The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)
Part 1. The Dawn of Great Opening
Chapter 1. The New Buddha Land in the East
4. The Traces of the Sages
Sākyamuni Buddha expounded the idea of the three periods of Buddha Dharma, namely: the dharma of correct belief (the period of orthodoxy and vigor), the dharma of semblance (the period of scholastics), and the dharma of decline (the period of termination). He also predicted the cycle of the weakening and reviving of the Buddha Dharma. He predicted that it would occur either in three divided periods or five divided periods of 500 years after his nirvana. The myth of the Maitreya Buddha explains that the Main Buddha will appear to the world in the future. This myth is widely known in Buddhism.
The belief that identifies Mt. Kumgang as the sacred place where many Bodhisattvas with great dharma power will arise, and this country as the Buddha Land(K. 佛國緣土), draws our attention to the popular ritual ceremonies that symbolize the awaiting of the Maitreya Buddha. These ceremonies occur in Korea more than any other country. Those prophets predict that the Korean peninsula will be the new Buddha Land, and these beliefs are deeply rooted in the hearts of the Korean people.
Following this, many familiar as well as unfamiliar sages, through their esoteric teachings, stories of prophets (圖讖, K. Toch`am), or long poems, encouraged Koreans to have deep faith in the prophets, and in their prophesies concerning the Korean peninsula. These prophets spoke of the future greatness and gracefulness of the country, and of Korea gaining the respect of all the people of the world. Also, around 50 years before the founding of Won-Buddhism (1860-1864), Ch`oe, Suun (Che-u, 1824-1864), the founder of Tonghak, said "As the Great Way of T`aeguk (K. Great Ultimate) appears in the world after the decline of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, the fortunate will gradually accept it and teach people in the world without my presence."
Ten years before the foundation of Won-Buddhism (1900-1909), Kang, Chŭngsan (Ilsun, 1871-1909) prophesized the appearance of a new Buddha who would open a great religious order in the coming world. He said, "I am an alternative teacher. Christians await the Second Coming of Jesus, Buddhists wait for the appearance of Meitreya, Tonghak followers wait for the reappearance of Choi, Suun. Therefore, whenever that one person appears, all of them will follow that person as their teacher."