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Hyesim (Chin'gak kuksa, 1178–1234) was an eminent Sŏn (Chinese, Chan) school master from the mid-Koryŏ dynasty. Like many other Koryŏ- and Chosŏn- era figures, he entered the Buddhist order with a strong Confucian background. Hyesim passed the highest-ranking civil service exam and taught at a Confucian institute. But in 1202, after the death of his mother (who had adamantly opposed his wishes to be ordained), he joined Chinul's Susŏnsa (Cultivation of Chan) Society and became his disciple. After studying with Chinul for a period of time, Hyesim went off on his own to practice in places such as Osan and Chirisan, learning from a number of different masters. He eventually returned to Chinul, who acknowledged his disciple's attainment of enlightenment. When Chinul passed away in 1210, Hyesim was pressed into taking the mantle of leadership of the society, thus becoming its second patriarch. He spent the rest of his life expanding the society, studying the kanhwa meditation technique developed by Chinul, and writing and compiling voluminously.

Most renowned of Hyesim's extensive works are the Sŏnmun gangyo (Essentials of the Sŏn School) and the Sŏnmun yŏmsong chip (Enlightenment Verses of the Sŏn School). The latter is a massive collection of edifying ancient precedents from Chan and pre-Chan Buddhist literature, which has been viewed as an important source for adherents of koan (Korean, kongan) meditation throughout East Asia down to the present day. Hyesim passed away at the age of fifty-seven and received the posthumous title National Master Chin'gak (True Enlightenment).

See also:Chan School


Buswell, Robert E., Jr. The Collected Works of Chinul. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983.

A. Charles Muller