Supplementary Entries and Texts for the
ENCYCLOPEDIA  OF  KOREAN  BUDDHISM
by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
Text that was cut from the end of an Entry:
Samseong-gak   삼성각   三聖閣                         page 459-60
     Three Saints Shrine

Most Samseong-gak have three taenghwa (幀畵, Icon-Painting) on the wall above the
altars, with a statue of the same deity in front of each;  a
Yaksa-yeorae-bul (藥師如來
佛, Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicinal or Healing Buddha) or Bodhisattva statue often fronts
the
Chilseong painting.  Smaller ones may have one against the back wall and the
other two on the two side-walls.  
Chilseong (symbol of heavenly powers) is usually in
the center of the triad, granting highest theoretical status.  Occasionally, however, the
Sansin (earthly natural powers) takes the middle due to that temple’s monks feeling a
special devotion to it; he is actually the most popular with the laity; in very rare cases
Dokseong (originally Pindola Arahan, a disciple of
Seokgamoni-bul; human powers) is
centered, in recognition that he is “more Buddhist”.

This triad therefore symbolizes the fundamental
Cheon-Ji-In (天地人, Heaven, Earth
and Humanity) trinity at the root of all Oriental philosophy, increasing the spiritual
profundity of these popular Korean folk-deities from Shamanic and Daoist roots within
the Buddhist religious context by enshrining them together.  This is a key factor of
Korean Buddhism being truly “Korean”, a characteristic that distinguishes it from the
similar religions of other nations.  It is typical of how it accommodated and absorbed the
traditional indigenous Korean Shamanism as it was imported, and added motifs from
Chinese Daoism which never became an official religion in Korea.  Shamanism and
early Daoism are fluid conglomerations of spiritual ideas and techniques, lacking
organized structures but appealingly focused on harmony with nature, and therefore
their practices and beliefs can easily be incorporated into other religions or be easily
incorporated by them.  This syncretic blend of Buddhism, Daoism and Shamanism
constitutes a unique character of Korean Buddhism.


See also the Sanshin-gak entry on page 467, and added text
here.

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