On Saturday, Chong Go Sunim picked up my family and me to go for a drive out to the Kwang Myeong Seon Center.
Along the way, we made a detour to visit the Mok-a Wood Museum. It’s owned by the man who carved the amazing work at the main hall in Hanmaum and there are wonderful samples of his work as well as historical pieces he’s collected, including antique statues, malas, some very old monk’s robes, and other items associated with temple life.
The grounds were scattered with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and even an image of Maria. It was a nice space, even the heavy, hot air felt a little fresher. On the way out, we passed some Nanking cherry bushes. I didn’t know about these before but my wife said they used to grow everywhere when she was younger. They used to sneak into their neighbor’s garden to pick them on the way to school.
After a few missed exits, a couple wrong turns, and a stop in a potter’s district for lunch, we made our way to Kwang Myeong Seon Center.
Since the head temple of Hanmaum is a nuns’ temple, Kwang Myeong is a place for the monks to stay. It also has a large cemetery where devotees can have their ashes placed. Chong Go Sunim pointed out the large pole with a round light on top that is lit throughout the night and can be seen from any place in the cemetery, its purpose it to give a light for the spirits to center themselves upon.
Behind the Dharma Hall, there is a huge meditation hall under construction. I always enjoy exploring temples that are under construction, the fresh smell of the massive beams, the intricate joints, not yet covered in paint. I was especial impressed by the large copper lotus on the roof supporting the Hanmaum style pagoda.
We continued passed the hall, up a stone stairway, the Mountain Grandfather (Spirit) Shrine. These small shrines are usually found at the back of Korea temple complexes, and are evidence of the ancient Shamanic traditions that Korean Buddhism mixed with along the way.
The grounds around the shrine were particularly lovely, with flowers, well-groomed bushes, and a small spring fed fountain that we drank from. As we sat, Chong Go Sunim pointed to a painting above the door of the shrine. It was of a tiger, almost the size of the hut that it sat before, with a small pair of shoes under it chest. When Dae Haeng Kun Sunim was staying in the mountains, the tiger would come at night to keep her shoes warm. Apparently, a monk from the temple above was bringing some food one morning, when he came across the tiger. He took one look and fainted on the spot!
Although I don’t have the karmic affinity required to be a monk at this time/in this life, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, in Korea, to spend time with and even grow close to a few monks. The three monks I’ve come to know the most are from three very different cultures and backgrounds, and I’ve learned many different things from them. Although driving around the country at the speed of sound with my Korean monk friend, I was usually praying for my own life more than for others, he gave me a good glimpse into the reality of such a life. With Chong Go Sunim, it’s very comfortable coming from a similar culture. There are fewer barriers and talking about things feels very genuine. I think what I realize the most when I spend time with Chong Go Sunim, or most other monks, is that I still have a lot to learn… Sometimes it seems like the longer I practice, the more I realize I don’t know!
That’s about all I have to share for now, I hope you enjoy the photos!