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Buddhism, Korea and India

Korea and India had relations from the middle of the first century AD when a princess of Ayodhya travelled to Korea and married there. Here is some more information on the relations between the two countries due to Buddhism.

Many Buddhist monks worked to shape the religion, a major early figure being Marananta, who came to Paekje in the 4th century A.D. However, it is the Samguksagi is not clear on how an Indian monk came to receive a warm welcome from the king. In A.D. 574 three Indian monks came to the peninsula with a Korean monk, Anhong, and initiated the construction of many monasteries and temples.

According to one story, King Ayuk (Muwa), identified with Ashoka Maurya of India, sent iron and gold to Korea to cast the image of the Buddha. Koreans used the metals to construct the monastery. However, the historical records show the Ashokan period was much earlier than the construction of the Hwangnyong Monastery.

After the introduction of Buddhism to Korea, many scholars and monks exhibited great enthusiasm for visiting India to learn more about Buddhism or for pilgrimages to places important to the memory of the Buddha. Some Korean monks set out for India in the early 6th century A.D.

The monk Kyomic was the first to visit India. He studied the Vinaya text, first going to the Samghana Temple of central India where he collected the Sanskrit text of the Mahisasaka Vinaya. Later an Indian monk, Devadatta (Pei-da-duo) ,came to Korea with Kyomic where he translated 72 books of the Vinaya under the patronage of the King Song of Paekje.

From the early 8th century onwards, Korean Buddhists showed a keen interest in India and Indian culture. The cultural bridge between the two countries grew from then onwards, Buddhist monks being credited for nurturing the relationship. Biographies of eminent monks of the Tang Dynasty in China recorded the brief histories of some 56 pilgrims who went to India. Among these was a Korean monk, A

One Response to Buddhism, Korea and India

  1. Preetam Rai October 7, 2004 at 3:16 am #

    Once I was in northern Thailand. I met an anthropologist there who was researching the origin of Korean language. I told him that I planned to go to Korea some day. And he told me..he smiled and said that when I go to Korea, I will feel at home.

    Some time later I went to the ancient city of Gyongju in South Korea and when people heard that I was from India they were so happy. A hill near the city has a monastery called Girimsa where a monk from India is said to have come and settled.

    Yes, the story of the Indian queen is also interesting. There is a lovely monument to her near the southern city of Gimhae near Busan.

    Strangely, something I can’t figure out, it does feel a bit like India. Maybe it’s the spicy food.

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