This article explores the organic relationship that existed between Korean Buddhism and the broader East Asian tradition throughout much of the premodern period. Even while retaining some sense of their ethnic and cultural distinctiveness, Korean Buddhists were able to exert wide-ranging influence both geographically and temporally across the East Asian region. This influence was made possible because Buddhist monks saw themselves not so much as “Korean,” “Japanese,” or “Chinese” Buddhists, but instead as joint collaborators in a religious tradition that transcended contemporary notions of nation and time. Korean Buddhists of the pre-modern age would have been more apt to think of themselves as members of an ordination line and monastic lineage, a school of thought, or a tradition of practice, than as “Korean” Buddhists. If they were to refer to themselves at all, it would be as “disciples,” “teachers,” “propagators,” “doctrinal specialists,” and “meditators”—all terms suggested in the categorizations of monks found in the various Biographies of Eminent Monks. If we are to arrive at a more nuanced portrayal of Korean Buddhism, scholars must abandon simplistic nationalist shibboleths and open our scholarship to the expansive vision of their religion that the Buddhists themselves always retained.


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pp. 43-55
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