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Thoughts of Peace in Korean Seon Buddhism

Ven. Dr. Jinwol Lee (Prof. of Dongguk University, Korea)

1. Introduction

We in these days know that concerns of ‘life’ and ‘peace’ in the context of ethics and politics are universal around the world in which not only ceaselessly happen fighting and killing among people but also commits suicide oneself. It is really serious and urgent to solve the problems of careless treatment for life and unpeaceful situation of the world as well as to create the ethical culture and politics of life and peace in global community. We need a collective discussion about the life and peace around the world to find out ideal ways of solution for the crises of them. Nowadays, “life” and “peace” denote so much complex concept covering every fields of our lives, such as political, economic, social and cultural aspects. I think that nothing has not related with life and peace because everything might be recognized its value for life and could not be well without peace. Let me review and share some Buddhist ethical ideas about them and introduce some historical examples of advocators for life and peace in the traditional context of Korean Buddhism.

Regarding “life” and “peace” of Buddhism in terms of wellbeing and harmonious coexistence in tranquility, we should pay attention to the state of one’s mind and relation between and among existents, since Buddhism lead people to Nirvana and emphasizes the state of whatever beings exist interdependently. The Sanskrit word ‘nirvana’ literally means ‘blown out’ and is variously translated as extinction, emancipation, cessation and quiescence, as well as enlightenment in the context. Nirvana was originally regarded as the state in which all illusions, desires, cycle of birth and death itself are extinguished as they are kinds of flames of defilement and sufferings of transmigration. Beyond various regional and cultural traditions Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice and indicates the state of perfection of life as well as peace in mind and the world. Therefore, it could be said that peace is principal purpose of Buddhism, as well as life is main concern of Buddhism. Peace is essential to all lives for normal living. To care life we should pay attention to peace and make it.

2. Basic Thoughts of Life and Peace in Seon Buddhism

1) Basic Ideas

(1) Dependent Origination (prat?tya-samutp?da)
It is known that ‘dependent origination’ is a core teaching of Buddha. It is also used as ‘dependent causation,’ ‘conditioned co-arising.’ It is a fundamental Buddhist doctrine of interdependence of things. It teaches that all beings and phenomena exist or occur only because of their relationship with other beings or phenomena. Therefore, nothing can exist in absolute independence from other things or arise of its own accord. We should know that to make peace is first to understand the condition of existence and to take responsibility of harmonious coexistence among personal, communal, social, national, global and environmental relations. It is clear that good life and peace are depended on us how we think of and act for all living beings.

(2) Karma
The Sanskrit word karma originally meant action, which in Buddhism was interpreted to mean mental, verbal and physical actions, that is, thoughts, words and deeds. It works as potential energies residing in the inner realm of life which manifest themselves as various results in the future. Every action, no matter whatever good or evil, imprints a latent influence in one’s life. The karma, when activated by an external stimulus, produces a corresponding effect. According to this concept, one’s actions in the past have shaped one’s reality at present, and one’s actions in the present in turn determine one’s future. In the same way, we can understand that our society reflects our common or collective karma. Therefore, we can make a peaceful healthy society and world by our peaceful sound karma. Consequently it is clear that world peace depends upon our collective karma. We should keep in mind that our peaceful right thoughts, words and deeds could make peaceful sound world.

2) Practical Approaches
(1) Middle Path
The Middle Path refers to the Right Path which is driven from the Four Novel Truths (chatur-?rya-satya): the truths of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering. It is said that teaching of the four truths is a fundamental doctrine of Buddhism clarifying the cause of suffering and the way of emancipation. It is known that Buddha Shakyamuni had expounded the Four Novel Truths in the Deer Park in Varanasi during his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya: all existence is suffering; suffering is caused by selfish craving; the eradication of selfish craving brings about the cessation of suffering and enables one to attain nirvana; and there is a path by which this eradication can be achieved, namely the discipline of the Eightfold Right Path (right views, right thinking, right speech, right action, right way of life, right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right meditation). To attain Nirvana of oneself means the cessation of suffering oneself and to be extended it to one’s community or society, which could contribute to make peace in the world. It can be said that Eightfold path is the best way to attain peace in one’s life and the world.

(2) Boddhisattva Path
An ideal personality of Buddhist practice is Bodhisattva, who is enlightening oneself and others as well as benefiting oneself and others. In order to attain Buddhahood, Bodhisattva required the Six Perfections (p?ramit?): almsgiving (d?na), precepts (??la), forbearance (k??nti), assiduousness (v?rya), meditation (dhy?na), and wisdom (praj??). One should live the Bodhisattva’s life which is good not only for oneself but also for others and the world. It can be said that if the world could be full of Bodhisattvas, then the world would be wellbeing and peaceful. 1
Buddhist practitioner should learn and master meditation practice to attain Buddhahood. Buddhist meditation is designed to focus one’s mind and cause it to become clear and tranquil. From the clear mind one get wisdom which is to rid oneself of illusions and cause one to realize the truth. Through the practice one could manage one’s life well in terms of mentality and intelligence. If everyone’s life could be perfect and peaceful, the world could also be peaceful. Therefore, one should do one’s best in the practice meditation not only for oneself but also for the world peace.

3. Examples of Ethical Culture of Peace and Politics in Korean Seon Buddhist Tradition

1) Nondual Practice
It has been known that Choui (1786-1866) was a champion of non-dual practices such as Dado (Tea Practice) and Seon meditation as well as poetry composition, calligraphy, painting. Choui is not only recognized as Seon(Ch’an, Zen) Master but also Dharma master, Vinaya master, Tea Sage, and a master of Three Perfections: Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting. He maintained unusual friendships and relationship with many prominent Confucian scholar-officers, among them leaders of Practical Learning, including Dasan and Chusa. His compassionate and open-minded care of people treated everyone equally respected as Buddha and promoted Buddhism through popular ways of the society as effective communication with them. He tried to make peace beyond social status in the political and religious differences.

4. Conclusion
It is known that Seon Buddhists are a kind of peace worker or peace advocator in terms of practitioner of meditation along with nonviolence, tolerance and compassion, as they have sought Nirvana and taught interdependence of our existence, since Seon Buddhism and its tradition. Seon Buddhists have been contributing to the world peace by their traditional wisdom and compassion, including mental and environmental situations in the individual and global context. We have reviewed some spiritual bases for peace, such as Dependent Origination, Middle Path and meditation. We have also appreciated and recognized the historical culture of peace as an example in Korean Seon Buddhism. From the cultural traditions above, we could say in short that thoughts of life and peace in Korean Seon Buddhism related with ethics and politics have been based on interdependence, nonviolence, compassion and nirvana for perfect life and peace. Practice of Seon meditation could contribute to make peace for oneself and among sentient beings around the world in terms of ethics and politics.

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