periods, major figures and temples, monastic life, various ceremonies and rituals, music, dance, architecture, painting, and other books on Buddhism. Basic information is provided for a proper understanding of Korean Buddhism through 570 entries and 180 pictures. For ease of usage it includes a Romanized Hangeul index, a Chinese index and a Hangeul (Korean alphabet) index.

Eoryeo ulttae himi doeneun 8 gaji myeongsang
(Lit. Eight Meditations that Empower Us in Difficult Times)

A translation of A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times written by Jack Kornfield | translated by Jeong Jun Young | published by Bulkwang Publishing in October 2013

The eight meditations in this book, including “The Earth Is My Witness,” integrate the author’s meditation experiences over a long period of time to help those experiencing difficulties. These practices are neither an indiscriminate emphasis on positive thinking, nor simplistic self-help strategies, nor quick fixes. They are powerful, spiritual tools to access our inner wisdom while experiencing the fullness of life. With regular practice, these teachings and meditations enable anyone to overcome their difficulties and to establish a guiding light for the journey ahead. The translator, Jeong Jun young, is a long-time Vipassana meditation practitioner and a professor at the Seoul University of Buddhism. 

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