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Is Celibacy Anachronistic?  

Is Celibacy Anachronistic? : Korean Debates over the Secularization of Buddhism during the Japanese Occupation Period
Robert E. Buswell Jr.(University of California, Los Angeles)


 Of all the wrenching debates taking place in contemporary Buddhist circles, including in Korea, perhaps none has been more fraught with controversy than that over sexuality in the context of Buddhist practice. While Buddhism has always permitted the laity to marry and to raise families, this was not typically the case for religious specialists in most of its various Asian traditions. Celibacy is the first of the Pārājika offenses for both bhiks.us and bhikṣuṇī s, the transgression of which would lead at least to estrangement (if not permanent expulsion) from the order. Celibacy is therefore the principal standard that has distinguished the ordained monk or nun from the lay Buddhist. Soon after its institutionalization, however, Buddhism began to struggle with the issue of precisely how literal monks and nuns should be in interpreting the strictures the Buddha had placed on their way of life, including celibacy. Traditional accounts, as for example in the Mahāparinibbānasuttanta, tell us that shortly before his death the Buddha informs his attendant A - nanda that he would permit the monks to ignore the¡° lesser and minor precepts,¡±without unfortunately specifying precisely which precepts those were.1) The catalyst for convening the first council of arhats was the permissiveness that was beginning to appear among some monastic factions immediately following the Buddha¡¯s death, permissiveness epitomized in Subhadra¡¯s statement of relief over the Buddha¡¯s passing:¡° Now we shall be able to do whatever we like; and what we do not like, that we shall not have to do!¡±2)¡°whatever we like,¡±here, explicitly implying sex. The first schism within the order, which occurred a century or so after the Buddha¡¯s demise, also stemmed from putatively lax readings of the precepts, specifically the Vr.jiputraka monks¡¯acceptance of gold and silver.3)


 This tension between conservative readings of the monastic precepts and more liberal interpretations has continued down into the modern era. Now, however, many of the arguments are framed in terms of ¡°relevancy,¡±especially how to make a monastically-based religion like Buddhism attractive in a modern secular society. Some reformists have even gone so far as to advocate that for Buddhism to be successful in the contemporary world, its clergy must be allowed to marry. Indeed, arguments proffered in favor of clergy marriage for Buddhists are remarkably akin to those articulated in the West by some contemporary Catholics, who are also struggling to address this issue of the social relevance of a celibate clergy.

 But such contemporary concerns over Buddhism¡¯s relevance to society and arguments favoring the abandonment of celibacy are not new to the religion. I would like to explore in this paper a period in Korean Buddhist history when rapid modernization was vehemently advocated and, in conjunction with that modernization, the advisability of clergy marriage examined within the tradition. This is the period bracketing the time of the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea between 1910 and 1945. Korea was then being forced to open its doors to the outside world and the country was affected for the first time by such non-Sinitic influences as Western liberalism. These new ideas had a strong impact in Korea, creating within Buddhist circles a great deal of soul-searching (if, indeed, that word be appropriate in a Buddhist context!). Many intellectuals within the Korean Buddhist church believed that their religion would have to adapt to these new influences if it hoped to maintain any place for itself within the rapidly changing parameters of modern industrialized society. These men actively began to question many of the most fundamental aspects of Buddhism, including the institution of celibacy. But this debate over celibacy must be treated as part and parcel of the Buddhist reform movements of that age, and only by examining that debate within this wider context can its true significance be understood. Exploring these reform movements in somedetail may therefore provide some interesting insights on how one of the Asian monastic orders evaluated possible alternatives to celibacy. While the political exigencies of Japanese colonialism ultimately led contemporary Koreans to reject the viabilityof clergy marriage, the debate over the advisability of celibacy continues to be a burning question even today in Korea. The problem of celibacy also raises wider questions: What type of relationship should pertain between the clergy and laity? What value is there is differentiating the clergy¡¯s way of life from that of the laity? What possibilities are there for the laity to aspire to the higher religious aspirations of the clergy? Such questions will also be addressed in the Korean debates over celibacy.4)

1) Maha - parinibba - na-suttanta, D¦¯ gha-nika - ya ii.154; translated in T. W. and C. A. F. Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha (1910; fourth edition, London: Pali Text Society, 1977), Part II, p. 171.
2) D¦¯ gha-nika - ya ii.162; translation from Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha, II, p. 184.
3) M. Hofinger, E ¢¥ tude sur le Concile de Vais¢¥a -l¦¯ , Universite¢¥ de Louvain, Institut Orientaliste, Bibliothe¢¥que du Muse¢¥on, vol. 20 (Louvain: Bureau du Muse¢¥on, 1946), pp. 31-87.

4) Some portions of this paper are expansions of material that appeared previously in my book The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). 

Buddhism¡¯s Place is in Pre-Modern Korea

Buddhism provided the foundation for Korean national ideology throughout much of the ancient and medieval periods. Since virtually the inception of the tradition on the peninsula, Buddhism was one of the principal forces catalyzing social and technological change. Along with their new religion, its missionaries introduced a wide cross-section of Sinitic culture and thought, including the Chinese writing system, calendrics, and architecture. Buddhist spiritual technologies as well were considered to offer powers far superior to those of indigenous shaman- ism. For all these reasons, Buddhism became an integral part of the religio-political nexus of Korea during the medieval period.


 During the Unified Silla (668-935) and Koryô (937-1392) dynasties, Buddhism functioned as a virtual state religion. Buddhism received munificent material and political support from the royal court, and in exchange interceded with the buddhas and bodhisattvas on behalf of the nation¡¯s welfare. The Buddhist presence was ubiquitous throughout the country, exerting its hold over the nation with an extensive network of both mountain monasteries and city temples. During the Koryô dynasty, for example, the head monasteries of both of the two major branches of the tradition--the doctrinal schools of Kyo and the meditative traditions of Sôn--were based in the capital of Kaesông and thousands of monks pursued their vocations in these urban enclaves. Monasteries were awarded vast tracts of paddy and forest lands, which were worked by armies of slaves and serfs awarded to the monasteries. Monasteries also pursued such commercial enterprises as noodle making, tea production, and distillation of spirits. The financial power of the monasteries was so immense that it severely strained the fabric of the Koryô economy, contributing to the demise of that kingdom and the rise of the Chosôn dynasty.

