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Pakistan Delivered Buddhism to Korea

By Yoon Won-sup, The Korea Times, Oct 1, 2006

YONGGWANG, South Cholla Province (South Korea) -- Many Koreans assume that Buddhism came from India mainly because it was India where Buddha achieved great enlightenment, taught his students Buddhist philosophy and died. However, the origin of Buddhism in Korea is not 100 percent from India, according to the top Pakistani envoy in Seoul.

<< Pakistani Ambassador to Seoul Masood Khalid, second from left, talks to Man Dang, head monk of Pulgab-sa Temple in Yonggwang, South Cholla Province, on his left, while Kang Jong-man, left, head of Yonggwang County, and the ambassador’s wife Sonia look on at the museum of Gandhara relics in Yonggwang, Monday. Korea Times Photo by Yoon Won-sup

``Perhaps what many Koreans do not know is that Buddhism came to Korea in the 4th century from Gandhara, now located in Pakistan,’’ Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khalid told The Korea Times.

In 384, Maranantha, a Buddhist monk of Gandhara, came to Popsongpo in Yonggwang, South Cholla Province, then occupied by the Paekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-A.D. 660), and introduced Buddhism, he said.

So the ambassador, his wife, Pakistani diplomats and a scholar went to Popsongpo last Monday to look around the place where the local government of Yonggwang established a museum and other facilities to mark the coming of Buddhism to Paekje last May.

There is a statue of Maranantha, a museum of Gandhara relics, a park with a lotus pond, and several monuments to Buddha, which cover 43,000 square meters of land. The area was designated as the ``Birthplace of Buddhism in Paekje’’ by the local government.

Actually, Popsongpo literally means a port where a holy person propagated the universal truth.

Min Hee-sik, former French literature professor of Hanyang University in Seoul, said that Koreans’ perception that Buddhism came from India is wrong because over 90 percent of Korean Buddhism is based on Gandhara and the rest is based on Buddha’s life in India.

He said that French documents support the view that Gandhara is the spot from where today’s Buddhism spread to the world _ Buddhist temples were built for the first time in Gandhara, according to him.

``Three hundred years after Buddha died about 500 B.C., King Ashoka introduced Buddhism to Gandhara, and from there Mahayana Buddhism developed with the establishment of many Buddhist temples,’’ Min said.

However, the scholar said that it was not easy to argue that Buddhism spread to Korea from Pakistan not India because so many people including Buddhist monks believe Buddhism came from India.

Meanwhile, Kang Jong-man, head of the Yonggwang County, pledged to develop Yonggwang as the center of Buddhism in South Korea.

Kang plans to visit Pakistan next February with Min to get more Gandhara relics to put in the museum.

The ambassador and his entourage also visited Pulgab-sa Temple in Yonggwang, the first Buddhist temple in Korea, which was established by Maranantha when he visited the peninsula.

``Pulgab-sa Temple is the first Buddhist temple in South Korea, and it has many special treasures, which include three Buddha statues designated by the government as National Treasure No. 1377,’’ Man Dang, head monk of the temple, said.

Meanwhile, Man Dang donated three million won ($3,170) to the ambassador on behalf of the temple, asking the money to be used to help victims of the earthquake, which took place about a year ago in Pakistan.

For more information about the birthplace of Buddhism in Korea, visit its Web site at www.maranantha.org.

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