Naong Hyegeun – 나옹 혜근 (1320-1376)

Naong

Meditation Master, master Naong Hyegeun (1320-1376)

Hello Again Everyone!!

In the fourth installment of leading luminaries in Korean Buddhism, I thought I would talk about the meditation master, Master Naong Hyegeun. He was a master of the Imje Seon lineage, and he taught and lived during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). It was a period of increasing negativity towards Buddhism due to the corruption that was rampant in the religion at that time. He is best known for laying the foundation for Buddhism in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Naong was believed to have been born as Gang Wolheon in the city of Yeonghae. At the age of 20, he became an ordained monk, which happened after the death of a close friend. At the age of 27, Naong traveled to Tang China to further his Buddhist education. Uniquely, he was the student of the Indian master, Jigong. He was later to further his studies when he traveled to China and studied under various masters while in the southern part of China. While there, he learned under the most prominent monk teaching in China at that time, Master Dhyanabhadra at Wutai-shan.

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The Gwaneeum-jeon Hall at Songgwangsa Temple.

Upon his return to the Korean peninsula, he became the abbot (juji) of the famed Woljeongsa Temple in 1360. It was during this time that he had a mystical experience with Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). He also became the primary teacher of Muhak, who he had met in China, and would go on to become prominent in his own right within Korean Buddhism. And then, in 1371, not only did he become the abbot at Suseonsa Temple (now the famed Songgwangsa Temple), but he also became the Royal Preceptor. Eventually, he became the abbot of Hoeamsa Temple.

In 1376, Naong Hyegeun passed away while in the process of moving to Yeongwosa Temple in present day Miryang. He died at Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju on May 15th. In total, he had over 2,000 disciples, the most famous being Muhak Jacho (1327-1425), who helped contribute to the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty.

Picture-066Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, which Naong Hyegeun founded.

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