The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)
Part 1. The Dawn of Great Opening
Chapter 2. Founding Master Sot`aesan
5. Sot`aesan`s Enlightenment
On March 26, 1916 of the lunar calendar15), Sot`aesan was sitting in absorption (samādhi) in the early morning. As he meditated in his house in Norumok village, his mind was suddenly refreshed with a new energy. He immediately went out of his room and looked in the four directions, seeing the clear sky (K. Ch`on`gi: lit., "heavenly energy") of the dawn still lit with the bright stars.16)
He strolled in the court of his house, and started to think of various things. He reflected on his previous livelihood which was full of hardship and started to wonder how he could avoid its roughness. He then thought about combing his hair, cutting his nails, and washing his face once the sun came out. When the sun started to shine brightly, Sot`aesan looked for materials to clean his body. This type of behavior was unusual to his family and so they could not help but look on as Sot`aesan continued to act strangely. This was the initial awakening (K. Chuljong: awakening from samādhi) of Sot`aesan, what is called "Great Samadhi," or "the deep umbilical contemplation" (K. Tae-ipchong or Naga-taejong).17)
After eating breakfast, Sot`aesan, overheard a discussion between a few neighbors regarding the contents of the Tonggyong Taejon of Tonghak, as follows: "I [K. Ch`onje: Heavenly Lord] have a hallowed amulet charm. Its name is a Miraculous Medicine. Its form is the Great Ultimate (K. T`aeguk; C. T`ai-chi). Again, its form is a Kung-gung (a bow and a bow)." (K. Oyu-Yongbu Kimyong-Sonyak Kihyong-T`aeguk Uhyong-Kunggung, 吾有靈符其名仙藥其形太極又形弓弓).18)At the particular moment of hearing this passage, Sot`aesan understood its meaning very clearly and a strange feeling came over him.
Later, two Confucians passed by Sot`aesan`s house. They took a rest there and discussed the passage in the Chuyok (K.; C. I-ching): "A great person accommodates, having the virtue of Heaven and Earth, the brightness of the sun and the moon, the sequence of the four seasons, and having the good and evil of the spirit." (K. Taein-yo-ch`onji-hap-kidok yo-irwol-hap-kimyong yo-sasi-hap-kiso yo-kuishin-hap-ki-kirhyung, 大人與天地合其德 與日月合其明 與四時合其序 與鬼神合其吉凶).20) When Sot`aesan heard this passage, he understood with perfect clarity its meaning. After these incidents, he felt different and considered that "these might be evidences of one`s enlightened mind. "Hence, Sot`aesan recalled all the doubts and questions (K. Uidu)21)he previously raised, and realized their meanings with perfect clarity with a single thought. He finally had achieved great enlightenment.22)
Sot`aesan then declared, "All things in the universe are of a unitary noumenal nature and all dharmas originate from the unitary fundamental source. From this, the principle of neither arising nor ceasing and the causal law of karmic retribution, being mutually grounded on each other, have formed a round, connected framework."23)
Thereafter, the status of Sot`aesan`s mind became brighter, and his skinny face and body were full of energy and exuberance. He gradually recovered from his illness, and anyone who saw him was fascinated by this remarkable change.
Kilyong-ni, where Sot`aesan grew up, was a place of unusual poverty and a rare place for learning. Sot`aesan studied for two years without learning about the tenets and histories of certain religious organizations. Sot`aesan with his own mind and on his own accord, raised questions without seeing and hearing any outside influences. With utmost sincerity, he searched for the Way, and entered into deep samādhi, thus achieving great enlightenment. He experienced a complete awakening to the greatness and smallness, being and nonbeing of all things in the universe, realizing the Principle of Ilwon. His true nature was without delusion throughout the endless kalpas.24)