The History of Won


The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)

Part 1. The Dawn of Great Opening

Chapter 5. Drafting the Teaching

3. Proclaiming the Religious Principles and Drafting the First Books of the Order

In Bongnae Mountain in April of the fifth year of Won- Buddhism (1920), Sot`aesan decreed the religious principles of the new Order: the Fourfold Grace and the Four Essentials, [which are the essential ways of human life], and the Three Principles and the Eight Ariticles, [which are the essential ways of practice].
By the Fourfold Grace, he meant the indebtedness, gratitude, and ingratitude to the Graces of Heaven and Earth, Parents, Fellow Beings, and Laws. By the Four Essentials, he meant gender equality in rights, discrimination between the wise and ignorant, educating the children of others, and venerating the public-spirited. These are the due ways of life, which will become the essential dharma to better the world. The Threefold Study, which consists of Cultivation of the Spirit, Inquiry into Human Affairs and Universal Principles, and Choice in Action, is the due way for a practitioner to tread and will become the essential dharma that works for the salvation of all sentient beings through training in observing the precepts, preserving mental quietude through meditation, and attaining wisdom, of which the Buddha had spoken. The Eight Articles are belief, zeal, questioning, dedication, unbelief, greed, laziness, and ignorance. Belief, zeal, questioning, and dedication are the Four Articles to Develop and disbelief, greed, laziness, and ignorance are the Four Articles to Abandon. All eight become the essential dharma to be applied to the Three Principles. The principles of the basic doctrines of the new order can be characterized as simple, clear, and integral, which will not only help all believers never to be deluded or partial, but will also guide them directly into the gateway to the Great Path.
At this time, Sot`aesan also engaged in social dialogue with Buddhist monks outside the Order and listened to all the rules and regulations of conventional Buddhist temples. All of this was going on while Sot`aesan, together with his students, was internally occupied with the drafting of the first books of the new order. As a result The Doctrine of Buddhist Reform in Korea and The Essential Doctrine of Spiritual Cultivation and Inquiry were published one after the other. The Doctrine of Buddhist Reform was the scripture intended for the edification of the masses by altering conventional Buddhism to meet the needs of the changing times. The Essential Doctrine of Spiritual Cultivation and Inquiry was the scripture for a practitioner to enter the true boundary of spiritual cultivation and inquiry into human life and universal principles. The Essential Doctrine of Spiritual Cultivation and Inquiry was published in May of the twelveth year of Won- Buddhism (1927) and the Doctrine of Buddhist Reform in April of the twentieth year of Won-Buddhism (1935). Each book was used as part of the first books of the new order for quite a long time.
In July of the sixth year of Won-Buddhism (1921), at the suggestion of Kim Namcheon, Song Jeokbyeok, and a few others, the construction of the new "Silsang-chodang" [a thatched cottage with a few rooms where Sot`aesan along with a few of his students resided] was erected behind the existing cottage and was completed in September of the same year. It was named "Seokduam", which is also known as "BongraeJeongsa". Here using the newly drafted principles and books, Sot`aesan tested his students through preliminary training based on their respective ability to practice the Buddha`s teachings. Their performances were very satisfactory and their understanding of the righteous dharma progressed further.