By Shyamal Sinha
The Jogye “sect” as a distinct entity arose in the late 11th century when Jinul sought to combine the direct practices of the Seon school with the theological underpinnings of sutra-based Buddhist schools, as well as with Korean Pure Land Buddhism.
In 1994, the Jogye order managed 1,725 temples, 10,056 clerics and had 9,125,991 adherents.
The Jogye Order was thus established as the representative Seon order until the persecution of the Joseon Dynasty. Due to its inclusive nature, and emphasis on continual discipline, the Jogye Order gained considerable support from the military establishment, and developed across monasteries all over the Korean peninsula..
The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism plans to build a large-scale meditation complex in front of Bongam-sa, a temple in the city of Mungyeong, in South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province. Mungyeong Global Meditation Village, the brainchild of the Jogye Order’s Bongam Temple and a group of Seon monks, is intended to facilitate and promote the Korean Seon (Zen) meditation practice.
Bongam-sa was founded in 879 and is considered the center of Korean Seon meditation. The temple grounds are generally closed to the public as the monks meditate in closed quarters, with the exception of the public holiday to mark the Buddha’s birthday. In order to create a space where the public can experience Seon Buddhism without disturbing the monks’ practice, the temple drafted the idea of Mungyeong Global Meditation Village.
The idea was first mooted in 2009, and in April this year the committee responsible for the project acquired 120,000 square meters of land for the project, and received approval from the city government for the first stage of construction.
The complex will sit at the foot of Mount Heeyang and will include meditation and education facilities, accommodation, restaurants, and other amenities, and will be able to accommodate up to 300 people.
The complex has been designed by Hanrahan Meyers Architects, a New York-based architectural firm committed to sustainable design, who won the brief for the complex via an international competition. Their design is modern but takes the natural environment and the building style of traditional Korean temples into account. Hanrahan Meyers Architects are experienced in creating Buddhist sacred spaces, having designed the celebrated Won Dharma Center in Claverack, New York.
The Global Meditation Village project is aimed at promoting Seon Buddhism. “Buddhism is declining and the country is facing many issues, while all of humanity is witnessing a serious discrepancy between the material world and the spiritual world,” noted Monk Euijeong, head of the committee in charge of the project. “Seon should be in the lead of the civilization of the 21st century and [we] also plan to revive the spirit of Seon in South Korea to reach out to the world.” (Yonhap News Agency)
A ground-breaking ceremony to celebrate the first day of construction is scheduled for Thursday. The first stage of the project, which will include a welcome center and entrance road, a meeting room, office, restaurant, and lecture room, is scheduled to be completed by 1 December. The second stage, which includes the rest of the complex, is to be completed in 2021 to coincide with the 1,200th anniversary of the arrival of Seon Buddhism to South Korea.
Construction is estimated to cost some 29 billion won (US$26 million), funded in part by the central and local government, in addition to private donations.
Once the complex is completed, it will house various programs, including those taught in English, on traditional Seon mediation for the general public. According to Monk Euijeong, the committee hopes to attract famous Buddhist monks and teachers such a Jin Hyeok, Hyunghak, and Hae Min. He added that discussions are ongoing about how to make the meditation techniques of the Seon school more accessible to the general public.
The Jogye Order is a school of Seon Buddhism and South Korea’s largest Buddhist tradition, tracing its roots back 1,200 years to the Unified Silla (also known as the Later Silla) kingdom (668–935). In the recent decades, the Jogye Order has noted a dramatic decrease in the Buddhist population of South Korea. According to data for 2010 from the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, the majority of South Korea’s population—46.4 per cent—holds no religious affiliation, Christians make up the largest religious segment of the population at 29.4 per cent, while Buddhists account for 22.9 per cent.
The Jogye Order is spearheading various initiatives to promote Korean Buddhism in South Korea and abroad. There is hope is that the “Korean wave” will generate overseas interest in Korean Buddhism.