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Great Minds 27, Wonhyo to King Sejong - Korean Philosophy

The 27th lecture in the Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition by Dr. Grant Hardy of the University of North Carolina concerns the development, mainly of Buddhist philosophy in Korea by focusing on three great thinkers in that country: Wonhyo, Chinul and King Sejong.

The talk spans a long period of time with these three seminal teachers. Wonhyo lived during the 7th century, and was one of the early scholars and popularisers of Buddhism in Korea, and probably their most important Buddhist thinker.

He initially wanted to go to China to study Buddhism, being – like so many others – dissatisfied with the state of the teachings in the country, but after a couple of misadvantures he gained an awakening experience, and didn't proceed on his journey but turned back and decided to teach. His greatest efforts were to harmonize the teachings of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra.

The great zen master Chinul (12th c.) also wanted to harmonize teachings he had received, especially the zen school and the Huayan school, which was a scholarly teaching based on the Flower Ornament sūtra.

King Sejong (15th c.) on the other hand was one of those great Kings who is best remembered for his commissioning the Hangul script, noted as one of the most logical and consistent scripts in use.

Along the way we also learn many other things about Korean history, the Tripiṭaka Koreana, social conditions and religious rivalries that played out over this great span of time. Prof. Hardy is a real master of his studies, and a very effective communicator, who manages to give a feel for the subjects he summarises.

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