Buddhism that Protects the Nation: The Hoguk Bulgyo Tradition

Prof. David A. Mason
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
10,000won for non-members and 5,000won for student non-members (with student ID); free for members

Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch lecture series

이미지: 사람 1명 이상, 실외

Buddhism that Protects the Nation: The Hoguk Bulgyo Tradition


Buddhism is famously a specifist religion; but are its monks ever justified by doctrine in employing violence, even killing other people? 

호국불교 or 護國佛敎 means “Nation-protecting Buddhism”.  Although it was never elaborated into a sophisticated philosophy, the tradition of serving as a protective national force has continued to be a fundamental feature in Korean Buddhism since its introduction to the peninsula in the Three Kingdoms Era, and constitutes one of its most important characteristics up to the present day.  The main purpose of this national defense concern was always as a kind of bangpyeon (方便, skillful means) to secure genuine peace and prosperity for the citizenry in the long-run, according to fundamental Buddhist Bodhisattva principles.  An elite warrior-corps/order of young men was formed that employed devotion to Maitreya (the Future Buddha) to follow the Hwarang-do resulting in a "religious" fighting spirit for the defense of their country. Even during the Joseon Dynasty when Buddhists suffered under the Suppression of Buddhism Policy, the tradition of hoguk bulgyo continued in modified form as monks armed themselves and organized into paramilitary units to resist the Imjin Japanese Invasion under the leadership of Seon masters such as Seosan Hyujeong and Sa-myeong Yujeong.  The legal and social conditions for monks improved after they demonstrated their patriotism by bravely fighting to resist the invasion; post-war officials had to acknowledge the nation-defending virtue of the Sangha (Monastic Community).


David Mason is Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism at Sejong University, Seoul and Author of “An Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism”, 2014, and “Solitary Sage – The Profound Life, Wisdom and Legacy of Korea’s Go-un Choi Chi-won”, October 2015.

Venue:          Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace,

                      Gwanghwamun (near Anguk Station, across street from Japanese Embassy)

                      * Somerset Palace is no longer providing free parking. 


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