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Buddhist Experts Stress Need for Books in English

By Han Sang-hee, The Korea Times, Nov 24, 2009

Seoul, South Korea -- Buddhist experts agreed on the need for more English-language books on and translations of Korean Buddhism, and even an English newspaper on the subject during an annual seminar last week.

<< Ven. Chung An, center, talks at the seminar titled ``Outlook and Meaning of the Globalization of ``Ganhwa Seon’’’ at the Korean Buddhist History and Culture Memorial Center last week. Along with the Buddhist master, other Buddhist experts stressed the need of more translated Buddhist works in English. / Courtesy of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism

The 12th seminar for the ``Outlook and Meaning of the Globalization of Ganhwa Seon'' was held at the Korean Buddhist History and Culture Memorial Hall, Friday, with Buddhist experts, monks and writers in attendance.

``Ganhwa Seon'' is a method of Buddhism aimed at seeing one's original nature through the use of ``hwadu,'' or key phrases given to practitioners to help them achieve that goal. If one sees his or her original nature, then that person is considered enlightened. It is known as one of the most developed meditation methods in the Buddhist world and has been the primary method carried out by the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in Korea.

This year's priority issue was how to bring Ganhwa Seon to the international level through various means, especially books.

``In terms of information, it is hard to find. There are a number of books translated in English, but it's hard to know where to start,'' Roger Shepherd, who has been visiting Korean temples and studying Korean Buddhism for the past year, told The Korea Times.

Compared to Japanese Zen and Chinese Chan, Korean Seon is not well known outside of Korea, mostly because there are less English translations of the methods compared to its two counterparts.

``It is a shame that Korean Buddhism is less known in the world. That is why it is important to translate Korean Buddhist scripts and methods,'' said Ven. Won Chul, director of the Research Institute for Buddhist Studies.

Jhin Jean Woo-kee, the director of the Korea Institute of Buddhist English Translation and one of the speakers, has been working on a translation of ``Ganhwa Seon,'' the Order's method guidebook for monks and Buddhists.

``Ganhwa Seon has been translated into English as to share the teachings with the world. We have been working on the translation for the past two years and we are finished with the first draft,'' she said.

Jhin offered ideas on how to bring Ganhwa Seon closer to the West, mentioning the need for translations, an English Buddhist dictionary and even an English Buddhist newspaper.

Along with Jhin, French meditation expert Martine Batchelor and Ven. Chung An from Wonkwang Temple in Hungary also expressed their thoughts and ideas on spreading Korean Buddhism and Ganwha Seon effectively.

Living as a Buddhist nun for 10 years in Korea, Batchelor said she benefited greatly from Ganhwa Seon and that she tried her best to share the knowledge and experience of the method. One of Batchelor's ideas was to publish not just one translation of the Buddhist method, but also follow-up books that could help everyone, from children and beginners to longtime practitioners.

``I suspect that a small book of Korean (Seon) stories could prove to be popular. Life stories of great Korean (Seon) masters could also be inspiring for practitioners. It would be interesting to have more translations of classical texts by important Korean Buddhist masters as well as contemporary writings of modern Seon masters,'' she said.

Meanwhile, Ven. Chung An stressed the importance of the overall practice of Ganhwa Seon and effective ways to teach it to foreign Buddhists.

``Though there are a multitude of books about the practice, they turn out to be unsuitable substitutes to living teaching and a realized teacher. To teach Ganhwa Seon, the methods have to be simple, clear and gradual,'' he said.

``The key factor to gain general recognition in the West is to emphasize the importance of mind quality. The concept of mind quality serves as a bridge to look inside, looking for our basic nature in the high quality, clear mind.''

The English translation of ``Ganwha Seon'' will be out in stores in late 2010.

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