Won Buddhist Teachings

  • Il Won SangIl Won Sang (O) is the circular symbol of the Dharmakaya Buddha and the Buddha Nature of all beings. In Won Buddhism, the image of the human Buddha is replaced by Il Won Sang (O) which represents the perfect nature of the Buddha’s heart and mind that is not different from our original nature.

    “Il Won (One Circle) is the Dharmakaya Buddha, the origin of all things in the universe, the truth that all buddhas and sages enlightened to, and the original nature of all setient beings.” - Sotaesan

    Won literally means circle and symbolizes the ulitmate reality. From ancient times many spiritual traditions have expressed the universal truth through the image of a circle. In early Christianity, God was dipicted by a circle and in the Zen tradition, Buddha nature or our original mind has been symbolized by a circular image.

    "God is a circle whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere." - St. Augstine

    Kwangjon asked, “What is the relationship between Il Won Sang and human beings?” The Founding Master answered, "You have asked about a great truth. In our order, we enshrine Il-Won-Sang in the same way that Buddhists in the past have enshrined Buddha images. However, a Buddha image manifests the physical form of the Buddha, but Il-Won-Snag manifests the mind-essence of the Buddha. The physical form represents only his human form, but the mind-essence is vast and infinite, combining being and nonbeing and sustaining itself through the three times periods of past, present, and future. Hence, it is the original source of the myriad things in heaven and earth and the realm of Samadhi beyond all words and speech. Confucianism calls it the grand ultimate or the ultimate of nonbeing; Daoism calls it nature or the Way; Buddhism calls it the pure Dharmakaya Buddha. In principle, however, all of these are different expressions for the same thing."

    Sotaesan said “That circular image is a model for teaching the true Il Won. It is like pointing at the moon with your finger: your finger is not the real moon. In the same way, a practitioner must discover the true Il-Won through the model of Il Won Sang, guard Il Won’s true nature and practice Il-Won’s perfect mind. Then, the truth of Il Won Sang and our lives will mesh perfectly.” 

    From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism

  • Fourfold GraceGrace, in Won Buddhism, is a core expression of the interdependency and interconnectedness of all. It was expressed by Sotaesan based on his own awakening to the truth that nothing can exist without being interrelated with others. Each being in the universe is related to and indebted to other beings for its existence. The term Grace in Won-Buddhism, signifies this interdependency and interconnection between all things. With regard to human existence, all things in the universe are classified into four groups and are known as the Fourfold Grace: the Grace of Heaven and Earth, the Grace of Parents, the Grace of Fellow Beings, and the Grace of Laws.

    The Fourfold Grace is the manifestation of Dharmakaya (Truth) Buddha or Il Won Sang. It could be said that the Fourfold Grace and Dharmakaya Buddha are two sides of the same coin. In Won Buddhism, we see the world from the perspectives of Grace which implies “co-existence” “interdependence” and “oneness”.

    There have been two great discoveries that have benefited all humans on earth. One is Buddha’s discovery of our mind-nature, and the other is Sotaesan, the founding master of Won Buddhism’s discovery of Grace. There is a reason why we have two eyes. One is for looking inward and observing our mind and the other is for looking outward and finding Grace. - Daesan, The Third Head Dharma Master of Won Buddhism

    “If we wish most easily to understand the grace we have received from heaven and earth, parents, all living beings, and Dharma, we first must consider whether we could sustain our existence and live without them. Then, even the most stupid or ignorant among us would acknowledge that we could not live without them. If there is a relationship where in we cannot live without the other, then where would there be a grace greater than that?” “If we were to specify the content of Il Won Sang, it is in fact the fourfold grace; if we were to specify the content of the fourfold grace, it is in face all things in the universe; and there is nothing among the myriad things in the universe that is not the Buddha.”

    “Sentient beings turn even a benefactor ten times over into an object of resentment if he fails just once to favor them. Persons of the Way thank a person who has wronged them even ten times over if he favors them just once. Therefore, sentient beings discover only the harm within grace and bring on disorder and disruption; persons of the Way find the grace within harm and bring on peace and comfort.”

    From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism

  • Threefold PracticeTo reduce and eliminate suffering caused by greed, anger and ignorance, we practice the Noble Eightfold Path. This Eightfold path is summarized as the Threefold Practice in Won Buddhism: Cultivation of Spirit; Inquiry into Human Affairs and Universal Principles; and Choice in Action. It is like cleaning, polishing, and utilizing our natural, intrinsic mirror or original mind that is perfect and complete, utterly impartial and selfless. These elements of the Threefold Practice are closely related to and complement each other like the three legs of a tripod; without one, the others cannot stand.

