top page

A Korean Contribution to the Zen Canon: The Oga hae seorui

(Commentaries of Five Masters on the Diamond Sutra)

Charles Muller

Table of Contents

1. Scriptural Orientations in Korean Seon
2. The Diamond Sutra in Korea
3. Gihwa (1376-1433)
4. The Structure of the Oga hae
5. The Preface to the Oga hae
6. Aspects of Gihwa's Commentary
7. Key Themes of the Oga hae
8. On Exegesis and Editing
9. Translation: Section 7 of the Oga hae: No attainment, no teaching

Note: This article was published in the volume entitled Zen Classics by Oxford in 2005, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

1. Scriptural Orientations in Korean Seon

Despite the relative vitality of its modern saṅgha and its pivotal historical role in East Asian cultural history, Korean Buddhism still remains a seriously neglected field within the broader realm of Buddhist studies. Thus, the well-ingrained custom of interpreting Korean Seon based on the models of Japanese Zen or Chinese Chan has also changed little over time, with Korean Seon regularly being seen through the lens of caricaturized takes of Tang-Song Chan with its radical non-scriptural tendencies and focus on encounter dialog, or a Japanese Sōtō/Rinzai model where textual studies are largely limited to the Shōbōgenzō and Zen poetry, and where meditative practices consist of either shikan-taza ("just sitting") or a graduated series of hundreds of kōans—and perhaps some sort of cultural admixture with the martial or fine arts. While Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen do have certain fundamental features in common with Korean Seon, the Korean tradition is in significant ways unlike the "meditation schools" of its two neighboring cultures.

One of the more interesting distinctive aspects of Korean Seon, especially as compared with Japan Zen, is the character of its core literature. While the teaching records of the earliest founders of the "nine mountain" schools tend to reflect the anti-text rhetoric imported from Chinese Chan, as the Seon school developed during the Goryeo period (918-1392),1 it maintained a distinct scriptural-scholastic component. Although in the case of Japan, this tendency may be seen in a school like Tendai, it was certainly not exhibited by the Zen tradition as a whole—at least not to the extent seen in Korea. And while it is true that we can also see in the sermons and private teaching records of many Seon masters through the Goryeo and Joseon periods the typical shouting, striking, and exhortation toward investigation of the hwadu that one would associate with classical Chan, there is at the same time a substantial amount of attention paid to scriptural study, recitation, and exegesis. Nonetheless, this study and exegesis is of a different character than the doctrinal work carried out during the in China and Korea during the Tang and Silla periods in that it has a distinct "Chan" orientation to it both in literary style and in the choice of topic texts.

Goryeo and Joseon (1392-1910) scholastic works tend to be clustered around a narrowly defined set of texts, including the Flower Adornment Sutra (K. Hwaeomgyeong; Ch. Huayan jing), the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith (K. Daeseung gisillon, Ch. Dacheng chixin lun), Sutra of the Heroic March Concentration (Śūraṃgama-sutra), Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment (K. Weongakgyeong; Ch. Yuanjue jing), Platform Sutra (K. Yukso dangyeong, Ch. Liuzu danjing) and the Diamond Sutra (K. Geumgang gyeong; Ch. Jingang jing)—all texts that had marked influence on the early formation of Chinese Chan. The concentration on this particular set of texts is readily apparent when one reads through the Goryeo/Joseon Seon teaching records, where they are regularly cited, or from perusing catalogues and indices of Korean Buddhist commentarial works and essays of these two periods.

The impact of each of these texts can be correlated with distinct themes within the discourse of Korean Seon. In terms of the influence on the fundamental tendency in Korea toward syncretism and interpenetration, one would cite the Hwaeomgyeong and perhaps the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith [AMF]. In terms of tathāgatagarbha/original enlightenment doctrinal influence, one would cite the AMF and the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment [SPE]; in terms of subitistic influences, the SPE and the Platform Sutra. But in terms of overall direct influence on the lives of practitioners in terms of exposure in lectures and recitation, there is no text in Korean Seon that has held influence equal to that of the Diamond Sutra, which is still by far the most popular text in the Korean tradition.

2. The Diamond Sutra in Korea

The Diamond Sutra is cited everywhere in the Seon teaching records of the Goryeo. Beyond its distinctive thematic orientations, the extent of its influence in Korea also has to do with its central role in the myth of the creation of the Platform Sutra, the story of which provides the source for the very name of the Jogye school.2 The Diamond Sutra also has its own special thematic affinity with Chan practice, as it is seen throughout the Mahāyāna schools of East Asia as the locus classicus of what is arguably the most fundamental teaching/practice of Chan: "non-abiding" (K. muju;Ch. wuzhu). The Diamond Sutra, in the course of describing the implications of non-abiding, simultaneously leads its reader through an exercise of non-abiding through its repetitive affirmation, negation, and differential re-affirmation. Finally, the Diamond Sutra is, aside from the Heart Sutra, the shortest popular scripture in the East Asian meditative tradition. Since it is of a length that allows it to be chanted in about forty minutes, it can be memorized without superhuman effort, and has been one of the most popular chanting texts throughout the history of Joseon Buddhism, remaining so to the present day. Upon visiting the temple stores and other Buddhist bookstores in South Korea, one can find an array of tapes and CDs for sale featuring the moktak-accompanied voices of the Jogye sect's most popular intoner-monks, melodiously chanting the Diamond Sutra. These tapes are bought by lay practitioners, and thus the sutra's influence extends widely to lay practitioners as well as monastics.

As noted above, an important dimension of Seon's exegetical tradition is the degree to which it is suffused with and circumscribed by "Chan" tendencies, both in the choice of subject texts and in terms of commentarial style. While the above-mentioned cluster of texts had naturally come to be the focus of studies through the Goryeo and early Joseon periods, the Śūraṃgama-sutra, AMF, Diamond Sutra (in its "five commentaries" version, to be introduced in this paper), Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, and Avataṃsaka-sūtra were formally institutionalized through their inclusion in the Jogye monastic study course, whose development is attributed to the Joseon Seon master Hwanseong Jian (1664-1729). Still today, more than two and half centuries later, they form the advanced curriculum, or Sagyogwa (Four Scripture Course) for the textual studies course in Korean Jogye monasteries.3 Among these the Diamond Sutra with the five commentaries, the Geumgang gyeong ogahae seorui, ( "Commentaries of Five Masters on the Diamond Sutra" ) stands out for being a native Korean work.

This work, known in Korean by the short title Oga hae, is an arrangement of commentaries on the Diamond Sutra that was assembled by the eminent Goryeo/Joseon monk Gihwa (1376-1433).4 Gihwa selected five important classical commentaries on the Diamond Sutra, collated them with each other following the passages of the sutra, and added his own commentary. The range of perspective and style of the five different commentators provides a provocative mixture of takes on any given passage, exhibiting an array extending from traditional scholastic doctrinal exegesis to poetic Chan linked verse, satisfying a broad range of readership.

