What is Won Buddhism?

The name Won Buddhism (Won-Bul-Kyo in Korean) is a compound words for truth, enlightenment, and teaching. Won means circle and symbolizes the ultimate truth. Bul means enlightenment, and Kyo means teaching the truth. Therefore, Won Buddhism is the path that leads us to become enlightened to the truth.

Won Buddhism makes Buddha's teaching relevant and suitable to contemporary society. Won Buddhism aims to revitalize and modernize Buddhism, to bring ancient Buddhist truth to contemporary society, and to use Buddhist teachings and meditation practice for practical and useful purposes. The goal of Won Buddhism is to build One World Community and to realize the oneness of life based on the Buddhist world view of interdependency and interconnectedness of all. 

Won Buddhism was established by Great Master Sotaesan in Korea in 1916 with the founding motto:
“As material civilization develops, cultivate spiritual civilization accordingly.”

Won Buddhism shares main tenets and aspects with Mahayana Buddhism, one of the two major traditions of Buddhism. At the same time, it has built on and developed Mahayana Buddhism with the following tenets:

Materialism is a fact we cannot avoid. However, as contemporary society becomes increasingly materialistic, technologically advanced, and globally integrated, it is critical to develop our spirituality in equal measure. 

♦ The rights and opportunities of women have too often been ignored by Buddhism as well as other religions. Women are prominent in the leadership and ministry of Won Buddhism.

♦ We embrace and accept those of other faiths and seek to work together to build a better world.

With the teaching of the explicit acceptance of other religions, Won Buddhism leads the movement for inter-religious cooperation based on the Ethics of Triple Identity; all religions and spirituality are based on a Common Source, all human beings and all forms of life are interdependent as a One Earth Family and all enterprises have a Common Purpose. Won Buddhists believe that all religions have a responsibility to offer the right spiritual direction for all humankind and should cooperate and make the world a peaceful paradise by taking a lead role in constructing a world community.

Won Buddhists have participated and promoted in local, national, regional and international interreligious dialogue and cooperation since 1970. Interreligious understanding and cooperation are a central teaching of Won Buddhism. Won Buddhism is accredited by the United Nations and a member of religious NGO at the UN. Won Buddhism is a founding member of KCRP (Korean Conference of Religions for Peace), and actively engages in WCRP (World Conference of Religions for Peace), WFB (World Fellowship of Buddhists), and ACRP (Asian Conference of Religions for Peace) and our relationship has served as co-presidents and staff. Won Buddhism is socially engaged in the fields of environment, education, social service, community service, human rights, women’s issues and humanitarian assistance. 

WON BUDDHIST TEACHINGS

  • Il Won Sang (O) is the circular symbol of the Dharmakaya Buddha and the Buddha Nature of all beings. In Won Buddhism, the image of the human Buddha is replaced by Il Won Sang (O) which represents the perfect nature of the Buddha’s heart and mind that is not different from our original nature.

    “Il Won (One Circle) is the Dharmakaya Buddha, the origin of all things in the universe, the truth that all buddhas and sages enlightened to, and the original nature of all setient beings.” - Sotaesan

    Won literally means circle and symbolizes the ulitmate reality. From ancient times many spiritual traditions have expressed the universal truth through the image of a circle. In early Christianity, God was dipicted by a circle and in the Zen tradition, Buddha nature or our original mind has been symbolized by a circular image.

    "God is a circle whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere." - St. Augstine 

    Sotaesan said “That circular image is a model for teaching the true Il Won. It is like pointing at the moon with your finger: your finger is not the real moon. In the same way, a practitioner must discover the true Il-Won through the model of Il Won Sang, guard Il Won’s true nature and practice Il-Won’s perfect mind. Then, the truth of Il Won Sang and our lives will mesh perfectly.” - From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism

  • Grace, in Won Buddhism, is a core expression of the interdependency and interconnectedness of all. It was expressed by Sotaesan based on his own awakening to the truth that nothing can exist without being interrelated with others. Each being in the universe is related to and indebted to other beings for its existence. The term Grace in Won-Buddhism, signifies this interdependency and interconnection between all things. With regard to human existence, all things in the universe are classified into four groups and are known as the Fourfold Grace: the Grace of Heaven and Earth, the Grace of Parents, the Grace of Fellow Beings, and the Grace of Laws. 

    The Fourfold Grace is the manifestation of Dharmakaya (Truth) Buddha or Il Won Sang. It could be said that the Fourfold Grace and Dharmakaya Buddha are two sides of the same coin. In Won Buddhism, we see the world from the perspectives of Grace which implies “co-existence” “interdependence” and “oneness”.

    “Sentient beings turn even a benefactor ten times over into an object of resentment if he fails just once to favor them. Persons of the Way thank a person who has wronged them even ten times over if he favors them just once. Therefore, sentient beings discover only the harm within grace and bring on disorder and disruption; persons of the Way find the grace within harm and bring on peace and comfort.” - From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism

  • To reduce and eliminate suffering caused by greed, anger and ignorance, we practice the Noble Eightfold Path. This Eightfold path is summarized as the Threefold Practice in Won Buddhism: Cultivation of Spirit; Inquiry into Human Affairs and Universal Principles; and Choice in Action. It is like cleaning, polishing, and utilizing our natural, intrinsic mirror or original mind that is perfect and complete, utterly impartial and selfless. These elements of the Threefold Practice are closely related to and complement each other like the three legs of a tripod; without one, the others cannot stand.

    The Threefold Practice is the path to uncover our Buddha Nature and the way to Nirvana (profound peace of mind).

    • ♦ For Cultivation of the Spirit and to maintain the serenity of our own Buddha Nature, we practice Right mindfulness and Right meditation. It is settling down and focusing our mind. This can be done through meditation and prayer. It is like weeding a field before planting seeds. 

    • ♦ For Inquiry into Human affairs and universal principles and to maintain wisdom of our own Buddha nature, we practice Right view and Right thoughts. It is a way to hone and brighten our inner wisdom in all human affairs and universal principles by means of scripture study, koan practice, and dharma discussion. 

    • ♦ For Choice in Action and to maintain compassion of our own Buddha Nature, we practice Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood and Right Effort. It is a path to use our mind according to its nature. Observing precepts, mindfulness practice are the subjects of mindful choice in action. 
  • Right Enlightenment and Right Practice means that we are to be enlightened and to follow the truth of Il-Won, the mind-seal transmitted by buddhas and enlightened masters, in order that our conduct will be perfect – without partiality, bias, excessiveness or deficiency – when we use our six sense organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.

    Awareness of Grace and requital of grace means that we should be grateful and deeply aware of our indebtedness to the graces of Heaven and Earth, Parents, Fellow Beings and Laws. Even in a situation where we might be resentful, we should respond with gratitude knowing that from which all grace derives, and giving thanks for that situation.

    Practical Application of Buddhadharma means that we should handle our worldly affairs better on account of being Buddhists rather than inefficiently because of our attachment to Buddhist doctrine. We do not want to be useless to the world because we are Buddhist practitioners but to be very useful to our families, society and our nation through the practical application of the Buddhadharma.

    Selfless Service to the Public means that we should abandon egoism and self-indulgence for ourselves and our families and devote ourselves to the noble task of delivering sentient beings by means of the altruistic practice of the Mahayana.