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Seon Monasticism

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Seon Monasticism

Postby Vidyaraja on Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:57 pm

I don't know if this is the proper sub-forum to ask this and I realize this is may be a fairly obscure question, but I'll give it a go. I have been interested in becoming a renunciant or ascetic for about 6 years now. My first task was to discover which tradition was for me, as I was attracted to Buddhism, Shaivism, and Taoism. After finding out Buddhism was for me, I had to discover which school of Buddhism suited me best. I am fairly confident that Zen is the school best suited for me (though I am also attracted to Shingon.) Having discovered that, I needed to find which of the living Zen traditions suits my mentality and needs and I believe Korean Seon Buddhism is a good fit for me.

The question then is how can I become a monk in Korea? Does anyone have any information on how a Westerner (I am an American) may go about accomplishing this or what the legal issues regarding visas and residency may be? I realize this is a difficult question since there is a paucity of information on the web on it, but since this is a Zen forum I figured I should ask here. Now, I know that this goal should be doable since I was reading an interview with a Western monk in Korea where he stated:

S.A.L: You are probably one of the few western born monks living in Korea and I for one was surprised when I met you.

C.M: There are actually quite a few western monks in Korea. There are American monks, Russian monks, some Argentineans; there are over fifty monks living in the Cho Gye Jong Order.


So if anyone can assist me, either with personal advice or links to sources of information regarding this ambition, I'd be very much obliged. Before any suggests looking locally, unfortunately there are no Korean Buddhist resources anywhere near me and I'd like to practice in Asia anyway.

Thanks.
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Re: Seon Monasticism

Postby Caodemarte on Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:25 am

I would not recommend this plan unless you have a greater familiarity than your email indicates with Korea and Korean Buddhism.

That said, the Kwan Um group is mostly non-Koreans so it would not be so hard to practice with their monks in Korea. There is also a temple (affiliation unknown) with many foreigners that is a mixture of martial art training and Buddhist training. If you are interested in more traditional Seon Buddhism, the real problem will be language (assuming you are not a fluent Korean speaker). Among the big training temples, Songwang-sa in the Southwest is probably your best bet. It has a history of taking in foreigners.

I would suggest you contact the Korean temple connected to Chogye-pa nearest you to discuss your
idea. The Korean diaspora has quite a few internationally now. Otherwise you can find contact info for English and often other language speakers for the main temples and Chogye-pa HQ in Seoul through a google search.

By the way, Korean monks do what we would call hard training, but not asceticism.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:36 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Seon Monasticism

Postby Vidyaraja on Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:06 am

Caodemarte wrote:I would not recommend this plan unless you have a greater familiarity than your email indicates with Korea and Korean Buddhism.

That said, the Kwan Um group is mostly non-Koreans so it would not be so hard to practice with their monks in Korea. There is also a temple (affiliation unknown) with many foreigners that is a mixture of martial art training and Buddhist training. If you are interested in more traditional Seon Buddhism, the real problem will be language (assuming you are not a fluent Korean speaker). Among the big training temples, Songwang-sa in the SE is probably your best bet. It has a history of taking in foreigners.

I would suggest you contact the Korean temple connected to Chogye-pa nearest you to discuss your
idea. The Korean diaspora has quite a few internationally now. Otherwise you can find contact info for English and often other language speakers for the main temples and Chogye-pa HQ in Seoul through a google search.

By the way, Korean monks do what we would call hard training, but not asceticism.


Thanks for the reply. I have a pretty good familiarity with Korea (at least intellectually as I've never been there) as I have studied a good deal about Korean history and culture. Over the past 8 months or more I have been reading the Avatamsaka Sutra, the writings of Chinul, Taego, works on Hua-Yan philosophy, and have works by Wonhyo, Hyujeong, and a work on Mom/Momjit lined up to read next. Aside from that I've read a good deal on general Zen, particularly finding myself coming back to Huang Po, Bodhidharma, the Xinxin Ming, and Linji. I have also read some of the Lankavatara Sutra (plan on reading all once I get the chance), other sutras, and a good deal on general Buddhism. Since I've heard of him, I've also admired Seongcheol quite a bit as well. Of course I've also been doing my own seated meditation and trying to implement as much of a monk's lifestyle into my life as possible in preparation for this goal.

