Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Celebrating Seon Master Chinul

I'm reading currently The Collected Works of Chinul, translated and edited by Robert Buswell. I read half of the book last year, and like before, I feel refreshed by Chinul's inspiring words. Chinul was the founder of the Chogye Order, the largest Zen order in Korea today. He lived in the 12th century and is celebrated for unifying the rift between the rival scriptural and Seon schools. His influence on Korean Buddhism cannot be overstated. 

What I love about his writing is that it is very practice-oriented. Chinul doesn't have time for philosophy or metaphysics; he has more pressing matters on his mind--helping people wake up. When he does delve into philosophy (like samadhi and prajna), its aim is always practice-related. Like his great Chinese predecessor Tsung-mi, Chinul's work focuses on integrating the seemingly disparate East Asian Buddhist sects. The result was the founding of the Chogye Order in the early 13th century.

It's unfortunate that such a prominent and influential Seon Master like Chinul is so obscure in American Buddhism. I encourage anyone--not just Korean Buddhist students--to study his work. His writing is clear, straight-forward, and encouraging. Chinul, who had all three of his awakening experiences while reading scriptures or their exegeses, writes with precision and earnestness. He is the Korean version of the Japanese Soto-founder Dogen, although I find the former's writing much for approachable.

I hope you find his teachings helpful too.

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