• Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Gajisan Sect – Borimsa Temple (Jangheung, Jeollanam-do)

    The Gajisan sect was located out of Borimsa Temple in Jangheung, in present-day Jeollanam-do. The sect was first established during the reign of King Heonan of Silla (r. 857-861) by Master Doui. Master Doui’s family name was Wang. Doui’s father dreamed that a white rainbow entered into the sleeping chamber of where his mother was sleeping. His mother also had a dream. Her dream was of a saintly monk sitting down. After these two dreams, Doui’s mother became pregnant. And rather remarkably, which goes against everything we know about biology, Doui’s mother gave birth to him after thirty-nine months of pregnancy. Master Doui would eventually become a monk and be…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Silsangsan Sect – Silsangsa Temple (Namwon, Jeollabuk-do)

    The Silsangsan sect was headquartered out of Silsangsa Temple, or “True Nature Temple” in English, in Namwon in present-day Jeollabuk-do in the northern part of the famed Jirisan National Park. The founding patriarch of the Silsangsan sect was Hongcheok-guksa (fl. 830 A.D.), who built Silsangsa Temple to help spread the teachings of Seon Buddhism. Hongcheok-guksa learned under Zhizang (735-814 A.D.). The sect was first founded in 828 A.D. Hongcheok-guksa was posthumously named Jeunggak. Both Hongcheok-guksa’s stupa and stele can be found to this day on the temple grounds of Silsangsa Temple. In the early 800’s, Hongcheok traveled to Tang China (618–690, 705–907 A.D.). He did this to help further his…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Other Early Gyo Sects

    In addition to the five main Gyo sects that thrived during the Three Kingdoms Period in Korea (18 B.C. – 660 A.D.), there were lesser known Gyo sects that were also established at this time. And while they might have been less popular than the other five major Gyo sects, they survived up until the end of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). These sects are: 1. Chongji-jong (Esoteric Sect) Jineon, which is also known as Chongji-jong, is a form of Esoteric Buddhism (Vajrayana). The primary text of this sect were the Dharanis. The Dharanis are Buddhist chants, incantations, and/or recitations. And they are Sanskrit or Pali phrases. These phrases can, and…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Yuga-jong – Consciouness-Only Sect: 육아종

    There are two primary texts that the Yuga-jong sect follows. They are the Yogacarabhumi-sastra (Treatise on the Stages of the Yoga Masters) and the Vijnaptimatratasiddhi (Treatise on Consciousness Only). This sect is also known as Yusik-jong – 유식종, or the Consciousness-Only sect in English. The reason for this is that in yoga, and in the mind, there are manifestations of various dharmas. Another name this sect goes by is Beopsang – 법상종, which focuses on the Dharma Laksana. The founder of this sect in China was the Dharma Master Xuanzang (602-644 A.D.), or Hyeonjang in Korean, who started to teach this doctrine at the Cien Temple. That’s why this sect…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Samnon-jong – East Asian Mādhyamaka: 삼론종

    The Beopseong sect, as the name hints at, attempts to clarify the meaning of various dharmas. The Beopseong sect used the Three Treatises as their primary texts. These three texts are: 1. The Middle Treatise – Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, 2. The Treatise on the Twelve Gates – Dvādaśadvāraśāstra, 3. The Hundred Verse Treatise – Śataśāstra. As a result, the Beopseong sect is also sometimes called the Three Treatises School, or the “Samnon-jong” in Korean. One of the main focuses of the Samnon-jong sect, which is known as the “Buddha Nature” in English, focuses on how it’s possible for sentient beings to attain the state of a Buddha. This is a central topic…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Yul-jong – Vinaya Sect: 율종

    The word Vinaya is derived from a Sanskrit word which means to lead, take away, tame, train, or guide. It can also mean to educate or teach. The Vinaya is a division of the Buddhist Tripitaka (canon) that contains the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community, which is known as the Sangha. In total, there are three Vinaya traditions that remain in use in modern monastic communities throughout the world. These communities are: 1. The Theravada (Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia), 2. The Mulasarvastivada (Tibetan Buddhism and the Himalayan region), 3. The Dharmaguptaka (East Asian Buddhism). In addition to these communities, there are Vinaya texts from several…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Hwaeom-jong – Huayan Sect: 화엄종

    The Hwaeom sect is the name of the Korean transliteration of the Huayan school of Chinese Buddhism. Huayan uses the Avatamsaka Sutra, or “Flower Garland Sutra” in English, as their primary text. In Korean, this sutra is known as the Hwaeom-gyeong – 화엄경, which is a reference to the idea that the Flower Garland is meant to be the crowning glory of the Buddha’s understanding of ultimate reality. The founding of the Huayan school is traditionally attributed to the Five Patriarchs, who were instrumental in the development of the school’s teachings. These five are: 1. Dushun (557-640 A.D.), 2. Zhiyan (602-668 A.D.), 3. Fazang (643-712 A.D.), 4. Chengguan (738-839 A.D.),…

  • Korean Buddhism Orders and Sects

    Yeolban-jong – The Nirvana Sect: 열반종

    As the name of the sect already hints at, the Nirvana sect, or Yeolbang-jong (열반종) in Korean, follows the Nirvana sutra as its primary source of teaching. The main interpretation of this sutra is that beings have a Buddha-nature. And that Nirvana is obtained and expressed by acquiring the Buddha-nature that exists within all of us. It’s believed by scholars that the sutra dates back to around the second century based upon physical evidence and Chinese canonical catalogs. As for the Korean Buddhist form, it was transmitted by the Korean monk Bodeok-hwasang during the reign of King Muyeol of Silla (r. 654 – 661 A.D.). Before Bodeok, there was a…