School Seon
Born 1158
Died 1210
Senior posting
Title Zen Master
Successor Hyesim (혜심/慧諶: 1178~1234)

Bojo Jinul (Hangul: 보조지눌; Hanja: 普照知訥, 1158–1210), often called Jinul or Chinul for short, was a Korean monk of the Goryeo period, who is considered to be the most influential figure in the formation of Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhism. He is credited as the founder of the Jogye Order, by working to unify the disparate sects in Korean Buddhism into a cohesive organization.


Bojo Jinul's birthname was Jeong and by age 15 he left his family to ordain under Seon Master Jonghwi of Sagulsan Mountain School, one of the nine mountain schools of Seon, receiving the ordination name "Jinul". This occurred in 1173. By 1182, Jinul passed the royal examination for monks and qualified for a higher administrative position, but turned it down to join the Seon community in Pyongyang's Bojesa Temple. The community being uninterested in his efforts to reform the retreat community, he moved to Cheongwonsa Temple at Changpyeong, then Bomunsa Temple on Mt. Hagasan.

During this period of travel and study, Jinul was said to have studied the entire Tripiṭaka and had a series of awakenings. Jinul sought to establish a new movement within Korean Seon which he called the "samadhi and prajñā society" (Hangul: 정혜사; Hanja: 定慧社; RR: Jeonghyesa). This movement's goal was to establish a new community of disciplined, pure-minded practitioners deep in the mountains. Jinul eventually accomplished this mission with the founding of Songgwangsa at Jogye Mountain, and in the process the Jogye Order which taught a comprehensive approach to Buddhism including meditation, doctrine, chanting and lectures.

This earned him the respect of the Goryeo, and in particular King Huijong, who ordered that Mount Songgwangsan be renamed Jogyesan in his honor. Upon his death in 1210, he was given a posthumous title of honor by King Huijong as well.



Essence-Function (Hangul: 체용; Hanja: 體用) is a key concept of Korean Buddhism. Essence-Function takes a particular form in the philosophy and writings of Jinul.[1]

View of Nirvana

Jinul viewed Nirvana as a sublime essence that is present in all beings. This essence is the very nature of Buddha and has always been present in beings. Writing on the faith in such matters held by his own school, Jinul states:

'Right faith in the patriarchal sect ... does not believe in conditioned causes or effects. Rather, it stresses faith that everyone is originally a Buddha, that everyone possesses the impeccable self-nature, and that the sublime essence of nirvana is complete in everyone. There is no need to search elsewhere; since time immemorial, it has been innate in everyone.'[2]

Jinul further believed that the true nature of all people is unchanging and that their minds are ultimately numinous and marked by awareness, even when seemingly in a state of delusion. In a discussion of Buddhist schools, he writes:

'In the present condensation, I treat the school of Ho-tse first, primarily so that people who are practicing meditation will be able to awaken first to the fact that, whether deluded or awakened, their own minds are numinous, aware, and never dark and their nature is unchanging.' [3]


  1. Muller, Charles A. (1995). "The Key Operative Concepts in Korean Buddhist Syncretic Philosophy: Interpenetration (通達) and Essence-Function (體用) in Wŏnhyo, Chinul and Kihwa" cited in Bulletin of Toyo Gakuen University No. 3, March 1995, pp 33-48.Source: (accessed: September 18, 2008)
  2. Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen by Robert E. Buswell, Kuroda Institute, University of Hawai'i Press, 1991, p. 120
  3. Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen by Robert E. Buswell, Kuroda Institute, University of Hawai'i Press, 1991, p. 152

Further reading

See also

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