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Overview of Korean Buddhism

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History of Korean Buddhism: Its Transmission and Development

Korean history usually is divided into four periods: the Three Kingdoms (?-668 A.D.), the Unified Silla Kingdom 668-935 A.D.), the Goryeo Dynasty(935-1392 A.D.), and the Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910 A.D.). Although there is evidence of earlier contact with Buddhism, the official date for the introduction of Buddhism to Korea from China is 372 A.D. Since that time Korean Buddhism has been spread throughout the world and developed for 1,600 years. Korean Buddhism developed its distinctive characteristics and shaped its unique form of Buddhism based on social and political circumstances in each period.

Buddhism was first introduced in the Three Kingdoms period. According to the name of the Three Kingdoms, the land was composed of three different Kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla. Each kingdom accepted Buddhism at a different time and by a different route. First, the kingdom of Goguryeo -located in the northern area- invited a monk from China with Chinese Buddhist texts and Buddha statues in 372 A.D. Later, Buddhism was introduced to the kingdom of Baekje, located in the southwestern area- from Goguryeo in 384 A.D. In the case of the above two kingdoms, the royal families first practiced Buddhism. However, in the kingdom of Silla, the common people were attracted to Buddhism. After Lee Chadon's martyrdom, King Beopheung officially recognized Buddhism in 527 A.D.

In the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period, the teaching of Buddhism was not of high quality Buddhist philosophy and thought. However, the spread of Buddhism produced a significant effect on the development of many aspects of national culture. Because of various invasions and careless preservation, only a few records- archaeological sites, historical remains, and books- exist. But it can be considered that Buddhism at this time not only contributed to the development of spiritual civilization, but also flourished in the development of art: bells, pagodas, architecture, and paintings.

In 668 A.D., the kingdom of Silla conquered the other two kingdoms and this period came to be called the Unified Silla period. Throughout the Unified Silla period, Buddhism continued to prosper, and grew both academically and culturally. Various rituals were developed and performed as spiritual requests for protection from foreign invasions. During this time some of the finest Korean Art was created. In particular, the famous rock statue of the Buddha in Seokguram Grotto in Gyeongju was carved in 732 A.D. It still evokes a sense of beauty. Towards the end of the Unified Silla period, Zen Buddhism was introduced from China and this added a new dimension to Korean Buddhism because the Zen school emphasized meditation and direct experience rather than concentration on studying Buddhist texts.

The Goryeo Dynasty assumed power in the 10th century and Buddhism continued to be a national religion. The main focus of Goryeo Buddhism was based on rituals and this created an unfavorable atmosphere for spiritual development. In order to struggle against the ritualistic trend, several monks emphasized the importance of combining Contemplative Zen and Textual tradition. The formation of the cheontae school gave new life to Goryeo Buddhism.

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Buddhism slowly declined as the new rulers of the Joseon Dynasty adopted Neo-Confucianism. The new interest in Confucianism led to the oppression and restriction of Buddhism by some Joseon kings. Temples could not be built near towns. Instead, the government permitted Buddhist monks to stay in the mountains. While the government persecuted Buddhism, politically and socially, the common people continued to believe in it. Today, many new temples have opened in towns. Approximately half the population of Korea is Buddhist. Most Koreans, even though they may not call themselves Buddhists, maintain a Buddhist view of life.

The basic character of Korean Buddhism

Throughout the history of Korean Buddhism, the Korean style of Buddhism could be understood both academically and practically. The Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra were the main focus of study in Buddhist academic study. As for the practice, Pure land and Zen Buddhism have been the most popular and effective ways of practicing. Pure land Buddhism concentrates on Amitabha, the Buddha of Universal Light, and Avalokitesvara, the Boddhisattva of Compassion. The Zen Buddhism (Chan in Chinese and Seon in Korean) emphasizes meditation and direct experience over concentration on studying the texts.

Although Buddhism was first introduced to Korea during the Three Kingdoms period (?-668 A.D.), the distinctive character of Korean Buddhism emerged during both the Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.) and the Goryeo (935-1392 A.D.) periods. During these two periods Korean monks continually traveled to China to study new Buddhist ideas. After mastering their study, some Korean monks remained in China, but most of them came back and tried to introduce new Buddhist ideas to Korean culture and people.