3. Gihwa (1376-1433)

The lifetime of Gihwa (also known by the monastic name Hamheo Deuktong) fell in the midst of one of the most dynamic periods of social, political and religious upheaval on the Korean peninsula. The Goryeo regime, which had endured for over four centuries, but had become corrupt in its latter period, was on the verge of collapse, and as the leading Buddhist figure of his generation, many of the episodes in Gihwa's career had to do with his dealings with the epochal events of this juncture in history.5 Gihwa addressed in his writings a wide variety of Buddhist and non-Buddhist religious themes, but one of his favorite topics was the renewal of Jinul's argument for the essence-function connection of Seon and Gyo, which he addresses primarily within the context of the Oga hae. Besides this commentary on the Diamond Sutra, Gihwa also wrote the major Korean commentary to the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment,6 a commentary on Xuanjue's Yongjia ji7 and an essay on the intrinsic unity of the "three teachings" of Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism that is considered to be a landmark work in Korean intellectual history, entitled Hyeonjeong non(Manifesting the Correct). He also wrote a separate essay on the theme of the Diamond Sutra, entitled Geumgang banyabaramilgyeong yun gwan ("The Penetrating Thread of the Diamond Sutra"), as well as a number of shorter essays and versified works on various doctrinal and meditation-related topics.

Gihwa can be seen as a model example of the Korean Seon master according to the ideal established by Jinul (1158-1210): he was a monk who was steeped in meditative gong'an practice, who at the same time demonstrated a thorough mastery of the scriptural tradition, well availing himself to the scriptures in his teaching. A read through Gihwa's teaching record (Hamheo dang Deuktong hwasang eorok) reveals an ample number of sermons where the master is depicted in the typical Imje (Ch. Linji) mode of shouting at and striking students, while liberally dropping gong'an (J. kōan) phrases. Yet at the same time, there are, in the teaching record, extensive comments made on Buddhist scriptures, as well as on Confucian and Daoist texts.

Gihwa should be seen as the major reviver of Jinul's argument against exclusivist positions taken by certain members of the meditative, mind-to-mind transmission oriented "Seon" school as opposed to the text-oriented, doctrinal stance of Gyo.8 While during the late Silla and early Goryeo the influential Gyo faction had indeed made matters uncomfortable for the newly arising Seon circle, by the time of Gihwa's life, it was no longer the case that the members of the Gyo faction (typified by Hwaeom, Tathāgatagarbha, and Yogācāra scholars) were making any serious challenge to the Seon position, as the Seon schools had clearly been the predominant Buddhist force in Korea for a few centuries. While Gihwa was a Seon monk with a strong meditation-oriented perspective to religious cultivation, at the same time he also felt that the denigration of Gyo study methods by Seon extremists was unnecessary, and even harmful. We can see Gihwa's interest in the re-valorization of scriptural study both in direct prose addressing the issue, as well as in the mere fact of his extensive exegetical work.

4. The Structure of the Oga hae

The Oga hae is the product of Gihwa's further annotation to his collation of five separate commentaries to the Diamond Sutra. These commentaries include Zongmi's (780-841) Jingang jing shulun zuanyao (T 1701.33.154-169) ; "Huineng's" (638-713) Jingang jing jieyi (Z 459.24.517-535) ; Fu Dashi's (497-569)9 Liangzhao Fu da-shih song jingang jing, Yefu Daochuan's 10 Jingangjing zhu,11 and Yuzhang Zongjing's Jingangjing tigang.12 Interwoven with these commentaries and the text of the sutra itself is Gihwa's own sub-commentary.

Gihwa utilizes the commentary of the erudite Zongmi to supply the sutra's philological details and doctrinal background, and to define its technical terms. Zongmi's exegesis compares passages from the various extant translations of the sutra and cites the important earlier commentaries—mainly those by Asaṅga and Vasubandhu—which are cited extensively. While pointing out the variations in the Chinese rendering of particular passages and then explaining their doctrinal implications, Zongmi also provides detailed definitions of original Sanskrit terms and an analysis of the traditional breakdown of the sutra itself. The Huineng commentary is used to provide a more flowing philosophical discourse on the doctrinal implications of particular passages, but does not yet move into a purely poetic mode.

Fu Dashi's commentary, being from the sixth century, is the earliest, and is composed in structured verse. Zongjing's commentary, written during the Song, is composed in the colloquial prose Chan style of that period. Most distinctive among the commentators is the writing of Yefu Daochuan, a minimalist Chan poet in whose exegesis Gihwa takes great delight. While Gihwa adds occasional comments here and there following Zongmi or one of the other commentators, Yefu's terse, clever, and evocative comments repeatedly inspire Gihwa to poetic outpouring. Yefu's metaphors can be based on the story of a legendary emperor in a couplet from the Shijing, a line from the Zhuangzi or a famous Chan proverb. This in turn inspires Gihwa to link up with a verse of his own, in imitative style.

5. The Preface to the Oga hae

The Oga hae has been studied as a central text in the Korean monastic tradition from the time of Gihwa up to the present, and is a part of the monks' core curriculum in contemporary Korean Seon. Its status may have been enhanced by the attention paid to it by the influential Yi dynasty monk Hyujeong (1520-1604; popularly known as Seosan Taesa), who alludes to it in the opening paragraph of his influential work, the Seon'ga Gugam13 by citing its introductory passage.

The profound prefaces attached to commentaries form their own distinctive sub-genre in the East Asian classical exegetical tradition. The poetic character of these "preface/introductions" (K. seo, Ch. xu) is quite different from that seen in the modern scholarly preface, in that the writer was not thinking to provide explicit referential background material concerning the composition of the text, or any sort of a rational outline of matters to be discussed. The xu were composed in verse in which the main gist of the sutra or treatise was captured in condensed form. While there is ample evidence for the importance of the role of these prefatory passages throughout the East Asian literary tradition as a whole (not only in Buddhism), it is also obvious that the composition of these opening statements was a practice highly valued by Korean Buddhist monks.14 In this type of preface the exegete would attempt not only to capture poetically the gist of the entire subject text in a brief paragraph, and at the same time include the greatest amount of possible literary allusion to important antecedent texts. Gihwa opens up his Oga hae with this sort of preface—which is in turn cited by Seosan in the preface to his own Seon'ga Gugam.15 It reads as follows:

There is One Thing

Which cuts off names and marks

right here;

Yet still penetrates past and present.

While abiding in a particle,

It embraces the entire universe.

Within, it contains all marvels,

While adapting externally to every type of being.

