Although there are many things that bring me back to SeonUnSa, the Zen Cloud Temple, its Dharma Hall is among my favorites in the country. Its long, thin Buddhas are friendly, welcoming, and smile down compassionately. The old, faded and beams and walls radiate wisdom. I haven’t found my way back to this temple in a couple of years, but I often find myself traveling here in my thoughts…
Yes, another Mireuk Buddha, and one with a very interesting story, but I’ve decided to save that for another time, and take a personal approach to this one. I hope no one minds!
(And I realize that this anti-climatic intro just may be contrary to a certain Great Vow by creating a degree of suffering instead of saving anyone from it, so if you really do want to know the story surrounding the Buddha, and can’t find it on Google, let me know, I could add it in the comments, or it would make a nice little Future Post… (Future Buddha… get it?) 😉 )
I didn’t think to count them at the time, but from what I was able to make out from another photo, if there aren’t 108 Buddhas here, it’s really close to it!
Each Mireuk Buddha has been carved with slightly different features and there are several different mudrā among them. Once you pass through the small shrine of the Four Heavenly Guardians, there are another two rows of much larger than life Mireuk Buddhas, each sitting on a column of piled stones.
There are more Buddhas across the grounds of this temple than most other temples combined!
The entrance to Bul-guk-sa, known as Sok-gye-mun, has among the most elaborate entrances to any temple in Korea. The highlight of which is the thirty-three stepped staircase, representing the thirty-three steps to Enlightenment (according to the one who made it in thirty-three steps… ^_^). It is divided into two sections; the lower section, Cheong-un-gyo (the Blue Cloud Bridge), and the upper section, Baek-un-gyo (White Cloud Bridge).
Being one of the largest tourist attractions in the country, as well, it’s another temple I like to get to early in the morning, before the grounds become entirely over-run with people. During that short time, the words of the stones can still be listened to and they tell you why it’s called Bul-guk-sa, The Buddha-Land Temple.
There were a few different photos I was going back and forth between over the past few days, but today, as I came to post, I decided to go with a photo to suit the weather. After digging through my files, I found this one, a misty morning in front of Donghwa Temple’s Dae Ung Jeon (Main Dharma Hall).
Probably the most common cliché you’ll read in any travel guide about Seoul is that it’s a city of contrasts, a city of old and new. One of the spots where this is most apparent is up the small hill behind Bongeunsa, just behind the standing Mireuk Buddha.
Today, we travel east to a small mountain, Juwangsan, which has a folk-lore link to the great Chinese epic, Journey to the West.
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Carved over a 37 year span during the Goryeo period, this Future Buddha was 1000 years old when I first visited him at Gwanchoksa Temple, in 2006.
He stands about 18 meters tall (half of which is from the neck up) and despite his awkward, slightly gawky appearance, there’s still something I find very beautiful about him.
In contribution to this blog, I would like to share a photo each Sunday, focusing on interesting Buddhist sites, throughout South Korea.
I thought a good place to start would be the main Dharma Hall at Hanmaum Seonwon.
An interesting, detailed description of the Hall and it’s art work can be read here on the Hanmaum website. I especially like that the wood-carver has been designated as Korean Important Intangible Cultural Asset No.108. Is he actually the 108th, or did they just decide to give him that number??