 Buddhism¡¯s close affiliation with the vanquished Koryôrulers brought it much suffering during the years of Confucian persecution under the Chosôn dynasty (1392-1910). The Neo-Confucian orientation of the Chosôn rulers upset the old ideological status quo in which Buddhism predominated. While considerable controls over monastic vocations and conduct had already been instituted during the Koryô period, these pale next to the severe restrictions promulgated during the Chosôn dynasty. The number of monks was severely restricted--and at times a complete ban on ordination instituted--and monks were prohibited from entering the metropolitan areas. Hundreds of monasteries were disestablished (the number of monasteriesdropping to 242 during the reign of T¡¯aejong [r. 1401- 1418]) and new construction was forbidden in the cities and villages of Korea. Monastic land holdings and temple slaves were confiscated by the governmentin 1406, undermining the economic viability of many monasteries. The vast power that Buddhists had wielded during the Silla and Koryôdynasties was now exerted by Confucians. Buddhism was kept virtually quarantined in the countryside, isolated from most involvement in the intellectual debates of the times. Its adherents were more commonly the illiterate peasants of the countryside and women, rather than the educated male elite of the cities, as had been the case in times past. While traditional monastic training continued in its mountain centers, Buddhism had become a relatively minor social force in Korea.

Pressures on Korean Buddhism during the Japanese Colonial Period

Foreign pressures on the late-Chosôn court brought the first real break in this state of affairs. Japanese suzerainty over Korea, which began in 1897 with the appointment of a Japanese adviser to the Chosôn-dynasty throne and became formalized in 1910 with the official annexation of Korea, initially worked to the advantage of Buddhism. Japan was, after all, a Buddhist country, and its advisers served as strong advocates for the religion in the moribund Korean court. One of the most noteworthy results of Japanese intervention involved thelifting of the centuries-long restriction on monks entering the capital of Seoul. Since the fifteenth century, Buddhist monks had been periodically prohibited from entering the capital, a restriction made permanent in 1623. Such measures were intended to isolate Buddhism in the countryside and keep it far removed from the centers of political power. It was not until 1895, during the final years of the Chosôn dynasty, that this restriction was finally lifted. It took the intercession of the Japanese Nichiren monk Sano Zenrei (b. 1858) to convince King Kojong to make this proclamation. Sano considered Korean Buddhism to be extremely weak and the monks unlearned, with little faith in their religious ideology or meditative techniques. Given this weakened condition, Sano felt that such a show of good will toward the Korean monks might be enough to convince them to shift their allegiance to Japanese Buddhism, and specifically the Nichiren sect, thereby unifying Korean Buddhists under the Japanese banner.5)

  Indeed, Sano¡¯s efforts to get this restriction removed were said to have been greeted enthusiastically by many Korean monks, though they were not enough to convince Koreans to embrace the Nichiren school.6) The Chosôn court continued to vacillate, however, over whether to honor their commitment to Sano, and it was not until 1904 that all government controls on Buddhism halted, marking the official end of the Choson policy of suppression.

 As Sano¡¯s case shows, Japanese interest in Korean Buddhism was hardly benign, and the Japanese ascendancyin Korea during the first half of the twentieth century brought new challenges to the traditional Korean worldview. Waves of Japanese Buddhist missionaries came to proselytize in Korea and made considerable inroads within indigenous Buddhist circles. Because several of the most successful missionary schools--such as Nichiren, Jo - do shinshu - , and the O-tani school of the Highashi Honganji sect of Japanese Pure Land--had no real analogues in Korea, they challenged many of the fundamental teachings and practices of the native Buddhist tradition. There have been few instances in Asian history (with the possible exception of medieval Southeast Asia) where one Buddhist country, with its own deep-seated indigenous traditions, has been colonized by another. Rarer still has it been for the conquerors to have imposed their own tradition on the vanquished. But this is precisely what happened in Korea during the Japanese occupation. Korean monks in the present age continue to react to the legacy of this forced occupation.7)

5) See Takahashi To-ru, Richo- Bukkyo (Yi-Dynasty Buddhism) (1929; reprt. ed., Tokyo: Kokusho Kanko-kai, 1973) pp. 889-897.
6) See some of the examples summarized in Takahashi, Richo- Bukkyo, pp. 897-898.
7) Useful surveys of the Japanese colonial period include Sô Kyôngju,¡° Han¡¯guk Pulgyo paengnyônsa¡±(A Hundred-Year History of Korean Buddhism) Sônggok nonch¡¯ong 4 (August, 1973): 37-78; Kang Sôkchu and Pak Kyônggu - n, Pulgyo kônse paengnyôn (The Most Recent Hundred Years of Buddhism) (Seoul: Chungang Ilbo, 1980), and Yu Pyôngdôk, ¡°Ilche sidae u - i Pulgyo¡±(Buddhism during the Japanese Colonial Period), in Han¡¯guk Pulgyo sasangsa, Sungsan Pak Kilchin paksa hwagap kinyu - m, edited by Sungsan Pak Kilchin paksa hwagap kinyu - m wiwônhoe (Iri: Wôn¡¯gwang University Press, 1975), pp. 1159-1187. In English, see the survey in Wi Jo Kang, Religion and Politics in Korea Under the Japanese Rule [sic], Studies in Asian Thought and Religion, vol. 5 (Lewiston/Queenston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1987.

  Japanese motives in introducing their own forms of Buddhism into  Korea were not always as sinister as Korean nativistic scholarship would lead us to believe. True, the Japanese colonial administration did see religion, and especially Buddhism, as a tool of government policy, much as Buddhism had been exploited by the military government in Japan during the Meiji Restoration. Missionaries from such Japanese Buddhist sects as the Nichiren Sho - shu - and Jo - do shinshu - lobbied to be allowed to proselytize in Korea. While such missionary activities began in the Japanese expatriate enclaves, the Japanese colonial administration subsequently encouraged missionaries to extend their activities into Korean communities as well, as a means of exerting ideological control over the native populace. Periodic attempts were even made to force Korean Buddhism to merge with one or another Japanese sects, moves that would have obliterated the independent identity of the indigenous church. To the Koreans, the most notorious of these attempts was an agreement reached in October 1910 by Yi Hoegwang (1840-after 1925) of the new Wônjong (Consummate School) to merge Korean Buddhism into the Japanese So - to - school, the Zen school whose¡° gradualist¡±ideology, the Koreans protested, had the least affinities with the putative¡° subitism¡±of traditional Korean Buddhism. While this merger was soon scuttled, it nevertheless attests to the seriousness of these new political pressures the Japanese exerted on Korean Buddhism. But we also cannot deny the altruism of some Japanese missionaries, who were sincerely concernedwith rehabilitating Buddhism after its long suppression by the dominant Neo-Confucian ideologues of the Chosôn dynasty.

