The History of Won


The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)

Part 2. Founding of the Order

Chapter 4. The Light of Dharma Emanated from Sot`aesan

1. Acute State of Affairs and Deferment of the Plans

When the new Order entered its third 12-year term of the first generation as of April Won-Buddhist year 25 (1940), the Sino-Japanese War was at its peak and the surveillance and interference by the Japanese police intensified daily. Sot`aesan, conjecturing that his stay in this world would not be for long, attempted to pursue several projects that he had been planning to undertake for some time, only to be frustrated by obstructive tactics employed by the Japanese police, which led him to exercise extreme caution in his actions as the days passed.
When the War broke out, the Japanese authorities demanded that the so-called "National Allegiance Ceremony "be included in the dharma meeting procedure and that all proceeds from the performing of various types of ceremonies be donated to the national-defense fund. The Police dispatched their officers to the General Headquarters to exercise surveillance over Sot`aesan and the Order. They placed Headquarters officials in custody many times under a variety of pretexts. They prohibited the use of "Wonki" as the name of the Order`s era and forced the discontinuation of the Order`s published newsletter. In December Won-Buddhist year 26 (1941), when the war in the Pacific broke out, the Japanese official issued a temporary national security ordinance in March of the following year, in which they forced the submission of an association-continuance report and implicitly restricted the establishment of new temples while driving the Order to join the organization called the Buddhism Alliance led by Japanese monks. This forced the Order to frequently take part in the events focused on the current state of affairs. The Order reduced the number of scheduled winter and summer regular training and dharma meetings and mobilized the congregation for the dissemination of the Japanese language and physical labor. At times, they took the liberty of using the temples as their so-called place of physical and mental training.
Even then, Sot`aesan dealt with the Japanese with a resolute attitude while passively cooperating with them in a placatory gesture. In January of the twenty-fifth year of Won- Buddhism (1940), he submitted an application for a permit to establish the Yu-Il Institute, which he planned as a school for training the members to become religious workers. This was delayed and finally rejected the following year. In April Won-Buddhist year 27 (1942), he again applied for a permit to open the Ja-Yuk-Won (Mercy Nursery School), which he planned as a day-care facility and a nursery school, but was turned down. In addition most of the industrial organizations already in operation were at a standstill or, in the worst case, shut down.
Although the Japanese authorities at the time did not allow the existence of a Korean-led organization of any nature, great or small, with an exception of pro-Japanese groups, they could not openly curtail the activities of a religious order that followed the Buddha`s teaching, for Japan itself was a Buddhist country. Instead, under the strict policy of pre-censorship and ex-post facto report, they kept a close watch and placed restrictions on every single activity of the new Order. Sot`aesan thereupon laid aside all new work plans and had all the assets of the Order registered in some of his leading disciples` names (Song Doseong and others) and then he notarized them in May Won-Buddhist year 27 (1942). From October of that year, he conducted a lecture tour around temples in various districts for the last time and reinforced the believers` faith and solidarity.