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Recommended Books | The Essence of the Korean Buddhist Practices: 6 Ways to the Heart

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Writer Jogye Date14 Oct 2015 Read12,186 Comment0


Author : Association of Korean Buddhist Orders
Publish : Bulgwang Publishing

The Essence of the Korean Buddhist Practices: 6 Ways to the Heart

By Seong Jae-hyeon
Translated by Hong Hee-yon
(Bulkwang Publishing)

Ever wondered why Korean Buddhists bow the way they do, or recite the name of the Buddha?

Though Korea’s Templestay ― in which participants can lead the life of a Buddhist monk for a few days at a local temple ― have attracted many foreign visitors, there haven’t been a lot of English-language resources on Korean Buddhist practices and their meanings.

For anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of Korean Buddhism following their Templestay experience, Buddhist publishing house Bulkwang’s newly published English-language book, “The Essence of the Korean Buddhist Practices: 6 Ways to the Heart” will be a useful guide for getting their feet wet in the world of spiritual practices.

Originally written in Korean by Buddhist scholar Seong Jae-hyeon, the book features a six Korean Buddhist practices and the benefits one can gain by doing them: the Seon (Zen) Meditation Practice; Yeombul, the Buddha-recitation practice; mantra practice; reading and hand-transcribing sutra practice; and bowing practice.

According to the book, bowing is arguably the single most common Buddhist practice for Koreans. Though Koreans bow as a way to pay respect to others on a daily basis, the Buddhist practice consists of five solid steps in one fluid motion: bringing the palms together, kneeling, lowering the body to the ground, getting back into a kneeling position and standing up.

“The highest point of the body is the forehead, (while) the lowest is the feet,” the book says. “Placing the loftiest point lower than the other’s bottommost is showing total respect and unmitigated humility.”

While one can practice bowing whenever and wherever she or he wants, they’re encouraged to do it in the presence of the Buddha statue.

Some of the benefits one can archive through bowing include developing natural dignity and gaining others’ trust and admiration, according to the book.

“Bowing practice develops a humble mind,” the book says. “…even as a purely non-religious exercise, bowing cultivates patience, heightens concentration, boosts blood circulation and enhances muscle strength.”

Meanwhile, Yeombul, the practice of reciting the Buddha’s name, can calm and soothe one’s mind and remove one’s sense of guilt, according to the book. And by beading and hand-transcribing sutra, the records of the oral teachings of Buddha, one can improve his or her health, get rid of their negative karma and gain better control of their own greed and anger.

Complimented with some 60 photos of scenic Korean temples and local practitioners by photographer Ha Ji-kwon, the book could be a helpful guide for those interested in exploring Korean Buddhism, especially the Templestay programs. Skimming through the book before joining the program sessions will enrich the spiritual experience.

As for the presentation of the text, however, it seems like it would have been better as a pocket-sized book. There are too many pages that are left with blank spaces, making one feel the size of book is too big for the given material.


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