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원효 / 元曉 Wonhyo (617-686)

(Rōmaji:) Gengyō
(Magyar átírás:)


Wonhyo  元曉 (617-86)

One of the most eminent scholar-monks in Korean history, and an influential figure in the development of the east Asian Buddhist intellectual and commentarial tradition. His extensive literary output runs to over 80 works in 240 fascicles, and some of his commentaries, such as those on the Nirvāṇa Sūtra and the Awakening of Faith ( Mahāyāna-śraddhotpāda Śāstra ), became classics revered throughout China and Japan as well as Korea. In fact, his commentary on the Awakening of Faith helped to make it one of the most influential and intensively studied texts in the east Asian Mahāyāna tradition.

Wŏnhyo lived at a time of social and religious ferment and upheaval. His life extends over the period when the three kingdoms of the Korean peninsula were united under Silla in 668, and when Buddhists were coming out of a period of focused study of individual texts and beginning to address questions of Buddhism's doctrinal coherence. By temperament, Wŏnhyo was a systematizer and integrater, and he broadly surveyed the literature and doctrines of all of the various schools of thought that had entered Korea: San-lun, Satyasiddhi (Ch'eng-shih), T'ien-t'ai, Hua-yen, Pure Land, and Ch'an. He set their various teachings into an overall framework so that each could be seen as a part of the larger tapestry of Buddhist wisdom and practice, and he is credited with the foundation of the first fully indigenous school of Korean Buddhist thought, Pŏpsŏng (‘dharma-nature'), which sought to account for the ultimate nature of all phenomena that bound them together in spite of their apparent diversity. Wŏnhyo's own integrative vision of Buddhism came to be called ‘t'ong pulgyǒ', or ‘unitive Buddhism'. In addition to his scholarly activity, Wŏnhyo is credited as one of the men who took Buddhist study out of the aristocracy and spread it among the common people, a development that followed his resignation from the monastic order (Saṃgha) and subsequent marriage. It was through his endeavours among the people that the Pure Land practice of reciting the Buddha's name became widespread.


Wonhyo Daesa

»The three worlds are only mind,
And all phenomena arise from the mind consciousness.
If the truth is present in the mind,
How could it be found outside of the mind!«

The Venerable Zen Master Wonhyo, born in 617 C.E., began his life as monk at the Hwangnyongsa Temple. He studied Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. At the age of 33 Wonhyo tried two times to travel to China. First he crossed the Amnokgang River, but had to return unsuccessfully. The second time Wonhyo left for Dangjugye, in order to reach China by sea. On his way, one night Wonhyo had to stay in a pitch dark cave. Thirsty as he was he found what seemed to be a water containing bowl and drank it out thankfully. Next morning, however, he realized that the water he drank was nothing but rotten rainwater gathered in a skull. So Wonhyo understood that nothing is clean or dirty itself and that all things are created by mind. He exclaimed: »The three worlds are only mind, and all phenomena arise from mind. If truth is present in the mind, how could it ever be outside of the mind! I won't go to China.« And once again he returned to Silla.

Later, Wonhyo got into a relationship with the widowed Princess Yoseok, who received a son (Seol Chong) from him. After this, Wonhyo gave up his life as a monk and called himself »Soseong Geosa« (»Small Layman«). He started to behave in an unconventional, but enlightened way; a conduct, that often seemed strange to his contemporaries or eccentric or difficult to understand. Most other monks, for instance, were highly respected by the royal family. In their temples they used to live in a way similar to that of noble men; Wonhyo, on the other hand, lived as a wanderer, travelling from here to there. But, spending his time like this, Wonhyo was teaching the people about Buddha. In summary Wonhyo had a great influence on whole nation's believe, integrating within one person the role as an adviser to the king and an inspiring teacher of the common people as well. Moreover, Wonhyo's poems, especially his "Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana" are till today an important part in Korean monks' education.




The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism


Table of Contents


1. Preface to the Commentary on the Jin Translation of the Flower Ornament Sūtra (Hwaeomgyeong so seo) 晉譯花嚴經疏序
2. Preface to the Commentary on the Sūtra of the Primary Activities of Bodhisattvas (Bon-eop gyeong so seo) 本業經疏序
3. Preface to the Commentary on the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra (Hae simmil gyeong so seo) 解深密經疏序
4. Preface to the Exposition of the Sūtra on the Adamantine Absorption (Geumgang sammae gyeong non) 金剛三昧經論
5. Preface to the Doctrinal Essentials of the Nirvāṇa Sūtra (Yeolban jong-yo seo) 涅槃宗要序

1. Doctrinal Essentials of the Lotus Sūtra (Beophwa jong-yo) 法華宗要
2. Doctrinal Essentials of the Sūtra of Immeasurable Life (Muryangsugyeong jong-yo) 無量壽經宗要

1. Prolegomenon to the Commentary on the Amitâbha Sūtra Spoken by the Buddha (Bulseol Amitagyeong so) 佛說阿彌陀經疏
2. Prolegomenon to the Doctrinal Essentials of the Sūtra on Maitreya’s Ascension (Mireuk sangsaeng gyeong jong-yo) 彌勒上生經宗要

1. Essentials of Observing and Transgressing the Code of Bodhisattva Precepts (Bosal gyebon jibeom yogi) 菩薩戒本持犯要記
2. Awaken Your Mind and Practice (Balsim suhaeng jang) 發心修行章
3. The Great Vehicle Repentance for Indulgence in the Six Faculties (Daeseung yukjeong chamhoe) 大乘六情懺悔

1. Wonhyo the Unbridled 元曉不羈
2. Biography of Wonhyo, of the Hwangnyong Monastery in the Country of Silla, [vassal to] Tang [including] Daean 唐新羅國黃龍寺元曉傳大安
3. Biography of Uisang from the country of Silla, [vassal to] Tang 唐新羅國義湘傳
4. Biography of State Preceptor Wonhyo 元曉國師傳


PDF: Master Wonhyo: an overview of his life and teachings
by Byeong-Jo Jeong
Korean spirit and culture series, vol. 6, Seoul : Diamond Sutra Recitation Group, 2010


PDF: Wonhyo: Coming to the West ― Yet No One Recognizes Him
by Sung-bae Park
International Journal of Buddhist Thought & Culture 10, 7–18. 2008


Wonhyo and the Foundation of Korean Buddhism
by Ko Ik-Chin
Korea Journal, Vol. 21. No. 8, Aug., 1981 pp. 4~13.


Wonhyo on the Lotus Sutra
by A. Charles Muller



PDF: Ю. В. Болтач
Главы [о] зарождении стремления [к] деяниям совершенствования» корейского буддийского наставника Вонхё

Буддийская культура: история, источниковедение, языкознание и искусство: Пятые Доржиевские чтения. СПб.: Гиперион, 2013. C. 139—148.




Wonhyo (元曉, 원효; "Gengyō" in Japanese) (617 686), was one of the leading philosophers, writers and commentators of the Korean Buddhist tradition. He was a reformer, who took Buddhism to the common people and lived the life of a secular monk, emphasizing the need to harmonize spiritual ideals with the realities of everyday life in order to achieve spiritual goals. He used music, literature, and dance to express the meaning of Buddhism.
With his life spanning the end of the Three Kingdoms period and the beginning of the Unified Silla, Wonhyo played a vital role in the reception and assimilation of the broad range of doctrinal Buddhist streams that flowed into the Korean peninsula at the time. He was the first to systematize Korean Buddhism, bringing the various Buddhist doctrines into a unity that served both philosophers and laypeople. Essential to his Principle of Harmonization was the concept that enlightenment does not exist beyond this world, but is achieved when one achieves true understanding in this life. Wonhyo is considered one of the Ten Sages of the Ancient Korean Kingdom.

Buddhism was first introduced into Korea from China during the period of the Three Kingdoms of Baekje, Koguryo, and Silla. During the fourth century, Chinese monks brought Buddhism to the court of the northern Koguryo kingdom, from where it spread gradually to the other two kingdoms. Buddhism was first embraced by the court and members of the aristocracy, then promulgated to the lower classes. Koguryo made Buddhism their state religion in 372, Silla before 514, and Baekje in 528. After the unification of the country by the kingdom of Silla in the 660s, Buddhism began to flourish throughout Korea.

Venerable Wonhyo was born in 617 C.E. at Buljichon (present-day Sinwol-ri, Amnyang-myeon, Gyeongsan). His name, “Wonhyo,” means “dawn.” He entered Hwangnyongsa Temple as a monk, studied Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, and diligently practiced meditation. Wonhyo spent the earlier part of his career as a monk. In 661 he and a close friend Uisang (625–702, founder of the Korean Hwaom school) decided to travel to China, where they hoped to study Buddhism further. They crossed the Amnokgang River but the trip was a failure and they had to return. They then planned to take a sea route to Tang, leaving from the harbor of Dangjugye, in the territory of Baekje. When they arrived at Dangjugye, night had fallen and it was storming, so they took shelter in a cave which had been hollowed out of the earth. During the night Wonhyo was overcome with thirst, and reaching out grasped what he perceived to be a gourd, and drinking from it was refreshed with a draught of cool, refreshing water. Upon waking the next morning, however, the companions discovered much to their amazement that their shelter was in fact an ancient tomb littered with human skulls, and the vessel from which Wonhyo had drunk was in fact a human skull full of brackish rainwater. Moved by the experience of believing a gruesome site to be a comfortable haven, and skull of mildewy water a refreshing drink, Wonhyo was astonished at the power of the human mind to transform reality. He realized that “all phenomena arise when the mind arises and when the mind is absent, the cave and the graveyard were not two; there was no sense of duality.” From the skull, he learned that “there is nothing clean and nothing dirty; all things are made by mind.” This sudden realization gave rise to a profound understanding of the world. Wonhyo said, “The three worlds are only mind, and all phenomena arise from the mind, consciousness. If the truth is present in the mind, how could it be found outside of the mind! I won’t go to Tang.” He abandoned his journey and returned to Silla.
After this "consciousness-only" enlightenment experience, Wonhyo left the priesthood and turned to the spreading of the Buddhadharma as a layman. Another account relates that Wonhyo gave up his monk’s robes after he met the widowed Princess Yoseok at Yoseokgung Palace and had a son, Seol Chong, by her. Wonhyo called himself “Soseong Geosa” (“Small Layman”). His behavior and appearance were eccentric; he did not conform to the accepted social code or care about his language. He drummed on an empty gourd while singing, “Only a man with no worries and fears can go straight and overcome life and death and transmigration.”

