The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 15)

At the same time, Sambong launched a serious attack against Buddhism. He was, in my view, the first Korean Neo-Confucian to formulate a systematic philosophical criticism of Buddihist doctrines, as revealed in his two essays: Simgii pyon (On Mind, Material Force, and Principle) and Pulssi chappyon (Arguments Against the Buddha). The three-part work Simgii peon is a critical comparative analysis of Taoism, Buddhism, an Neo-Confucianism in which Sambong quotes Confucius, Mencius, Mencius, and Chu His to criticise both Buddhism and Taoism. Sambong’s main argument is that Neo0Confucianism is metaphysically and ethically superior to the other two traditions, which are, accrediting to him, “false teachings.” The Buddhist method of self-cultivation is concerned too much with what he calls the “subjective calmness” of mind (sim/hsin), ignoring the objective reality of things, society, and culture, whereas the Taioist teachings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu are charged for emphasising only the attainment of physical longevity by means of nourishing “material force” (ki/chi). Sambong’s conclusion is that the Nao-Confucian learning of human nature (song/hsing) and principle (i/li) is more valuable in the context of not only integrating both Buddhist and Taoist teachings, but also emphasising the objectives reality of learning, self-cultivation, and socio-political orders.

The Pulssi chappyon is a more systematic critique of Buddhism, one that presents Sung Neo-Confucianism as the orthodox tradition of learning and self-cultivation, defending Cheng-Chu metaphysics and ethics. Following two Sung Neo-Confucians, Cheng I and Chu His, he addressed the following points: first, the Buddhist ideas of samsara and karma and their implications for “rewards and punishments” are “wrong and immoral”; second, the Buddhist theory of knowledge neglects objective principles because it regards the phenomenal world as only an “illusion”; and finally, its ethic-spiritual teachings on the method of self-cultivation are focused too much on the “emptiness” of the mind, ignoring the family and society.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

London United Korean Fan Club

London United Japanese Fan Club