The study of Avatamsaka Sutra and the practice of Pure Land Buddhism were popular during the Unified Silla period. Masters Wonhyo and Uisang were important monks who introduced and adopted these two ideas in Korea. Wonhyo wrote many important treatises in which he explained 'One Mind,' the interrelatedness of everything in the universe. The development of this view was due to an event in his life.

Wonhyo and his friend, Uisang, departed for China to study Buddhism. One night during the journey, Wonhyo awoke thirsty. Searching around, he found a container with delicious cool water in it. He drank the water. The next morning, he realized that the water was in a skull. Suddenly he attained enlightenment. Then instead of going to China, he came back home.

Master Uisang arrived in China and studied for ten years under a great master. When he returned home, he presented a poem to his teacher. This poem, which is the shape of a seal, contained the essence of Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Towards the end of the United Silla period, the Zen school was introduced from China and this added a new dimension to Korean Buddhism. Nine different schools emerged. They were known as the Nine Mountains of Zen.

During the Goryeo period master Jinul (1158-1210), known as Bojokuksa, founded Songgwang-sa Temple on Mt. Jogyesan, which remained the headquarters of the Zen sect for over 300 years. The nine schools of zen were unified by Master Taego (1301-82) under the name of Jogye, which has remained the main sect to this day.

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Korean Buddhism In the Buddhist world there are various kinds of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This phenomenon originated within Mahayana Buddhism. Theravadin Buddhists only recognize the Buddha Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, as their spiritual teacher. Sakyamuni was born prince Siddhartha Gautama in northern India in the fifth century BC. However, Mahayana Buddhists conceive of Buddha as a Universal Buddha with an infinity of forms. As such, they worship not only the historical Buddha but also the universal Buddha, following the conception of three kinds of Buddha: the cosmic Buddha, the dharmakaya; the historical Buddha, Sambhogakaya; and the transformation Buddha, Nirmanakaya.

Among the many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, various Buddhist nations emphasize different Buddhas and Bodhisattvas based on their own Buddhist philosophy and way of practice. In the case of Korean Buddhism, Buddha Sakyamuni, Buddha Vairocana, Buddha Amithaba, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha are important and can be seen in many Korean temples.


Buddha Sakyamuni (석가모니; Seokamoni-bul in Korean) is the essential statue in most Korean temples. Korean Buddhists consider this Buddha as their main spiritual teacher, whose teachings can end human suffering in this world and lead toward the highest spirituality, namely Nirvana. The representative sculpture of the Buddha Sakyamuni is of a seated Buddha, the right hand hanging over the knee, palm inward, sometimes pointing with one finger, but usually with the whole hand, towards the earth. This mudra, or hand position, represents "calling the earth to witness," and is most often associated with the Buddha Sakyamuni.


Vairocana Buddha (비로자나불; Birojana-bul in Korean) is the Cosmic Buddha who spreads the light of Buddhist Truth in every direction, the Buddha who embodies the wisdom of Universal Law. Vairocana is sometimes enshrined in his own building called the Great Light Hall, as can be seen in Haeinsa temple. This sculpture generally stands alone in the hall, but sometimes it is the central figure of a trinity attended by Manjushri and Samantabhadra Bodhisattvas.

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Vairocana is usually depicted with his mudra. This is called the "knowledge fist," and is made up of the right-hand "diamond fist" and the left-hand "diamond finger." The diamond represents the supreme strength and durability of Buddhist knowledge. This mudra is a divine representation of the passions, and a comment on the intensity with which one aspiring to wisdom pursues this goal. Thus, the left index finger represents the world of sentient beings, and the surrounding right hand is the protection of the world of Buddhas.


Amithabha Buddha (아미타불; Amita-bul in Korean) is the Buddha of infinite light and governs the pure land, the Western Paradise. Because the faces of Amithabha and Sakyamuni are so similar and their symbolic hand gestures are the same, it is difficult to distinguish between them. One way to identify Amithabha Buddha is that he is associated with Avalokitesvara and Mahastamprapta (Taesaeji Bosal, in Korean), two important bodhisattvas.

