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Wŏn Buddhism, Wŏnbulgyo, a compound of the Korean wŏn (circle) and pulgyo (Buddhism), means literally "Round Buddhism," or "Consummate Buddhism." It is the name of an indigenous religion founded in Korea in the twentieth century.
According to Won Buddhist sources, Pak Chungbin (1891-1943; Sot'aesan) attained great enlightenment in 1916 and had a precognition of the world entering an era of advancing material civilization, to which humans would be enslaved. The only way to save the world was by expanding spiritual power through faith in genuine religion and training in sound morality. With the dual aims to save sentient beings and cure the world of moral ills, Sot'aesan began his religious mission. He opened a new religious order with the buddhadharma as the central doctrine, establishing the Society of the Study of the Buddha-dharma at Iksan, North Cholla province, in 1924. He edified his followers with newly drafted doctrine until his death in 1943. The central doctrine was published in the Pulgyo chŏngjŏn (The Correct Canon of Buddhism) in 1943.
In 1947 Song Kyu (1900-1962; "Chŏngsan"), the second patriarch, renamed the order Wŏnbulgyo (Wŏn Buddhism) and published the new canon, Wŏnbulgyo kyojŏn (The Scriptures of Won Buddhism), in 1962.
Doctrine and Practice
The central doctrine lies in the tenets of Irwŏnsang (unitary circular form), Four Beneficences [Graces], and Threefold Practice:
- Just like a finger pointing at the moon, Irwŏnsang, enshrined as the symbol of the dharmakaya of the Buddha, refers to the Buddha-nature of the Tathāgatha and the fundamental source of the four beneficences (heaven and earth, parents, fellow beings, and laws) to which one owes one's life. Irwŏn (unitary circle), the Wŏnbulgyo name for the Dharmakāya Buddha, is the noumenal nature of all beings of the universe, the original nature of all buddhas and patriarchs, and the Buddha-nature of all sentient beings. The worship of Irwŏn lies in requiting the four beneficences, as stated in the motto: "Requiting beneficence is making offerings to Buddha." The practice of Irwon lies in wisdom (prajñā), fostering concentration (samādhi) and using virtue (śīla), upon enlightenment to the Buddha-nature in mundane, daily life.
- The requital of the four beneficences is carried out:
- for heaven and earth, harboring no thought after rendering beneficence;
- for parents, protecting the helpless;
- for fellow beings, benefiting oneself by benefiting others; and
- for laws, doing justice and forsaking injustice.
- The threefold practice is perfected by:
- samadhi, cultivation of spirit;
- prajňā, inquiry into facts and principles; and
- śīla, the heedful choice in karmic action.
- The threefold practice is carried out through Zen, which holds as its central principle that when the six sense organs are at rest, one should nourish the One Mind by clearing the mind of worldly thoughts; when they are at work, one should forsake injustice and cultivate justice.