Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism

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Monastic Education Course of Practice at Seon Center
Course of Practice at Seon Center

Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism


A seonwon (Seon center) is a Jogye Order institution devoted to cultivating Ganhwa Seon (traditional Korean Seon, or hwadu meditation), considered one of the best forms of meditation practice. For a time, all enrolled monastics must sever contact with the outside world and concentrate solely on Seon practice. The Jogye Order operates 100 Seon Centers, including Taego Seonwon at Bongamsa Temple, which is a special Seon center established by the Order.
During the three-month summer and winter meditation retreats (called angeo), monastics confine themselves within the temple compound and concentrate on intensive meditation practice; the three-month summer retreat is called “ha-angeo” and the three-month winter retreat is called “dongangeo.” Angeo is one of the most esteemed traditions of Korean Buddhism and the Jogye Order. Every year, about 2,000 practitioners participate in angeo twice a year. In between these retreats, monastics go on a traveling practice (manhaeng), which literally means “ten thousands actions.” These days, some seonwons leave their Seon centers open even during the manhaeng period.
At Seon centers, monastics arise at either 2 or 3 a.m. to the crack of a bamboo clapper and offer either three prostrations of homage or perform 108 prostrations (a standard Buddhist practice). Aside from mealtimes and communal work periods, they immerse themselves in Seon meditation for the rest of the day until 9 p.m. or 11 p.m., depending on the particular temple's regulations.
Seon centers operate three varying periods of Seon practice: “regular practice” lasts 8–10 hours a day; “intensive practice” lasts 12–14 hours a day; and “undaunted practice” can last over 18 hours a day. Other types of extreme practices still practiced today include intensive meditation practice without lying down for 3 months or longer (jangjwa-burwa) and mumungwan practice in which a practitioner volunteers to be locked in a practice cell for months or years in order to perform undaunted practice without ever going outside.

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