- Seonunsa Temple
- A place where the spirit of practice is even brighter than the crimson Camellia Flowers…
When the Camellia Flowers are blooming at Seonunsa, the place is packed with people. Since the flowers usually come out at the end of a long winter, when there is still snow on the ground, they are called “Winter Tree Flowers.” However, the exact time when the flower blooms differs from shrub to shrub and from region to region. While the Camellias at Seonunsa do indeed bloom in the winter, they don’t reach their peak until around the middle of April. So some people joke that the flowers shouldn’t be called Dongbaek (Winter Flowers) but Chunbaek (Spring Flowers).
Seonunsa was built during the reign of Baekjae King Wideok (577 C.E.) by Ven. Geomdan. The monk reformed a thief who lived in the valley and taught him how to earn his livelihood by roasting salt. In order to repay the monk’s kindness, the thief sent some roasted salt to the temple. The temple really prospered towards the end of the Joseon Dynasty, with 189 temple buildings and 89 different hermitages.
These days Seonunsa has 13 temple buildings remaining, including the central Daeoongbojeon (Main Buddha Hall). The temple buildings stand in a long line, with the Camellia shrub forest as their background. One of the most notable buildings is the Manseru, which was made of left-over lumber after the other buildings were built. The tree trunks were just left as they were, not trimmed at all, and used to make the columns and crossbeams of the building. If you make it to Seonunsa, you should also make the extra effort to visit the hermitage Dosolam on Dosolsan, the scenery is really well worth it.
Seonunsa’s Templestay ProgramSeonunsa runs regular two, three and four day templestay programs, featuring monastic formal meals, Dado (tea ceremony), and making Lotus Lanterns. Most programs are run on the weekends, but people who wish to take advantage of the freestyle templestay program can come during the week. Participants in the freestyle program are only required to attend community meals and evening chanting services. They can also have tea and talk with the monks if they
- Woljeongsa Temple
- Feel the unlimited freedom on the fir tree lined forest!
The temple Woljeongsa is located on the mountain Odaesan, and is a mere two hours from Seoul. High above the temple is the legendary Jeongmyeolbogung, the “Jeweled Palace of Stillness and Extinction”, which holds some Sarira (true relics) of the historical Buddha. One route that visitors love to take when they hike on the mountain is the path through the temple’s Fir Tree forest. Especially if you hike the nine kilometer unpaved path from Woljeongsa up to the temple Sangwonsa, you can really get a feeling for the area’s natural surroundings.
Woljeongsa was founded during the reign of Shilla Queen Seondeok (643 C.E.) by the Precepts Master Ven. Jajang (590-658 C.E.) While practicing Buddhism in Tang Dynasty China, the Ven. Jajang had an encounter with Manjushri, and received transmission of some Sarira of the historical Buddha. As soon as the monk finished his training in China and returned to the Shilla Kingdom, he came to Odaesan, where Manjushri was said to reside. He then proceeded to build a hermitage to house the relics, and continued his practice. Later during the reign of Joseon King Cheoljong (1856 C.E.) the temple was greatly enlarged. However, during the Korean War, due to its strategic importance, the temple was completely destroyed, and then later rebuilt.
Woljeongsa’s best known cultural property is the octagonal, nine storey stone pagoda directly in front of the Jeokgwangjeon (Hall of Stillness and Light). It was said to have been erected by the Ven. Jajang, but the pagoda’s style suggests that it was actually from the Goryeo Dynasty. Directly in front of the pagoda is the figure of a seated, stone Bodhisattva, with two hands outstretched together, making offerings to the Buddha. This is the so-called Bodhisattva Heegyeon, who appears in the Lotus Sutra as someone who burned his own body in pursuit of Enlightenment.
Towards the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, while he was practicing at the hermitage Bukdaeam, the Ven. Naong (1320-1376) used to offer Biji (bead-curd residue) to the Woljeongsa Buddha every single day. However, one day some snow which had built up on a pine branch fell down and struck the offering for the Buddha. So the monk scolded the pine tree for failing to recognize the Buddha’s kindness, whereupon the mountain god drove pine trees away from Odaesan and made Fir Trees the lords of the mo
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