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The Buddhist Purification Movement in Korea

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Writer admin Date29 Mar 2006 Read20,618 Comment0


When the police interfered with the Monk assembly, Ven. Kusan wrote a petition in his blood, claiming the legitimacy of the Purification Movement.

[Photo] When the police interfered with the monk assembly, Ven. Kusan wrote a petition in his blood, claiming the legitimacy of the Purification Movement. At that time, Ven. Seungsahn also took part in Purification Movement actively.

The Buddhist Purification Movement among the fading Korean Buddhism under the Japanese colonial period was the major historical event for the development of modern Korean Buddhism as well as a significant moment of history for the Jogye Order, the major Buddhist religion of Korea. The movement was led by ideas such as Bhiksuni taking the leadership, exclusion of married Buddhist priests, folk or traditional Buddhism rehabilitation and modernization of Korean Buddhism.

The Pros view the movement as a Buddhist Purification Movement, while the cons disapproved this idea. Above all, both pros and cons should be well prepared with their points of view in order to critique the other side; the pros should prove a specific ideology of the movement and its aim, and the cons as well should review the historical backgrounds and cause of the movement for further debates. It was during 1952~1962 when the movement occured. In 1952, Lee Dai hee, the Seon practicing monk, gave a proposing paper which requested the spare temples which only for most Seon practicing monks. Manam, the spiritual leader of Jogye Order accepted this request and even spurring its implementation this historical incident can be viewed as the start of the Buddhist Purification Movement, although the outcome was not successful. For a long period of time, some people viewed this to be the decision of the 1st president of Korea, Lee Seung Man, who planed the Buddhist Purification Movement. However, many people weren’t so content with this idea and even worried that it ignores autonomy of the movement. The movement was concluded on April of 1962 by integrating the total religious order: both Bhiksuni and Daecheo - the married monks - consented with new ideas the liberation on a memorial service was newly implemented; and executive organs of both parties equally participated too.

The cause of this movement can be divided into the inner and outer case. One of the first inner causes was the political aim of President Lee Seung Man, who viewed religion as a way to gain votes; meanwhile, the president Lee himself who was also a Christian, believed that there was political suppression of Buddhism at the same time. However, other inner causes can be seen in both ideological and economical aspects. In ideological aspects, there was a strong belief among the most Seon practicing monks that the folk Buddhism should be rebuilt and reorganized, since its true ideology collapsed during the colonial era by Japanese. In economic aspects, it was against the farmland reform which withered financial foundations of every temple and took away places for the ascetic practice of monks and nuns. The main problems which existed around the modern eras’ are the succession of the traditional Korean Buddhism. And here, the main point is how to view the Buddhist Purification Movement. If the main point is focusing on exclusion of the married monks, this type of view point or evaluation should go in presence; married monks and depraved monks should be eliminated from the brotherhood. These also include the ideas of purifying the Bhiksuni organization, which is also another aim of the Buddhist Purification Movement.

The heritage of the Buddhist Purification Movement has shown both positive and negative sides of its effects. The positive side be followed as, awakening the traditional Buddhism in the religious body of Southern Korea, which inspires the importance of a clean and serene consciousness to monks, and resolves the identity crisis of the religious order, consolidating Buddhist cultural properties, and improvising the environment of Buddhist temples. The negative sides as follows: brought a cynical effect to the dautonomy of Buddhism, engaging the use of force, and focusing mainly on the Seon-centered education, while neglecting Daecheo monks who sacrificed their lives for the Korean folk Buddhism, a lack of ideology, paradoxically providing priority to Christians.

To activate the Buddhist Purification Movement, this movement must be a part of the Buddhist history. At the same time, advices as follows - gets ideologically prejudiced tendencies of the movement, and more active studies on the ideology in the Order, reorganize the history of movement for followers and disciples - which are also strongly recommended.

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