A Revaluation of Modern Korean Buddhist Scholarship
The Journal of Daesoon Academy of Sciences
새로운 불교학 연구의 지평을 위하여1)
Contemporary Buddhist scholarship in Korea has been strongly affected by its origins in the Victorian era, when Western religious scholarssought to rationalize and historicize the study of religion. Modern Korean scholars, trained within the Western scholarly paradigm, share this prejudice which tends toward the rational. The result is a skewed understanding of Buddhism, emphasizing its philosophical and theoretical aspects at the expense of seemingly "irrational" religious elements based on
... direct experience of meditation practice. This paper seeks to look at the historical context in which modern Korean Buddhist scholarship had been shaped during the colonial period of Japan. Two case studies will be examined particularly in the light of post-colonial perspectives of Buddhist studies: the case of Jonghong Bak and the case of Donghwa Gim , two pioneering scholars in the field of Buddhist studies. They share similarities as well as differences. Both were born and active at almost the same period, during which Korean peninsula experienced modernization forced upon by Japanese colonialism. And thus, the experience of colonialism and modernization brought them into conflict between tradition and modernity. Their responses, however, were different. Pak, originally trained in Western philosophy, especially German philosophy, wanted to study Korean Buddhism in the context of the so-called Korean Philosophy per se. He was motivated to seek for the national and cultural identity of Korea. And thus his scholarship on Korean Buddhism naturally led him to look for an original Korean Buddhism distinct from the Buddhism of India, China and Japan. On the other hand, Gim, who became a monk in his youth, later went to Japan for college where he was exposed to modern Buddhist scholarship. He was the first to introduce modern Buddhist scholarship to Korea, and since then, contemporary Korean Buddhist scholarship owes much to his contributions. Despite his contributions to contemporary Korean Buddhist scholarship, if we look at his efforts in the light of post-colonial perspective, his ideas need to be reevaluate. ═════════════════════════════════════ 1) 본고의 초고는 1999년 8월 17-19일에 한국에서 열린 "제 3회 한 민족 철학자 대회" 제 2 분 과(세계철학사와 한국 철학의 위상)에서 발표된바 있다.