    The Threefold Practice is the path to uncover our Buddha Nature and the way to Nirvana (profound peace of mind).

    • For Cultivation of the Spirit and to maintain the serenity of our own Buddha Nature, we practice Right mindfulness and Right meditation. It is settling down and focusing our mind. This can be done through meditation and prayer. It is like weeding a field before planting seeds.

    • For Inquiry into Human affairs and universal principles and to maintain wisdom of our own Buddha nature, we practice Right view and Right thoughts. It is a way to hone and brighten our inner wisdom in all human affairs and universal principles by means of scripture study, koan practice, and dharma discussion.

    • For Choice in Action and to maintain compassion of our own Buddha Nature, we practice Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood and Right Effort. It is a path to use our mind according to its nature. Observing precepts, mindfulness practice are the subjects of mindful choice in action.

    When using our minds in all sensory conditions, we should act always in a fair and upright manner, without being drawn in by joy, anger, sorrow, or happiness, or by degrees of remoteness or closeness, intimacy or distance. Therefore, awakening to the principle of Il Won means to see one’s nature (kyŏnsŏng); guarding the essential nature of Il Won means to nourish one’s nature (yangsŏng); and to engage in conduct that is well-rounded like Il Won means to command one’s nature (solsŏng). These are the essential Ways of our practice, namely Cultivating the Spirit, Inquiry into Human Affairs and Universal Principles, and Choice in Action, and they are the equivalent of the three trainings in precepts (Sila), absorption (Samadhi), and wisdom (Prajna) taught by the Buddha of the past. Cultivation is both absorption and nourishing one’s nature; Inquiry is both wisdom and seeing one’s nature; Choice is both precepts and commanding one’s nature. If we sincerely follow this practice, then regardless of whether we are educated or not, intelligent or not, male or female, old or young, we will all be able to attain buddhahood.”

    From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism

  • Four Great PrinciplesRight Enlightenment and Right Practice means that we are to be enlightened and to follow the truth of Il-Won, the mind-seal transmitted by buddhas and enlightened masters, in order that our conduct will be perfect – without partiality, bias, excessiveness or deficiency – when we use our six sense organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.

    Awareness of Grace and requital of grace means that we should be grateful and deeply aware of our indebtedness to the graces of Heaven and Earth, Parents, Fellow Beings and Laws. Even in a situation where we might be resentful, we should respond with gratitude knowing that from which all grace derives, and giving thanks for that situation.

    Practical Application of Buddhadharma means that we should handle our worldly affairs better on account of being Buddhists rather than inefficiently because of our attachment to Buddhist doctrine. We do not want to be useless to the world because we are Buddhist practitioners but to be very useful to our families, society and our nation through the practical application of the Buddhadharma.

    Selfless Service to the Public means that we should abandon egoism and self-indulgence for ourselves and our families and devote ourselves to the noble task of delivering sentient beings by means of the altruistic practice of the Mahayana.

    Sotaesan, accompanied by Cho Songgwang and Chŏn ŭmgwang, went for a stroll one day through the outskirts of Namjung village. By the roadside there were several huge pine trees, which were exceptionally gorgeous. Songgwang said, “These pine trees are truly gorgeous! How I would love to transplant them to our temple!” Upon hearing this, Sotaesan said, “Why can’t you transcend your narrow-mindedness and limited scope? Our temple has not left this old pine tree and this old pine tree has not left our temple; they are both within our boundaries. What is the point of insisting on transplanting it? This is because you have not yet discovered the original home of the grand universe, by transcending the discrimination and the gaps between things.” Songgwang asked, “What sort of a place is this original home of the grand universe?” Sotaesan said, “Since you would not understand it even if you were to see it now, I will show it to you by drawing a symbol.” He then traced the Il Won Sang on the ground and said, “This is the original home of the grand universe. Within it are included, without exception, infinite arcane principles, infinite treasures, and infinite creative transformation.” Ŭmgwang asked, “What can I do to find my way to this house and become its owner?” The Founding Master said, “One may enter by acquiring the key of the three great powers. That key is forged through faith, courage, perseverance, and inquiring mind.

    From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism