Wonhyŏ Daisa

Wonhyŏ Daisa
born 617, Korea
died 686, Korea

Korean Buddhist priest.

He 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 works, mainly in the form of commentaries on Mahayana sutras, had profound influence on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Buddhists. He is considered the greatest of the ancient Korean religious teachers and one of the 10 sages of the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla.

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▪ Buddhist priest
also called Wonhyŏ
born 617, Korea
died 686, Korea

      Buddhist priest who is considered the greatest of the ancient Korean religious teachers and one of the Ten Sages of the Ancient Korean Kingdom.

      A renowned theoretician, Wonhyŏ was the first to systematize Korean Buddhism, bringing the various Buddhist doctrines into a unity that was sensible to both the philosophers and the common people. The comprehensibility of his doctrines is seen in the five commandments he formulated for the people to follow in order to achieve nirvana. These commandments are noteworthy not only for the systematic way in which they show how to achieve the final land of true peace, unity, and freedom but also for their common-sense approach to the everyday problems of achieving spiritual harmony.

      Wonhyŏ's realization of the need to practice a life that maintained harmony between the ideal and the real is illustrated by an anecdote that tells how he, as a priest, assumed to be practicing asceticism, one night slept with a beautiful royal princess. Rather than chastise himself the next morning, he merely admitted that true spirituality was obtained not by pursuing unreal ends but by admitting the limitations of one's person. He is said to have led the people in dancing and singing in the streets to show how to lead this harmonized life of the present and the eternal.

      His works had profound influence on Chinese and Japanese as well as on Korean Buddhists. Most famous among them are “A Commentary on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna,” “A Commentary on the Avataṃsaka-sūtra,” “A Study on the Diamond Samādhi Sūtra,” and “The Meaning of Two Desires.”

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Universalium. 2010.

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