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태고보우 / 太古普愚 Taego Bou (1301-1382)
aka 보우국사 / 普愚國師 Bou Guksa 태고국사 / 太古國師 Taego Guksa

(Magyar átírás:) Tego Po'u / Pou Guksza / Tego Guksza


PDF: Kovács Janka Tímea: Po’u szerzetes (1301-1382)


PDF: A Buddha from Korea : the Zen teachings of T'ʻaego [太古]
translated with commentary by J.C. Cleary
Boston : Shambhala ; [New York, N.Y.] : Distributed in the U.S. by Random House, 1988.

Translation of: Tʻaego Hwasang ŏrok by Pou Kuksa (1301-1382).


In: The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism
© 2012 by Compilation Committee of Korean Buddhist Thought, Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
Edited and Translated by John Jorgensen
> pp.
46-48, 53, 301-394.


In: The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism
© 2012 by Compilation Committee of Korean Buddhist Thought, Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
> pp. 165-190.



Taego Bou (1301-1382)

National Teacher Taego Bou was the great Seon (Chan in China; Zen in Japan) master who succeeded the Seon lineage of the Linji School from China and who played an important role in the establishment of Ganhwaseon in Goryeo. At first his ordination name was Boheo but it was later changed to Bou; Taego was his Buddhist nickname; and the name given to him after his death was Wonjeung.

1. Biography

National teacher Bou was born at Yanggeun in 1301 C.E. (the 27th year of the King Chungnyeol’s reign). He became a monk at the age of 12 (the fifth year of King Chungseon) at Hoeamsa Temple under Seon Master, Gwangji; at the age of 18, he began to practice Seon in the Gajisan Mountain monastery. At that time, he was given the gongan: “Ten thousands things return to the one; where does the one return to?” At the age of 26, as he had passed the Huayanxuan(Avatamsaka: Flower Garland exam), he decided to study the sutra; he showed the attitude of a true practitioner by practicing meditation and by becoming acquainted with the doctrines as well.

Yet, Bou came to realize the limit of sutra studies and so returned to the intense practice of Seon. While practicing Seon for seven days especially diligently, he experienced awakening at Gamnosa Temple in 1333 C.E (the second year of King Chungsuk’s second reign). After that, one day when he was studying the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, he came to read the passage, “If everything is gone, nothing moves.” From this passage he had another enlightenment experience and so the next year, he began to investigate the “Mu” gongan ( “Mu”: literally meaning something like “none” or “non-existent”). He returned to his hometown, Yanggeun, and continued his efforts. After studying 1,700 gongans he resolved the doubts that had been plaguing him for 20 years by reading the passage of “Amdu milgyecheo,” and attained enlightenment.

After enlightenment, he went to Yuan China in 1346 C.E. (the 2nd year of King Chungmok) at the age of 46 and there he met the great master of the Linji school, Shiyu Qinggong at Cheonhoam(Tianhu in Chinese), and received his approval. After that he taught Buddhism at the request of the Yuan king, and then returned to Goryeo in 1348 C.E., becoming a teacher of the royal family in 1356 C.E. (the 5th year of King Gongmin). Master Taego Bou set up the Ministry of Union, a special office dedicated to the unification of the Nine Mountain Schools of Korean Seon at Gwangmyeongsa Temple. In this way he contributed to the settling of problems which had arisen in the different schools of the Buddhist communities. In 1382 C.E. (the 8th year of King U), he died and entered into final Nirvana at the age of 81; he had been a monk for 69 years. He had more than one thousand disciples, among whom were famous masters such as Hwanam Honsu, Mogam Chanyeong, Myoeom Joi.

2. Writings

There are two volumes of Bou’s writings: The Record of the Master Taego’s Sayings, which is composed of “sangdang” (the patriarch’s dharma talks), “sijung” (admonitions), other dharma talks, songs, chanting, verses or “chanbal,” and an appendix. These writings clearly explain Bou’s thoughts on Seon as well as other matters.

