What is Won (Ilwonsang)?

Il Won (One Circle) is the Dharmakaya Buddha, the origin of all things in the universe, the truth that all buddhas and sages enlightened to, and the original nature of all sentient beings.


Won literally means circle and symbolizes the ultimate reality. Il Won (One Circle) is the Dharmakaya Buddha, the origin of all things in the universe, the truth that all Il Won Sang (O) is the circular symbol of the Dharmakaya Buddha and the Buddha Nature of all beings. In Won Buddhism, the image of the human Buddha is replaced by Il Won Sang (O) which represents the perfect nature of the Buddha’s heart and mind that is not different from our original nature.

From ancient times many spiritual traditions have expressed the universal truth through the image of a circle. In early Christianity, God was depicted by a circle and in the Zen tradition, Buddha nature or our original mind has been symbolized by a circular image.

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.” – St. Augstine

Kwangjon asked, “What is the relationship between Il Won Sang and human beings?” The Founding Master answered, “You have asked about a great truth. In our order, we enshrine Il-Won-Sang in the same way that Buddhists in the past have enshrined Buddha images. However, a Buddha image manifests the physical form of the Buddha, but Il-Won-Snag manifests the mind-essence of the Buddha. The physical form represents only his human form, but the mind-essence is vast and infinite, combining being and nonbeing and sustaining itself through the three times periods of past, present, and future. Hence, it is the original source of the myriad things in heaven and earth and the realm of Samadhi beyond all words and speech. Confucianism calls it the grand ultimate or the ultimate of nonbeing; Daoism calls it nature or the Way; Buddhism calls it the pure Dharmakaya Buddha. In principle, however, all of these are different expressions for the same thing.”
From the Scriptures of Won Buddhism

Sotaesan said “That circular image is a model for teaching the true Il Won. It is like pointing at the moon with your finger: your finger is not the real moon. In the same way, a practitioner must discover the true Il-Won through the model of Il Won Sang, guard Il Won’s true nature and practice Il-Won’s perfect mind. Then, the truth of Il Won Sang and our lives will mesh perfectly.”