It is the master of the three agents16

The ruler of a myriad phenomena.

So vast! It is beyond compare

So high! It has no peer.

Is it not divine?

Although it is bright and clear for those who gaze in its space up and down,

It is concealed to those who search for it with their eyes and ears.

Is it not mysterious?

Although it is prior to heaven and earth, it has no beginning.

Although it goes after heaven and earth, it has no end.

Is it empty? Existent?

I do not know its way of being. (HBJ 7.10b-11b)

Allusions to the first chapter of the Daode jing will be obvious to students of East Asian thought, and those familiar with Wonhyo's work will notice the stylistic and thematic similarities between this passage and Wonhyo's opening paragraph in his Commentary on the Awakening of Faith.17

6. Aspects of Gihwa's Commentary

Gihwa's commentaries differ from those composed by the earlier systematic scholars of the Tang and Silla dynasties, in their absence of philological references and their lack of doctrinal categorization. In the Oga hae Gihwa brings up Zongmi's teaching classifications only for the purpose debunking them with the assertion that these compartmentalizations are untenable under close scrutiny. One of Gihwa's and Yefu's favorite lines, which is repeated throughout Oga hae is "all buddhas possess the same realization: the eyes are horizontal and the nose is vertical" (a Chan metaphor for equality in nature). Gihwa sees no limit in hermeneutic possibilities in the same text, in the same passage, even in the same line. He says of the Diamond Sutra that it "contains the entire content of the Thirty-nine Chapter Huayan jing." and that the Diamond Sutra (usually classified in the panjiao systems as something like "early Mahāyāna" ) can also be called the Perfect Doctrine, and can also be called the Sudden Doctrine. (HBJ 7.118a) The only correct way to characterize the Diamond Sutra, he maintains, is as the "sutra of no-characteristics." (HBJ 7.118b21)

Gihwa's "exegesis," like Yefu's, usually takes the form of a restatement of the prior passage in his own poetic language. The sources for Gihwa's commentarial tropes can be from almost anywhere: Wonhyo, Jinul, Confucius, the Yijing, Zhuangzi, the Shijing or Zongmi.

7. Key Themes of the Oga hae

Since the Diamond Sutra is a text that deals directly with the problem of language, and the relationship of language to reality, it is the perfect vehicle for Gihwa to express his understanding of the intrinsic unity of Seon and Gyo and his belief in the relevance of scriptural study in attaining the Seon goal of enlightenment. The famous dictum of the Diamond Sutra states "X is not X, therefore it is X," meaning that X is not actually what our senses and conceptualizing faculties have perceived it to be,18 and therefore we should not continue to naively understand things to exist in a reified manner, and try to appropriate them. This exercise in perspectival adjustment, however, when adhered to in earnest, has a tendency to lead the practitioner to see things as being inexistent. What the Diamond Sutra is saying, however, is that since (1) a view of inexistence also does not describe things as they truly are, and (2) we cannot function in a world where no names exist, we have no alternative but to apply names to things. But when we do so, it must be with the correct, non-appropriating awareness. Since X does not exist, paradoxically the appellation X can (and needs to be) applied to it. This formula can be also understood as a way of expressing the truth of the middle way, "neither X nor not-X." In the context of actual meditation practice (as distinguished from a more logical or rhetorical formulation), this is termed non-abiding, i.e., not being trapped by one-sided notions of existence or inexistence.

While this exercise can be applied to any object, be it physical or mental, the target concepts of the Diamond Sutra are not just anything that comes to mind. Coming under the critique of the Diamond Sutra are the most subliminally-held notions that one might attach to: self, lifetime, personality; early Buddhist notions of the stages of the path; the notion of bodhisattvahood, the transcendent practices, perfect enlightenment, tathāgatahood, and so forth.

The discourse of the Diamond Sutra can be seen as a critique of the status of language itself, and it is this overall issue that Gihwa takes up in his commentary, seeing the sutra as expressing the gist of the problematic relationship between Seon and Gyo. The issue of whether language is an admissible vehicle for the transmission of the buddhadharma has continually been at the fore of the discourse of the East Asian meditative schools of Buddhism. And this point is particularly relevant for Gihwa, since he is the descendant of the characteristically anti-textual tradition of Linji Chan, which had carried with it into Korea many of Chan's better-known self-characterizations, such as the school that "transmits directly from mind to mind," or "the special transmission outside of words and letters." The degree of the continued popularity of such slogans at the time of Gihwa is reflected in his frequent quotation of them in this commentary on the Diamond Sutra. Yet while Gihwa, by the very existence of his commentarial works, acknowledges the viability of the role of scriptural study in Buddhist education, he at the same time does not abandon Chan's acute concerns regarding the pitfalls of language. Hence, Gihwa's treatment of the Seon-Gyo issue is fluid. He says early in the Oga hae:

An ancient said: "The Three Vehicles and Twelve Divisions of the Teaching embody the principle and grasp the mystery." This being the case, what is the special significance of the ancestral teacher's (Bodhidharma's) coming from the West? And the separately transmitted teaching should also not be found outside of the scriptures. But since that which is contained in the worded teaching has remained hidden and undisclosed, now the patriarchs reveal and spread its truth, and not only is the meaning of the doctrine made clear, but the "separately transmitted teaching" is also fully disclosed. Since there has been named such a thing as "the transmission of direct pointing," how could this be something that is contained in the doctrinal teaching? If we merely reflect on the story of Caoxi of Huangmei,19 this can readily be seen! (HBJ 7.12.c5-10)

Gihwa writes with this kind of shifting perspective throughout the Oga hae. Certain that the Chan of the patriarchs and the sermons of the Buddha manifest the same reality, he shifts back and forth in acknowledging their merits. Later in the commentary, he again points out the usefulness of the worded teaching, but warns against attachment to it:

The dharma that the Buddha has taught is absolute and is relative. Since it is relative, liberation is none other than written language. Since what was taught in the east and taught in the west for forty-nine years20 is absolute, written language is none other than liberation;21 yet in over three hundred sermons, Śākyamuni never explained a single word. If you are attached to the words, then you see branches of the stream but miss their source. If you do away with words, you observe the source but are ignorant of its branch streams. When you are confused about neither the source nor its streams, then you enter the ocean of the nature of experienced reality. Having entered the ocean of the nature of experienced reality, the no-thought wisdom is directly manifested. The no-thought wisdom being directly manifested, whatever is faced is no impediment, and you penetrate wherever you touch. (HBJ 7.42c.21-43a.5)

Although words cannot be denied, one also cannot be attached to words. Implied in the source-streams simile is the essence-function formula. To forget words and become absorbed in the wordless is to forget the phenomenal world (function, K. yong) and be attached to the essence (K. che). According to Gihwa, this is not an acceptable Buddhist position. Yet Gihwa also counsels along the lines of the better-known Chan theme—that an imbalanced attachment to words can lead to an obstruction of Buddhist realization. What remains is the "middle path," which means continuous avoidance of abiding in one-sided positions. This is "entering the ocean of the dharma-nature," which results in the manifestation of no-thought wisdom. No-thought wisdom penetrates (tong) everything with which it comes into contact.

