Samyeong-daesa – 사명 대사 (1544-1610)

Written by on August 20, 2014 in Worldwide Korea Bloggers

Hello Again Everyone!!

I thought I would talk about prominent Buddhist monks in Korean history; so I thought I would talk about Master Samyeong-daesa, who I have long found very interesting for a number of reasons. So keep reading and find out why, as you learn a bit more about the Joseon Dynasty monk, Samyeong-daesa.

Samyeong was a Seon master with the Buddhist name, at least during his lifetime, of Yujeong; however, he became posthumously known as Samyeong-daesa. Samyeong-daesa was born at a time in the mid-Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) where there was a lot of upheaval. It was a period that included the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598. Samyeong-daesa would become one of the leading warrior monks during this hellish period in Korean history.

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A picture of Samyeong-daesa from Jikjisa Temple.

Samyeong-daesa was born in the city of Miryang in Gyeongsangnam-do Province. Tragically, his mom would die in 1558, which was followed by the death of his father in 1559. Shortly after their deaths, Samyeong became a monk at the famed Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. During his studies, he studied both Buddhist and Confucian texts. Later, in 1575, Samyeong was nominated to become the head of the Seon Order; however, he refused. Instead, he chose to travel to Mt. Myohyangsan instead. It was here that he became the disciple of Master Seosan.

Samyeong-daesa was one of the leading disciples of Master Seosan. And it was through Seosan’s influence and instruction that Samyeong-daesa took up arms against the invading Japanese during the Imjin War. In fact, and after joining forces with Seosan, Samyeong helped defend Haeinsa TempleGounsa Temple, and the Haenam region of Jeollanam-do from the Japanese.

After the war, Samyeong was appointed as the royal envoy. During his negotiation with the Japanese, to which he traveled to Japan, Samyeong successfully negotiated a peace agreement. After the war, Samyeong returned to Korea with Korean prisoners of war, as well as priceless religious artifacts.

Not long after the Imjin War, Samyeong retired. As a sign of appreciation, the king built Hongjeam Hermitage near Haeinsa Temple. With failing health, Samyeong-daesa passed away in 1610. His stupa and stele remain at this hermitage to this very day. After his death, special shrines were built at Pyochungsa TempleJikjisa Temple, and Daeheungsa Temple. To this very day, Samyeong-daesa continues to be remembered as one of Korea’s greatest heroes, and his writings are preserved in the Samyeong-daesa-jip.

If you want to learn more about Samyeong-daesa, or other amazing monks like him, check out Dale’s all new book.

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Samyeong-daesa: The warrior monk.

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About the Author

Dale Quarrington

Dale Quarrington has lived in the Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do Province area ever since arriving in Korea in 2003. He’s visited all of the Korean provinces, exploring both the known and unknown temples and hermitages around the Korean peninsula. While he’s not traveling, he enjoys reading books and learning about Korean history.