Wednesday 14 October 2015: conference The concept of "Buddhism protection of the country" hoguk pulgyo in Korea by Yannick Bruneton, MCF, University Paris-Diderot-Paris 7.

First a few benchmarks: the spread of Great Vehicle Buddhism came from China towards the IVe century of our era and will serve as relay for its transmission to Japan from the VIe century.

The history of Korea is divided according to the dynasties that often reigned over long periods.

Period of the Three Kingdoms Chair 57 BC JC - 672
Koguryo 37 BC JC - 668
Baekje 18 BC JC - 660
Unification period by the Grand Silla 672 – 935
Parhae / Bohai North 699 – 926
Koryo 918 – 1392
Chosŏn 1392 – 1910
Japanese occupation 1910-1945
US military government 1945 – 1948
Partition of Korea

Republic of Korea

Since 15.8.1948

People's Republic
Democratic of Korea

Since 9.9.1948

After the period of the Grand Silla, the Koryŏ Kingdom unifies Korea and sees Korean identity build on a concept of territory as well as on a cultural identity based on both Buddhism and Confucianism and a stable political model that is the model of the imperial state.

Korean Buddhism is, in the Great Vehicle tradition, based on the translation of scriptures into classical Chinese. According to the history of schools, Korean Buddhism is a Buddhism of "synthesis" (t'ong pulgyo) but the point of view of the report to the state is a more plausible approach with a Buddhist protector of the state (ho'guk pulgyo). Today, a very powerful sect in South Korea claims a Buddhism that has preserved the authentic practice of meditation.
Over the long term, we realize that the role of the state was fundamental to the development of Buddhism and it is this role that explains the fate of the Three Jewels in the Korean peninsula. From this role flows a particular history of Buddhist schools as well as the qualifier of Buddhism "synthesis" which was attributed to him in the XXe century in contrast with the organization of Buddhism in Japan.
The role of the state was, in general, decisive for the development of Buddhism in East Asia as evidenced, for example, by attempts to write the history of Buddhism according to official historiographical categories. The term "protector of the land" is a label that may apply to designate Buddhism in its relations with the state.
Expression hoguk used in Korean medieval sources is not specifically Buddhist and it is found in various contexts (title of ancestors become protective deities of the kingdom, title of territorial deities and sometimes titles of monastery of a border area).
In Buddhist context this notion, during the Koryŏ period, is almost always associated with Benevolent King's Sutra which should be given special attention.
Two almost identical versions exist which consist of eight chapters (1-Introduction; 2-contemplation of the Thus Come One; 3-practice of the Awakening Being; 4- the two truths; 5-protection of the country; 6 - conceivable facts; 7-reception of the precepts; 8-exhortation to the dissemination of the sutra). Specialists consider this sutra to be apocryphal, dating from the VIe century (Liang era). This Sutra allows several levels of reading, making "king" and "country" abstract notions and Chinese or Korean commentators have sought to prevent it from being read too prosaically (magical conception). However, it can be read like a story: at the Peak of the Vulture, in front of a huge assembly, Siddharta Gautama dialogues with King Prasenajit of the kingdom of Shrâvasti who questions him about the "protection of the karmic bond of the kingdom", making himself the door - speech of sixteen sovereigns of large countries. The ritual prescriptions of the Sutra have the effect of annihilating the seven types of calamities that a kingdom can experience: 1-2) astral disturbances; 3-6) destruction caused by the four elements (fire, water, wind, earth); 7) enemy invasions. The causes of these calamities are: 1) lack of filial piety; 2) lack of respect for teachers and elders; 3) the lack of correct practice of Dharma by monks, Brahmins, kings and ministers. In the last chapter, the seven fears for the future and the seven corresponding warnings are explained. On reading this passage, one realizes that it is the sovereign's responsibility to make the Dharma flourish, the decline of which is announced sooner or later after the extinction of the Buddha.
Several warning signs are described as the establishment of institutions to regulate the monastic world, the prohibition to build representations of the Buddha and pagodas, to practice the Way and to become a monk, the reduction of Buddhist practice to cults for the purpose of obtaining happiness in this world.
There is a set of ritual prescriptions for the conservation of Benevolent King's Sutra such as nine-colored banners, nine-colored flowers, a thousand lanterns, nine jade boxes and nine jade caps, a desk made of seven precious materials for depositing the Sutra. During his travels, the Sutra must precede the royal car by one hundred paces to eradicate calamities within a mile radius li.
In chapter 5, it is said that the reading of this Sutra should be given twice a day by one hundred Dharma masters installed on a high seat in front of which a lantern is placed and incense and flower offerings are made. to the Three Jewels.
These ritual prescriptions were applied from the VIIe century in the official sources of Silla. According to the official dynastic history of Koryŏ, this worship would have been the third most frequently practiced state cult (more than a hundred times mentioned between 1043 and 1302). It will be abandoned in the fifteenth century, following the change of dynasty and the ideological transition that involves the suppression of Buddhist state cults. At the time of Koryŏ, it is a permanent periodic cult (once every two or three years, usually for three days) but it can also be done on an extraordinary basis. It was accompanied by meals or banquets offered to the monks pansung. From 1085, the cult will follow the codes in force under the Song and the rite of preceding the royal car of the Sutra is adopted. Unfortunately the Buddhist iconography of Koryŏ has not preserved any traces of representations of the cult. There is a description of the cult in 1264 which allows to verify its conformity with the prescriptions. It is obvious that this cult had a conjuring character as shown by certain extraordinary outfits: in 1179, it was justified by armed uprisings of the population; in 1186, the holding of the ceremony is associated with another, "extinction of calamities", to ward off what is considered an astral disorder. We can thus see that the notion of "protection" is associated with that of "conjuration".
Before Koryŏ (Three Kingdoms and Grand Silla), there are fusional aspects of Buddhist and kingship conception (lineage legitimization, physical aspect of sovereigns). The institution of masters of the king and the kingdom will be born in the seventh century (kings are followers of Buddhist masters). At that time, Buddhism began to become functional and organized into administrative units and depended on military charges. Five great secular precepts have been widely disseminated and the fourth is to say that when you go to battle you must not come back. At the time of the Koguryŏ's fight against the Tang, a late source said that 30 000 monks would have participated in the defense of the kingdom. Among the three treasures of Silla, there is a nine-storey pagoda at Hwangnyong Monastery in Kumsong (now Kyongju) where each floor is dedicated to protection against a particular enemy. This symbol of the protection of the Kingdom of Silla is relevant because the reconstruction of the pagoda (destroyed in 1238 and without model) is programmed in Kyŏngju.