While most Buddhist monks lived an affluent lifestyle in big temples, honored and revered by the royal family, Wonhyo wandered the streets, living a secular life and educating the common people. He became a trusted advisor of the King of Silla. He collaborated with his friend, the influential Silla Hwaom monk Uisang, and an important result of their combined works was the establishment of Hwaeom as the dominant stream of doctrinal thought on the Korean peninsula.

In 686 C.E. Venerable Wonhyo passed away at his retreat hut. He became a legendary Korean folk hero because of his devotion to the common people.

Wonhyo’s son, Seol Chong, is considered to be one of the great Confucian scholars of Silla.

The International Taekwondo Federation pattern "Won-Hyo" is named in Wonhyo's honor.

Thought and Works
Wonhyo was the first to systematize Korean Buddhism, bringing the various Buddhist doctrines into a unity that served both philosophers and laypeople. He advocated maintaining harmony between the real and the ideal in life in order to pursue spiritual goals. His commentaries on Mahayana sutras, had profound influence on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Buddhists.

With his life spanning the end of the Three Kingdoms period and the beginning of the Unified Silla, Wonhyo played a vital role in the reception and assimilation of the broad range of doctrinal Buddhist streams that flowed into the Korean peninsula at the time. Wonhyo was most interested in, and affected by Tathāgatagarbha, Yogācāra and Hwaom thought. However, in his extensive scholarly works, composed as commentaries and essays, he embraced the whole spectrum of the Buddhist teachings which were received in Korea, including such schools as Pure Land, Nirvana , Sanlun and Tiantai (Lotus Sūtra school).

Wonhyo wrote commentaries on virtually all of the most influential Mahāyāna scriptures, altogether including over eighty works in over two hundred fascicles. Among his most influential works were the commentaries he wrote on the Awakening of Faith, Nirvana Sutra and Vajrasamādhi Sutra, along with his exposition on the meaning of the two hindrances, the ijangui. These were treated with utmost respect by leading Buddhist scholars in China and Japan, and served to help in placing the Awakening of Faith as the most influential text in the Korean tradition. The Doctrine to Unite Sectarian Opinions was transmitted to India and translated into Sanskrit.

Wonhyo's twenty-three extant works are currently in the process of being translated into English as a joint project between Dongguk University and State University of New York at Stony Brook. The representative writings are Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, “Treatise of the Huayan Sutra (Hwaeom gyeong so),” Repentance of Six Feelings in the Mahayana (Daeseung yukjeong chamhoe), Arousing the Mind to Practice, The Doctrine to Unite Ten Sectarian Opinions, Treatise on the Sutra of Unraveling Though, Treatise on Sukhavati-vyuha, and Commentary of Vajrasamadhi Sutra.

Wonhyo strove to popularize Buddhism among the common people as was well as among scholars and the aristocracy. His primary concern was to harmonize the ideal with the realities of everyday life. The five commandments which he formulated for the people to follow in order to achieve nirvana not only show how to achieve the final land of true peace, unity, and freedom, but also how to find spiritual harmony in ordinary life. His principles are illustrated by the story of his relationship with the royal Princess Yoseok, while he was living as an ascetic monk. Whonhyo simply admitted that true spirituality was to be obtained, not by pursuing unrealistic ends, but by recognizing one’s personal limitations. He tried to use music, literature, and dance to express the meaning of Buddhism, and is said to have led the people in dancing and singing in the streets, to demonstrate the harmony between the present life and the eternal. Wonhyo insisted that the ultimate aim of Buddhism is to save all beings. He emphasized the necessity of a unified view of Buddhist doctrine, and created a unique synthesis of Buddhist thought, the Principle of Harmonization, which identified the specific traits of each doctrine and found a way to resolve conflicts and disputes among them. Modern Korean scholars call this approach “Hwajaeng-sasang” (Philosophy of Reconciliation and Harmonization). Essential to the Principle of Harmonization was the concept that enlightenment does not exist beyond this world, but is achieved when one achieves true understanding in this life. Universal Truth harmonizes the one with the totality, without any obstacles to their interrelatedness.