There is a koan or spiritual question in Zen that states, “Before the buddhas of antiquity appeared, there was a perfectly round shape."
What is Won (the image of a circle)?
Have you ever looked into a mirror? Not at the images reflected, but at the mirror itself. Have you looked into your original mind? The mind before any thought arises.
'Won' literally means a circle and this symbolizes our original mind or our true home. Its circular image is called Il Won Sang: Il means one, Won means circle, and Sang means image.
Il Won Sang, the Dharmakaya Buddha
Il Won Sang, the Dharmakya Buddha
is the origin of all beings in the universe,
the truth that all buddhas and sages enlighten to,
and the original nature of all living beings.
In Won Buddhism,
Il Won Sang, the Dharmakaya Buddha,
is enshrined as the object of faith
and as the model of practice.
Won Buddhism is a religion
believing in, knowing, and carrying out
the Truth of Il Won Sang.
Won or Il Won Sang is the origin of all things in the universe, our authentic true self to which all buddhas and bodhisattvas are enlightened.
Once, a painter in ancient times was asked by an aristocrat to paint a mural image of God. He had been asked to paint many pictures and had completed many pictures of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Last Supper and other religious subjects. Yet this was the first time that he was asked to draw the image of God. He pondered for a long time and eventually drew the image of God. It was a large, round circle.
Sotaesan, the founding master of Won Buddhism, attained supreme enlightenment in 1916 after many years of ascetic practice. Upon awakening he declared, “All things in the universe are of One Reality and all principles originate from one source, where the Truth of No Birth and No Death and the Principle of Cause and Effect operate on an interrelated basis as a single, clear and rounded framework.”
This single, clear and rounded framework is called Il Won Sang (One Circle Image) and in a Won Buddhist temple, the Buddha image is replaced by the Il Won Sang image.
Chongsan, the Second Head Dharma Master of Won Buddhism, said, "Il Won Sang is the blueprint of all things in the universe, the symbol of the realm of universal truth, the Truth Buddha. It is a koan for seeing into our original nature and realizing buddhahood. It is the object of faith and the standard of daily practice."
(The Dharma Words of Master Chongsan, Chapter 6, v. 3)
"If you are given only the name of someone you don't know, it would be difficult to believe that anyone by that name really exists. Just as the picture of someone you don't know can help you figure out what that person looks like, the picture of the Truth, can help you see what that could be like. Master Sotaesan, by using Il Won Sang as the picture of the Truth, made it easier for us to comprehend the realm of Truth. Il Won Sang is the picture of the totality of Truth, therefore anyone who takes this picture as the object of sincere inquiry will be enlightened to the realm of Truth easily. Thus, Master Sotaesan said, Shakyamuni Buddha's order in the past was that of one buddha with a thousand bodhisattvas. In the future one thousand buddhas and one hundred thousand bodhisattvas will arise in this order."
(The Dharma Words of Master Chongsan, Chapter 5, v. 6)