 The Japanese colonial administration also intervened directly in Korean Buddhist affairs, intervention that had in fact begun soon after the Japanese annexation of Korea. Governor-General Terauchi Masatake promulgated a series of measures in November, 1906, that began to place regulations on Korean Buddhism similar to those placed on Japanese Buddhism during the Meiji Restoration.8) Finally, the Korean Monastery Law (jisatsurei Kor. sach¡¯allyông) of June 3, 1911, formalized direct Japanese supervision of Buddhist temples and in 1912 established a new, centralized system of government control, in which the abbots of thirty (later thirty-one) head monasteries (ponsan), all licensed and confirmed by the Japanese government, controlled a large number of smaller branch temples (malsa).9)
Such central control of the tradition had several deleterious effects, which linger into the contemporary period. The groupings of head and branch monasteries created by the Japanese were often arbitrary and based purely on administrative convenience. The branch temples occasionally belonged to different monastic lineages from the main monasteries, and in some cases had been bitter rivals with their larger and more powerful neighbors. This centralized structure also fostered authoritarianism and corruption within the order. In the last half of the Chosôn dynasty, individual monasteries had enjoyed all but complete autonomy in choosing their abbot and officers, deciding their practice schedule, and in making financial decisions. With such decisions now subject to veto at the national level, deep-seated resentment was created toward the centralized Buddhist administration. This system also increased considerably the power of the abbot, leading to near-tyranny in a few cases.10)
 A similar centralized administrative structure remains in place within the Chogye order today, generating similar types of tension.

8) For the Meiji persecution of Buddhism, see James Edward Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and its Persecution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
9) For the list, see Kang Su - kchu and Pak Kyônggu - n, Pulgyo kônse paengnyôn, pp. 56-57. In 1924, these ponsan became thirty-one with the addition of Hwaomsa to the list.
10) See some of the examples cited in Kang Sôkchu and Pak Kyônggu - n, Pulgyo konse paengnyon, p. 85.


Buddhist Modernization Movements

Japanese and Western imperialist pressures forced Korea--and eventually Korean Buddhists--to become more cognizant of outside forces, leading to a burgeoning modernization movement within the religion during the decades bracketing the Japanese annexation of Korea. Korean Buddhists were abruptly aroused from their long isolationist slumber and forced to begin a wrenching process of self-examination. How had their tradition arrived at its present dire straits? How might it be restored to its former glory? Calls for secularization became increasingly strident: if Korean Buddhism were to survive in the modern world, it would have to adapt--an application, the monks claimed, of the Buddhist doctrine of skill in means (upa - ya) to the changing circumstances of the contemporary scene.
Korean Buddhist reform movements during this period can be divided into two major types. First were more conservative movements, which sought torevitalize traditional forms of Korean Buddhist thought and practice. Second were the more progressive movements, which sought to introduce innovations that would make the religion more responsive to the needs of modern life. Many of the most radical reforms, especially the call that monks be allowed to marry, were first prompted by Korean contacts with Buddhism in Japan. But once the ecclesiastical institutions established by the Japanese colonial government tried to impose similar reforms on Korean Buddhism, nationalistic pride rejected mostsuch measures and the reforms were doomed. Many Korean Buddhists instead turned stridently conservative, seeking to root out all progressive elements within the order. To show their defiance toward¡° secularized¡±Buddhism, now identified with the Japanese oppressors, Koreans sought instead to restore their old traditions from the putative Golden Age of the Unified Silla and Koryôperiods. Several of the most liberal reformers at the time of the transition to Japanese rule would eventually become leaders of the conservative faction, which would become dominant after the March First independence movement. This rift between¡° liberal¡±Japanese toadyism and¡° conservative¡±Korean nationalism became intractable, creating severe tensions that persist into the modern period.

Conservative Reform Movements

 The leaders of the conservative movement included several of the most renowned monks of the age. Song Kyônghô (1849-1912) sought to recreate the late-Koryô Imje (Ch. Linji) style of Sôn cultivation by restoring the technique of kanhwa Sôn (the Chan of observing the keyword), or ko - an Zen, to supreme place in Korean Buddhist praxis. Paek Hangmyông (1867-1929) started a rural, agriculturally based religious movement, in which So - n practice was to be carried out in conjunction with field work. Paek¡¯s ideology was based on the prototypic Sôn injunction of¡° no work, no food,¡±perhaps reflecting in its Korean form influence as well from the rural utopias envisioned in the Sirhak (Practical Learning) school of the disenfranchised Confucian literati.
But perhaps the most important, and certainly the most traditional, of the conservative reformers was Paek Yongsông (1864-1940). Ordained at Haeinsa under Hwawôl sônsa at the age of nineteen, Yongsông was a strong advocate of Sôn Buddhism, and practiced together with Hyewôl and Man¡¯gong, two of the more iconoclastic figures in turn-of-the-century Korean Buddhism. Yongsông was a participant in the Independence movement of 1919, along with Han Yongun, to whom we shall turn later. During his year and a half in prison, he translated many su - tras (such as the voluminous Hwaômgyông) from literary Chinese into han¡¯gu - l, the Korean vernacular script, in order to make more texts accessible to ordinary people.

 Yongsông belittled the thrust of many of the institutional reforms proposed by progressive figures, such as moving monasteries into the cities, as we shall see below. Although improvements in Buddhist administration might be useful in strengthening the institutions of Buddhism, they would have little effect on the overall health of the religion, he argued. Only by restoring the practice tradition--which for Yongsông meant kanhwa Sôn--could Buddhism have any hope of becoming a viable religious force; and unless it could reestablish itself as a religious power, there was no hope of Buddhism having any impact on Korean society.
Yongsông was a strong advocate of the traditional celibate lifestyle of the monks--to the point that in 1926 he wrote a memorial to the Japanese governor-general entitled¡° Prohibit the Lifestyle of Breaking the Precepts¡± (Pômgye saenghwal ku - mji). Because of his interest in ensuring the continuance of the bhiks.u and bhiks.un.¦¯ traditions, he personally established many ordination platforms and transmitted the complete monastic precepts (kujokkye) several times during his career.11) His ideal lifestyle, like that of Paek Hangmyông, was one in which Sôn practice and agriculture would be combined. He lived out this ideal at his hermitage on Paegun Mountain, where he planted over 10,000 persimmon and chestnut trees, which he and his monks tended.
Yongsông led the attack on Christianity, with numerous tracts clarifying the Buddhist message and demonstrating its superiority to that alien Western religion. Yongsông noted that while he was living in Seoul, he had witnessed the extraordinary successes Christian missionaries were having in converting Koreans, while the Buddhist p¡¯ogyodang (missionary centers) were all but empty.12) As a way of distinguishing the goals of Buddhism from those of Christianity, Yongsông advocated changing the name of Buddhism to the¡° Religion of Great Enlightenment¡±(Taegakkyo), since religious awakening was its unique feature. Yongsông¡¯s Kuwôn chôngjong(The Orthodox School that Returns to the Fountainhead) was a tract written comparing Buddhism to Confucianism, Daoism, and Christianity, a modern twist on the old¡° three teachings¡±syncretism of medieval East Asian philosophy. While Confucianism presented a complete moral doctrine, Yongsông argued, it was deficient in transcendental teachings. Daoism was deficient in moral teachings but half-understood transcendental teaching. Christianity was fairly close to the Buddhist ch¡¯ôn¡¯gyo¡°( Teachings of [humans] and gods¡±), which taught the kinds of meritorious actions that would lead to rebirth in heavenly realms; it was, however, completely ignorant of the transcendental teaching. Only Buddhism, Yongsông concluded, presented all facets of both moral and transcendental teachings.13)
Bridging the conservative and progressive factions was Pak Hanyong (1870-1948), a leading theorist of the reformist movement. Hanyong downplayed the importance of Sôn alone in Korea, a stand advocated by many of the conservative leaders, and stressed instead the twin foci of Sôn meditation practice and Kyo doctrinal study, an approach emblematic of Korean Buddhism since the Koryô. Based on this fusion of traditional Buddhist elements, Buddhists must then begin to modernize their religion by expanding their knowledge of science and technology and by introducing Western cultural values into Buddhism.
Pak saw hope for the Buddhism of his era. Three-Kingdoms Buddhism, he said, was the era of Buddhist expansion, Koryô the era of prosperity,
11) Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1130.
12) See source cited in Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1127 n. 28.
13) Han Chongman,¡° Usin sasang,¡±p. 1128-1129. Compare the Buddhist response to Christianity in Sri Lanka, as discussed in Kitsiri Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society 1750-1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 191-255.

and the Chosôn dynasty the era of degeneration. It was during the present age, however, that Buddhism would be restored.14) Five reforms in the personal character of Buddhists were necessary before this reformation of the religion could occur: 1) abandon pride and study extensively, while emptying the mind; 2) abandon laziness and practice ferociously; 3) abandon self-action and engage in actions that will benefit others; 4) abandon niggardliness and develop charity, giving both materially and spiritually; 5) abandon self-satisfaction and develop a mind that likes constantly to question and learn.15) To realize these aims, he devoted himself to the education of Buddhist youth, serving for many years as the main lecturer at the Buddhist Central Seminary (Pulgyo Chungang Hangnim).

Han Yongun and the Progressive Reformers

 But it was the progressive reformers who would have the greatest effect on the subsequent history of Korean Buddhism. Most prominent among these crucial figures were Han Yongun (1879-1944), also known by the sobriquet Manhae, and Pak Chungbin (1894-1943), sobriquet Sot¡¯aesan. The works of these two figures reveal the forces unleashed in Korea by the political upheaval accompanying the decay of the Chosôn dynasty: first the Tonghak movement of 1896-1897 and the Japanese occupation of Korea. For our purposes here, I will focus on Han Yongun.

14) See Pak Yanyong¡¯s essay in Haedong Pulgyo, no. 4, pp. 3-5; quoted Han Chongman, ¡°Usin sasang,¡±p. 1138.
15) From Pak Yanyong¡¯s essay in Chosôn Pulgyo wôlbo, no. 9; see the quotation in Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±pp. 1136-1137.

Han Yongun, monk, social and religious reformer, renowned poet (he authored Nim u-i chimmuk,¡° Silence of the Beloved,¡±one of the first modern poems in vernacular Korean), influential magazine editor, and translator, is best known in Korea as one of the thirty-three leaders of the March First Movement (Samil Undong), the independence movement from Japanese rule that occurred in 1919.16) While still in his teens, Yongun had participated in the Tonghak (Eastern Learning) Rebellion during the last decade of the nineteenth century, which sought to purge Western influences from Korean society and restore native Korean values. Looking back into his country¡¯s own traditions led Yongun to Buddhism, and in 1905, at the age of twenty-seven, he ordained as a monk at Paektamsa on Sôrak Mountain. Profoundly influenced by the important Chinese reformer Liang Qichao¡¯s writings on the West, he went to Vladivostok in 1905-1906 in an unsuccessful attempt to travel to the United States via Siberia and Europe. In 1908, Yongun was however able to travel to Japan, where he was amazed by the conciliation he found there between traditional forms of Buddhism and modern technological culture.
Profoundly affected by his overseas experiences and distressed at what he considered the degenerate state of his own tradition of Buddhism--poor

16) Korean studies on Han Yongun are voluminous. Among the more accessible treatments are Han Chongman,¡° Pulgyo usin sasang,¡±in Han¡¯guk Pulgyo sasangsa, pp. 1121-1158, and esp. 1140-1154. In English, see Mok Chong-bae,¡° Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡± Korea Journal 10, no. 12 (Dec., 1979), pp. 19-27; An Pyong-jik,¡° Han Yong-un¡¯s Liberalism: An Analysis of the¡® Reformation of Korean Buddhism,¡¯¡±Korea Journal 19, no. 12 (Dec. 1979), pp. 13-18.

learning, little meditation training, and lax observance of precepts--Yongun called on Korean Buddhism to evolve along what he termed modern, scientific lines, while still drawing from its wellspring in Asian spiritual culture.
To express his vision of such a contemporary form of Buddhism, Yongun wrote in 1910 a treatise calling for what were at the time radical changes in the Korean tradition. This tract is his seminal Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon (Treatise on the Reformation of Korean Buddhism),17)
One of the first attempts by a Korean to explores ways in which Western liberalism might be applied in a Korean context. Yongun saw the world in melioristic terms, as in a continualstate of evolution that would culminate ultimately in an ideal civilization. He considered that the tide of reform then sweeping the world in science, politics, and religion would leave Korea, and specifically Korean Buddhism, behind if it did not learn to respond to these changes. To survive, Koreans must transform their nation from a static, tradition-bound country into a dynamic society at the forefront of this tide.
Later arrested and imprisoned for his participation in the March First Movement, Yongun became an outspoken proponent of Korean independence. While elderly Buddhist monks isolated in the mountains might be ignorant of this need for reform, Yongun says, younger monks were aware of it and would have to initiate and sustain reform.18) Hence,

17) Han Yongun, Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon (Treatise on the Reformation of Korean Buddhism), Yi Wônsôp, ed. and trans. (Seoul: Manhae Sasang Yôn¡¯guhoe, 1983). In these notes, I will cite the photolithographic reprint of Yongun¡¯s original Sino-Korean text included as the appendix to this edition.

Buddhist youth movements independent of monastic control were strongly supported by Yongun and other reformers during this period, as the only way of ensuring that younger Buddhists did not fall into the same habits that had ossified their seniors. A series of such youth organizations were established during the occupation period: the Buddhist Youth Association in 1920, Buddhist Reformation Association in 1922, and General League of Buddhist Youth in 1931. Yongun¡¯s analysis produced something of a generation gap within the order between conservative senior monks and liberal junior monks, a gap that has reappeared in the contemporary Chogye order.
In his ¡°Essay on the Ideologies of Buddhism¡±(Non Pulgyo chi chuu - i) from his Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon,19) Yongun explains that all the various teachings of Buddhism can be broadly divided into two categories: an egalitarian ¡°ideology of equality¡±(p¡¯yôngdu - ng chuu - i), and a salvific ¡°ideology of saving the world¡±(kuse chuu - i). Buddhism was founded upon the ideal of egalitarianism: from the standpoint of absolute truth, all the inequalities of the world could be seen as in fact equal. This interpretation of equality springs from the Hwaôm/Huayan notion of the unimpeded interpenetration pertaining between all phenomena in the universe (sasa muae/shishi wuai), in which each thing creates, and is in turn created by, every other thing. Such a vision of symbiotic interrelatedness could provide a Buddhistic foundation forworld peace

18) Pulgyo chi, vol. 88, p. 2,¡° A Plan for the Reformation of Korean Buddhism;¡±noted in Mok Chong-bae,¡° Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡±Korea Journal 10, no. 12 (Dec., 1979), p. 20.
19) Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon, Yi Wônsôp ed., pp. 12-15.

and universal equality between individuals, races, nations, and continents.20)

 This Buddhistic notion of equality could develop as well into the modern political doctrines of freedom and universalism, because it is opposed to looking at things from the standpoint of the individual or the nation; it could also lead to self-determination, because nations would see that it was wrong to enforce their own political will on other countries. While egalitarianism may be the essence of truth, that truthfunctioned through the intent to¡° save the world.¡±This salvific aspect, the second major division of Buddhist ideology according to Yongun, must come into play if freedom and peace were to be achieved. Soteriology is the opposite of egoistic, self-serving action; it instead is motivated by the great compassion of Buddhism, creating a sense of mutual dependence and cooperation between all beings.21) As long as Buddhist modernization was driven by these two principles, it could accommodate such Western ideals as democratization while maintaining its basis in indigenous Korean culture.

 In order for these principles to be useful in the reformation of Buddhism and Korean society, however, the religion would have to be brought out of the mountains and into thelives of ordinary Koreans in the villages and cities. Because Buddhism had been forced into mountain exile during the Chosôn dynasty, monks were ignorant of the changing conditions in the

20) Han Yongun chônjip (The Collected Works of Han Yongun), p. 45; noted in Mok Chong-bae¡°, Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡±p. 22.
21) All above from Han Yongun Chônjip, p. 104, cf. also p. 46; quoted in Han Chongman, ¡°Usin sasang¡±, p.1148.

world and incapable of reacting intelligently to those new situations. Monks were unwilling to take risks and had become unconscionably diffident. This diffidence sapped Buddhism of the competitive spirit necessary for continued evolution, causing the religion to degenerate. And finally, due to this degeneration, the ideology and practice of monks had declined, affecting all aspects of the tradition, from monastic education and proselytization, to the organizational structure of the order and financial management.22) If Buddhism was to survive, it was necessary to reestablish ties with lay society and begin working anew toward the salvation of all beings. Such a mass movement, based on Buddhist principles, would help to democratize society and thereby strengthen the institutions of government, education, and religion.
To mitigate against the deleterious effects of their long, enforced isolation, Yongun proposed a radical migration of Buddhist monasteries from the mountains to the cities.23) He proposed three different plans. First, a few of the most important mountain monasteries might be left unchanged as pilgrimage sites, Yongun proposed, but the rest should be moved to local districts and villages. Alternatively, all the large monasteries might be left as they were, but the smaller temples moved into the cities. Or finally, small hermitages and temples might be demolished and merged with nearby monasteries; those merged monasteries would then establish p¡¯ogyodangs (missionary centers) in the nearby villages.24)
Radical reforms in the Buddhist institutions of Korea werealso necessary

22) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 112; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1152. 23) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 112; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±pp. 1151-1152. 24) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 114; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1152.

to create more direct contacts between monks and laity. While Buddhism may have become inept in responding to the needs of society during the Chosôn dynasty, this did not mean that the religion was irrelevant to lay Koreans. The goal of Buddhism was to bring awakening to each individual, and to do this Buddhism had to be in constant contact with the people through missionary activities. This drive for relevancy should occur along two fronts: first, popularizing Buddhist rituals and scriptures, so that people could more easily understand the tenets of the religion; and second, rationalizing Buddhist ecclesiastical ceremonies andeconomic assets.25) Simplification was the watchword in both these areas. The puzzling array of deities and beings then worshipped in Korean monasteries, including the arhats, pratyekabuddhas, the seven stars of the Big Dipper, and the dharma protectors, should be reduced to one--the Buddha S¢¥ a - kyamuni.26) Formal ceremonies should be simplified so that they would be more accessible and comprehensible to the laity.27)
But the major obstacle to the relevancy of Buddhism in modern, market-driven political economies was financial: the economic dependency of monks and monasteries on the laity was a drain on the resources of the nation.28) Monks must learn to contribute to the economy by forming temple agricultural cooperatives devoted to the cultivation of fruit, mulberry trees (for silk), tea, and chestnuts. If monasteries were selfsupporting, two benefits would be forthcoming: first, better use of forest products and other natural resources; and second, increased productivity among the monks and ultimately among the entire workforce. Yongun also proposed organs that would distribute the proceeds coming from monastic enterprises to the needy in society. Such enterprises would enhance the functioning of Buddhist compassion within society, rather than encouraging the monks to remain parasitic on the laity, as he claimed had been common theretofore.29)

25) See his article in Tonga Ilbo, 1920,¡° Necessity for Self-rule and New Activity by Buddhism,¡±noted in Mok Chong-bae¡°, Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡±p. 25.
26) Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon, pp. 43-50:¡° On articles revered by Buddhists¡±; noted in Mok Chong-bae¡°, Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡±p. 26.
27) Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon, pp. 50-53,¡° On Various Ceremonies by Buddhists¡±; noted in Mok Chong-bae¡°, Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡±p. 26.
28) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 117; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1150.

29) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 165; quoted in Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1150.

 But even if such moves created a salutary Buddhist presence in the cities, the interests of the religion would not be served if monks were unable to communicate with the laity. Yongun saw the success Christian missionaries were having in Korea and advocated that monks too must be familiar with modern civilization if they were to duplicate Christian successes in proselytization. Clearly vast improvements in monastic education were necessary. The monastic curriculum emphasizing the study of literary Chinese was clearly out of date, and Yongun advocated new textbooks for doctrinal training and improved teaching methods.
Yongun proposed that between the ages of fifteen and forty, Buddhist monks should complete an uniform, nationally sanctioned, curriculum.

 First monks should study worldly subjects like science, technology, and civics, so that they would become fluent in the knowledge common to ordinary people. Next, they should turn to Buddhist subjects, so that they would become fluent exponents of their own religion. Finally, they should study overseas so as to understand foreign cultures and to expand their intellectual horizons.30) Only with such wide-ranging knowledge could monks hope to be truly capable missionaries, who would have any chance of expressing a vision of modernity that was authentically Buddhistic.

 But along with reforms in doctrinal instruction, the approach to Sôn meditation needed also to be standardized and its presentation systematized so that it could be learned, and taught, more easily to both monks and lay persons. Centers of Sôn training were too scattered and the training offered too inconsistent in quality. Yongun advocated that one or two large halls be opened under the guidance of the best Sôn masters. All monks, even those in support positions in the monasteries, should be expected to sit for one or two hours daily. Such a move, a major departure from traditional monastic practice where meditation monks were kept isolated from much of the rest of the monastery, would establish an egalitarian attitude within the monasteries by breaking down the division in the ecclesiastical organization between support and practice monks. Finally, Yongun advocated closing yômbultangs, or halls devoted to the recitation of the Buddha¡¯s name, because these were places where ignorant, uninformed practice was occurring. Monks were not learning to see that the Pure Land was within their own minds, the Sôn orientation toward yômbul practice that had been common in Korea since the Koryô period. To ensure that such reforms were instituted throughout the country, Yongun finally advocated that a national headquarters in Seoul 30) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 106; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1151. be placed in charge of both lecture halls and Sôn centers, so as to standardize both branches of Buddhist education throughout the country.31)

 Yongun¡¯s attempts to combine lay and monastic Buddhism were justified by drawing on the mid-Koryô clarion call for the harmonization of Sôn meditation practice and Kyo doctrinal study. Sôn and Kyo had become estranged during the latter part of the Chosôn dynasty, with most of the conservative reformers within Korean Buddhism becoming exponents of the Sôn faction. Yongun instead emphasized the practice of both, restoring the Koryô emphasis on the symbiotic relationship between these two branches of Buddhist practice. Sôn, Yongun explained, develops a stable, concentrated, unmoving mind, which allows the practitioner to endure the difficulties of life and ultimately reach nirva - n.a. Kyo instead develops wisdom and provides the principles necessary to put compassion into action so as to save other beings. Drawing on an ancient metaphor used in Korea by both Wônhyo and Chinul, Yongun suggests that Sôn and Kyo are like the two wings of a bird, and the fortunes of Buddhism depend on the presence of both.


31) Pulgyo chi, vol. 88, p. 10; noted Mok Chong-bae,¡° Han Yong-un and Buddhism,¡±pp. 23-24.

Han Yongun¡¯s Calls for a Married Clergy

 But perhaps the most radical solution Han Yongun offered to this perceived split between the monks and the laity in Korean Buddhism was his call that monks and nuns should be allowed to marry, For an insightful discussion of Yongun¡¯s rationale for allowing monks to marry,32) a move that would controvert monastic standards of celibacy in place since virtually the inception of Buddhism in Korea. Apart from a few individual iconoclasts, Korean Buddhist monasticism had always been based on the institution of celibacy. Even during the severe repressions of the Chosôn dynasty, Buddhist monks still mostly observed celibacy. It was not until the final years of the dynasty that adherence to the precepts became increasingly lax among the ecclesia. As contact with incoming Japanese missionary monks brought the news that that most materially advanced of Asian Buddhist nations permitted monks to take wives, some of the first widespread instances of marriage among Korean monks are noted. By the turn of the twentieth century, it had become common knowledge among Koreans that many monks were secretly marrying, regardless of the restrictions still in place. The Chosôn Pulgyo wôlbo(Korean Buddhism Monthly) of November, 1912, reported, for example, that many monks of the time neither wore monk¡¯s robes nor kept the precepts--both discreet codes for marriage.33) Han Yongun felt that this increasingly common state of affairs should be acknowledged publicly and marriage officially allowed by the order. Monks who wished to marry would then no longer need to

32) see Yi Nu-nghwa, Chosôn Pulgyo t¡¯ongsa (A Comprehensive History of Korean Buddhism) (1918; reprint ed., Seoul: U-ryu Munhwasa, 1959), vol. 1, pp. 617-620. 33) The testimony of this journal may be somewhat suspect, since it is considered to have been the organ of pro-Japanese factions within the Korean Buddhist order. See Henrik H. Sorensen¡°, Korean Buddhist Journals during Early Japanese Colonial Rule,¡±Korea Journal 30-1 (Jan., 1990), p. 19.