3. Characteristics of His Thought
In The Record of the Master Taego’s Sayings, the master writes that he considered Ganhwaseon, especially, Mu gongan to be important practices.

“The word ‘Mu’ means neither ‘non-existence’ of ‘existing or not existing,’ nor ‘nothingness.’ If this is so, then what is it? In this questioning state, the practitioner doesn’t think of anything at all, not even the thought of not thinking! When a person does not think and does not even have consciousness of thinking, then a state of great calm and emptiness is reached. Do not think to much.” (The Record of the Master Taego’s Sayings)

Here, the question “What is it?” increases the level of doubt and leads to Master Zhaozhou’s “Mu kongan” (“No letter” gongan). As can be seen, Master Bou’s method of Ganhwaseon developed the process further than its initiator Dahui, the founder of Kanhuachan, and other Seon masters.

The main thrust of Master Bou’s thought was aimed at unifying other tendencies into a harmony based on Seon. First of all, he deepened the unification process of the Seon and Doctrinal schools. He thought that the understanding of the sutras is not in opposition to the practice of Seon, nor is it equal; doctrine (Gyo) is an expedient means for attaining states the lowest and middle states of consciousness which are a proto-state for gaining the subtle state. “Japhwa samaega (Verses of Samadhi on Various Flowers)” is poetry which helps to clarify the master’s views on Seon and doctrine; these poems are found in The Record of the Great Master Taego’s Writings. “Japhwa” (various flowers), here means the Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Garland Sutra); “Japhwa samae” is “Haein-samae” (“The Ocean Seal Concentration” a meditative state). Here is a short quotation from Bou’s verses:

“On the day the dharma talk was delivered at the center of the Bodhimanda (the bodhi site),
During the ocean seal contemplation, sayings were said without saying.
Who heard them, and who transmitted them?
These are the tongues of Manjusi (the Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Samantabhadra(the Bodhisattva of Action).
What paths were followed and heard by these Bodhisattvas?
Being in the deep concentration ocean (Samadhi hae), hidden Virochana samadhi!”

This verse implies that even in the world of the Avatamsaka Sutra it has to be admitted that the flower garlands are not in the sutra, but in the world of writing and speaking, or beyond, which is a world of release and emancipation, a world of enlightenment. Though Master Bou studied the sutras, his realization of the limits of that study made him return to Seon practice. This shows that even though he did not oppose the doctrines, his final choice was Seon.

In addition to consolidating Seon and Doctrinal schools, he also brought Pure Land and other philosophies to an agreement with Seon theory as well. For instance, he taught that recollecting Amitabha Buddha is not for rebirth in the Western Paradise by the power of the mantra, but for reminding us of the nature of Amitabha’s characteristics. When the name of Amitabha Buddha is chanted for a whole day, the mind and the chanting become one. Our True Nature, then, can be found through this practice. This chanting or the recollecting of the Buddha is not the same as that of Pure Land Buddhism, but it is similar to the investigation of the gongan. This shows that different practices are fused in Seon practice rather than being considered to be in opposition to each other.

Since the Buddhist community had become confused and corrupted at the time of Master Bou, he established the Ministry of Union which aimed at the unification of the Nine Mountain schools. He, then, set up a new Buddhist tradition by introducing Chiksu baekjang cheonggyu (The Rules and Method of Management of a Seon Monastery) and Chimun gyeonghun (Admonitions and Teaching for Monks).

As has been already stated, Master Bou established the new system of Ganhwaseon, and unified the Seon and doctrinal approaches to Buddhism based on Seon. In addition, he taught that chanting is like the investigation practice of Seon. Due to these measures, the Buddhist community settled down and the current Buddhist practice tradition came to be Ganhwaseon as had been taught by the patriarchs of the Seon tradition. Even though he was a great master, he did not live a life away from the world in a hermitage, he made constant efforts to spread Buddhism and to help all human beings. He really showed all the true traits of a national teacher.


