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Korean Influence on Early Japanese Buddhism. Not a systematic study, but rather a "sketch" of the key contributions of Korean monks, artisans, and specialists to early Japanese Buddhist doctrine, art, and architecture. 30 Photos.

BUDDHIST PAINTINGS IN KOREA. Many Korean temples are adorned with elaborate paintings that cover the outer left, right, and back sides of the temple. Temple interiors are likewise lavishly adorned with paintings of the myriad Buddhist deities, with giant wall-size paintings often appearing behind the central statues on the main and side altars. The ceilings and rafters are also wondrously painted with bright colors, flowers, animals and other religious objects. In contrast to temples in Japan, Korea's religious structures are bursting with color. Detailed annotations of the paintings are provided below the slideshow.










PHOTO CREDITS. All photos by Mark Schumacher (unless stated otherwise). Taken during a conference, meditation retreat, and tour related to Kanhwa Sŏn 看話禪 and Hwadu 話頭 meditative techniques (the Korean counterpart of Zen Kōan meditation). The event took place in Korea between June 23 and July 3, 2012. It was organized by the Center for the Study of the Chogye Order (Chonghak Yŏn'guwŏn) at Dongguk University. Participants included advanced graduate students, professors, and independent scholars in Korean Religions and Buddhist Studies. The retreat was held at Magoksa Temple, a few hours south of Seoul. If you would like to submit your own photo(s) for inclusion here (with credits to you), please contact me. If you have a Facebook account, you can also post your photos at the Korea Kanhwa Sŏn Facebook Group Page.



Ten Ox Herding 十牛Paintings. See above slideshow for images.

The Tale of Ten Bulls 十牛 is a well-known Chinese Chan 禅 (Krn. = Seon or Sŏn, Jp. = Zen) story. The "ten bulls" are a metaphor for the stages of enlightenment. The story can be traced to the Ekottaragame Sutra 増一阿含経 (4th century CE), although the number of stages was expanded from eight to ten by monks in the Southern Song period (1127-1279). The best-known illustrated version is by Kuòān Shīyuǎn 廓庵師遠 (circa 1150). It is an allegory in which Buddhist training, from first initiation to final enlightenment, is expressed in terms of a bull being sought, found, tamed, and ultimately transcended. The Oxherding story is widespread throughout Asia.

  1. Searching for the Bull, Looking for the ox 尋牛. The first picture shows a young boy going out to find an ox in the field. The practitioner who is meditating for the first time is searching for his Buddhahood, which he has had from the beginning. 
  2. Seeing the Tracks 見跡. The boy, searching for the ox, finds its hoof-prints. The practitioner is catching a glimpse of his original mind. 
  3. Seeing the Ox 見牛. As the boy follows the tracks of the ox he finally catches a glimpse of it. This shows that if the practitioner studies and practices hard, he will find his true mind. 
  4. Catching the Ox, Putting in Harness 得牛. The boy is trying hard to catch the wild ox. Similarly, even though the practitioner has now had a glimpse of his true nature, he has not yet severed all delusions from his mind. It is a tough struggle to pacify all his wild thoughts.
  5. Taming the Ox 牧牛. Finally the boy puts a rein on the ox. Even though it is difficult to see progress, one must continue to practice hard. The mind becomes partially purified, indicated by the white color.
  6. Unimpeded or Riding the Ox Home 騎牛歸家. Riding the trained ox, the boy happily goes back home playing the flute. If the practitioner controls his mind he will return to his true, natural mind. The fully purified mind is indicated by the ox being completely white. 
  7. Ox forgotten, man remains 忘牛存人. Curiously at first, the ox is missing from this picture. After the boy returns home he sits alone forgetting the ox. This means even though the practitioner reaches the level of enlightenment he should forget the fact and keep on practicing without rest. There is no practice or goal (the ox) apart from oneself. 
  8. All Forgotten. Both forgotten 人牛倶忘. This picture consists of one large circle, which represents the state of emptiness attained by forgetting both ox and self. Through complete emptiness the boy attains a state of enlightenment. 
  9. Returning to the original place 返本還源. Now there is no ox and no boy, only the beautiful scene of the original, clear mind. And with this mind it's possible to see things as they really are. 'Mountains are mountains, and water is water.' 
  10. Both Vanished. Entering the dust of the world 入鄽垂手. The boy, after years of practice, returns from the mountain to the village. He determines to teach what he has realized to all the sentient beings, reflecting the spirit of the bodhisattva.

(L) #7. Ox forgotten, man remains.  (R) #8. All forgotten. Both forgotten.
Ten Oxherding Pictures at Bongamsa Temple (Korea). Modern, last half of 20th century. Photo by Schumacher.


Buddha's Life Story in Paintings. See above slideshow for images.
Two sets, one from  Donghaksa Temple and one from Chukseosa Temple, both sets from the 20th century.
The basic story of Buddha's life is largely standardized, although the details vary somewhat among different Buddhist schools and nations. Below is the version used by Donghaksa Temple.

  1. Buddha Descends from Tuṣita (Tushita) Heaven. Says Donghaksa Temple: "The Bodhisattva, a Buddha-to-be, lived in Tuṣita heaven in his previous existence. He realized that he should be born into the world. It was at the same time that in Kapilavastu, the capital of the Sakya Kingdom, a northeastern state of India. Queen Mayadevi (Māyā) dreamt that a white elephant, the symbol of wisdom and auspiciousness, struck her right side and entered her womb. When the queen awoke the next day, she knew that she would bear a very special child. This was over 2,500 years ago."
  2. Buddha's Birth in the Lumbinī 嵐毘尼 Park. Says Donghaksa Temple: "Mayadevi carried the future Buddha in her womb for ten months and, being near her time, she decided to return to her native place in order to give birth there. On the way, on the 8th of the fourth lunar month, while shw wass passing through the pleasure grove of Lumbinī, she felt the labor pains begin. It was a lovely mild, spring day and she gave birth to a baby boy, the future Buddha, while standing up in a grove of beautiful Sal trees. The newborn prince immediately go up and took seven steps in each of the four directions. He said 'This is my last birth. I will not be born again.' Then a crowd of heavenly gods and nymphs surrounded him playing exquisite music and burning incense in order to celebrate the great event. His parents, King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi, gave him the name Siddhartha which means 'Wish Fulfilled.'"
  3. Enlightenment through Four Gates. Young Siddhartha travels outside the palace and gains four insights. Says Donghaksa Temple: "Siddhartha grew up in great splendor within the royal palace. One day, he went on an excursion outside the palace. While he was visiting various places he met an old man, a sick person, a corpse and an ascetic. These four sights, or four gates to insight, made him ask many questions. He keenly felt that in order to seek deliverance from the transiency of all things and from suffering, he had to retire from the world and practice austerities; he had realized that nothing lasts forever and therefore everything is unsatisfactory."
  4. Renunciation or Leaving the Palace. Says Donghaksa Temple: "Siddhartha went back to the palace and reflected deeply on how to gain relief from the suffering caused by birth, old age, sickness and death. He then resolved to renounce household life and the throne. But as all the gates of the palace were closed, Siddhartha and his charioteer had to leave by night, leaping over the palace walls on horseback. Stopping by a river on the ouskirts of Kapilavastu, Siddhartha dismounted, cut his hai and exchanged his clothes for those of the charioteer. He sent his charioteer and horse back to the palace and went forth on foot, aloned as a wandering ascetic." In another version (from Japan), Siddhartha escapes the palace with the aid of the Four Heavenly Kings, who held up the hooves of his horse (to hide the "sounds" of his escape).
  5. Practice as an Ascetic. Says Donghaksa Temple: "As an ascetic, Siddhartha took on many different practices as well as meditation for six years. But he was not able to reach supreme enlightenment. He bacame aware that such a supreme state of consciousness is not something to be obtained from someone else but that it is a state of mind that has to be realized through one's own efforts. Therefore he went into the snow-covered mountains and sat cross-legged in meditation on a handful of Jusha grass at the foot of a Pipal tree. He swore to himself, 'I shall not stir from this place until I have attained supreme enlightenment."
  6. Temptation by Mara (see #7 below)
  7. Attainment of Buddhahood (aka Awakening, Enlightenment). Says Donghaksa Temple: "While Siddhartha was assiduously practicing meditation and was near to attaining enlightenment, Mara, the force of evil, sent his army to hinder Siddhartha from attaining Buddhahood. He caused a storm of wind, rain, rocks, weapons, live coals and hot ashes, to drive away the future Buddha. As this had no effect, Mara transformed himself into a beautiful woman and tried to seduce the prince, without any success. Being defeated, Mara and his army vanished. At dawn on the 8th day of the twelfth lunar month, Siddhartha attained omniscience and was henceforth given the title of Buddha, "the Awakened One.'"
  8. First Teaching of the Buddha. Says Donghaksa Temple: "After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha took delight in his new state. However, through his great understanding, he witnessed the suffering of all sentient beings and this caused him to make up his mind to spread the Dharma, his teaching, far and wide for the benefit of those who wished to understand. He went first to the Deer Park at Sarnath just near Varanasi and taught five ascetics who had practiced with him in the past. This is known as the Buddha's first teaching, the 'Turning of the Dharma Wheel,' and it can be summed up as follows -- Human existence is never truly satisfactory. Suffering originates from greed, hatred and ignorance. If someone gets rid of passion and attachment, he will rise above all kinds of agonies and sufferings and enter the realm of complete freedom which is called Nirvana. Attainment of Nirvana is possible through cultivation of the mind."  Expressed differently, the Buddha taught that all life was suffering and that suffering was caused by desire. Through meditation one may attain a state known as Nirvana, in which one is free of desire and therefore suffering. Nirvana literally means "the state of a flame being blown out." It represents the quiet state of mind that exists when the fires of attachment and desire are extinguished. It can also refer to the "flame of death." The death of the Historical Buddha, for example, is referred to as "the Great Extinction." 
  9. Death of Buddha. Says Donghaksa Temple: "The Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha, retired from the world at 29, and became the Buddha Śākyamuni after six years of practice. He taught and helped people to understand life and overcome suffering as he wandered from place to place in North India. As the age of 80, he lay down on his right side between two Sal trees and he died, entering a state known as Parinirvana. Just before death, Mahākāśyapa, one of his main disciples, asked him, "Sir, formerly you  said that life and death are not two, so why do you manifest the aspect of life called death?' The Buddha replied, "'My body will vanish away, but my teaching will be forever present throughout the whole universe and it will always be your guiding light.' After these words, Buddha entered the Samādhi of the Light of Fire." The the Samādhi of Fire-Light is the final level of meditation after which one expires (supposedly in fire and smoke).

Death of Buddha, Donghaksa Temple, Korea
Death of Buddha. Modern Painting, Donghaksa Temple. Photo by Schumacher

28 Indian Patriarchs & the 6 Chinese Patriarchs. See above slideshow for images.
Modern Paintings of the Chan/Sŏn/Zen Patriarchs adorning the outer walls of Seokjongsa Temple (Korea).


Wall-gazing Bodhidharma. Modern painting adorning outer wall at Seokjongsa Temple (South Korea)
See full photo.

The Indian sage Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 is commonly considered the founder of Chan/Sŏn/Zen 禪 Buddhism and credited with Chan's introduction to China. By tradition even today, Bodhidharma (K = Poridalma, J = Daruma) is considered the 28th Indian Patriarch of Chan/Sŏn/Zen, the last in a direct mind-to-mind line of  transmission from the Historical Buddha known as the 28 Indian Patriarchs 二十八祖 (C = èrshíbā zǔ, K = isippal jo, J = nijūhasso). He is also considered the first patriarch in a line of transmission known as the Six Chinese Chan Patriarchs 禪宗六相. The last of the six, Huìnéng 慧能 (638–713), discontinued the practice of naming a successor, telling all his disciples they were ready to go forth. This ended the tradition in which the outgoing master handed over to his successor the robe and begging bowl (said to have belonged originally to Buddha himself). Bodhidharma was said to be the son of a Brahmin king in southern India. After achieving enlightenment, he became the 28th successor and then traveled to China to transmit the teachings. The primary aim of Chan/Seon/Zen Buddhism is to achieve awakening (enlightenment), which, according to Bodhidharma, cannot be found in books or sutras or in performing rituals. Rather, it is to be found within the self through meditation. Bodhidharma taught that within each of us is the Buddha, and that meditation can help us remember our Buddha nature. By clearing our minds of distracting thoughts, by striving for a mental state free of material concerns, we will rediscover our lost but true Buddha nature.

Twenty Eight Indian Patriarchs of Chan/Sŏn/Zen
Sanskrit name followed by Chinese transliteration.
  1. Mahākāśyapa, 摩訶迦葉
  2. Ānanda, 阿難
  3. Śāṇakavāsa 商那和修
  4. Upagupta 優婆毱多
  5. Dhṛṭaka 提多迦
  6. Mikkaka, or Miccaka, or Micchaka 彌遮迦
  7. Vasumitra 婆須蜜
  8. Buddhanandi 佛陀難提
  9. Buddhamitra 伏駄蜜多
  10. Pārśva or Pārśvika or 波栗溼縛 脇尊者
  11. Puṇyayaśas 那尊耶舍
  12. Aśvaghoṣa 馬鳴大士
  13. Kapimala 迦毘摩羅
  14. Nāgârjuna, 龍樹
  15. Kāṇadeva 迦那提婆
  16. Rāhulata 羅睺羅多
  17. Saṃghanandi 僧伽難提
  18. Gayāśata 伽耶舍多
  19. Kumārata 鳩摩羅多
  20. Jayata 闍夜多
  21. Vasubandhu 婆修盤頭
  22. Manorhita 摩拏羅
  23. Haklena 鶴勒那
  24. Ārasiṃha 師子尊者
  25. Basiasita 婆舍斯多
  26. Puṇyamitra 不如密多
  27. Prajñātāra 般若多羅
  28. Bodhidharma, 菩提達磨 (known as Daruma 達摩 in Japan)

    Source: Digital Dictionary of Buddhism; sign in with user name = guest

Six Patriarchs of Chan/Sŏn/Zen Who Passed Down the Robe & Begging Bowl

  1. Bodhidharma 達摩 (C = Pútídámó, K= Boridalma, J = Bodaidatsuma)
  2. Huìkě 慧可 (K = Hyega, J = Eka)
  3. Sēngcàn 僧璨 (K = Seungchan, J = Sōsan)
  4. Dàoxìn 道信 (K = Dosin, J = Dōshin)
  5. Hóngrěn 弘忍 (K = Hong-in, J = Kōnin)
  6. Huìnéng 慧能 (K = Hyeneung, J = Enō)
    More about Huìnéng. Says the DDB: "A Chinese Chan monk who is one of the most important figures in the tradition. He was said to originally be an illiterate wood-cutter, who, upon hearing a recitation of the Diamond Sūtra 金剛經, became awakened to the import of Buddhism. He went to study with the Chan master Hongren 弘忍, eventually becoming the dharma-heir of this teacher, and thus the sixth patriarch 六祖. He is said to have advocated a sudden approach to Buddhist practice and enlightenment, and in this regard, is considered the founder of suddenistic 頓教 'southern Chan.' While these are the legendary accounts handed down by the tradition, it is widely understood that the actual history of the situation may have been quite different, to the extent that some believe that an actual person named Huineng may not have even existed. In any case, the work attributed to Huineng, the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 六祖壇經, ended up becoming one of the most influential texts in the East Asian meditative tradition."

    Source: Digital Dictionary of Buddhism; sign in with user name = guest

Paintings, Magoksa Temple, Master Dharma Artist Memorial Stele Park

Says the signpost at the stele park, just outside Magoksa Temple: "Traditionally, Master Dharma artists in temple paintings, Buddha image sculpture, and 'danchong' building ornamentation have been called 'Bulmo' (Buddha Mother) and have also been regarded as seekers of the Path through their fervent study and practice. Many of their works have survived and are venerated as sacred Buddhist treasures, and recognized as important national cultural properties. We can virtually feel the spirits of the artists' devotion in these works. Certain temples were dedicated to fostering such masters, and as a major one in the southern region, MAGOKSA, has preserved the traditions of the Mt. Gyeryong School of Dharma artists. Magoksa flourished as such a center uner Master Geumho (1845-1928), and two of his disciples, Master Jeongyeon (1882-1954) and Master Boeung (1867-1954), assured the continued transmission of this major Dharma painter lineage to today. Consequently, Magoksa has developed Korea's only Master Dharma Artist Memorial Stele Park, dedicated to Masters Geumho, Jeongyeon, Boeung, Ilseop, Hoieung, and Wuil, in order to preserve the transmission of their greatness and to strengthen the tradition of Korea's renowned Dharma arts." <end signpost at Magoksa Temple> Curiously, the "stele park" is a graveyard-like memorial dedicated to these painters, but the only artwork that visitors can see are memorial stones of dragons and turtles -- which can be found in our CREATURES GALLERY. Paintings can only be seen by entering Magoksa Temple and visiting its individual structures.

Sudhana Story from the Kegon Sutra

Many Korean temples are adorned with elaborate paintings that cover the outer left, right, and back sides of the temple. On the three outer walls of Bongamsa Temple, for example, are 52 paintings which depict the story of Sudhana-śreṣṭhi-dāraka given in the last chapter of the immense Avataṃsaka Sūtra (the Huayan jing 華嚴經). This last chapter actually comes from the earlier Gaṇḍa-vyūha Sutra, which was first fully translated into Chinese by Buddhabhadra around 420 CE. Says the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism (sign in with user name = guest): "The story told is of a merchant-banker's son (śreṣṭhidāraka) named Sudhana (lit. 'Good Wealth;' C = Shàncái Tóngzǐ 善財童子, K = Sŏnjae Tongja, J = Zenzai Dōshi, who searches for enlightenment in ancient India during the time of the Buddha. On the advice of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī 文殊師利, he sets out to visit 'good friends' (善知識; Skt. kalyāṇamitra) in order to learn how to carry out the course of conduct of a bodhisattva. After travelling far and wide across India visiting fifty-two good friends of various occupations (including the bodhisattva Maitreya 彌勒, Sudhana has his final visionary experience of the supreme bodhisattva Samantabhadra 普賢 and merges with him." <end quote> For a detailed English version of the Sudhana story, click here (outside link; Google Books).

About the Reviewer

Mark Schumacher, an independent researcher living in Kamakura, has for the past two decades focused on cataloging the myriad deities in Japan's Buddhist and Shintō pantheons in his online A-to-Z Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Statuary. The Korean pages you are now viewing were prompted by Schumacher's two-week Korean adventure in June 2012 to explore Kanhwa Sŏn 看話禪 (observing the Hwadu 話頭 meditative technique, the Korean counterpart of Zen kōan meditation).

Mark Schumacher


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