Korean Seon(禪) and Cannonical Texts :《The Blue Cliff Record 碧巖錄》. :The Gateless Gate(無門關).
People may recognize Korean Buddhism is different from other Mahayana tradition. Even if Korean Buddhism share its generic character with Japan and Chinese Buddhist tradition as the East Asian Buddhism which western buddhist scholars classify. However there are differences a lot among those Mahayana Buddhist countries. You will observe this view when you go to China, Japan and Korea. The northen part of Vietnam and Taiwan also close to the East Asian Buddhism. My point of view on the East Asian Buddhism, Vietnamese and Taiwanese Buddhism have an authentic Chinese Buddhism handing down from Tang(唐) and Song(宋) Dynasty. I would like to talk about Korean Seon and its cannonical texts.
These days Seon(禪) has become as main stream of the Korean Buddhism rather than other Buddhist schools for instance sutra sects which are pure land sect, lotus sects, Avatamsaka sutra sect and some lay Buddhist sects etc. There are many small and midium size Buddhist sects which occurred in Korean Buddhism for the last ten years. Korean Buddhist Sangha is spun out because of being fake sects which are disguised as Jogye Order. Some owners of the fake sects are former Jogye order monks who were excommunicated by Jogye Order. But many of owners of sects are from various background. There are over one hundred sects in Korean Buddhist circles. However Jogye Order of the Korean Buddhism leads Seon meditation(chamseon 參禪) which twenty percents of Jogye order monks have summer and winter retreats a year for three months each period. We call retreats as Gyeolje and Haeje(結制&解制 starting retreat and ending retreat) which Seon monks gather in a Seon house of monastery and start Seon meditation for three months in summer and winter season. So Korean Seon monks have retreats for six months a year.
: Korean Seon monks are having sitting meditation.
Korean Seon monks are mainly doing sitting meditation(Jwaseon 坐禪) for eight hours a day during the retreat period. Seon monks have sitting meditation for an hour and ten minutes walking four times a day. Seon monks are not allowed to read any books during the retreat time. They should concentrate on meditation itself with focusing Hwadoo(gongan). What is Hwadoo? Hwadoo(話頭) is word head. It is a sort of gongan(公案 kōan) which is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Seon(zen) practice to provoke the "great doubt" and test a student's progress in Seon practice. Gongan means literally: public case. The term is a compound word, consisting of the characters 公 'public; official; governmental; common; collective; fair; equitable' and 案 'table; desk; (law) case; record; file; plan; proposal.' Many Korean Seon monks get in Joju's Dog(Mu無). According to Seon text《The Gateless Gate 無門關》, there are forty eight cases, Case I is Joju's Dog. I will introduce;
Case 1: Joju's Dog: A monk asked Joju, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"
Joju replied, "Mu"
One time a monk asked Joju, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"
Joju answered, "No."
Another time, a monk asked Joju, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"
Joju answered, "Yes."
This is one of Gongan stories. A Seon monk has great doubt about this kind of gongan during meditation for three months retreat period. This kind of meditation is Ganhwa Seon(看話禪). Most of Korean Seon masters got enlightenment in solving gongan with means of Ganhwa Seon meditation since it was introduced into Korea from China in the Goryeo period.
Korean Seon monks are allowed to read Seon texts beyond retreat period. Traditionally Korean Seon monks study first some Seon texts which are records of patriarchal masters(祖師語錄) before entering into Seon monastery at a sutra school. However these days some of Seon monks enter into Seon monastery directly without learning basic Seon texts at a sutra school. They can learn and read Seon texts at the elementary Seon institute(monastery) being approved of Jogye Order. Generally Korean Seon monks read《The Blue Cliff Record 碧巖錄》and《The Gateless Gate 無門關》. Mainly Korean Seon tradition follows Yimje school (臨済宗) which is a school of Chan Buddhism named after Yimje Eui-hyun(臨濟義玄). It took prominence in Song China (960–1279), spread to Japan as the Rinzai school and influenced the existing Nine mountain schools of Korean Seon.
Korean Seon monks in Goryeo and Joseon Dynasty study these Seon texts written down Chinese characters. Most of Buddhist sutras are translated into Chines language from Sanskrit cannonical texts from India via central Asia. But Seon texts are written down Chinese characters by Seon masters in China. Chinese characters becomes Seon cannonical language. So it is very important to know Chinese characters rather than modern Chinese language.
Most of Korean Seon monks read《The Seonmun yeomsong seolhwa (禪門拈頌說話)gongan/koan collection)》. Most of Seon monks in Joseon period studied 《Huayan(Hwaeom) sutra(The Avataṃsaka Sūtra: Flower Garland Sutra大方廣佛華嚴經》before entering into Seon practice. The Huayan or Flower Garland school of Buddhism is a tradition of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy that first flourished in China during the Tang dynasty. It is based on the Avatamsaka Sutra and on a lengthy Chinese interpretation of it, the Huáyán lùn(華嚴論). The name Flower Garland is meant to suggest the crowning glory of profound understanding. The Huayan School is known as Hwaeom in Korea and Kegon in Japan. In Korean Buddhism Seon monk should study first《Avataṃsaka Sūtra》and read《The Seonmun yeomsong(禪門拈頌)》and its annotation as a required subject for Seon monks in Korean Seon Buddhism.
Writer: Dharma Master Bogeom(Dr. Lee Chi-Ran)
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