maintain the pretense of being celibate but could get on with their real vocation of studying, meditating, and teaching without inviting potential scandal or suffering scruples.
In March and September of 1910, Han Yongun sent separate petitions to the Japanese cabinet (Chungch¡¯uwôn) and the monastery supervisory board (T¡¯onggambu) asking that they lift restrictions on monks and nuns taking a spouse and allow both the freedom (but not the obligation) to marry.34)
Yongun¡¯s arguments in favor of clergy marriages appeal to common sense, Buddhist doctrinal teachings, and the potential benefits of married monks to society, religion, and the government. Social stratification within Buddhism between the celibate clergy and the married laity, Yongun explains, was inhibiting the religion¡¯s ability to adapt to the changing circumstances of modern life. In an argument remarkably similar to those proposed by reformists within the Catholic Church of our own age, celibacy, Yongun suggests, was no longer relevant in the present age, which was characterized by rapid social change. Because this precept remains in place, however, many monks who would remain in the order if allowed to marry were instead seceding from the order. Monks numbered only five to six thousand during Yongun¡¯s time, andtheir numbers would continue to remain small, he claimed, as long as this outdated restriction remained in place. And privately, many monks were ignoring the rule on celibacy and marrying anyway, causing unnecessary

34) Both memorials are appended to the section on marriage in his Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon, pp. 63-64, 64-65.

pangs of guilt. Because they are compelled to honor outmoded restrictions, the waning influence of Buddhist monks was weakening both society and religion, a process that would eventually lead to the demise of the religion. If monks were, however, allowed to marry and produce offspring who would be Buddhist by birth, Buddhism would be better able to compete with other religions and widen its own sphere of influence in society, thereby protecting its viability. The internal tensions over the marriage issue were, by extension, upsetting the virtue (todôk) of the government as well. If monks were instead permitted to marry, the number of people within the Buddhist order would vastly increase, strengthening both government and society through the burgeoning influence of a revitalized Buddhism.
In addition to these practical benefits accruing from allowing monks to marry, such basic doctrines of Korean Buddhism as¡° the unimpeded interpenetration of all phenomena¡±left no valid grounds for claiming that such a common human affair as marriage was unwholesome and thus deserving of being prohibited. The main reason monks were practicing celibacy, Yongun argued, was because of the Vinaya prohibition on sexual intercourse. But the cardinal Hwaôm doctrine of consummate interfusion (wônyung/yuanrong) offered an elegant solution to this restriction: since truth and falsity had no real essence, and merit and demerit had no fixed natures of their own, all such extremes were actually interfused. Thus celibacy and marriage were really no different and neither should be considered optimal for monastic practice. True, marriage might make it more difficult to maintain monastic decorum. Nevertheless, Han argued, the potential benefits accruing to the religion from having monks who intimately understood secular life were so great that marriage ought to be allowed.35)

 The Buddha originally abolished marriage only as an expedient means of practice for those of lesser capacity--presumably meaning those monks still attached to sexual desire, or those too dull to understand the doctrine of consummate interfusion, though Yongun does not clarify precisely what he means here. This prohibition had not, however, been an inviolate feature of Buddhism since the inception of the religion--a valid point, since the Vinaya tells us that this precept was not instituted until some two decades into the dispensation.36) However, since this was an ancient ecclesiastical law, the monks could not decide on their own to ignore it andbegin marrying. A government proclamation to permit marriage was necessary. Neither the cabinet nor the monastery supervisory board responded to Yongun¡¯s petition, however.
Rebuffed by the government, Han Yongun instead tried to lobby the ecclesiasticalleaders of Korean Buddhism to accept such a move. In his ¡°Essay on the Future of Buddhism and whether Monks and Nuns Should be Allowed to Marry¡±in his Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon,37) Han Yongun reiterated his arguments in systematic fashion, exploring the rationale behind the prohibition against clergy marriage and why these were no longer applicable in contemporary society. Han lists the four major arguments for maintaining the prohibition against marriage, and

35) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 119; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1153. 36) For a representative description of the background to the promulgation of this first disciplinary precept, see the account in the Maha-vagga. 37) Chosôn Pulgyo yusillon, pp. 58-63.

repudiates each.
1) Clergy marriage controverts ethical norms (hae ô yulli). Yongun replies that most people consider the greatest ethical sin to be a lack of filial piety. By not carrying on the lineage of the family, the celibate monk is offending the hundreds of thousands of generations of both ancestors and potential successors. Yongun here has simply revived a perennial argument, used often against Buddhism throughout its history in East Asia, that celibates were unfilial; but it a startling twist that a progressive Buddhist is now using it against more conservative factions within the order.
2) Clergy marriage injures the nation (hae ô kukka). While this may seem to us a rather naive position for Yongun to adopt, it is one that would appeal to the cultural and social inferiority Koreans were feeling during this period. Yongun replies that in civilized countries (meaning the West), where people are free to choose their own marriage partner, the population has expanded rapidly, allowing rapideconomic and social progress as well. When the liberal politicians of the Occident hear that Buddhist monks are prohibited from marrying,¡° they are surprised and feel sadness,¡±he says. Yongun¡¯s position resonates in particular with those of progressive intellectuals after the 1880s, who felt that fundamentalchanges were necessary in traditional Korean society in order to support the establishment of a modern nation-state along Western lines.38)
3) Clergy marriage impedes religious dissemination (hae ô p¡¯ogyo). Although Buddhists are trying to disseminate theirreligion throughout the world, Yongun explains, if they restrict marriage and do not allow potential converts to have a family, then who would have any interest in converting to Buddhism? But even if they were successful in converting some people to Buddhism, those converts would finally only revert to lay life.
4) Clergy marriage inhibits moral development (hae ô p¡¯unghwa). Humans have strong desires for food and sex; indeed, persons who have physical bodies but say they have no such desires are braggarts and liars.
But if people forcibly try to repress their desires by clinging to the precepts, those desires will only become stronger, bringing immense grief to them and making any kind of happiness impossible.¡° If we reflect upon Buddhist history after the end of the Koryôdynasty,¡±Han tells us, ¡°we see that the attempt to maintain the purity of the monks ruined Buddhism as a whole.¡±Yongun suggests here that Buddhists¡¯outmoded, conservative response to the challenge of the Neo-Confucian persecution-- holding fast to the precepts--led them to their present dire straits. Moral reforms stood a better chance of succeeding if marriage were allowed than by demanding that monks force themselves to maintain an outmoded, irrelevant precept.
In advocating clergy marriage, Yongun was not demanding that all monks and nuns should be forced to take a spouse. Religious committed to celibacy should be allowed to follow their own path; but so too should monks who thought marriage would be a way of furthering their religion.

