Why and how do women engage with Buddhism and philosophy? The present volume aims to answer these questions by examining the life and philosophy of a Korean Zen Buddhist nun, Kim Iryŏp (1896–1971). The daughter of a pastor, Iryŏp began questioning Christian doctrine as a teenager. In a few years, she became increasingly involved in women’s movements in Korea, speaking against society’s control of female sexuality and demanding sexual freedom and free divorce for women. While in her late twenties, an existential turn in her thinking led Iryŏp to Buddhism; she eventually joined a monastery and went on to become a leading figure in the female monastic community until her death.
After taking the tonsure, Iryŏp followed the advice of her teacher and stopped publishing for more than two decades. She returned to the world of letters in her sixties, using her strong, distinctive voice to address fundamental questions on the scope of identity, the meaning of being human, and the value of existence. In her writing, she frequently adopted an autobiographical style that combined her experiences with Buddhist teachings. Through a close analysis of Iryŏp’s story, Buddhist philosophy and practice in connection with East Asian new women’s movements, and continental philosophy, this volume offers a creative interpretation of Buddhism as both a philosophy and a religion actively engaged with lives as they are lived. It presents a fascinating narrative on how women connect with the world—whether through social issues such as gender inequality, a Buddhist worldview, or existential debates on human existence and provides readers with a new way of philosophizing that is transformative and deeply connected with everyday life.
Women and Buddhist Philosophy: Engaging Zen Master Kim Iryŏp will be of primary interest to scholars and students of Buddhism, Buddhist and comparative philosophy, and gender and Korean studies.
"This autobiographical and philosophical presentation of the life and thought of Kim Iryŏp offers rich overviews of women’s movements in twentieth-century Korea and Japan, a history of the development of Buddhism in Korea in the past several centuries, and a presentation of how Iryŏp’s thought enriches the conversations of experiential philosophy and philosophy of religion. It culminates with assessments of how Iryŏp’s early writing about women’s rights and status in Korean society connects with and is expanded through her later work on Buddhism as well as how her writings contribute to developing cross-cultural fields of philosophy and religion. The execution of the work, bringing together all of the themes noted above into a seamless whole, is extremely impressive." —Douglas Berger, Southern Illinois Univeristy, Carbondale
"Jin Park’s work is groundbreaking in many respects. Several books discuss the lives of individual nuns and their Buddhist practices, but none so masterfully presents a Buddhist nun whose life, writing, practice, and thought resonate and interlock so closely with contemporary issues such as (post)colonialism, nationalism, feminism, and modernity. In addition, her book not only brings overdue attention to the significance of nuns’ voices in Buddhism in general and Korean Buddhism in particular, but also attempts to make a connection between a nun’s literary work and philosophy and, more broadly, to link and compare her distinctive Buddhist philosophy with Western philosophy." —Hwansoo Ilmee Kim, Duke University
Author: Park, Jin Y.;
Jin Y. Park
is professor of Asian and comparative philosophy andreligion and founding director of the Asian studies program at AmericanUniversity.