Abstract

One of the most controversial issues to arise during the colonial period in Korea was the rise of clerical marriage and meat-eating among Korean monks. Given that sexual congress and meat dishes were prohibited in bhikṣu and bodhisattva precepts respectively, any examination of the issue of clerical marriage and meat-eating requires a careful exploration of the ways in which Korean monks understood and practiced bhikṣu and bodhisattva precepts not only in the colonial period but also in the late Chosŏn period. The Chosŏn period saw a weakening of the bhikṣu ordination tradition, whose ordination lineage was broken until the monk Taeŭn and the monk Manha established their own lineages by bestowing bhikṣu precepts in the eighteenth and the late nineteenth centuries, respectively. According to the Tongsa yŏlchŏn 東師列傳 (Biographies of Korean monks) written by the monk Pŏmhae in 1894, the number of bhikṣu and bodhisattva ordinations gradually increased in the nineteenth century. Because the government had overturned Buddhist institutions such as the monk examinations and certificates, monks had to secure their clerical identity by taking precepts from renowned preceptors, such as Ch’oŭi and Pŏmhae. The early Japanese colonial period also witnessed the rise of bhikṣu and bodhisattva ordinations in major Korean monasteries in part because the head-branch temple laws, a set of monastic laws, now specified that bhikṣu and bodhisattva ordinations were requirements for higher clerical positions, such as head monk or branch temple abbot. However, an examination of two cases of head temple elections, one in the T’ongdosa parish and one in the Magoksa parish, reveals that, though these requirements were in place, the way that monks understood the status of bhikṣu as it pertained to clerical marriage led to a rise in the number of bhikṣu ordinations that was surprisingly contemporaneous with the increase of clerical marriage during the colonial period.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2331-4826
Print ISSN
1225-0201
Pages
pp. 131-163
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-24
Open Access
No
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