Gwanseum Bosal

Avalokitesvara (관세음보살; Gwanseum Bosal in Korean) is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The meaning of her name is "Hearer of Cries," and she is often pictured with her head slightly inclined as if listening to the pleas of the suffering. She is frequently pictured with a vase and willow spray. The vase contains amrita, the nectar of her compassion, or the waters of life. The willow branch represents her ability and willingness to liberally sprinkle "sweet dew" on the afflicted. The willow, which has long been considered to have medicinal value, also symbolizes her role as a healer.

Firstly, Korean Buddhism is universal and liberal, especially in solving cultural problems. When Buddhism first encountered Korean culture, the relationship was reciprocal and peaceful. On the one hand, Korean Buddhists accepted the traditional Korean culture; but on the other hand, they developed new meaning and value from the culture. Accordingly, Korean Buddhism has adjusted to the spirit of the Korean people and has become one with them.

Three Buddhas on Mt. Namsan, Gyeongju

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Secondly, Korean Buddhism protects the nation and the people. From the beginning, it has played a vital role in times of turmoil. While searching for its religious goals and ideologies, it has always been concerned with national glory and peace. Throughout its long history, Korean Buddhism has helped to protect the nation on many occasions. For example, during the fifteenth century, Buddhist monks became soldiers and rose up to protect the nation against the Japanese invasion. As a result, Korean Buddhism was called 'protector of the nation.'

Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks are testimony to the pious devotion of king and people, hoping to repel the Mongolian invasion by the divine providence of Buddha from 1236 to 1251.

Thirdly, Korean Buddhism symbolizes harmony. It has not only reconciled conflicting religious ideas and schools, but also harmonized religious disagreements between theory and practice. Overcoming philosophical conflicts, Korean Buddhism has developed through the deeds of a long line of eminent Korean practitioners. This harmonious character was started by Master Wonhyo (617-686). With a philosophy of reconciliation, he harmonized various doctrines at a higher stage. Later, Master Daegak Uichon (1055-1101) and Master Bojo Jinul (1158-1210) continued in the same manner. Uichon recognized the logic and value of Wonhyo's conciliatory philosophy and tried to unite Korean Buddhism by combining theory and practice. Jinul also combined theory and practice in his creative movement of practicing meditation and wisdom together.

Life of Korean Buddhist Monks and Nuns

Qualifications of becoming a Korean Buddhist monk or nun

Those who would like to be ordained in a Buddhist monastery in Korean Buddhism should have strong faith in living for themselves and others like Buddha and Bodhisattvas. This strong faith in attaining enlightenment and helping other beings is essential so that aspirants to the Buddhist Sangha can endure all difficulties during training as well as during lifelong practice. Korean Buddhist monasteries must welcome all aspirants who have a good mind and health. However, in practice, there is a restriction in terms of education. Aspirants must have completed high school. This restriction is not for attaining enlightenment, but for proving the qualification of the Buddhist monk and nun. Being a Buddhist monk or nun is to be a spiritual leader. Therefore, candidates must have common sense and basic education.

In order to become a Buddhist monk or nun, there are three stages that must be completed, aspirant, student, and full ordination. One who joins a monastery in the very beginning becomes an aspirant. Upon entering the monastery, one abandons all relationships with relatives and friends for some period. Male aspirants shave their hair and beards and wear gray or brown clothes, while female aspirants do not shave their hair in the beginning.

The reason for this is that at the time of being an aspirant they can still chose to either remain in the temple or return home. About six months after entering the monastery, the female aspirants shave their hair. During this period the aspirants learn all manners for living in the monastery harmoniously with other members as well as chanting for daily worship. They also work for the monastery and care for the senior monks and nuns while gradually learning what Buddha taught and the spiritual path through both body and mind.

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After about one year, it is determined whether or not the aspirant is suitable for monastic life, and if so, he or she chooses a teacher. For some period teachers take care of the disciples. As a teacher's disciple, the aspirant receives ten precepts, the first set of basic training rules, and is also given ordination. From this point, male disciples are referred to as samis and women are called saminis (the prefix ni in Sanskrit means female).

In order to study Buddhist scriptures, Samis and saminis should enter into one of the Sangha Colleges, a traditional style of Buddhist monastery institute, for four years. Sangha Colleges are special institutes where samis and saminis separately study Buddhist scriptures more deeply through the learning of ancient Chinese characters.

