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 teacher 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.
Ven. 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,
“With this Great Unfolding of material civilization, Let there be a Great Unfolding of spirituality.”
This was the beginning of Won Buddhism.
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.