Have there been reform movements in 20th century Korean Buddhism that put more emphasis on meditation practice than traditional Korean Buddhism did, and that, in particular, also encouraged meditation by lay people? Put differently, I wonder whether Korean Buddhism has had a reform movement similar to, say, the reform movement of Mahasi Saydaw in Burma (that, in turn, was important to the development of Vipassana meditation as practiced by many in the US).

1 Answer 1


According to the answer to a related question, there was no significant reform movement in Korean Seon:

So there may be others who revitalized Seon, but in many ways the traditional practices and texts of Seon remained unchanged over a long time. Of all 3 Seon, Zen and Chan, the Korean practice seems the most like a mono culture with a tendency to remaining close to traditions.

  • Korean Zen in the US, for example at the Providence Zen Center, emphasizes meditation by lay people as a central practice. But according to Robert Buswell's book "The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea" even in monasteries only a small number of monks practice meditation. I wonder whether the Korean Zen that has come to the West is based on a Korean reform movement, or whether it just developed in the West, but not in Korea. For Vipassana, and also Japanese Zen, the origins of the Western version seem to be reform movements in Asia. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 21:12
  • Take a look at the biography of the founder of the Providence Zen Center: kwanumzen.org/author/zen-master-seung-sahn Even though he is Korean, he was raised in a Christian family and studied Western philosophy before his first encounter with Buddhism. I don't think he is a typical representative of Korean Seon.
    – kami
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 10:35

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