The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism

Woodblock print of “Heart Sutra,” (Banya Simgyeong in Korean)

I just saw word on the H-Buddhism list of what is, to me, a monumental event. Well known scholar and translator Robert Buswell announced that the release of “The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism,” translated by a team of individuals. Not only are these volumes available in English now but they can be downloaded as PDF files from their home page.

Dr. Buswell’s announcement is as follows:

It gives us great pleasure to announce the release of the English Edition of The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism. This edition, completed in July 2012, consists of thirteen volumes of English translations of selected texts from the Hanguk Bulgyo Jeonseo 韓國佛教全 書. The thirteen volumes of this anthology collect the whole panoply of Korean Buddhist writing from the Three Kingdoms period (ca. 57 C.E.‒668) through the Joseon dynasty (1392‒1910). These writings include commentaries on scriptures as well as philosophical and disciplinary texts by the most influential scholiasts of the tradition; the writings of its most esteemed Seon adepts; indigenous collections of Seon gongan cases, discourses, and verse; travelogues and historical materials; and important epigraphical compositions.

It is our hope that The Collected Works of Korean Buddhism will ensure that the writings of Korean Buddhist masters will assume their rightful place in the developing English canon of Buddhist materials and will enter the mainstream of academic discourse in Buddhist Studies in the West. Korea’s Buddhist authors are as deserving of careful attention and study as their counterparts in Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhism. This first comprehensive collection of Korean Buddhist writings should bring these authors the attention and sustained engagement they deserve among Western scholars, students, and practitioners of Buddhism.

Since the project was funded by a grant that only covered the publication of a limited number of paper copies of the texts, the texts are also being released in PDF format.

Participating translators: Juhn Ahn, Robert Buswell, Michael Finch, Jung-geun Kim, Charles Muller, John Jorgensen, Richard McBride, Jin Y. Park, Young-eui Park, Patrick Uhlmann, Sem Vermeersch, Matthew Wegehaupt, and Roderick Whitfield.

For a the full table of contents of the thirteen volumes, and download link, please see:

This is so overwhelming that I really am at a loss of what to say. As a Seon practitioner, that is “Korean Zen,” who doesn’t speak or read Korean or Classical Chinese, I’ve felt the painful lack of English language materials to study in support of my practice when compared to Japanese Zen, Tibetan Vajrayana, or various other, more common, forms of Buddhism here in America. The Chinul volume, alone, is 478 pages and there are two volumes of gongan (koan) collections totaling 1,000 pages. This is not even looking at all of the other materials in these volumes that are freely available.

The only way that this could be better would be if these scholars had released this material into the Public Domain or even under a Creative Commons license so those of us working with it in the future would freely make use of it as source material in our own work (or like my own teaching at the Prajna Institute). All of the texts are “copyright 2012 by the Compilation Committee of Korean Buddhist Thought, Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.” This means that while people can download these translations, which is wonderful, they cannot be used by anyone in any other form or re-published as part of a liturgy or study guide, for example.

In spite of this limitation, this is such a gift that I can only offer a reverent hapchang and bow to Dr. Buswell and all of the other participating scholars as well as the Chogye Order for publishing this work.