I am certain that my destiny will be as a monk and figuring out where I can do this has been a concern of mine for some time. The reason I am interested in Korean Buddhism is because it seems to me that they have retained much of their traditions and unlike places like China it seems the possibility for long-term stay for Westerners at least exists, and unlike Japan at least the Chogye has retained vinaya and not succumbed to the Buddhist family business temple scheme. Another primary reason is that I am interested in the practice of hwadu/hua-tou, which is of course a mainstay of Korean Seon practice. I am interested primarily in the Chogye Order.

I understand language will be the primary barrier and that is why I want to decide where I will study in Asia so I can begin learning intensively. I feel like authentic Zen Buddhism isn't to be found here in the West (or so that has been my impression from the Zen centers I've visited) and that America doesn't lend as much support for a person desiring to become a monk as somewhere in Asia might where Buddhist culture and traditions are already ingrained. I have Pimsleur's Korean, some Korean historical dramas lined up, language books, and I know of some Koreans in my town who may be able to assist me (all Korean Christians though) with my learning the language provided my plan is at all realistic and a possibility, though I am sure full immersion in Korea itself after building a good foundation here will be best for becoming fluent.

In any case, I appreciate your suggestions regarding Songwang-sa and contacting a Chogye temple and will certainly keep that in mind. If you or any others can provide any more advice or suggestions, I will be more than happy to hear anything you have to say.

Thanks again.
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Re: Seon Monasticism

Postby Seeker242 on Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:15 am

Kwan Um School of Zen accepts western monks and they are affiliated with Mu Sang Sa Temple in Korea. Many of the western monks travel to korea for retreats,etc. They have several western monks in residence at the temple in Korea.

http://www.kwanumzen.org

http://www.musangsa.org/english/main.php

Many korean temples also have "Temple Stay" programs. That might be something worth looking into to check things out. It's usually only 1 or 2 days but of course it requires traveling there to begin with. :)

http://eng.templestay.com/index.asp
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Re: Seon Monasticism

Postby Linda Anderson on Tue Sep 17, 2013 6:05 am

Hi Vidyaraja,

I hear your heart's desire... are you sure how to manifest it? Explore and seek the advice of others who are qualified to turn you in the right direction.

I heard you say that you seek to be a "renunciant or ascetic" for about 6 years. I didn't hear you say that you have any experience with teachers, practices, sanghas or traditions so I must assume that this has formed within you apart from any actual experience. It also seems that you equate being a "renunciant or ascetic" with being a monk. This is inaccurate from everything that I know... monks, please verify or not!! The Buddha abandoned asceticism before his awakening... it wasn't working. Dear heart, what do you seek to renounce. Look deeply, then the heart can be devoted properly. not until.

Many Blessings
linda
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Re: Seon Monasticism

Postby Vidyaraja on Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:49 pm

Linda Anderson wrote:I heard you say that you seek to be a "renunciant or ascetic" for about 6 years. I didn't hear you say that you have any experience with teachers, practices, sanghas or traditions so I must assume that this has formed within you apart from any actual experience. It also seems that you equate being a "renunciant or ascetic" with being a monk. This is inaccurate from everything that I know... monks, please verify or not!! The Buddha abandoned asceticism before his awakening... it wasn't working. Dear heart, what do you seek to renounce. Look deeply, then the heart can be devoted properly. not until.

Many Blessings
linda


Hello Linda, thank you for your reply. I think I should clarify what I meant by ascetic and renunciant, since the previous poster also seems to have understood the term ascetic in a different way than I intended. What I meant by asceticism wasn't harsh, mortifying asceticism that Buddha rejected, but rather simply the meaning of the original Greek term ascecis, as in self-discipline or training for a spiritual purpose. Similarly with renunciation, what I meant is that I wish to renounce (and effectively already have in my heart) name, fame, gain, pleasure seeking, possessions, etc. and concentrate solely on spiritual practice.

While I have no formal spiritual practice as part of a sangha, I was lucky to have been blessed with a transfiguring and transcendent mystical experience around 6 years ago which changed my life. This sacred experience transformed me overnight from an atheist-materialist with no interest in spirituality whatsoever to an ardent spiritual seeker with enlightenment as the central and only goal in my life. Since that time I've spent years reading various scriptures and words of spiritual masters and have done my own contemplation and meditation. What I desire is to find a good teacher and commit myself full-time to spiritual discipline in order to achieve my goals, and I feel doing so as a laymen burdened with either a job or a business, possessions to worry about, etc. will not allow for such commitment. Hence my desire to become a monk. The problem has been discovering a means to realistically achieve this, but I know it is what I am after.
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