Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Weonhyo (원효; 617 - 686) was one of the leading thinkers, writers and commentators of the Korean Buddhist tradition.

With his life spanning the end of the Three Kingdoms period and the beginning of the Unified Silla, Weonhyo played a vital role in the reception and assimilation of the broad range of doctrinal Buddhist streams that flowed into the Korean peninsula at the time. Weonhyo was most interested in, and affected by Tathāgatagarbha , Yogācāra and Hwaeom thought. However, in his extensive scholarly works, addressed in commentaries and essays, he embraced the whole spectrum of the Buddhist teachings which were received in Korea, including such schools as Pure Land, Nirvana , Sanlun and Tiantai (Lotus Sūtra school). He wrote commentaries on virtually all of the most influential Mahāyāna (Mahayana) scriptures, altogether including over eighty works in over two hundred fascicles. Among his most influential works were the commentaries he wrote on the Awakening of Faith, Nirvana Sutra and Vajrasamādhi Sutra. These were treated with utmost respect by leading Buddhist scholars in China and Japan, and served to help in placing the Awakening of Faith as the most influential text in the Korean tradition. Weonhyo spent the earlier part of his career as a monk, but after a "consciousness-only" enlightenment experience, he left the priesthood and turned to the spreading of the buddhadharma as a layman. Because of this aspect of his character, Weonhyo ended up becoming a popular folk hero in Korea. He was a colleague and friend of the influential Silla Hwaeom monk Uisang, and an important result of their combined works was the establishment of Hwaeom as the dominant stream of doctrinal thought on the Korean peninsula. Weonhyo's 23 extant works are currently in the process of being translated into English as a joint project between Dongguk University and SUNY at Stony Brook.

See also Korean Buddhism