Kyeongheo Seongwoo (1849-1912)
Son Master kyeongheo is credited with inspiring the revival of Son Buddhism.
By the late 19th century, at the end of the Choson dynasty, Korean Buddhist institutions, teachings, and practices were in a state of disarray.
Son Master kyeongheo, with his vibrant spiritual presence, powerful teachings, and provocative behavior, initiated a revolution in the world of Korean Son.
Inspired by his Mahayana Buddhist vision of spiritual liberation and compassion, the Korean Buddhist practitioners who followed him were able to rediscover their spiritual roots and renew themselves for the modern era.
Son Master kyongheo was born in 1849 in the village of Jadong in the city of Jeonju. His father’s name was Song Duok and, although his mother’s given name has been lost, her family name is known to have been Pak.
The second eldest son, Son Master kyeongheo , was given the birth name of Song Donguk.
When he was nine years old, Son Master kyeongheo was ordained at the monastery, Chongkyesa, in Gwacheon.
He became the disciple of Kyeheo Sunim and was given the Buddhist name, Songu.
An educated layman who happened to be living in the temple provided him with basic Buddhist doctrines and basic Confucian texts.
The boy’s intellectual gifts were quickly recognized and shortly thereafter he was granted a recommendation to study under Manhwa Sunim, the head lecturer of Donghaksa, which was the center of Korean Buddhist scholarship at the time.
In a few years the young monk became recognized as the leading Buddhist scholar of his generation.
When he was 23 years old, son Master kyeongheo succeeded his teacher, Manhwa Sunim, as head lecturer of Donghaksa and began to train disciples of his own.
One day he accidentally visited a town ravaged by an infectious epidemic and witnessed death of many people.
He then realized that his extensive academic training had done nothing to alleviate his instinctive fear of death.
Shortly afterward son Master kyeongheo began intense son meditative practice, contemplating son Master Yongun’s hwadu or spiritual question, “The task of the donkey is not finished, but the task of the cow is at hand.” .
While meditating in his chamber, son Master kyeongheo overheard a voice saying, “If you’re to become a cow, become a cow without nostrils!”
At this, son Master kyongheo experienced Great Enlightenment.
From then on, he was beyond the physical world and lived in free from worldly matters.
He undertook “post-enlightenment” meditative practice for a year at the hermitage, Chonjongam.
At the age of 56, he transmitted his gatha of Dharma to son Master Mankong and lived his remaining years anonymously as “neither monk nor secular man.” .
Son Master kyeongheo passed away on April 25, 1912 in the district of Dohadong in the mountain region of Kabsan Ungibang in Hamgyong province.
At death, he was 64 years old, having lived as a monk for 56 years.
Son Master kyeongheo established son meditation centers in every corner of the nation and thereby created a new climate of spiritual practice in the world of Korean Buddhism.
He also produced many brilliant disciples such as the son Masters Mankong, Hyewol, and Suwol who went on to build the foundations of contemporary Korean Buddhism.
For these reasons, son Master kyeongheo is often referred to as the “reviver of son Buddhism.”