The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)
Part 1. The Dawn of Great Opening
Chapter 1. The New Buddha Land in the East
6. Symptoms of the declining dharma and the appearance of a Great Teacher
At that time, Korean religions were in a stage of confusion and chaos. Among the traditional beliefs and the three major religions--Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism-- Buddhism changed into a practice of superstition similar to Shamanism. Confucianism continued practicing ostentatious rituals and empty theories. Taoism remained in the shadow of skills hard and long to realize and in the shadow of the ideas of apathy and no-working. Sohak (K.; lit. Western Learning, Christianity) rarely survived under the severe persecution. Tonghak (K.; lit. Eastern Learning, Chondogyo) could not function under the severe suppression by the Korean government against its socialistic, peasant movements. Other religious sects, of the seductive and false teachings, further caused an increase in confusion among the people. Therefore, people wandered in this confusion, hiding their strongest hopes for a new thought and a new religion brought by a new sage. It was at this time that Sot`aesan with his great vow came again through the endless kalpas to this world.
After Sot`aesan`s physical death, Master Chŏngsan wrote this epitaph in memory of Sot`aesan, "As the four seasons keep rotating and the sun and the moon alternate and illuminate in the universe, myriad things achieve the way of coming into being. In the world, sentient beings are indebted to the beneficence of deliverance, while Buddhas succeed one after another and sages transmit the laws [Dharma] from one to the other."
Master Chŏngsan then made a clear statement that Sot`aesan came to this world as the Main Buddha to build a new religious order of the New Buddha. He stated, "Ever since Sākyamuni Buddha opened his order at Grdhrakuta, his teachings passed the period of orthodoxy and vigor and the period of semblance, finally reaching the period of decline and termination. The correct way was not followed in this last period as the world was full of false doctrines. The spirit lost its power to materialism, which was ruling the world.
Consequently, the bitter seas of misery, where sentient beings go tormented, became deeper and deeper. This is the occasion when Sot`aesan, our great teacher, came to this world again."6)