The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)
Part 1. The Dawn of Great Opening
Chapter 2. Founding Master Sot`aesan
3. Sot`aesan`s Searching for the Way
Day and night, Sot`aesan continued to toil over his questions and earnestly sought to find the answers to them. At age eleven, he attended his ancestorial rituals at the mountain village of Maup. After watching an ancestrial ritual that followed a ritual ceremony for the Mountain Spirit (K. Sanshillyong or Sanshin, "Mountain God"), he raised a question with his close relative. After hearing about the great mysterious power of the Mountain Spirit, and decided to visit the Mountain Spirit.
After that day, he went to Sambat Peak everyday. Sambat Peak is a small mountain behind his village, which is part of the Kusu Mountains. Sot`aesan offered fruits from the mountain and mindfully placed food in the open space of the Court Rock (K. Madang bawi). He bowed in the four directions all day long, returning home only after sunset. Sometimes he would stay at the Court Rock overnight. He prayed for five years without missing a single day regardless of precarious or harsh weather. At first, Sot`aesan prayed at Sambat Peak without informing his parents. However, his mother eventually discovered the truth about his daily journey to the mountains and was moved by his sincerity and dedication. She greatly supported his passion to find the answers to his questions about life.
At age fifteen, Sot`aesan married Yang Ha-un, who lived in the Hong-kok village. The following year, he visited his parents-in-law for a New Year`s greeting. He overheard stories about certain sages of Taoism who assisted the hero in solving problems. These stories were from the two novels the Pakt`aebo-jon (Story of Pakt`aebo) and the Choung-jon (Story of Choung). This discussion intrigued Sot`aesan, and led to a great change in his mind. Although he practiced diligently in the mountains for five years, Sot`aesan never saw the Mountain Spirit. Therefore, he decided that meeting the sages would be the next step. He thought to himself, "I have not seen the Mountain Spirit in these five years; therefore, it cannot be certain whether the Mountain Spirit exists. So, if I give a great effort to go and see a sage, like the main figure of the novel, I will be able to see whether there is a sage or not."
With this in mind, whenever he met a stranger or a beggar, he tested him to see whether they were a sage or not. Also, when he was told about a stranger or a hidden sage, he never failed to go and see him. He sometimes invited them to stay at his home, and Sot`aesan would test them. Sot`aesan sincerely searched with great effort to find his master for six years (1906-1911).13)