When they study Buddha's teachings they rely on the ancient texts as well as commentaries written by practitioners through the ages. During this study period they also learn chanting and all the other skills required of a fully ordained member of the Buddhist monastery. In addition, as Korean society has become more complex, there are also several modern subjects such as English and Psychology included in the curriculum. The most important learning is the art of living. From the first year, all the members should stay together in one large room for the next four years, the purpose of which is to strive toward living harmoniously.

After a total of five years, novices who have completed their training and study period are sent for a second ordination whereupon they become bhikkhus, or bhikkhunis in the case of female students. Before the novices are fully ordained, five days of extra training and lectures are given for the higher qualifications demanded of Korean Buddhist monks and nuns.

Korean Buddhist monks and nuns’ daily schedule

In a Korean Buddhist monastery, the day begins at 3 o'clock in the morning. One monk wakes up earlier than the others and puts on his ceremonial robes. The monk then silently starts to beat a Moktak, a wooden and bell-shaped percussion instrument, and chant Buddhist sutras. He walks to each part of the monastery and chants as he proceeds.

This wake-up ceremony is performed every day of the year regardless of the weather. Upon hearing the sound of the Moktak, the other monks get up and prepare to join the morning ceremony. After a short time, the large bell, followed by the huge drum, gong and wooden fish, are sounded and all monks proceed to the main hall for chanting.

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Before the morning ceremony, monks beat four subjects, the large bell, a drum, a gong and a wooden fish. These each represent a group of living beings in the world. The large bell is for the descendent. The drum made of animal skins is for animals. The cloud shaped gong is for living beings of the air. The log carved into the shape of a fish is for living beings in the water. When every living being listens to the chanting and beating of the subjects, they are liberated by Buddha's wisdom.

After the morning ceremony, the monks continue their own practice according to their level; the students go to the study hall, and senior monks go to the meditation hall and the working monks cook the morning meal.

At about 6 a.m. breakfast takes place. Breakfast in a Korean temple consists of rice porridge and fermented vegetables in a formal style from a set of four individual bowls.

The most important part of the day is the time after breakfast, because this time is very calm for practice. As such, most monks continue to study or meditate in their place.

At 10:30 a.m., in order to remember Buddha's custom of eating once a day, monks chant and offer rice in the main hall. After the ceremony, it is lunchtime. Monks chant before and during the meal because they should remind themselves that eating food is for sustaining the body, not for greed or the desire for food itself.

"Let us reflect upon the human efforts that have made this meal possible, and ask ourselves whether we deserve this offering. Let us rid ourselves of greed and regard this meal as medicine to help us to see the truth and to reach the great wisdom beyond."

After a short period of free time after lunch, monks return to practice until 5 p.m. This is suppertime. The suppertime hour depends on the season; winter supper is one hour earlier than that of summer. Approximately one hour later, the large temple bell announces chanting:

"May all living beings who hear this bell be relieved from suffering, develop wisdom and attain enlightenment. May we all live in peace."

When monks hear this bell sound they proceed to the main hall, and evening chanting and meditation follows. Then around 9 p.m. the monks can go to bed and all lights in the temple are switched off.

Art and culture in Korean Buddhism

Representative Korean Buddhist Temples


The 2,500 year history of Korean Buddhism has given rise to many large temples. Among them, the Three Jewel Temples are the most famous and largest Korean Buddhist temples. The three jewels in Buddhism are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Three Jewel Temples represent each aspect: Tongdosa Temple represents the Buddha because there is a famous stupa (or pagoda) housing relics of Buddha from China; Haeinsa Temple represents the teaching or Dharma, because there is a large number of Buddhist scriptures; and Songgwangsa Temple represents the Buddhist community or Sangha, as about fifteen Korean patriarchs have come from this temple.

Tongdosa Temple

Tongdosa Temple was built in 646 by Master Jajang during the reign of Queen Seondeok. One of the great monks in Korean Buddhism, Master Jajang, carried Buddha's relics from China and he enshrined them at Tongdosa Temple. As a result, unlike other temples, there is no statue of Buddha in the Main Hall. Instead, Buddhists worship the Stupa.

