Lecture Video: Women and Buddhism: Engaging Zen Master Kim Iryŏp

Why and how do women engage with Buddhism? This is a leading question that this presentation tries to explore by examining the life and thoughts of a Korean Zen Buddhist nun Kim Iryŏp (1896-1971).

A daughter of a Christian pastor, Iryŏp was a first-generation Korean feminist and a writer who became a Zen Buddhist nun. Iryŏp’s life and work bear witness to Korea’s encounter with modernity and Korean women’s life in the formative period of modern Korea. Challenging the social values of patriarchal Korea, Iryŏp and other New Women struggled to find their own identity through their writings and art works, and by living their beliefs. The Buddhist worldview was one of the major venues Iryŏp found to express her identity and the meaning of her existence. By tracing down the life story and philosophy of Kim Iryŏp, this presentation will think about the meaning of autobiography, narrative identity, Christianity as well as Buddhism and meaning construction in our daily existence.
In her writings, Iryŏp challenges readers with her creative interpretations of Buddhist doctrine and her reflections on the meaning of Buddhist practice. In the process she offers insight into a time when the ideas and contributions of women to twentieth-century Korean society and intellectual life were just beginning to emerge from the shadows, where they had been obscured in the name of modernization and nation-building.

Jin Y. Park is Professor of Philosophy and Religion and the Founding Director of the Asian Studies Program at American University. Park’s research areas include East Asian Buddhism, and Buddhist philosophy of religion, Buddhist-postmodern comparative philosophy, and modern East Asian philosophy. Her books include Women and Buddhist Philosophy (2017); Reflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun (trans. 2014); Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism (ed., 2010); Buddhism and Postmodernity (2008); and Buddhisms and Deconstructions (ed., 2006).

Park served on the Board of Directors at the American Academy of Religion and currently serves as President of the North American Korean Philosophy Association and Vice President of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy.

 

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