The Founder of the Taego Order

The Buddha is manifested in the world because he gave cultivation and civilization to the people of the mundane world. Since the intentions and characters of people are very different, Shakyamuni Buddha taught many different paths for people to reach the Dharma. Gotama Siddhartha would change his teaching style every time so that it was in a form equal to the person he was speaking with, and together all of his teachings are called the 84,000 Dharma gates.

Buddhism entered Korea 1,600 years ago. Korea is geologically, historically, ethnically, and culturally different from other Buddhist nations. The history of Korean Buddhism is a history of sectarian Buddhism.

According to Korean history, Master Taego Bowoo (태고보우) ushered in a new era for Buddhism in his country. Before Master Taego Bowoo, Korean Buddhism had five teaching schools and nine Zen schools (Oh-Kyo-Ku-San / 오교구산). Many Korean scholars still study the development and characteristics of the schools in the Oh-Kyo-Ku-San, and they will continue to study Korean Buddhism's foundations long into the future.

During Korea's three Dynasties (Kogurye, Baekche, and Silla) and through the unified Korye Dynasty there was strong development of sectarian schools. While some might call such sectarian fragmentation negative, it was initially a great benefit to Korean Buddhism, as it gave many different routes to the Dharma that were aimed at many different types of people. Late in the Korye Dynasty, however, there were indications of conflict amongst the schools, and soon the schools began to compete aggressively with one another for egoistic reasons. This hurt the mundane people and led to a lack of support for the Buddha-Sangha. Master Taego Bowoo was born during this period of great conflict, and that is why he became so important for Korean Buddhism.

Master Bowoo truly understood the conflict between the schools and he put much effort into smoothing over their differences and integrating the teaching schools and Zen schools into one homogenous entity. The king of the Korye Dynasty appointed Master Taego Bowoo as the Supreme Patriarch for the entire Dynasty, and the newly appointed Patriarch founded a governmental department to integrate Korea's two main schools of Buddhism. Each step he took was part of his method to rescue Korean Buddhism from further self-destruction. His method, however, wound up becoming the main tenet for Korean Buddhism - mainly, the combination of the teaching school and the Zen school.

This goal was slightly diluted under the Cho Sun Dynasty. Founded by a Confucian, the Cho Sun Dynasty hoped to better control Buddhism by collapsing it into two large schools, thus allowing it to establish the country based on Confucian ideals. King Tae Jong ordered the schools combined leaving only one teaching school and one Zen school, and this mandate stood until the Cho Sun Dynasty's fall to the Japanese Empire in 1910. Prior to Master Taego Bowoo, Korean Buddhism had established many different schools with their own Patriarchs, Sanghas, and teachings.

As a result of his efforts and those of the Cho Sun Dynasty, however, Korean Buddhism became unified, and the different sects died out and no longer exist in present day. Before Master Bowoo's time, there were five teaching schools and nine Zen schools that each strongly developed their own teachings and Sanghas. Under his guidance, however, all of the sectarian schools were unified and so nowadays all Korean Buddhists consider themselves descendants of Master Taego Bowoo.

Parameters of the Taego Order

The establishments of the Order are - the Founder, Lineage, Tradition, History, the Nature of Culture, and the Current Nature. Under the umbrella of Korean Buddhism, however, there is almost no difference between the Taego and the other orders with regard to the Founder, the basic characteristics of theological view, the priestly outlooks, the precepts, the ceremonies, the dress code etc.. Korean Buddhism's orders all came from the same root.

The Taego Order makes sure that its members are equally regarded and refrains from power play. The Order follows the harmonious theories of Master Won-Hyo and it also embraces Master Taego Bowoo's hope for complete integration. This is the avenue used to approach the Buddha-Dharma.

1) Philosophy of the Liberal Order
The Taego Order avoids having the Sangha practice solely for their own benefit. Instead, it insists upon a practice that benefits all beings. The Order inspires the Sangha to cultivate him or herself to become Bodhisattvas who ultimately sacrifice and share in the suffering of the mundane people. This is strongly encouraged by the Taego Order as are any actions that help alleviate the social problems facing people in general. Therefore, the Taego Order is the most unique Mahayana school, for it encourages Sangha members to have families (including monks) and this then allows for positive examples to be set for the community at large.