Gihwa's comments on the sutra and on the other commentators work repeatedly through this neither-nor position on language. Gihwa makes the same point below, in another passage from the Oga hae. This is in the section of the sutra where the arhat-interlocutor Subhūti is asked by the Buddha to qualify the status of the teaching itself:

"Subhūti, what do you think? Does the Tathāgata have a teaching to be explained or not?"

Subhūti answered the Buddha, saying, "World-honored one, the Tathāgata has no teaching to be explained." (T 235.8.750a.15-16)

Yefu, the poetic commentator who so stimulates Gihwa says: "Quietly, quietly."

Gihwa adds: "The Buddha has nothing to explain; this is certainly true. But saying nothing is also not the Buddha's original intention. That is why Yefu says 'quietly, quietly.' One should not claim one-sidedly that there is nothing to be said." A bit further on he adds: "... therefore it is said, 'even though you also do not rely on the path of verbal teaching, you should also not be attached to verbal explanations.' " (HBJ 7.56b.24-c.10)

Gihwa has ample opportunity to raise this issue in commenting on the Diamond Sutra, since "non-abiding" is the main theme that the sutra is attempting to express. It is also clear that Gihwa considers the Diamond Sutra to be so valuable exactly because he considers non-abiding to be the key of all Buddhist practices. Again invoking the essence-function framework, he says:

Non-abiding is the great essence of the myriad practices, and the myriad practices are all the great function of non-abiding. The teaching of the compassionate saint [the Buddha] takes non-abiding as its abode. With the great essence shining, one cannot but be aware of the great function. (HBJ 7.36.a.10-13)

Concerning the relationship of the Diamond Sutra to the practice of non-abiding, Gihwa says:

Prajñā's divine source is vast, lacking all kinds of characteristics. It is extensive, yet lacks an abode. It is empty and not existing; it is profound and unknown. Now this single sutra takes this as its core teaching and as its essence. Although there is no awareness, there is nothing that it does not know. Although there is no abiding, there is no place where it does not abide. Although lacking characteristics, it does not obstruct any characteristics. This is the function of marvelous existence. What all Buddhas have realized is exactly the realization of this. What all the patriarchs have transmitted is exactly the transmission of this. Their means of awakening people is also exactly through this. (HBJ 7.14a.15-22)

In the Diamond Sutra, non-abiding is equated with the lack of attachment to any characteristic (K. sang, Ch. xiang). Therefore, the Diamond Sutra's teaching of "no-characteristics" (K. musang; Ch. wuxiang) is synonymous with non-abiding. The Diamond Sutra's discussion, as in the case with other texts of the prajñāpāramitā genre, carries out a systematic refutation of the abiding in characteristics, and most importantly, the characteristics of selfhood and thinghood. To make the attack most effective, the prajñāpāramitā writers made targets of the most seminal Buddhist concepts, such as "Tathāgata," "dharma," "bodhisattva," etc. If one continues to abide in these concepts, then she has not yet been able to let go of her mistaken adherence to the self-imputed reality of conceptual objects. This means that the person has not experienced, or turned to the path of Buddhist "faith" (sin/xin). In order truly to be able to practice non-abiding, one must have faith. Or to have faith, one must be able to make the transition to the habit of non-abiding. To put it yet another way, non-abiding and Buddhist faith are two aspects of the same thing.22 The Buddha and Subhūti discuss the arousal of faith in the sutra, and Gihwa comments as follows:

Subhūti asked the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One, if sentient beings are able to hear these words, phrases and passages, will they be able to arouse true faith?"

The Buddha answered Subhūti: "Do not say such a thing. Even five hundred years after my passing away there will be people who hold the precepts and cultivate goodness, and who will be able to arouse the mind of faith in these passages by regarding them as the truth." 23

Gihwa comments:

The above question and answer directly clarify the inner meaning of non-abiding and no-characteristics. Since this inner meaning of non-abiding and no-characteristics is extremely deep and difficult to understand, it cannot be approached by the discriminations of ordinary people. This being the case, as the time of the passing away of the Sage becomes more and more distant, might there not be the possibility of a lack of faith? This is why Subhūti asks the question. However, this reality is certainly not something different from the daily activities of sentient beings, and it penetrates past, present and future. Because of this, even if a man lives in an age of degeneration of the dharma, if his faculties are sharp, he should arouse faith by taking this inner meaning of non-abiding and no-characteristics, and regarding it as true. (HBJ 7.38c.12-37a.9)

8. On Exegesis and Editing

An unusual facet of Gihwa's commentary in the Oga hae is his extended discussion of the enterprise of editing and exegesis in itself—the correction of the errors that creep in during the process of translation and commentary. In looking at this discussion, we should be reminded of the difficulty of the maintenance and dissemination of texts in ancient times before the invention and use of the printing press. Buddhist sutras written in classical Chinese (of which there were inevitably various translations) needed to be continually recopied by hand for continuity and further dissemination. This was one of the major activities of Buddhist monks of the pre-press era. In the process of the copying of intricate CJK logographs, many of which can be indistinguishable from each other in their cursive writing form, chances of error were high. Furthermore, in the case of the Mahāyāna sutra, the operative logic24 is profound, and often quite opposite from that which would be seen in a secular argument. The possibility for an overworked or inattentive copyist to make an error was high. Also, in reading the text, thought that it did not make sense as it was, or perhaps felt that the current arrangement of the text did not agree with his own sectarian positions, he might very well decide to alter it.

There is a distinctive flavor to Gihwa's admonishments in this section, in the degree to which they reflect his Seon orientation. When Gihwa encourages proper scholarly discipline in the handling of a canonical text, he does not stop with the demand for technical care and thorough disciplinary philological preparation. In fact, he places primary emphasis on the development of the commentator's meditative insight, which should be brought to bear on the scholarly work. Hence, while we can say that Gihwa has, in other ways, worked for an institution of Gyo into Seon, he is here integrating the "Seon" meditative experience into "Gyo" scholarly activity. The exegete needs not only scholarly training, but also the continual deepening of his own meditative experience, so that he will not write mistaken interpretations into the text. Thus, he is required not only to read the subject text deeply enough to penetrate its key themes, but also to do meditation in order to have the necessary mental purity and "wisdom eye" to carry out the work. Gihwa addresses this topic in the introductory section of the Oga hae. He first stresses the importance of seriousness regarding the project, since words are the tools for the expression of the Way:

Written words are the tools for the expression of the Way and the means for guiding people. The actual and the overall themes should support each other; the theme should penetrate the text throughout, and be fully contained down to its minutest details. Only when omissions, superfluous words, inversions and errors do not confuse its points can the text awaken people's understanding and can it become a norm for a thousand generations. If this is not the case, then not only will the text not open people's eyes, it will become a instrument of beguilement. (HBJ 7.13b3-8)

The Huayan principle of mutual containment is operating here through the formula of essence and function. The inner meaning of a canonical text, which is the "essence" (che), should be fully manifest in its outward appearance or "function " (yong); conversely the external text ( "function" ) should correctly express the internal/invisible essence: they should penetrate each other. "Penetration" (tong) again can be used as a metaphor to describe the action of the mind of the Seon exegete, whose commentarial and editorial work depends upon his meditative preparation.