The reconstruction of the Pagoda (82m?) Kyongju destroyed in 1238 (there is no model) in progress at Kyongju (2017-2035?)

The reconstruction of the pagoda (82m?) Destroyed in 1238 (there is no model), in progress in Kyŏngju (2017–‐2035?)

Koryŏ is the only period in Korean history where Buddhism was the religion of the state and dynasty on the model of the imperial state (Tang administration). As a result, Koryŏ is the period when the term "protection of the kingdom" coincides with the meaning of "state Buddhism," a true system, the functioning of which involves the whole of society.
In the sources, there is a founding myth that presents a point of view on the founding of the dynasty: the monk Tosŏn would have revealed his destiny to the first king, Wang Kŏn, would have legitimized the choice of the new dynastic capital (Kaegyŏng) and chose the site of the palace. This demonstrates the close relationship between the founding of the dynasty and Buddhism, which is considered to be the support of the dynasty.
Inherited from an original design of the Silla, the institution of King's Masters wangsa and the kingdom kuksa will develop and, from the middle of the tenth century, the masters of the king and the kingdom will succeed one another continuously (around 70 identified). Each sovereign corresponded to a master of the king who became master of the kingdom upon the death of the previous one. In a relationship of master to disciple (rite of taking master: cession of the throne and nine prostrations), the sovereign was supposed to take advice from his master both politically and religiously. This institution characterizes the Koryŏ since it will be suppressed from the second ruler of the following Chosŏn dynasty. The political and religious role of these masters is difficult to assess because it depends on the personality and age of the rulers and masters. However, they tried to bring together the Buddhist schools through national teachers. All the national masters were from the Songgwangsa Monastery. A proof of the importance of Buddhism is the practice of the monasteries of vows of the royal family which were dedicated to the permanent worship of the ancestors, a sort of dynastic worship tinged with Confucianism. Due to the shortcomings of funeral rites in official history, it is difficult to know whether state funerals met Buddhist prescriptions. The commemoration ceremonies for the anniversary of the death were held in these monasteries. The formulas of vows attest to the role of relay of dynastic worship by Buddhist rites. With a vertical binary structure, these formulas prayed for the happiness of the sovereign above and for that of beings below.

15.10.14.Mon Song of Songgwan

The masters' lodge of the Songgwan Monastery Kingdom

15.10.14. Haein Monastery

81 258 engraved plates preserved at Haein Monastery (South Kyŏngsang Province) © UNESCO

