Today I talked to Richard McBride II
about Doctrine and Practice in Medieval Korean Buddhism: The Collected Works of Ŭich’ŏn
(University of Hawaii Press, 2016). The book is a comprehensive study of the Koryŏ (918-1392) Buddhist exegete, Ŭichŏn, that convey’s his life and work through letters, speeches, memorials, addresses, and poetry, from three epigraphical accounts. During a time of contention between the the doctrinal (敎) and meditation (禪) schools, Ŭich’ŏn traveled to Song (宋), China (960-1270) to study with the Huayan (華嚴) master, Jinshui Jingyuan (晉水淨源) (1011-1088). During his fourteen-month stay in China, he became well-acquainted with monks of the Huayan, Tiantai, Vinaya, Chan, and Consciousness-only schools. Upon his return to Koryŏ, he compiled the "New Catalog of the Teachings of All the Schools," the first comprehensive catalog of essays and commentaries that reflects a pan-East Asian tradition. Ŭich’ŏn has been historically associated with abandoning his affiliation with the Huayan school, and founding the Ch’ŏnt’ae (Tiantai, 天 台) order of Korean Buddhism. Despite this, letters to Master Jinshui Jingyuan, in combination with addresses to novice disciples reveal that Uicheon did not abandon Huayan thought,but advocated that all forms of doctrinal knowledge be thoroughly understood in an age of declining dharma.
Trevor McManis is a student at California State University, Stanislaus, who specializes in cultural geography with an interest in applying geographic thought to the study of East Asian Religions.