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What is Won-Buddhism?

The name Won Buddhism (Won-Bul-Kyo) is a compound word in Korean for 'Truth', 'Enlightenment', and 'Teaching'. 'Won' means circle and symbolizes the ultimate truth; 'Bul' means enlightenment; 'Kyo' means teaching the truth. Therefore, Won Buddhism is the path that leads us to become enlightened to the truth.

Sotaesan, the Founding Master of Won Buddhism, realized supreme enlightenment in 1916 in Korea, after years of searching for the truth and doing many ascetic practices. He embraced the Buddha’s teaching, yet he modernized and revitalized the traditional Buddhadharma so that people in the secular world could use it to enrich their everyday lives. 


The Il-Won-Sang (One-Circle-Image) is enshrined at the altar in Won Buddhism temples. It is a symbol of the ultimate reality; the origin of all things in the universe, the truth that all the Buddhas and sages awaken to, and the original nature of all sentient beings.

When our minds are without defilement, desires, or attachments, we are as clear as space and as clean and reflective as a perfect mirror. This is the realm before any thought arises. This is beginner's mind; this is who we really are. In this pure space, all religions, traditions, and philosophies can join together. The Il-Won-Sang represents our true home to which we may all return.

So-tae-san (Founding Master)

Park, Chung-bin (1891-1943), better known as Sotaesan, was born the son of peasants on May 5, 1891 in Korea. Sotaesan’s path of the awakening to the truth started with his asking universal questions about nature and human life, such as “Why do clouds and winds arise from the calm and clear sky?” or “Why are wives and husbands in such a close relationship?” At the age of 26 on April 28, 1916, he attained enlightenment after twenty years of seeking the truth and declared:

“All things are of a single body and nature;

all dharmas are of a single root source. In this regard,

the Way (Tao) that is free from arising nor ceasing and

the principle of the retribution and response of cause and effect,

being mutually grounded on each other,

have formed a clear and rounded framework.”


He offered visions and hopes for a future society of popularized Buddhist practice and living, and he made efforts for practical application, popularization, and modernization of Buddha Dharma under the founding motto:

 “As material civilization develops,

cultivate spiritual civilization accordingly.”

As the spiritual leader of Won Buddhism for 28 years, including the dark period of World War II, he built a strong spiritual and material foundation of Won Buddhism from the three main undertakings of the order: edification, education, and charity. He lived as an enlightened sage and completed the basic doctrine of Il Won Sang, the Dharmakaya Buddha, the Fourfold Grace, and The Threefold Study. On June 1, 1943, he entered into Nirvana at the age of 53 after he transmitted the verse of Truth to his disciples: 

“Being into nonbeing and nonbeing into being,

Turning and turning— in the ultimate,

Being and nonbeing are both void,

yet this void is also complete.”

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