Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism

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Monastic Education Ganhwa Seon of Korean Buddhism
Ganhwa Seon of Korean Buddhism

Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism


In the name “Jogye Order,” the term “Jogye” is a transliteration of “Caoxi” where the Sixth Patriarch Huineng used to live. Huineng was a Seon monk who embodied the practice of Patriarchal Seon. Thanks to him, Patriarchal Seon came to influence East Asian Buddhism. As the name “Jogye Order” implies, Korean Buddhism still cherishes the tradition of Patriarchal Seon. It was in the 9th century when Patriarchal Seon was first introduced to Korea. The founder of the original Jogye Order was State Preceptor Doui, who received transmission of the dharma from the Chinese monk Xitang Zhizhang, after which he brought the Patriarchal Seon tradition to Korea. The Gusan Seonmun (Nine Mountain Seon Schools), established in the late Silla Dynasty (57 BCE – 935 CE), also inherited the Patriarchal Seon of Huineng.
In Patriarchal Seon, generations of Patriarchs were awakened to the foundation of their own inherent buddhahood, and transmitted this from mind to mind. The term “inherent buddhahood” means that one is inherently a buddha. In the process of awakening to this fact, words (both written and spoken) and intellectual reasoning have no meaning. All of us are inherently buddhas, but blinded by our own afflictions and delusions, we cannot find it. Afflictions and delusions are products of a mind that discriminates. It is this discriminating mind that obscures one’s ability to see truth. As one of the major offshoots of Patriarchal Seon, Ganhwa Seon allows one to overcome the discriminating mind by focusing on a hwadu, after which one attains their inherent buddhahood. When one releases their afflictions and delusions through the practice of hwadu investigation, and restores their inherent mind to its original state, they live life as buddhas, free and happy. In other words, a hwadu is a means to find one’s true nature as a buddha. To investigate a hwadu based on the tradition of Patriarchal Seon, and to find one’s true nature; this form of Seon practice is called Ganhwa Seon.
“Hwadu” means “true words” or “genuine words.” Because it consists of “true words,” one with high spiritual capacity can be awakened the moment they hear a hwadu, while others with less capacity can progress toward the realm of enlightenment through the process of desperately doubting and investigating a hwadu. The meaning of a hwadu cannot be fathomed with words and thought. Therefore, even the slightest application of thinking, reasoning, or judging can lead to more delusions. The word “ganhwa” in “Ganhwa Seon” refers to the process of desperately doubting one’s hwadu.
During the Goryeo era, State Preceptor Bojo Jinul advocated the simultaneous practice of meditation and wisdom at Suseonsa Temple (the forerunner of today's Songgwangsa Temple), which resulted in popularizing Seon practice. Jinul also advanced Korean Seon practice a great step forward based on his propagation of Ganhwa Seon practice. Later, in the era of Master Taego Bou, Ganhwa Seon practice was established as a major practice of Korean Seon.
Despite the severe repression of Buddhism during the Joseon era, Seon masters like Cheongheo Hyujeong and Buhyu Seonsu continued propagating the Ganhwa Seon tradition. In the modern era, the Seon lineage was given a renewed boost by Masters Gyeongheo Seongu and Yongseong Jinjong. At present, Korea is widely recognized as the leading preserver and practicing nation of the Ganhwa Seon tradition which seeks enlightenment based on hwadu practice.

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