Buddhism (佛敎) is the pathway to enlightenment. The word Won (圓) literally means ‘circle’ and symbolizes ultimate reality or our true nature. Therefore, the name Won Buddhism means the path to the enlightenment to our true nature.
Sotaesan, the founding master of Won Buddhism, realized supreme enlightenment in 1916 in Korea at the age of 26, after many years of searching for the truth and doing many ascetic practices.
Master Sotaesan, after his enlightenment, observed the modern world where the human spirit had become weakened and enslaved by the rapidly developing material civilization. He therefore established a communal life setting with the founding motto,
Won Buddhism, as a reformed Buddhism and as a new religion, transforms the traditional Buddhist teaching. It makes the Buddha dharma more practical, more relevant, and more suitable to contemporary society so that the many people in the secular world can utilize it to enrich their actual lives.
Won Buddhism, although embracing the Buddha’s teachings, revitalizes and modernizes traditional Buddhadharma in order to realize Sotaesan’s ideal: ‘Buddhadharma is daily life and daily life is Buddhadharma.’ According to Sotaesan, a living religion is one where spiritual practice is not separate from real life. To one student’s question, “What is the great way?” The Master replied, “What all people can follow is the great way. What only a few can follow is the small way.”
The goal of Won Buddhism is to lead all sentient beings to be free from suffering and distress. Won Buddhism embraces and accepts those of other faiths, and seeks to work together to create One World Community. With its open teaching, Won Buddhism has worked to realize a vision of a United Religions (UR), a counterpart of the United Nations (UN), because in these modern times all problems are fundamentally world problems and the cooperation of all religions and religious leaders is vital to build a lasting peace in the world.
Won Buddhism leads a movement for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. Won Buddhists have participated in and promoted local, national, regional and international inter-religious dialogue since 1970 and have been actively engaged in the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), and the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP).