This paper is an attempt at re-envisioning pre-modern Korean Buddhism by engaging the issue of monastic slaves during the late Koryŏ and early Chosŏn. The approach is to accept “mundane provisions” adopted by temples as a closer reflection of Buddhism in its practiced form than doctrine-focused Buddhism. Consequently, this paper concludes that we cannot infer from doctrine, as we often do, the actual actions of monks. Our doctrinal understanding of Buddhism is far from being an accurate depiction of monastic Buddhism; it is rather a rhetorical representation. If we accept the voices of the late-Koryŏ and early-Chosŏn monks, the custom of monastic slavery did not transgress from any monastic regulations nor any Buddhist ideals. To interpret the actions of the monks as transgressions of the Vinayic codes or some highly held ideals reduces the issue at hand to a unidimensional matter and leads to an oversimplification of the complex dynamics of socio-economic and historical forces that have shaped and re-formed Buddhism in Korea.


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pp. 5-34
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