Lecture Video: The Distinctive Characteristics of Korean Buddhism

Lecturer: Prof. David A. Mason

What is really "Korean" about Korean Buddhism? What are the distinctive characteristics of its traditional and modern forms, in artworks, beliefs and practices? And how might those features influence its current “globalization” efforts? What role might they play in international Buddhists’ opinion of, and desire to participate in and practice with, the major Korean Buddhist orders?

These are huge questions that could be discussed for years, but in today’s review-lecture Professor Mason will at least introduce some of their factors and parameters, and answers to them according to his own point of view developed over decades of involvement with and study of Korea’s own version of the grand global Buddhist traditions. Tangible factors like stone pagodas, mountain-spirit shrines, the new TempleStay program and temples perched high on slopes will be reviewed, along with doctrinal and organizational factors such as unification, harmonization, fortune-seeking, sites sacred to particular Bodhisattvas and the strong ideology of national defense.

He will show some photos of examples of what he is talking about, to the extent that time-constraints allow. There will be a brief time for questions from the audience about these very interesting issues.

David A. Mason is currently a Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism at Gyeongju University, and researcher on the religious characteristics of Korea's mountains. A native citizen of the United States, of Michigan, he has been living in South Korea for 29 years now, always following his passionate interest in visiting historic spiritual sites – particularly its Buddhist monasteries. He was involved in the creation of the TempleStay program in 2001-4, while working for the national Ministry of Culture and Tourism. He now serves as the Honorary Ambassador of the Baekdu-daegan Mountain Range, and is a frequent tour-guide.

He earned a Masters' Degree in the History of Korean Religions from Yonsei University, and has authored and edited nine books on Korean culture and tourism so-far. His popular website on sacred Korean mountains and mountain-spirits can be found at www.san-shin.org

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