The task of correcting an error-laden text is not to be carried out lightly, by a someone who lacks sufficient clarity. Therefore "if you lack the wisdom eye, you cannot but be confounded by arrogance and error." (HBJ 7.13b11-12) Nevertheless, one who initially lacks the sharpness to overcome these mistakes can still treat a text well with the proper meditative preparation: "Although you may lack the wisdom eye, if you silence your discriminations in order to apprehend the point, then the incongruities between the sentences and the theme can be grasped and straightened out." (HBJ 7.13b16-17) The responsibility is heavy, since the exegete is passing on the dharma for future generations:

If you have understood that the text's errors are like "gnarled roots and knotted bark," 25 and that the meaning is obstructed and not penetrating and, wary of criticism from others, if you perceive these errors and do not correct them, then how can you reflect the compassion of the Buddha? Later generations, unavoidably receiving the transmissions of error-laden texts will in turmoil produce forced interpretations in order to make sense of the text. If it is done in this way, then the uncorrected errors become attached to the words of the buddhas and the patriarchs and they will unavoidably become mixed up. This is something which cannot be done by the man of excellence and the thoroughgoing scholar. (HBJ 7.13.c.16-24)

One would think that given the extent and explicitness of this justification for correction of canonical texts in the preface of a commentary to the Diamond Sutra, we would see some suggestions made for correction here in this commentary, but there are none. On the other hand, in his commentary to the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, Gihwa carries engages in extensive editing of the sort suggested by this passage,26 which makes one wonder if this passage has not somehow been misplaced, and actually belongs somewhere in that other commentary.

9. Translation: Section 7 of the Oga hae: No attainment, no teaching

The Oga hae has been studied intensely in the Korean monastic tradition from the time of Gihwa up to the present, and is an integral part of the monks' core curriculum in contemporary Korean Seon.27 The Oga hae is a rather large text, occupying about one hundred pages of the Hanguk bulgyo jeonseo, which means that a full annotated translation would end up being a project of several hundred pages. But the value of such a work would no doubt be great. Access would be provided to the combined exegeses of Zongmi, Huineng and three other formidable scholars, along with Gihwa, on one of the most influential texts in the East Asian Buddhist tradition. The philosophical merits of such a study would be high, gaining even greater relevance in view of ongoing postmodern concerns with the ontological status of language, which is a central topic of discussion in the Diamond Sutra.

To provide a greater sampling of the Oga hae beyond the few isolated citations given above, we offer, in conclusion, a translation of one complete section of the text. This section, which is the seventh of its thirty-two traditional divisions, is especially relevant to the topic of the present essay, in that it addresses the problematic status of the verbal teaching, given the fact that the ultimate reality of other categories have, up to this point in the sutra, been rejected. In this section, we have access to sufficient representative writing of each of the five commentators, as well as Gihwa. This includes the text running from HBJ 7.43b to 7.45b.


Sutra: "Subhūti, what do you think? Does the Tathāgata attain peerless perfect enlightenment? And does he have a teaching that he explains?"

Zongmi: The Buddha is asking if Subhūti got it or not, with the expectation that he didn't. That's why Asaṅga says, "This shows that he has, after all, ended up clinging to [the notion of] perfect enlightenment." In the second sentence he answers in accordance with the reality-principle.

Sutra: Subhūti said: "As I understand the implications of what the Buddha has explained, there is no determinable phenomenon called peerless perfect enlightenment. And there is also no set teaching that can be expounded by the Tathāgata."


Gihwa: The fact that all the terms such as thusness, the buddha-nature, enlightenment, and nirvāṇa, as well as the transcendent practices (pāramitās), the [four] truths, and the [twelvefold] dependent origination and so forth that are used in application to the capacities of sentient beings are [merely] designations has not been adequately understood. If you observe from the vantage point of reality, there is, from the start, no such problem. Then again, at the appropriate time, there is the teaching of the selflessness of phenomena and person.

Zongmi: The transformation buddha is not the real buddha; he also does not teach the dharma.

Huineng: Anuttarā (the unsurpassed) is not gotten from the outside, yet whenever there is no thought of "mine" in the mind, this is exactly it. Medicines are made only to fit the disease, and the teaching is delivered according to the differing faculties of sentient beings. How could there be such as thing as a set teaching? The Tathāgata teaches that the mind of the unsurpassed correct teaching originally lacks attainment. But you also cannot say that it is not attainable. It is just that since that which sentient beings see is not the same, the Tathāgata adjusts to their faculties and natures. Using various skillful means, he awakens and guides them.

Enabling them to be free from all attachments, he shows them that the deluded mind of all sentient beings arises and ceases without pause, chasing after the objective world. Once the prior thought arises slightly, the subsequent thought responds in its awareness. Awareness does not abide, views also do not remain. Since it is like this, how could there be a set teaching that the Tathāgata could expound? [The phoneme] an (of anuttarā-samyak-saṃbodhi) indicates the mind's absence of deluded thought. Uttara indicates the mind's absence of conceit. Sam means that the mind is always in a state of correct concentration. Yak means that the mind is always in a state of correct wisdom. Saṃbodhi means that the mind is always empty and quiescent. When in one thought-moment the dull mind of regular people is suddenly removed, one sees the buddha-nature.

Yefu: When it's cold, say it's cold. When it's hot, say it's hot.

Gihwa: It is because there are two vehicles that we say there are two vehicles. It is because there is a great vehicle that we say there is a great vehicle. According to the capacities of sentient beings, one acts expediently without a set teaching. Following conditions, one stands on reality and escapes the cage [of passions and distorted cognitions].


When the clouds rise on the Northern Mountains, it's raining in the Southern Mountains

An ass, it's called, with a horse's label. How many kinds are there?

Seeking the vast oceans, there is no water

In some places, you accord with the direction; in some places, you are complete in yourself.

Gihwa: Depending on the state of mind, one teaches the [four] truths or [twelvefold] dependent origination — or perhaps one elaborates the six transcendent practices. Since the abilities [of sentient beings] are not the same, the teaching is also not determined. From this, one articulates a myriad words, and uses non-conceptual wisdom to respond to each person's state of spiritual maturity, explaining in both prolix and terse language the halfway and fully-explained teachings, the partial and complete. [Yet] in the the prolix and terse explanations, there has never been one word offered to expound the doctrine.

Zongmi: The third part explains the articulation of the indeterminate teaching.

Sutra: Why? The teachings explained by the Tathāgata can neither be appropriated nor explained. There is neither a teaching nor a non-teaching.

Gihwa: When the Buddha expounds the teaching, sometimes he says there are signs, and sometimes he says there are no signs. He speaks freely without impediment, and is never obstructed by holding to one extreme. Therefore we cannot attach to his words. [Afterthought:] As far as the Buddha's teaching is concerned, you can't say that it is a teaching, and you can't say that it is not a teaching. If there is definitely not a teaching, then it is necessary to use a raft to cross the river. If you say that there definitely is a teaching, then you can reach the other shore without needing a boat. Hence, by availing yourself to the Way at the proper time, you reach the truth with a single word, cast out the worldly conditioned mind and accomplish sagehood. Availing yourself to the Way at the proper time, you use three three vehicles and twelve divisions of the canon. What is this? The "scream at the hot bowl," and the "elaboration of the golden shit" are also made based on this.

Zongmi: Asaṅga says: " 'Cannot be appropriated' refers to the time when one is listening correctly. 'Cannot be explained' refers to the time when one is explaining correctly. 'No teaching' (or 'no phenomena' ) is because of the nature of discrimination. 'No non-teaching' (or 'no non-phenomena' ) is because of the selflessness of phenomena." (T 1510a.25.761a25-27) Vasubandhu says: "This 'teaching and non-teaching' is an explanation made based on a knowledge of reality. [The expression] 'non-teaching' [is articulated] because all phenomena lack essence and marks. 'No non-teaching' is articulated because the real marks of selfless thusness exist. Why is it that only verbal expressions are said not to be realized? As soon as there are verbal expressions, they give form to meaning. If they are not realized, then one cannot express them." (T 1511.25.784c1-4)

Huineng: It is because the Tathāgata is concerned that people will attach to the words, phrases, and sentences that form the content of his exposition, and not awakening to the markless principle, deludedly give rise to understandings. Therefore he says "cannot be appropriated." Since the Tathāgata gives consideration to each being according to his individual capacities, how can there be any determination in regard to what he teaches? Practitioners, not understanding the Tathāgata's profound intention, simply chant the teaching that the Tathāgata has expounded without fathoming their own original minds, and in the end do not achieve enlightenment. Therefore he says that it is inexplicable. When one chants with one's mouth and the mind does not actualize it, then this is the non-teaching. When one chants with one's mouth and the mind actualizes it, fathoming its unobtainability, then this is no non-teaching.

Fu Dashi:

Enlightenment is free from verbal explanations.

The person who has up to now been unable to attain this,

Relies on the principle of two kinds of selflessness

To realize the body of the dharma-king.

Existence and mind are both delusions

Not being attached is called "reality."

When you understand no non-dharma,

You course out beyond the six objects.

Yefu: What is it?

Gihwa: The teaching expounded by the Buddha is like a gourd sitting on top of the water: with the slightest touch it turns immediately. There is no set teaching that can be appropriated, and there is no set teaching that can be expounded. If a set teaching existed, how could it be inexistent? If the set teaching is inexistent, how could it be non-inexistent? Since there is already no such thing as an existent or inexistent teaching, in the end, what it is it? [Afterthought:] Since the claims for the teaching and the non-teaching are already both negated, in the end, what is it?

Yefu: "There is originally nothing to attain;" and "not being so is not held to." 28 In the clear and vast sky, a bird flies, leaving no tracks. Bah! Clearing away delusion and opening up enlightenment, one falls back to spinning. South, north, east, and west naturally come and go.

Gihwa: The existence and non-existence of a set [teaching] is unaffirmed. Don't look for the Daoist view in the four phrases, because the Daoists don't sit in their midst. Not sitting in the four phrases, a bird flies in the sky without leaving any tracks. Bah! One must again look within the bird's path for self-transformation to be attained for the first time. South, north, east, and west are the same heaven and earth. Don't divide the world and automatically come and go. [Afterthought:] The teaching and the non-teaching —both are unaffirmed; both views are contrary to the Buddha's original intention. Simply look into the sky and seek the bird's track. Bah! Even if it is like this, this is also not the Buddha's original mind. If we really understand the Buddha's original mind we will say that his teaching is also not obstructed, and we'll say that his non-teaching is also not obstructed.

Zongmi: Fourth is the reasoning for the teaching of not grasping to explanations.

Sutra: How can this be? All the enlightened sages are distinguished [from worldly teachers] by indeterminate phenomena.

Gihwa: The teachings actualized by all enlightened sages are all distinguished by means of the unconditioned, and these distinctions are none other than the unconditioned. [People] course out far beyond the middle space into the two extremes, and thus when the unconditioned teaching of a single taste is seen from the perspective of the direct disciples (śrāvakas) it is called the four noble truths. When seen from the perspective of solitary realizers (pratyekabuddhas) it is called dependent origination, and when seen from the perspective of the bodhisattvas, it is called the six transcendent practices. Each of the six transcendent practices, dependent origination, and the four noble truths lack a way to be held, and are ineffable.

Zongmi: The Wei translation29 says: "All sages are named as such based on the unconditioned teaching." (T 236.8.753b22) The [Vasubandhu] Treatise says: "The sages rely on nothing other than thusness and purity to be called such. It is not that they attain some special dharma." (T 1511.25.784c7) Therefore there is neither grasping nor explanation, and yet there is differentiation. The Treatise says: "Thusness is replete, and purity distinguishes purity." 30 Asaṅga says: " 'Unconditioned' means 'non-discrimination.' Hence the bodhisattvas get their name based upon their application of practices, while the Tathāgatas get their name based upon their non-application of practices. The first occurrence of the term 'unconditioned' refers to that which is manifested at the overcoming of mental disturbances. The second 'unconditioned' is refers to the peerless enlightenment in regard to the ultimate truth." (T 1510.25.761a28-762a01) Since the sages of the three vehicles all cultivate and realize the unconditioned, they are set apart together as a group.