Tongdosa Temple

The Diamond Precepts platform is behind the Main Hall. On the platform is a bell-shaped stupa surrounded by a stone barrier. The gate is finely decorated with dragons, clouds and two protector guardians. There are protective deities on the four corners of the platform. The ball-shaped stupa is decorated with lotus patterns, lotus blossoms, lotus petals, the Four Virtues and gods on the base and upper parts. In front of the stupa lies the lovely Nine Dragons Pond. Originally very large, the pond was home to nine dragons.

The Stupa(or pagoda) in Tongdosa Temple


Haeinsa Temple is the second representative temple. Its name means "reflection on a smooth sea." It is the description of deep meditation in the Avatamsaka Sutra. Originally, Haeinsa Temple was a small hermitage built by Master Sunung and Master Ichong at the time of their return from China in 802. The wife of King Aejang was sick, and the two monks had helped to cure her. The King built Haeinsa Temple in honor of the monks. The temple has since been enlarged. Behind the Main Hall are two buildings that were constructed in 1488 housing the wooden blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana and the Buddhist scriptures. The Tripitaka Koreana was originally carved in the 11th century in a temple on Ganghwa Island. The possession of these wooden blocks was said to protect the country against invasion.

However, the blocks were burnt by Mongol invaders. In the 13th century, production of a new set of blocks was undertaken at the order of King Gojong. It took about 16 years to carve 52,330,152 characters on 81,258 blocks. These were transported from Ganghwa Island on the heads of nuns to Haeinsa for safe-keeping.

Songgwangsa Temple

Songgwangsa Temple means “(Spreading Pine Temple” and it was established on Mt. Jogye by Master Jinul (1158-1210). In 1190, Jinul created a “[[Concentration and Wisdom {Community]]” for practicing Buddhism together. Searching for the ideal location, he carved a crane out of wood, which he then released. The crane flew away and finally landed in the place where Songgwangsa Temple is today. The Master's Portrait Hall was built and the temple came to represent the Sangha, the followers of Buddha.

Jinul's Buddhist philosophy created an ancient Buddhist debate that continues today. He believed that enlightenment could be quite easily reached, but that practice must continue afterwards in order to get rid of the habit energies. This is called the Sudden Awakening and Gradual Cultivation as opposed to Sudden Awakening and Sudden Cultivation, wherein after a struggle to reach the difficult stage of enlightenment, cultivation is no longer necessary.

Ⅵ. 2. The beauty and structure of Korean Buddhist Temples

Most Korean temples are located in mountain valleys. Each temple has several buildings; these include the gate or gates, halls and shrines, stupas, bell pavilions, academies, living quarters, etc.

Most large temples have several gates before reaching the Main Hall. These gates delineate the land of Buddha and the secular world. The One-Pillar gate is the first gate in the temple. While the gate actually has two pillars, from a Buddhist point of view, it is referred to as a "One-Pillar" gate as it symbolizes that one who enters into the temple should have one mind and take the first step towards the Pure Land.

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The one-pillar gate at Hwaeomsa Temple

The second gate is the Four Guardians' gate. These guardians are in charge of the four cardinal directions; North, South, East, West, and the four seasons. The guardians are of ancient Indian religious origin. After listening to the Buddha's teaching, they became deities. Their duties include defense of the temple and crushing demonic opponents. They carry a lute, sword, dragon or pagoda, respectively, in one hand.

The Four Guardians' gate at Tongdosa Temple

The main hall

The Main Hall is the temple's architectural and spiritual center. The name of the Main Hall is determined by the Buddha's image that is enshrined inside. An image of Buddha usually stands on the main platform, which is adorned with carvings of many animals and flowers to represent Mount Sumeru. On the wall to the right of the Buddha image is a painting of the guardians. They serve to protect the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

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Usually Buddhist paintings are drawn on the outside wall of the Main Hall. One series of paintings is entitled "Eight Scenes of the Life of the Buddha," and the other is called "the Ox-Herding Paintings." The "Eight Scenes of the Life of the Buddha" are eight scenes that include the most important events of his life. The Ox-Herding paintings originally came from China, and depict a profound metaphor for Zen (Chan in Chinese, Seon in Korean) Practice. The pictures depict a young man searching for an ox. The young man represents the practitioner and the ox is his mind. The paintings are usually divided into ten stages, and thus they are called the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures.

