Korean Buddhist monk Venerable Domyeong Sunim announced the publication of a new English edition of his book Gaya Buddhism: Unlocking the Door in Seoul last week, presenting an account of the migration of Buddhism from India to Korea.
The book launch took place at the Indian Cultural Center in Seoul on September 22 to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic and cultural relations between the two countries. The event was organized by the Indian Embassy and Gaya Culture Promotion Foundation. The event was attended by several venerable monks, Indian Ambassador to Korea, Shri Amit Kumar, Korean government officials and several eminent academics.
“I hope that India and Korea can play an important role in enriching human culture by recovering lost ancient history,” said Ven. Domyeong Sunim, abbot of Yeoyeojeong-sa, a temple in Korea's South Gyeongsang province, said at the event. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
In his book, Ven. Domyeong Sunim explores the theory that Buddhism was introduced to Korea by Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya, who, according to legend, traveled by sea to the Korean peninsula in 48 CE.
Historical accounts present various theories and routes for the spread of Buddhism in Korea, with some historians disputing the existence of Princess Suriratna due to a lack of evidence.
Fri. Domyeong Sunim said at the launch event that his book was not intended to ignore other historical documents or interpretations. “My study simply highlights the possibility that Buddhism came directly to Korea from India by sea,” he said. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
Princess Suriratna is referenced in the XNUMXth century Korean chronicle Samguk Yusawhich relates that the princess became the wife of King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya (rc 42-199 CE) at the age of 16, after arriving from a distant kingdom known as "Ayodhya".
More than six million people in contemporary Korea trace their lineage to Princess Suriratna, who became Queen Heo Hwang-ok, as a direct descendant of her 12 children with King Suro. An ancient tomb located in Gimhae City, South Gyeongsang Province, is believed to belong to him.
The princess and her brother, a monk named Jangyu, are said to have brought with them a Buddhist monument, the Pasa Stone Pagoda, which now stands next to her tomb in Gimhae.
“(Domyeong Sunim’s) book is an invaluable source that testifies to the deep civilizational ties between ancient India and Korea,” Ambassador Kumar said. “These ongoing exchanges reaffirm the close cultural ties and human exchanges between our two countries. » (Korea JoongAng Daily)
The publication and launch of the book was supported by the Delhi-based International Buddhist Confederation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea and the Gimhae city government.
According to 2021 census data, the majority of South Korea's population (60%) has no religious affiliation. Christians make up the largest religious segment of the population at 23 percent, while Buddhists make up 16 percent.
*The Korean word "sunim" (스님) is a title of respect used to address or refer to Buddhist monks.