Maitreya(弥勒)

Maitreya

Headword

미륵바위 ( 弥勒 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Beliefs > Worship of Household Gods > Sacred Entity

Writer KwonTaehyo(權泰孝)

Mireuk, or Maitreya, is the future Buddha that resides in the heaven Tusita who, according to Buddhist belief, will reappear 5.6 billion years in the future and lead all living beings. In Korean folk religion, Mireuk is worshipped as a deity related to childbearing and prosperity.

Alternate names for this deity include Mireungnim, Mireukbul and Seondol, which means “standing stone, ” named after the deity’s sacred entity which is a rock carved in the shape of a male sex organ, also referred to as namgeunseok (male sex organ-shaped rock) or seonggibawi (sex organ rock). Mireuk worship is preserved in villages around Buddhist temples and in inland villages with a standing stone worshipped as this deity. Maitreya worship was introduced during Buddhism’s earliest period on the Korean peninsula, then was applied as the governing ideology of the ancient kingdoms Silla and Baekje, after which it spread widely among the public in the 6th century.

The people of Baekje (18 B.C.E.-660) possessed a strong faith in the future advent of Maitreya, which would open an ideal world. In the Later Three Kingdoms period (901-936), Gungye, the founder of Later Goguryeo referred to himself as Mireuk, winning public trust and support. In Goryeo (918-1392), Mireuk worship grew more secular as a form of sorcery, becoming widespread with Maitreya sculptures erected in all corners of the kingdom. The faith gradually merged with shamanism and came to be associated with son-bearing, taboos, fortune-seeking, healing and protection, a phenomenon that deepened with the oppression of Buddhism during Joseon (1392-1910), which enhanced the secularization of the religion.

Mireuk faith reflects the worship of sex organs and is also a form of homeopathic magic, the belief that a rock shaped like a sex organ will bring fertility and prosperity due to its similarity in shape. In village rituals, taboo ropes (geumjul) or straw cones are hung on these rocks.

These sex organ-shaped rocks, as entities that embody Mireuk, serve as an object of worship for women to pray for a child (gija). In the Confucian society of Joseon, sons came to be favored over daughters and Mireuk worship came to be centered around the conception of sons. The rocks also served as an object of prayers for safety in the community and good harvest and big catch. The productivity symbolized by the shape of the rocks was believed to bring prosperity to the village, and the rocks came to be worshipped as village guardian gods.

Mireuk worship is observed in all parts of the country. Private son-bearing prayer rituals are held individually throughout the year, but when Mireuk rituals are observed as part of village tutelary festivals (dongje), they are generally held on the first week of the lunar New Year or on Jeongwoldaeboreum (Great Full Moon).

Maitreya

Maitreya
Headword

미륵바위 ( 弥勒 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Beliefs > Worship of Household Gods > Sacred Entity

Writer KwonTaehyo(權泰孝)

Mireuk, or Maitreya, is the future Buddha that resides in the heaven Tusita who, according to Buddhist belief, will reappear 5.6 billion years in the future and lead all living beings. In Korean folk religion, Mireuk is worshipped as a deity related to childbearing and prosperity.

Alternate names for this deity include Mireungnim, Mireukbul and Seondol, which means “standing stone, ” named after the deity’s sacred entity which is a rock carved in the shape of a male sex organ, also referred to as namgeunseok (male sex organ-shaped rock) or seonggibawi (sex organ rock). Mireuk worship is preserved in villages around Buddhist temples and in inland villages with a standing stone worshipped as this deity. Maitreya worship was introduced during Buddhism’s earliest period on the Korean peninsula, then was applied as the governing ideology of the ancient kingdoms Silla and Baekje, after which it spread widely among the public in the 6th century.

The people of Baekje (18 B.C.E.-660) possessed a strong faith in the future advent of Maitreya, which would open an ideal world. In the Later Three Kingdoms period (901-936), Gungye, the founder of Later Goguryeo referred to himself as Mireuk, winning public trust and support. In Goryeo (918-1392), Mireuk worship grew more secular as a form of sorcery, becoming widespread with Maitreya sculptures erected in all corners of the kingdom. The faith gradually merged with shamanism and came to be associated with son-bearing, taboos, fortune-seeking, healing and protection, a phenomenon that deepened with the oppression of Buddhism during Joseon (1392-1910), which enhanced the secularization of the religion.

Mireuk faith reflects the worship of sex organs and is also a form of homeopathic magic, the belief that a rock shaped like a sex organ will bring fertility and prosperity due to its similarity in shape. In village rituals, taboo ropes (geumjul) or straw cones are hung on these rocks.

These sex organ-shaped rocks, as entities that embody Mireuk, serve as an object of worship for women to pray for a child (gija). In the Confucian society of Joseon, sons came to be favored over daughters and Mireuk worship came to be centered around the conception of sons. The rocks also served as an object of prayers for safety in the community and good harvest and big catch. The productivity symbolized by the shape of the rocks was believed to bring prosperity to the village, and the rocks came to be worshipped as village guardian gods.

Mireuk worship is observed in all parts of the country. Private son-bearing prayer rituals are held individually throughout the year, but when Mireuk rituals are observed as part of village tutelary festivals (dongje), they are generally held on the first week of the lunar New Year or on Jeongwoldaeboreum (Great Full Moon).