Huineng: That which is understood by those who have the natures and abilities of the three vehicles is not the same. Their insight [varies in terms of ] deep and shallow, and hence we say that there are distinctions. When the Buddha expounds the unconditioned teaching, this is none other than that of non-abiding. Non-abiding is none other than signlessness; signlessness is none other than non-arising; non-arising is none other than non-cessation. Void, empty, quiescent, with illuminating function gathering all equally, discerning awareness is unobstructed. This is truly none other than the liberated buddha-nature. "Buddha" is none other than "enlightenment;" "enlightenment" is none other than "intelligent illumination;" "intelligent illumination" is none other than "insight;" "insight" is none other than transcendent wisdom.

Fu Dashi:

"Person" and "phenomena" are both called attachment.

But when fully fathomed, they are the two kinds of unconditioned.

While bodhisattvas are able to realize both equally,

The direct disciples can only get one.

When the cognitive and afflictive hindrances are exhausted

There is, in the void, no more basis.

Constantly able to maintain this observance

One attains realization, definitely, without doubt.

Yefu: A hair-breadth's difference at the beginning opens up to a distance as vast as that between heaven and earth.

Gihwa: Even though the teaching is of a single taste, there are a thousand distinctions in viewpoint. Those thousand distinctions are contained in merely a single thought. A difference in a single thought opens up a space as vast as that between heaven and earth. Yet even though it is like this, heaven and earth join to become one. In this way, then, when gold becomes a thousand utensils, each utensil is gold. Sandalwood is broken into ten thousand pieces, yet each piece is aromatic.

Yefu: A correct man expounds an errant teaching and the errant teachings all return to correctness. An errant man expounds the correct teaching and the correct teachings all end up being wrong. The river in the north produces tares; the river in the south produces tangerines. Spring arrives and flowers spring forth everywhere.

Gihwa: The unconditioned teaching of a single taste can be correctly or deviantly transmitted. One kind is distinguished into North and South. North and South have the same blooming of flowers.

Zongjing: Attainment is denied and teaching is denied. The mental function of the compassionate one is like a bolt of lightning —you can't grasp it, and you can't let it go. The tongue born of emptiness is originally rolling out [it's words]. Well, let's just say it: the unconditioned teaching has distinctions like this. "In the ancient blue depths, the sky encloses the moon; after three attempts at scooping it and sifting it, you should understand what's actually going on."

Gihwa: Attaining without attainment; expounding without elocution. His function is marvelously spiritual—a lightning flash is difficult to grab with your hand; grasping, you can't get it; releasing, you can't let go. Enjoyable words roll out continuously like powerful waves, able to go high and low. From this point of view, it is like the unconditioned teaching, which ends up having these kinds of distinctions Now you want to cognize the unconditioned principle without separating from a thousand differences and ten thousand distinctions. Even though it is like this, you still know the mind of the moon and sky in the deep pool. Why be like a foolish monkey exhausting yourself?

Zongjing: The clouds wrap up the autumn sky as the moon stamps the pond; the cold light is boundless; with whom will you consult? Seeing through the earth with the penetrating heavenly eye; the great way is made clear without availing oneself to consultation.

Gihwa: If you use the sky and moon without stamping them on the water, how can you say that the cold light is vast without limit? Illuminating heaven and earth, including a myriad forms without limit; with whom will you consult on this taste? Still, on the top of your head you are able to merge your eyes into one. Where should you look next to search out the profound principle?


Classical East Asian Texts

Chanzong Yongjia ji ( 禪宗永嘉集) (The Compilation of Yongjia of the Chan School). By Xuanjue 玄覺.  T 2013. 48.387b-395c

Jingang jing jieyi ( 金剛經解義) (Commentary to the Diamond Sutra.). By Huineng.  Z 459.24.517-535

Jingang jing zhu (金剛 經註) (Commentary to the Diamond Sutra). By Yefu Daochuan.  Z 461.24.536-565

Jingang jing shulun zuanyao (金剛經疏論纂要) (Commentary to the Diamond Sutra). By Zongmi, redacted by Zixuan.  T 1701.33.154-169

Jingang banruo boluomi jing (金剛般若波羅蜜經) (Diamond Sutra). T 235.8.748c-752c

Jinsim jikseol (眞心 直説) (Straight Talk on the True Mind). By Jinul.  HBJ 4.715a-723c

Xin Huayanjing lun (新 華嚴經論) (Treatise on the New Translation of the Flower Ornament Scripture). By Li Tongxuan 李通玄.  T 1739.36.721-1007

Hwaeomnon jeoryo (華 嚴論節要) (Essentials of the Flower Ornament Treatise). By Jinul.  HBJ 4.767-869

Hyeonjeong non (顯正 論) (Exposition of the Correct). By Gihwa.  HBJ 7.217-225

Geumgang banyabaramilgyeong oga hae seorui (金剛般若波羅蜜經五家解説誼) (Annotation of the Redaction of Five Commentaries on the Diamond Sutra). By Gihwa.  HBJ 7.10-107

Geumgang banya baramilgyeong yun gwan (金剛般若波羅蜜經綸貫) (The Penetrating Thread of the Diamond Sutra.). HBJ 7.116-121

gisillon so (起信論疏 ) (Commentary on the Awakening of Faith). By Wonhyo.  HBJ 1.698-722; T 1844.44.202a-226a

Liangzhao fu dashi song jingang jing (梁朝傅大師頌金剛經) (Commentary to the Diamond Sutra). By Shuanglin Fu.  T 2732.85.1-7

Seonjong yeonggajip gwaju seorui (禪宗永嘉集科註説誼) (Annotation of the Redaction of the Text and Commentaries to the Compilation of Yongjia of the Chan School). By Gihwa.  HBJ 7.170-216

Seonga Gugam (禪家龜 鑑). By Hyujeong.  HBJ 7.634c-646a

Seonmun yeomsongjip ( 禪 門拈頌集) (Compilation of Examinations of and Verses on Ancient Precedents). By Hyesim.  HBJ 5.1-925

Dacheng qixin lun (大乘 起信論) (Treatise on Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith). Attributed to Aśvaghoṣa.  T 1665.32.575b-583b

Daebanggwang weongak sudara youi gyeong seorui (大方廣圓覺修多羅了義經説誼)  (Commentary on the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment). By Gihwa.  HBJ 7.122-169

Daeseung gisillon byeolgi (大乘起信論別記) (Expository Notes on the Awakening of Faith). By Wonhyo.  HBJ 1.677-697; T 1845.44.226a-240c.

Yuanjue jing (圓覺經 ) (Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment). T 842.17.913a-922a

Modern Works

Buswell, Robert E.  The Korean Approach to Zen: The Collected Works of. Chinul. Honolulu:  University of Hawai`i Press,  1983.

---.  The Zen Monastic Experience. Princeton:  Princeton University Press,  1992.

Keel, Hee-Sung.  Chinul: The Founder of the Korean Sŏn Tradition. Berkeley:  Buddhist Studies Series,  1984.

Muller, A. Charles. "Hamhŏ Kihwa: A Study of His Major Works." Phd. diss. SUNY at Stony Brook:  1993.

----.  "The Composition of Self-Transformation Thought in Classical East Asian Philosophy and Religion.." Bulletin of Toyo Gakuen University. vol. 4, March, 1996. pp. 141-152

----.  The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment: Korean Buddhism's Guide to Meditation (with the commentary by Kihwa). Albany:  SUNY Press,  1999.

Park, Sung Bae.  "Wŏnhyo's Commentaries on the Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna." Phd. diss. Berkeley:  University of California,  1979.

----.  Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment. Albany:  SUNY Press,  1983.

Shim, Jae Ryong.  "The Philosophical Foundation of Korean Zen Buddhism: The Integration of Sŏn and Kyo by Jinul (1158-1210)." Phd. diss. Honolulu:  University of Hawai`i ,  1979.


1. This is the period of the development of the Jogye school, the descendant of which exists today in Korea.[back]

2. Jogye in Chinese—Caoxi is originally the name of a stream southeast of Shaozhou, Guangdong, which became an appellation for the Chan Sixth Patriarch Huineng.[back]

3. See Buswell, The Zen Monastic Experience, pp. 95-102, and Keel, Chinul, 175-178.[back]

4. The Bussho kaisetsu daijiten erroneously identifies Gihwa as a Ming Chinese monk. See vol. 3, p. 466a.[back]

5. For details regarding Gihwa's life and works, please see my Ph.D. dissertation "Hamhŏ Kihwa: A Study of his Major Works."[back]

6. My translation of this commentary, along with the sutra, has been published by SUNY Press (1999).[back]

7. The Seonjong yeonggajip gwaju seorui.[back]

8. Surveys of Korean Buddhism to date, both in and outside of Korea, have repeatedly ignored Giwha's pivotal role as transmitter of Jinul's Seon-Gyo unification, instead usually crediting Hyujeong (1520-1604) as being the most important sustainer of this discourse. However, Gihwa, who lived almost exactly in the middle time between these two, wrote in far greater quantity, and more directly on the topic than did Hyujeong. Furthermore, we can see in Hyujeong's writings an obvious reliance on Gihwa's works. We can guess that Hyujeong's prominent stature as a cultural hero (he is the one who organized the monks' army that was instrumental in thwarting the Japanese invasion by Hideyoshi) may have led scholars to pay greater attention to his role.[back]

9. Also known as Shuanglin Fu, from Tongyang in Qi. He is named as the preceptor for the Buddhist conversion of Emperor Wu of Liang, and is recorded as having established the Shuanglin Temple as well as having supervised one of the earlier editions of the Chinese canon.[back]

10. Daochuan was Song period (12 c.) Linji monk, also known by the mountain name of his residence, Yefu. A native of Jiangsu, he first studied under Dongzhai qian, where he underwent a major awakening experience. After various travels, he returned to Dongzhai where his famous comments to the Diamond Sutra were recorded, as he responded in verse to questions regarding the sutra. His dates of birth and death are not known.[back]

11. Contained separately in Z 461.24.536-565 and T 2732.[back]

12. According to the Bussho kaisetsu daijiten (vol. 3, p. 460c), this work is only extant in the Oga hae, and my investigations have not yet been able to turn up anything to add to this. I have been unable to locate any biographical information on Zongjing, other than the fact that he was a Song monk. Seeing that all other commentators are of Chan affiliation, we would assume that he also was from the same tradition. The BKD also attributes him with six other works — all exegetical works dealing with the Diamond Sutra.[back]

13. See HBJ 7.634c-635a.[back]

14. Two of the most famous prefaces in the Korean Buddhist tradition are those composed by Wonhyo in his commentary to the Awakening of Faith, (Translated by Sung Bae Park in his Ph.D. dissertation at Berkeley and republished in Peter Lee's Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, pp. 157-9.) and Jinul's opening statement to his Hwaeomnon jeoryeo. (Essentials of the Treatise on the Huayan jing; HBJ 4.768a.)[back]

15. For other citations of this preface, see Han Gidu, Seon sasang yeon'gu, pp. 142, 201.[back]

16. Heaven, earth and man.[back]

17. The opening passage of the gisillon so by Wonhyo, found at T 1844.44.202a.26-b.4, reads:

The essence of the Mahāyāna is generally described as being completely empty and very mysterious. However, no matter how mysterious it may be, how could it be anywhere but in the world of myriad phenomena? No matter how empty it may be, it is still present in the conversations of people. Although it is not anywhere but in phenomena, none of the five eyes can see its form. Although it is present in discourse, none of the four unlimited explanatory abilities can describe its shape. One wants to call it great, but it enters the interiorless and nothing remains. One wants to call it infinitesimal, but it envelops the exteriorless without exhausting itself. One might say it is something, yet everything is empty because of it. One might say it is nothing, yet the myriad things arise through it. I do not know how to describe it; therefore, I am compelled to call it "Mahāyāna." (Trans. Sung Bae Park, "Wŏnhyo's Commentaries" p. 63.) [back]

18. We mistakenly perceive things to be inherently existent, rather than dependently originated, and we believe they exist exactly in the form that our senses have interpreted.[back]

19. More commonly known as Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch.[back]

20. The length of Śākyamuni's teaching career.[back]

21. In the above two sentences Gihwa is alluding to the famous dictum from the Heart Sutra, "form is emptiness, emptiness is form." [back]

22. A Buddhist faith that is equivalent to "non-abiding" can be equated with the "immovable" Patriarchal Faith described by Sung Bae Park. According to Park, Patriarchal Faith is a faith which, due to its grounding in Śūnyatā, "lacks an object" (Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment p. 35) and thus cannot abide anywhere. But it is called "immovable" when contrasted to object-based forms of faith which are unstable (p. 45).[back]

23. T 235.8.749a.26-29. Also see my full translation of the sutra at[back]

24. That is, a logic that is based on an understanding of emptiness, which often produces semantic relationships which are opposite from ordinary logic.[back]

25. A metaphor for confusion.[back]

26. Gihwa's rewrites of the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment are examined in detail in my full translation of his commentary and the sutra, entitled The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment: Korean Buddhism's Meditation Guide (With the Commentary by the Sŏn Monk Kihwa)[back]

27. For a description of the modern Jogye curriculum, see Buswell, The Zen Monastic Experience, p. 99, and Keel, Chinul, 175-178.[back]

28. These are the third and fourth of the "six teaching phrases" of the Linji school.[back]

29. The "Wei Translation" is Bodhiruci's translation of the Diamond Sutra, T 236.[back]

30. This line is not contained in Vasubandhu's treatise, nor elsewhere in Taishō.[back]

Copyright © Charles Muller— 2005