2) Taego Order as a Composition of Private Temples (Formation of Order)
The Taego Order sustains historical traditions as well as preserving the original Dharmas handed down from the Buddha. Since 1950 the Taego Order has lost many temples to the Chogye Order, leaving it bereft of major centers of cultivation and scholarship. This led to its reformation as a community of smaller, private temples, which is how it still, forthe most part, exists today. Whoever acts as a founder of a private temple in the Taego Order has to undertake certain responsibilities. For example, he or she is entrusted with the Mission of the Taego Order, and once a temple is established, it should not be relocated so that it might better make harmony with the community around it. Moreover, it must not be segregated from the mundane world in the way a monastery is, for it is very important that the temple be firmly connected to and on level with the mundane world in which it rests.

3) Tradition and Property Inheritance
a) Inheritance from Teacher
b) Inheritance from Dharma Lineage
c) Transfer from Other Order

4) Appointment of Abbot
The Taego Order appoints a new Abbot who has inherited a temple in accordance with paragraph 3A or at the suggestion of the temple's founder if he or she is still alive.

5) Acknowledgement of Privatized Temple
Except for a monastery or a temple where the property rights officially belong to theTaego Order, all other temples remain in the possession of the founder/abbot.

6) Progressive Teaching
The Taego Order follows the tradition in which the monk is the center of the Sangha, however, the Order does not distinguish between the clergy and the laity. Likewise there is also no longer a distinction between the teaching school and the Zen school. The Order pursues the unhindered Mahayana ideal to educate the people. In terms of the precepts (Sila), the Taego Order does not follow the traditional Vinaya-Pitaka (full rules and regulations including precepts), but instead they follow the Mahayana Sila (precepts), especially concentrating on the Bodhisattva's Vows (to aid those in the mundane world). Therefore, in accordance with Mahayana philosophy, all of the clergy (monks and dharma instructors) must concentrate on the mundane world, which is one of the reasons why the clergy is encouraged to have families. There are even special circumstances where clergy or dharma instructors are allowed to grow their hair, instead of being cleanshaven, in order to better interact with those around them. In those circumstances where one is allowed to grow out his or her hair, it makes it more practical to spread the Buddha-Dharma to certain communities (e.g. schools and hospitals).

7) Marriage of Clergy (especially for monks)
According to the Dasa-Bhumika in the Avatamsaka Sutra “The Mahayana Bodhisattva (clergy) must be fulfilled by his wife or her husband, so no looking for other people's spouses”, and this gives a very positive view of marriage and the clergy. For example, Master Kumarajiva (the great translator), Tibetan Master Milarepa, legendary Korean Master Won-Hyo (from the Sila Dynasty), and Korea's most beloved poet and monk, Master Man-Hae all had families. In general, a monk who has a spouse is called “monk with wife” (Dae-Cheo-Seung / 대처승), and an official marriage has taken place. It is also likely that the monk has children and that the family lives in their own residence. People call the monks of the Taego Order “Dae-Cheo-Seung” (monk with wife), but this is not a proper word because not all monks in the Taego Order are married.

8) The System of Dharma Instruction (Kyo-Im / 교임)
Within Korean Buddhism, only the Taego Order has a system for ordaining lay clergy members. For a person who has problems with becoming fully ordained or a person who would not be able to handle the life of a monk, this is a wonderful alternative to still be able to spread the Buddha-Dharma from a center without having to take the ultimate step of becoming a monk. The Dharma Instructor can be either male or female, any age, and any marital status.

The Principles of the Taego Order

A) Definition of Taego Order
Our order's name is Korean Buddhist Taego Order (Taego Order Constitution #1)
1. Korea – the name of the home country
2. Buddhism – a school that follows Shakyamuni's teachings
3. Taego Order – Since Shakyamuni Buddha expired, Masters and Patriarchs continue to transmit his teachings through the present day. This Dharma transmission has grown continuously over the last 1,600 years in Korea. Before 1945 all Korean Buddhist Sanghas were descended from Master Taego Bowoo, especially the Chogye order, which was founded at the end of the Korye Dynasty.