Another aspect of the protection of the kingdom is the engraving of the Large Basket (set of Buddhist scriptures: Tripitaka): the first time, in order to push back the Khitan troops (1011) and a second time to push back the Mongol invaders (1237). The latter, engraved on 81 wooden planks between 258 and 1237 and kept in the Haein monastery, was entered in 1251 in the Memory of the World register.
Another variation of the notion of "protection of the country" is that of "support" of the kingdom (pibo) It was necessary to install Buddhist buildings (monasteries, pagodas, stone lanterns or ponds of water, etc.) to make up for the defects of the remarkable sites of the territory. First centered on the capital, the concept was extended to the whole country. Fixed by the "Tos écritsn secret writings" sites (between 500 and 3600) were supposed to be listed in lists. In 1198, a special office was dedicated to the sites pibo on the whole kingdom.
The abundance of Buddhist cults at court and in the provinces (83 identified types) is one of the most visible aspects of the relations between the state and Buddhism, which can be described as "ritualism". Most ceremonies would fall under the esoteric current of Buddhism, yet little influential. Cults are characterized by their conjugal function involving close relationships with state divination. Such esoteric ritualism is a magical conception of Buddhism instrumentalized by secular power.
To ensure, perpetually, state cults supporting the dynasty and society as a whole, a portion of public funds, from taxes and duties, is intended for monasteries, but also funds to capitalize "inexhaustible treasures" ( wear). The existence of "permanent rules" preserved in the archives of monasteries seems to attest the contractual nature of the organization of cults from the beginning of the dynasty. In other words, the state subsidizes the dynastic worship carried out in the monasteries, involving the administrations and the local populations.
A third aspect of the concept of "protection of the kingdom" means "defense of the territory". "Demon armies" can be understood as a demonization of enemies of the realm (considered as enemies of Buddhism). Since the founding of Koryŏ, the categories of Monastery Dependency Monks and District Population have been attached to regular armies. There is also mention of monks soldiers in the official history, mobilized by hundreds or thousands against the Khitan in XIe s., the Mongols in XIIIe s., the Red Turbans and the Japanese in the XIVe s. In the end, the term hoguk implied a symbolic and concrete protection of Buddhism vis-à-vis the State involving a counterpart achieved through the sovereign and in the form of a contract (legal and institutional dimension). It can also be seen as a form of instrumentalization of Buddhism by secular power, advocating an almost magical use of cults.

Buddhism of "protection of the country" disappears under the Chosŏn dynasty with periods of repression alternated with periods of tolerance or recognition. The eradication of state Buddhist institutions from King T'aejong (1400-1417) is in favor of a neo-Confucian ideology, Buddhism and Taoism are considered heresies. However, schools merge and Buddhism is constrained and limited in its activities and economic capacity by legislation.
The consequence of five centuries of repression of Buddhism in Korea resulted in: 1) institutionally excluding Buddhism from centers of power and urban centers (isolation of “mountain Buddhism” monasteries); 2) to lower the social status of religious; 3) reduce the level of training of monks; 4) limit Buddhist achievements (buildings) and cults; 5) squandering the Buddhist heritage; 6) bring Buddhism into the private sphere; 7) bring Buddhism closer to more popular religious practices (exorcist practices of shamanism). Buddhist circles, starting with religious, had to adapt and transform in order to survive.
At the end of the XVIe Part of the monastic world participated in the resistance against Japanese invasions while the regular army was in disarray. These acts of resistance forced the power to recognize its merit and to reconsider the role of Buddhism vis-à-vis the State (XVIIe s.). A relative tolerance will settle during the XVIIIe and the XIXe century. From some figures of the resistant Buddhist world, the spiritual lineages considered as orthodox, related to Linji Yixuan lineage of Tang, 11e patriarch of the school of Chan.
In the nineteenth century the Buddhist clergy is maintained thanks to the support of the people and members of the royal family (families of queens) which allows the reconstruction of large monasteries.
In 1910, the number of Buddhist monks and religious was in the range of 5 to 6000. In 1911 is promulgated a law on monasteries that restructures the whole of the Buddhist world in a policy of enslavement to the colonial authorities in the service of the Japanese Empire. Religious are administered by an elite collaborationist elite chosen by the regime. Monasteries and temples serve as relays for the imperial cult. Buddhist notions of benefits or secular precepts are instrumentalized to justify Buddhist participation in the Pacific War. Five aircraft titled "Korean Buddhism" are subsidized and engaged in the war.

After 1945, the state intervenes in the policy of "purification of Buddhism" (1954-1962). The coexistence of Japanese married monks and monks considered faithful to orthodoxy is subject to tension. The state uses force to expel married monks from major monasteries. The result has been the establishment of a dominant monastic order, Jogye, from the group of single monks faithful to the precepts and assiduous to the retreats of the his (chan).
The 19 October 2008, the ceremony of the Cent Sièges is performed in Pusan, a first since 750 years. Opportunity for President Yi Kangwon to say "... We are updating the ceremony of hoguk containing the soul of our forgotten nation since 750 years, its historical and cultural meaning is immense ... ".
At the beginning of the XXIe century, can Buddhism develop in South Korea as a national religion? Yannick Bruneton ends his conference by asking the following questions: how to apply in a modern democracy, the notion of “protection of the country” formerly associated with the legitimization of royal and dynastic power, with the defense of the territory? How to make Buddhism a national religion in a multi-religious society where Buddhists barely represent a quarter of the population? How to make Buddhism a national religion when the South Korean constitution stipulates that religion and state are separate? How to reinvest in urban centers, places of memory? Does not association with the State involve, as in the past, risks of political instrumentalisation, secularization and folklorization?

15.10.14.Ceremony of the Cent Sièges 2 15.10.14.Ceremony of the Cent Sièges 1
Ceremony of the Hundred Sièges performed in Pusan ​​October 19 2008. © Ohmynews.


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