Won Buddhism of Philadelphia

Submitted by Pierce Salguero on Sat, 02/10/2018 - 22:38
423 Abington Ave, Glenside, PA 19038

40.1049386, -75.1439349

Geographic Origin(s) of Institution
Date Last Visited
Main Cultural/Linguistic/Ethnic Affiliation(s) of Members or Participants
Major Sectarian Affiliation(s)
Local Setting, Neighborhood, Demographics

Location is a refurbished church, which retains many of the features of a Protestant church on the interior. Parallel services are attended by two different groups, English-language service attracting mostly Caucasians and Korean language services attracting mostly Koreans and Korean Americans. The services in English are mainly focused on meditation, and deemphasize other practices such as chanting. The Korean services include much more chanting (to Amitābha Buddha), as well as dharma talks, hymns, and rituals. In the Korean service, practitioners sit mainly in church pews, while in the English service practitioners sit on the floor on cushions. The average age is 50-60 in the Korean service, while there are more young adult practitioners in the English service.

Connections with Healing

“Spiritual healing” is a focus of both the English and Korean services, and meditation is one of the main practices. The interviewee (a Won priest) encourages practitioners to practice mindfulness during different daily activities. Through the practice of meditation, it is said that the practitioner can balance the water and fire qi in the body. As the practitioner enters into a meditative state where delusive thoughts disappear, the fire qi in the body descends while the water qi ascends. When this occurs, one’s body and mind come into perfect harmony, which in turn enhances one’s health and well-being. 

In addition to meditation, practitioners also practice qigong (which they more often call “moving meditation”). Interviewees claim that this practice can be used to treat a variety of diseases. They report that illness occurs when the flow of qi in the body is blocked, and the obstruction manifests as the symptoms of a disease. The practitioner clears the blockages and allows the qi to flow again in its natural rhythm. By continuously practicing, one can enhance his or her mental and physical well-being.