38) See Michael Edson Robinson, Cultural Nationalism in Colonial Korea, 1920-1925, Korean Studies of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988), especially chap. 1.

Monks who choose marriage are simply following the examples of other Buddhist bodhisattvas and spiritual exemplars who practiced Buddhism while living in the world.39) Yongun even goes so far as to say that as long as the monk remains devoted to hisreligion, it was of little consequence whether he kept all the myriad rules of the Vinaya.40) By allowing monks to make this crucial decision for themselves, Buddhists would learn personal freedom of choice, a necessary quality along the road toward democracy.
Han¡¯s petitions and lobbying to allow marriage initially gained little support within the order. In March, 1913, for example, at a meeting of the abbots of the thirty head monasteries, an agreement was reached prohibiting wives from living in the temples, as well as forbidding women from lodging overnight in the monasteries.41) But these restrictions were difficult to maintain, given the calls for secularization occurring among some of the reformers within the order and the support of the Japanese governor-general for a married clergy. Within a decade, monks maintaining celibacy were in the minority. Finally, in October, 1926, intense Japanese pressure compelled the head abbots to repeal the prohibition against marriage. From that point on monks were officially allowed to marry (taech¡¯ô) and eat meat (sigyuk). Within three years, some eighty percent of monasteries formally eliminated the restriction on

39) Han Yongun chônjip, p. 119; Han Chongman¡°, Usin sasang,¡±p. 1154.
40) Chosôn Pugyo yusillon, pp. 58-63.
41) Taemaesin, Mach 16, 1913; excerpted in Han¡¯guk ku-nse Pulgyo paengnyônsa (The Last Century of Buddhism in Korea) (Seoul: Minjoksa, n.d.), vol. 1, kwôn 1, Su-ngdan p¡¯ yônnyôn, p. 43.

having wives in residence, marking what was then the end of an era for traditional Korean Buddhism and the beginnings of a new schism in the order between married priests (taech¡¯ôsông) and celibate monks (pikkusu-ng).42)
A married clergy created profound changes in Korean monastic life during the Japanese colonial period. Monks with families needed guaranteed sources of income, prompting monks to accumulate private property and often take gainful employment. Such moves not only reduced the amount of property held in common by the monasteries, thus creating economic hardship for the bhiks.us who refused to take jobs, but also limited the amount of time spent in traditional monastic vocations, such as doctrinal study, meditation practice, and proselytization.
Conveniently for the Japanese colonial administration as well, married monks were much more sedentary, tied as they were to their families and jobs, and thus much less able to travel freely about the country fomenting demonstrations, or possibly spying, as were the celibate monks.

Implications for Contemporary Monastic Buddhism in Korea

Whatever the obvious problems Japanese dominion over the peninsula may have created for Korean Buddhism, the occupation did help to galvanize the tradition after centuries of Confucian persecution during the

42) Takahashi, Richô Bukkyo, p. 953; Kang Sôkchu and Pak Kyônggu-n, Pulgyo kônse paengnyôn, pp. 70-73.

Chosôn dynasty. The Japanese were decidedly sympathetic to Buddhism and did much to support the religion, especially during the Chosôn dynasty¡¯s final stage of decline. This support helped create a sense of pride in Buddhism, which restored the tradition¡¯s long-lost sense of selfesteem.
Contacts with Japanese monks also opened for the Koreans new perspectives on the social role of Buddhism, initiating much creative thought within the tradition concerning how to make the religion relevant to the changing conditions of contemporary life. At very least, exposure to the flourishing Buddhist tradition of Japan revealed to Koreans that Buddhism and modernity could develop hand in hand.
Tightening Japanese control over Korean Buddhism after the formal annexation of Korea, however, undermined the fledgling reform movement initiated by such leaders as Han Yongun. Because the reform proposals offered by this progressive faction within the order were often modeled upon Japanese developments that occurred during the Meiji period, these proposals closely mirrored the eventual religious policies of the Japanese colonial administration. Hence, progressive proposals--as for a married clergy--came to be identified with manipulative Japanese policy. After the March First independence movement of 1919, indigenous progressive reformsall but vanished as Korean Buddhism came to be dominated by the conservative faction within the order. The focus of change within Buddhism was then not to reform Buddhism but instead to restore the putative traditions of old. The reforms instituted by the government-general were consequently viewed as subterfuges for Japanese attempts to undercut the viability of the tradition. What Buddhism truly needed, many monks felt, was to look within its own traditions--back to the eminent Korean masters of the past, back to the doctrinal training and meditation practice of the Koryô golden age--for the raw materials from which to cast a revitalized Korean Buddhism. The victory of conservative forces within the order was assured.
The Purification Movement (chônghwa undong) of the 1950s and 1960s would seek to cleanse from Korean Buddhism the last vestiges of Japanese influence, including what was considered the most blatant of all-- the married clergy. The dominant Chogye order became a conservative institution of celibate monks, bitterly opposed to the much smaller T¡¯ aegoorder of married priests, who were considered to represent the remnants of failed Japanese colonial policy. With their near-total victory over the T¡¯aego priests, the Chogye leaders have entertained only grudgingly more recent initiatives from liberal, and usually younger, factions within the order, including calls for secularization. In recent years, the Chogye order has been rent by increasing discord between reform and conservative factions, and this conflict remains a major factor in contemporary ecclesiastical politics. The elderly leaders of the order remember with considerable bitterness the¡° reforms¡±foisted on the tradition by the Japanese, and fought those reforms for decades. After finally succeeding in driving out the Japanese and regaining control of the monasteries from the married monks, these senior monks have shown little interest in entertaining progressive initiatives from those whom they consider young upstarts within the ecclesia with no sense of history. Hence from a variety of standpoints, we see the continuing effect that the legacy of the Japanese occupation has had on contemporary Buddhism in Korea.
Clergy marriage during the Japanese occupation period ultimately was not something that the Korean Buddhists themselves independently chose. Rather, it was a policy forcedupon them by Japanese colonial administrators and, therefore, was inevitably opposed by Korean Buddhist nationalists. Once the Japanese were finally removed from power, celibacy was restored to most segments of the indigenous monastic tradition. But still today in Korea, many of the reasons that Han Yongun and other progressive reformers cited in first advocating clergy marriage remain. We may therefore expectthat, as long as the relevancy of traditional Buddhist institutions in contemporarysociety remains in question, the debate over the advisability of celibacy will continue within the Korean Buddhist church.


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