The stupa, "Seokgatap" at Bulguksa Temple

In front of the Main Hall, there is usually a stupa. Before Buddha's images were created, the stupa was the object of worship and was regarded as Buddha and his teachings. As such, there are two types of stupas; one is for Buddha and the other is Dharma, Buddha's teachings. Over the centuries, stupas were built of various materials in East Asian Buddhist countries. Stupas in Korean Buddhism are usually made of stone, and on the surface of the stupa figures are carvings of Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and Devas.

On the left side of the Main Hall there is a two-story tower-like structure, which is the Bell Pavilion. There are four instruments inside, the Dharma Drum, the Wooden Fish, the Cloud-shaped Gong and the large Brahma Bell. These are used to announce the temple's daily schedule and regulate monastic life.

Academies and living quarters are located off to the side of the temple. These places are not open to the public. Academies are used by student monks who study and practice daily. Living quarters include such facilities as dormitories, a kitchen, an eating area, and a storage house.

===Tea and Food in Korean Buddhist Temples

Tea in Korean Buddhism was first introduced in the sixth or seventh century, likely by Buddhist monks who had returned from China. There are early reports of tea in Samguk-yusa and Samguk-sagi, which are famous ancient Korean history books. Reports noted that Queen Seondeok of Silla (ruled 632-47) drank tea and King Munmu, in 661, ordered tea.

During the Goryeo Dynasty, between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, tea was offered not only in the ancestral ceremonies but also Buddhist ceremonies. One such Buddhist ceremony was known as Hon-ta, in which green tea leaves were offered in front of Buddha statues in the temples. The tea culture was closely related with Buddhism, but when Confucianism became the dominant philosophy at the end of the fourteenth century, both consumption and ceremonial use of tea was prohibited.

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During the Joseon Dynasty there is little evidence of tea culture surviving in Korea, until the great restorer of tea culture in Korea came along, a young Buddhist monk known as Cho Ui (1786-1866). In 1836, Cho Ui stayed at the Iljiam hermitage above Daehungsa temple near Haenam in the far south of Korea; it was here that he composed a great poem celebrating a tea known as Dongdasong. Unlike the Japanese tea ceremonies, Korean tea etiquette focuses on remaining natural while partaking. Korean style preparation of green tea requires a tea set consisting of three or five cups as needed. In a tea set there is a Korean tea pot, which is little larger than Chinese ones, and a smaller bowl for cooling the hot water with a lip for pouring.

Korean Buddhism also has a long and storied history on the topic of food, as well as a distinguished view on its role and value. Buddhist scriptures indicate that practitioners should take the minimum amount of food for maintaining a meditative life, and the food must be made of clean materials.

Korean Buddhism developed a unique concept on how food should be prepared, developing five precepts - the first forbidding harm to animals. In order to keep this precept Korean temples do not use animal products or even oils, but only use vegetables. Among vegetables strong stimulants such as garlic, green onion, scallions and wide rocambole (a type of garlic) are avoided. It is because these kinds of vegetables make one’s mind stimulated.

Korean temple food consists of various delicacies made of mountain vegetables, seasoned with seaweed, and simmered in soy sauce. Temple food is well-balanced nutritionally due to the inclusion of perilla oil, a healthy substitute for animal fat, and tofu and soy beans, both rich in protein. Such a diet is useful for the prevention of geriatric diseases.

Korean Buddhist Ceremonies

Korean Buddhist rites can be divided into two groups, one for the living and one for the deceased. The Buddhist offering Bul-gong falls into the first class of ceremony.

The Buddhist offering is usually held between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. It is called 'Sa-si-ma-ji' or 'Sa-si-gong-yang.' Sa-si indicates the time 9-11 a.m. It originated in the period of the Sakyamuni Buddha's life. In India, the Sakyamuni Buddha had only one meal a day at Sa-si. From this origin, Korean Buddhists offer food, fruit, incense, candles, and money to Buddha and Bodhisattvas at Sa-si.

The Buddhist offering has two meanings; one is to take refuge in Buddha, his teachings, and his disciples (the Three Jewels), and the other is to devote oneself to making promises, and to transfer all positive aspects to other beings for happiness and spiritual wealth.

