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Buddhism in Modern Korea


Course Summary

This course is a survey course of Buddhism in contemporary Korea. The aim of the students in this course will be to gain a broad understanding of Buddhism in the context of the Korean society. The first part of the course will be an overview of Buddhism and its historical developments up to the modern period. The second part will be a discussion of the foundational period of modern Buddhism. The third and the fourth part of the course will focus on the social and religious aspects of Korean Buddhism, some of its social issues and current trends.
This course will encourage sharing of ideas though class discussions. Basic knowledge of Buddhism and Korean society is preferred but not necessary.

Instructor: Sung-Eun Thomas Kim
Class times: TBA
Class grade distribution: Mid-term paper: 30%, Class Presentation: 30%,
Final exam: 40%

Lecture outline
A. Historical Setting
1) What is Buddhism? This will be an overview of the historical background and the main doctrines and practices of Buddhism.
2) Beginnings of Buddhism in Korea: The arrival of Buddhism in Korea and its impact on the states and culture will be examined.
3) Intellectual and social developments: This will be a discussion of the intellectual thoughts of eminent Koryeo and Joseon monks, namely Chinul and Chongheo including Kyongheo. Also, discussed will be the relationship between Confucianism and Buddhism during this time.

B. Start of Buddhism in Modern Korea
4) Buddhism Under Japanese Colonial Rule: The influences of the Japanese Colonial Government and Buddhist reform movements will be examined.
5) Buddhist responses to modernization: Buddhist responses to social changes of urbanization and the growth of Christianity by changes such as religious practices and location of temples in an urban setting will be focused on.

C. Practices and its Social Setting
6) Temple Buddhism, popular practices and syncretism: This lecture will focus on the popular practices within the temple and the incorporation of beliefs and practices of other religions. Also, the influences on other religions will be addressed.
7) Monasticism and the laity: The life of monastics and their relationship with laity with be examined. Practices of the monastics and the activities of the laity will be discussed.

D. Contemporary Social Issues
8) Social Issues of Korean Buddhism: Social activism, violence, corruption within the sangha and possible causes will be the focus.
9) Buddhism and Korean culture: Cultural developments such as tea culture, Buddha’s birthday celebration, modern spiritualism movements, and commercialization of spiritualism that has also taken place in Korean Buddhism will be the topic of discussion.
10) Korean Buddhism and new trends: This will be an examination of the uniqueness of contemporary Korean Buddhism and new developments including the globalization of Korean Buddhism.
11) Korean Buddhism and current issues: This will be a discussion and a review of some of the pressing issues of contemporary Buddhism.
12) – Student presentations and open class discussion.

Core material: – Buswell, Robert. The Zen Monastic Experiences: Buddhist Practices in Contemporary Korea. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. – Lee, Peter H., and Wm. Theodore De Bary, eds. Sources of Korean Tradition Volume One: From Early Times Through the Sixteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. – Mu Soen. Thousand Peaks: Korean Zen-Tradition and Teachers. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991. – The Korean Buddhist Research Institute, ed. The History and Culture of Buddhism in Korea. Seoul: Dongguk University Press, 1993.

Supplementary Material: – Lancaster, Lewis R., and C. S. Yu, ed. Introduction of Buddhism to Korea: New Cultural Patterns. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1989. – Buswell, Robert E. Jr., ed. Religions of Korea in practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. – Buswell, Robert E. Jr. The Korean approach to Zen : the collected works of Chinul. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983. – Lancaster, Lewis R., and C.S. Yu, eds. Assimilation of Buddhism in Korea: religious maturity and innovation in the Silla Dynasty. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1991. – Geumgang Center for Buddhist Studies, ed. Korean Buddhism in East Asian Perspective. Seoul: Jimoondang, 2007. – Shim, Jae-ryong. Korean Buddhism: Tradition and Transformation. Seoul: Jimoondang, 1999. – Buswell, Robert E. Jr., ed. Currents and countercurrents: Korean influences on the East Asian Buddhist traditions. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. – Lee, Hong Bae. Korean Buddhism. Seoul: Korean Buddhist Chogye Order, 1996. – Sǒsan taesa. The Mirror of Zen: The Classical Guide to Buddhist Practice of Zen Master So Sahn. Translated by Boep Joeng. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 2006. – Han, Yongun. Selected Writings of Han Yongun: From Social Darwinism to ‘Socialism with a Buddhist Face’. Translated by Vladimir Tikhonov and Owen Miller. Folkstone: Global Oriental LTD, 2008. – Kim, Lena. Buddhist Sculpture of Korea. Seoul: Hollym, 2007. – Yoo, Myeong-jong. Temples of Korea. Seoul: Discovery Media, 2009.