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A modern innovative movement of Korean Buddhism : a study of the Jingak Order of Korean Buddhism and its founder Hoedang focused on Hoedang's religious thoughts and sectarian characteristics of the Jingak Order


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Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Long, J. Bruce
Mun, Chanju
Long, Darui


There was a remarkable innovative movement of modern Korean Buddhism. The Jingak Order of Korean Buddhism founded by Hoedang is called an esoteric Buddhist sect on the ground that its practice and faith are based on the esoteric Buddhist doctrine. However, it shows different characteristics from a typical system of ritual and doctrinal application of traditional esoteric Buddhism. This paper concretely compares Hoedang’s Buddhist reform idea, the characteristics of the Jingak doctrine, and its ritual system with other reformative idea of Modern Korean Buddhism, the general teachings of Buddhist scriptures, and the traditional template of esoteric rituals respectively. This comparative analysis will provide a methodological validity to make an exhaustive study for the peculiarity of religious phenomenon and its relationship with the Buddhist concept of universal truth.
The Jingak organized a bodhisattva sangha as a religious leader group keeping priesthood, and attempted to implant a self-reliant spirit in the people. It structuralized its ritual to an innovative laity-oriented framework, which is seemingly a long way from the traditional ritual formula of East Asia, without liturgical paraphernalia. But the Jingak ritual like other esoteric rituals is a mere upaya for the realization of inherent Buddhahood, manifesting one’s intrinsic Buddha-nature which can be called Simin (Mind-seal) in its tradition, and realizing the bodhisattva now.

In many ways, the Jingak bears the characteristics of a “new Buddhism” or “protestant Buddhism” in the sense that it greatly stresses the role of the founder, Hoedang, and his interpretation of the Buddhist tradition, which is deeply related to the fundamental spirit of Mahayana Buddhism. As time, place, and person change, so innovation becomes inevitable just like the early Mahayana innovation in ancient India. The problem lies in justifying that innovation.

Whether it be in history or doctrine, generally speaking, Buddhism has not been fixed and preferred taking pragmatic ways, rather than doctrinaire attitudes. Buddhism has, from its inception, penetrated a number of dissimilar cultures, while embracing various ideology and philosophy to suit itself with different historical, geographical, ethnic, or religious characteristics. Therefore, we would say that a mixture of different forms of Buddhism coexist in the modern world.

To be sure, this study shows one of the diverse cultural forms, which reveals a great diversity among Buddhist practices, doctrines, art forms and ways of life. Moreover, it would be very good motivation for the view that Buddhism is capable of diverse manifestations in diverse cultural contexts and at distant times. From a phenomenological standpoint, the Jingak is a form of adaptation of its social and monastic institutions to local cultural and historical conditions, and would be a mode of transformation in Buddhist history.


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