Labeling Won Buddhism a cult

In multiple threads people have thrown around the word cult without properly explaining their judgement of Won Buddhism. I would like to encourage abiding to the group rules when such assertions arise. I particular, this section of the rules applies:

"You should not attack any sect or approach simply because they are invalid in your personal opinion. Let us remember to give space to each other's opinions, even if we don't agree with them. This is particularly true of controversial and divisive topics. This subreddit is a place for discussion and debate. We want to hear all sides of the story, and we want to have respectful conversations about our differences."


level 1

Most of these syncretist cults, just like the Chinese one Yi Kuan Dao, have founders that realized Atman-Brahman, and mistaken it to be the Buddha's realization. I wrote this about Yi Kuan Dao:

The Buddha's realization is anatman (no-self), dependent origination, and emptiness. I've sent you some private message with links that might interest you.

P.s. I also agree with NyingmaX3's statements about 'cult' definition. It may simply be better to call it a new age syncretist religious movement.

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level 2

I'm hardly an expert on Won, but to me they look much more like a Korean version of the Chinese renjian fojiao ("buddhism for human-realms"; Fo Guang Shan is the leading example of this, and they derive from Linji Chan).

With my limited understanding of Won there aren't immediately obvious points to attack them in particular that couldn't be levied against other non-contested sects of Buddhism.

Is there something I'm missing?


level 3

Their view and realization about mind source is eternalist and no different from Atman-Brahman. It is not based on anatman, dependent origination and emptiness.

They assert that all religions point towards the same enlightenment, based on the founder's own enlightenment.

They are hence not really 'Buddhism' but a new age syncretist movement, which exists in many countries in various ways (e.g. Yi Kuan Dao, Supreme Master Ching Hai, etc). They are almost always based on the Atman-Brahman realization of the founder.


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level 1
· 1 hr. ago · edited 1 hr. agoNyingma, Tibetan Buddhism

We/people are using the definition number 1 of the cult on Merriam Webster, so it is not an attack.

Personally, I wouldn't call them a cult since that gives them credence as a Buddhist who just happen to be unorthodox.

The right terms for Won should be "not Buddhism".

Shambhala is a cult. NKT is a cult. Diamond is a cult.

But Won, Navayana, Falun Gung, Secular? These are not really cults. They are just not Buddhism.




Elsewhere, I also posted in Reddit today:

level 1

In the initial phase of practice, and even after the initial awakening into "I AM/Eternal Witness", the Witnessing Presence seems to be behind all contents as an underlying background or ground of being.
That duality of context and content collapses in further realizations. In further realization, it is seen that there is never an Agent, a Watcher, an Observer, apart from moment to moment luminous manifestation.

I sent you a private message with links that might interest you.

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level 2

Can I also get these links friend?


level 3
· 23 min. ago · edited 17 min. ago

Ok well since you asked, I'll share it here:

I don't want to be seen as promoting my blog otherwise so generally I don't share these links here unless privately. These are writings from my mentor, although I'm also a co-author of the blog.

Incidentally, my mom's dharma teacher, an authorized teacher whose lineage traces from Linji Ch'an lineage also went through rather similar stages and encouraged me to 'continue to be their teacher' (as in referring to my online community, although I really don't consider myself a teacher nor do I have time to do 1-on-1 guidance, and always encouraged people to find a proper teacher and sangha they can meet, I merely share these information so they can have a right direction in their path and find the right teachers and practice).


level 4

Other teachers that went through similar stages include these and many more, which I also shared in this subreddit recently:

"Tag: zen-exploration

They are not the same realization. I sent you a private message, do check it out. Also, this might interest you:
Zen teacher Alex Weith, who went through Atman-Brahman realization before realizing anatman, said well in his well written writings that I compiled here :
"What I realized also is that authoritative self-realized students of direct students of both Ramana Maharishi and Nisargadatta Maharaj called me a 'Jnani', inviting me to give satsangs and write books, while I had not yet understood the simplest core principles of Buddhism. I realized also that the vast majority of Buddhist teachers, East and West, never went beyond the same initial insights (that Adhyashanti calls "an abiding awakening"), confusing the Atma with the ego, assuming that transcending the ego or self-center (ahamkara in Sanskrit) was identical to what the Buddha had called Anatta (Non-Atma).
It would seem therefore that the Buddha had realized the Self at a certain stage of his acetic years (it is not that difficult after all) and was not yet satisfied. As paradoxical as it may seem, his "divide and conquer strategy" aimed at a systematic deconstruction of the Self (Atma, Atta), reduced to -and divided into- what he then called the five aggregates of clinging and the six sense-spheres, does lead to further and deeper insights into the nature of reality. As far as I can tell, this makes me a Buddhist, not because I find Buddhism cool and trendy, but because I am unable to find other teachings and traditions that provide a complete set of tools and strategies aimed at unlocking these ultimate mysteries, even if mystics from various traditions did stumble on the same stages and insights often unknowingly.
This also means that the first step is to disembed from impermanent
phenomena until the only thing that feels real is this all pervading
uncreated all pervading awareness that feels like the source and
substance of phenomena. Holding on to it after this realization can
hower become a subtle form of grasping diguised as letting go.
The second step is therefore to realize that this brightness, awakeness or
luminosity is there very nature of phenomena and then only does the
duality between the True Self and the appearences arising and passing
within the Self dissolve, revealing the suchness of what is.
The next step that I found very practical is to push the process of
deconstruction a step further, realizing that all that is experienced
is one of the six consciousness. In other words, there is neither a
super Awareness beyond phenomena, not solid material objects, but only
six streams of sensory experiences. The seen, the heard, the sensed,
the tasted, the smelled and the cognized (including thoughts, emotions,
and subtle thougths like absorbtion states, jhanas).
At this point it is not difficult to see how relevent the Bahiya Sutta can become.
Just for the sake of clarification, I would like to make it clear that I never said that "these luminous self-perceiving phenomena which are craving-free and nondual are the Ultimate", if there could still be any ambiguity about that.
On the contrary, I said that what I used to take for an eternal, empty, uncreated, nondual, primordial awareness, source and substance of all things, turned out to be nothing more than the luminous nature of phenomena, themselves empty and ungraspable, somehow crystallized in a very subtle witnessing position. The whole topic of this thread is the deconstruction of this Primordial Awareness, One Mind, Cognizing Emptiness, Self, Atman, Luminous Mind, Tathagatgabha, or whatever we may call it,
As shocking as it may seem, the Buddha was very clear to say that this pure impersonal objectless nondual awareness (that Vedantists called Atma in Sanskrit, Atta in Pali) is still the aggregate of consciousness and that consciousness, as pure and luminous as it can be, does not stand beyond the aggregates.
"Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'" (Anatta-lakkhana Sutta)."
Another dharma teacher who underwent similar journey from Vedanta realization (confirmed to be deep and profound by his Vedanta teachers and asked to teach) before going into Buddhist realization is Archaya Mahayogi Shridhar Rana Rinpoche, you can read about his bio and articles here: "



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