This unified order continued until 1954, when President Lee Seoung Man and a number of Bikkhus ordered a separation of the Chogye order into two orders, one comprised of celibate monks and the other of those who had families (which would be known later as the Taego Order). The old group changed the color of the Kasa to brown, despite the fact that the traditional color of a Korean kasa was red. This was done to create a visual distinction between the orders. After the separation of the orders, the Bikkhu Sanghas as well as the government suppressed the Taego Order, so traditional monks had to establish a new order that would carry the characteristics of the original Chogye Order, including the use of the original red Kasa.

In 1970 a new order was officially founded, named after Master Taego Bowoo. The Korean Buddhist Taego Order promotes not segregation, but instead, a Buddhism that fits the mundane world.

B) Tenets of the Taego Order
The Tenets are the foundations of our Order, which are manifested in the characteristics of the teachings and ideas. The Korean Buddhist Taego Order respects the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, especially those of self-enlightenment, teaching the path of enlightenment to others, and using wise conduct paired with amicable sense. The Order also pursues the principles of Master Taego Bowoo, which revolve around selfenlightenment and rescuing suffering people in the mundane world (Taego Constitution paragraph #3). Self-enlightenment refers not just to one person achieving enlightenment and then aiding others in finding it, but instead, it refers to the sharing of the Buddha-Dharma so that all beings might simultaneously achieve enlightenment and freedom from the mundane world of suffering.

Using wise conduct paired with amicable sense means the attainment of frictionless cultivation and suffering-free awakening. Observing the nature and obtaining the Buddha stage refers to discovering the Buddha nature within oneself and also to developing the Buddha seed that will grow and choke out all ignorance and doubt. This is what we call enlightenment. Our mission is to spread the Buddha's teaching as well as other Masters' teachings to disciples or mundane peoples in order to guide suffering people to the right path.

The Main Sutras of the Taego Order

In the Taego Order Constitution's fourth paragraph “this order's main sutras are the Diamond Sutra (Prjana-Paramita Sutra) and the Flower Ornament Sutra (Avatamsaka
Sutra)”. Individuals as well as the Order as a whole rely on these sutras for guidance on faithful actions as well as for Dharma study. This notion of selecting one or two sutras to focus on is unique to Buddhism, for unlike other main, world religions that only have a handful of sacred texts, Buddhism has over 600 sacred texts. As a result, only one or two main texts can be completely committed to the minds of the faithful in any given school.

And, in fact, no Buddhist was ever meant to understand or embrace every sutra, for each teaching of Shakymuni Buddha was dedicated to a different mind set and was specific to the person with whom he was talking. Therefore, a Buddhist need only search out that which applies to himself or herself and that which resonates with his or her being.

The Diamond Sutra teaches a bold wisdom (Prajna) that aims at the attainment of enlightenment and states that whoever passes beyond the threshold of emptiness (Sunyata) can approach the boundary of Bodhisattvahood. Many Patriarchs and Zen Masters use the Diamond Sutra in order to educate mundane people on how to avoid excessive attachment.

The Flower Ornament Sutra (Buddhaavatamsaka Maha Vaipulya Sutra) teaches that the whole is selfless (Sarva-Anatman). Therefore, whoever understands the notion that all existence has no self, is in tune to the law of Pratitya-Samutpada and the continuous cycle of rebirth in which nothing is permanent. Despite this apparent focus on immaterialism, however, the true focus of this sutra is on the Dharma-Dhatu (our universe) and it underscores the unhindered nature of all things. Ultimately, it attempts to teach the individual how to incorporate this unhindered existence into his or her everyday life in this world.

The Taego Order depends upon these utmost sutras as guidance for obtaining the ultimate stage (nirvana).

Cf. http://www.taegozen.net/taegohistory.html