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There are a variety of Buddhist ceremonies among the second group, including funerals, Cheon-do-jae, Su-ryuk-jae, and Ye-su-jae. Buddhist funerals are based on Buddhist doctrines of living and dying. In Buddhism, after a person dies, the body is separated from earth, water, fire, and air, but the results of karma, which are made by actions of the body, speech and mind, continue. This is called rebirth or reincarnation.

After someone dies, his or her consciousness remains in a stage of 'Jung-yu' or 'Jung-eum.' This is a middle stage between the present life and the next life. At this time, Si-da-rim, a Guiding Ceremony comprised of Buddha's teachings, is held to guide the spirit to the Pure Land or back to Earth.

Traditionally, Buddhists are cremated. This ceremony is called 'Da-bi, 'the monastic funeral. The platform for cremation is set up with wood, charcoal, and a straw mat. After burning the platform, people collect the bones of the cremated person and then crush them into powder. People choose either to scatter the powder around a temple or mountain or to keep the ashes in the charnel house.

After cremation, the 49 days Guiding Ceremony takes place in the temple. The purpose of this ceremony is to yield a good rebirth in the next life.

Cheon-do-jae is another guiding ceremony to guide the spirits of ancestors to the Pure Land. In this ceremony, descendants make offerings and pray to Buddha to purify their ancestors' karma so that they may be reborn in the Pure Land.

Su-ryuk-jae is the Guiding ceremony for Earth and Water. It is a special offering for the hungry ghosts in the Earth and Water. It stems originally from China. In the Yang Dynasty in China, King Mu dreamt that a monk called on him to hold a ceremony for the hungry ghosts in the Earth and Water. The monk told the King that this would be his most worthy contribution. The King adhered to the monk's request. Thus originating in China, Su-ryuk-jae is practiced nationwide in Korea.

Ye-su-jae is the Preparation Ceremony. It is held to practice cultivation and merits for the next life after death. It is considered to be one's own 49 days Guiding Ceremony in advance. People can be reborn in a good realm by repenting bad karma, keeping the precepts, and practicing charity.

Buddhist Instruments and Symbols in Korean Buddhism

Korean Temples generally have a two-story tower, which visitors can see upon entering the gate. There are four major Buddhist instruments to announce the time for monks to practice their daily rites.

The four instruments are;

the dharma drum, the wooden fish, the cloud-shaped gong, and the large brahma bell.

The sound of each instrument has a function in saving beings of other realms.

Dharma drum

The dharma drum beats to save all beings living on earth, from humans to animals to ants, and so on. The sound of the beating drum is considered to echo the sound of Buddha's teachings.

wooden fish

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The wooden fish is for saving all fish. Monks strike both sides of the fish's hollow center with two sticks in order to produce sound. The origin of this instrument can be traced to an edifying story. A long time ago, there was a monk who committed many unwholesome deeds.

Eventually, he died and was reborn as a fish with a tree on its back. One day when the monk's old master was crossing the river, the fish came to him sadly. The master looked into its past life and held a memorial ceremony to save the fish.

That night, the fish appeared in the master's dream, appreciative of his master's kindness. He asked his master to please cut the tree from his back and make a fish-shaped instrument and tell this story as a lesson for practitioners.

Cloud-shaped gong

The cloud-shaped gong is for saving the beings of the sky. It is made from bronze. Some temples hang this gong in the kitchen or the dining room to announce mealtime.

Brahma bell

The brahma bell is for saving the beings of hell. The bell is struck 28 times in the morning and 33 times in the evening. As the bell is struck, all beings in hell are released from their suffering. A whale shaped instrument is used for striking the bell. A long time ago many dragons lived in the sea. One of them was named Po. This dragon cried often and was afraid of whales. The bell's sound is said to be like Po's cries.

Besides the above four instruments, the mok-tak and juk-bi are also very important instruments in daily Korean temple life. The mok-tak is shaped like the wooden fish but is smaller and round. It is used in all Buddhist ceremonies when chanting and reciting sutras.

The juk-bi is made from a single bamboo shoot cut down its center. A monk will slap the juk-bi against his palm to elicit sound. It is a useful instrument to signal the start and end of meditation.

Another interesting small figure is the wind chimes, found on the eaves of Buddhist Halls and pagodas. The wind rings the chimes, awakening the monks. The explanation for the chimes' role lies in the fact that fish live without closing their eyes, even while sleeping. Thus, monks and practitioners, like the fish in the sea, practice to continuously cultivate themselves, even in their dreams.

In Korean Buddhism there are many symbols to represent Buddha's teachings. The Buddhist cross is called man in Korean. The original meaning in Sanskrit is a good omen. Since Buddha's time it has been a symbol of good fortune and it represents Buddha's compassionate mind.

A circle and a circle with three dots inside are also symbols found in Buddhist paintings and temple wall paintings. They represent the mind. The circle is a fundamental form of the whole universe, without worldly distinctions such as good or bad, like or dislike, high or low, and so forth. Concerning the three dots, the inside of each dot symbolizes one of the three jewels of Buddhism. The three jewels are Buddha, Dharma (the teachings of Buddha), and Sangha (Buddha's disciples).

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Finally, the Lotus Flower is a well-known symbol of Buddhism. This flower has two meanings. First, the lotus flower blossoms in mud ponds, but it is not tainted and keeps its purity always. It is like Buddha and Bodhisattvas, who lived in the world but remained pure.

Second, it bears a flower and fruit at the same time. It reflects the law of cause and effect. Therefore, when Buddhists act in everyday life, they keep in mind that their actions are followed by results.

Temple Stay for Foreigners

Through the temple stay program, several Korean temples are opened to foreigners in order to offer opportunities to experience the traditional culture of Korean Buddhism. This program was originally implemented during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and garnered many positive reactions from participants. The temple stay program offers visitors the chance to stay in a Korean temple for several days and experience the daily life there. The temple becomes active at 3 a.m. and various ceremonies and daily activities continue throughout the day until 9 p.m. During one day there are several programs that introduce the culture of Korean Buddhism, such as [[Yebool[[ (Buddhist ceremony service), Cham-seon (meditation), Da-do (tea-ceremony), Balwoo-gongyang (eating manners), as well as others.

Prior to starting this program, all participants learn basic manners in the Buddhist temple and the Buddha Hall. Dress in the temple should be clean and conservative and visitors should avoid revealing clothes and bare feet as well as heavy makeup. Inside the temple they should be quiet and calm.

Visitors should not speak loudly, run, or sing. Smoking is not allowed and drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden. Men and women should also avoid intimate physical contact.

At the time of entering the Buddha Hall, of the three entrances, visitors can use either side entrance, but must avoid using the front or center entrance. Before entering the hall, visitors must remove their shoes. Among the available programs, is Yebool, a Buddhist ceremony service. Korean temples perform Yebool three times a day; at 3 a.m., 11 a.m., and 6 p.m. Yebool pays respect to [[Sakyamuni Buddha and his disciples.

During the act of Yebool, participants maintain a calm and quiet composure, in body and mind. Even without understanding the chanting of Yebool, participants will hear and experience this totally harmonious ceremony.

Cham-seon is another wonderful experience during the temple stay. It is a form of Seon meditation, which is the Korean style of Zen meditation.

Cham-seon means contemplation or intuition, and through this one finds one's own true self. There are two forms of Cham-seon, sitting and walking. Before starting Cham-seon, one assumes the most comfortable position, while holding his or her back straight. Walking meditation is a break after long sitting meditation. One slowly walks around the Meditation Hall with harmonious steps and breathing.

Da-do is a tea ceremony. Rather than just drinking tea, this is a form of meditation. While drinking tea one should sit quietly.

Balwoo-gongyang is a Buddhist meal with traditional bowls. In Buddhism, gongyang means eating, and balwoo are bowls containing a moderate amount of rice and vegetables.

The spirit of the Balwoo-gongyang is equality, cleanliness, thrift, and togetherness. Equality means everybody shares the same food equally, and cleanliness means the food is cooked in a clean environment. Thrift means there is no waste, and togetherness means social unity and harmony can be enhanced through this eating style.

Balwoo-gongyang is performed three times a day. During this time, one sits in the lotus position and remains quiet, as talking is not allowed. Before Balwoo-gongyang, there is pre-meal chant. This chant also presents the spirit of Buddhist harmonious life and thinking of others. Calculating how much effort went into producing the food, one contemplates where it came from. One also reflects on whether their own virtue is worthy of this offering. The main task is to guard the mind and leave behind faults like craving and so forth. One should receive this food in order to complete the task of enlightenment. </poem>