Contents > Photos&Movies
- Today`s Templestay Moment(2013-04-25)
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
This is the most favorite story from the Templestay facebook and twitter, too.
[16th AprilThe Templestay news for today! I introduce the Templstay at Jeju area, Yakchunsa Temple.
You have a special experience with exotic Jeju`s nature. Jeju Island has a mild oceanic climate throughout the year with the smallestannual temperature range in South Korea. The temperature for the hottest summer months averages no more than 35.8 ℃ in JejuCity and 33.0 ℃ in Seogwipo City and no less than -2.3℃ in Jeju City and -2.7 ℃ in Seogwipo City for winter.
Plus, The value of Jeju was proved as the island received as the island was designated Biosphere Reserve in 2002, World NaturalHeritage in 2007 and Global Geopark in 2010, making the sub-tropical island only place on Earth to receive all three UNESCOdesignations in natural sciences.
Jeju has now become a ‘treasure island of environmental assets’ that the world has to preserve.
Yakchunsa with irresistible nature provides you unique memory on the Templestay.]
- Today`s Templestay moment(2013-04-11)
I believe that we are fundamentally the same and have the same basic potential.
- Dalai Lama
- Carolyn's Seonunsa Templestay story(2012-03-29)
At 3 a.m., my eyes popped open to the sound of the moktak — a wooden percussion instrument that Buddhist monks and nuns play each morning to start the day. I had to remind myself that I was in South Korea, and it was time to bow 108 times in the main dharma hall. I was at Unmunsa, a nun’s temple and training campus that is part of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. A University of Georgia professor and 16 students stood by my side as we gazed at the Buddha images in wonder, smelled the essence of incense throughout the hall, and listened in awe as the nuns chanted powerfully.
This is what community feels like, I realized. Unmunsa doesn’t usually host a temple stay program, but our professor - who knows the Venerable Bhikkhuni Teacher Myeong Seong Sunim - was able to arrange our stay. The nuns in their fourth year of training led us around campus for a few days, teaching us about the sutras, showing us how to hit the temple drum, and training us to properly consume balwoo - the formal morning meal. It was a truly authentic experience that we won’t forget.
We also stayed at Seonunsa, which hosts temple stays regularly and uses a slightly different schedule. The comparison and contrast between the two temples was highly valuable, and each experience was special. At Seonunsa we wore outfits that were provided, learned the traditional Korean tea ceremony, and talked with the head abbot and president of the temple’s graduate school.
In both places, we practiced meditation after the morning ceremony in the dharma hall. This is where we truly grew. We focused on our breath, repeated a mantra, and tried to concentrate on the one thought at hand. It was difficult for some of the students to sit comfortably - even for 10 minutes -but they learned to begin to calm their minds and their bodies. The meditation- and the entire temple stay experience - helped me to consider all aspects of my life and where I’m struggling at the moment. This was the exact trip I needed to investigate my unhappiness in different areas and determine what to do next in my career.
There’s no doubt about it: my trip to South Korea was transformational. Since I’ve returned, I feel more self-reflective and at peace. I’m trying to incorporate more meditation, yoga, and positive thoughts into my day. Many Americans - or simply non-Buddhists - may believe that being a monk means idly moving about the day, always in a state of meditation as you ponder nirvana and reincarnation. What we found, however, was that a monastic member’s schedule is often packed with teaching, meditation walks to local hermitages, cooking, and meeting with lay Buddhists or officials. But that doesn’t mean they’re stressed. The nuns at Unmunsa expressed a true sense of peacefulness and happiness as they explained their lifestyle to us, and they didn’t hesitate to laugh, clap, and cheer as they taught us a traditional Korean children’s game. The monks at Seonunsa walked with a purpose, but they moved with grace and knew how to take time for tea.
In all, this is exactly what the 18 of us from Georgia needed to experience. Many of the students, who receive the University of Georgia’s top undergraduate scholarship that pays for tuition and travel, said it was the best trip they’ve taken thus far in their lives. As one of the trip leaders, I couldn’t be more proud of what they took from the experience. South Korea and its temples will forever be imprinted in our hearts.
Written by. Carolyn Crist, Reporter
- Feel Spring Coming in Temple Cuisine(2012-02-21)
Daily Templestay at Jinkwansa Temple 2012.02.11
Feel Spring Coming in Temple Cuisine
-Temple food making program at Jinkwansa Temple
The changing of seasons leaves its mark in the color of plants. It is the most glamorous in the red and yellow of autumn leaves. It also colors the young leaves in the beginning of spring, even though it is too subtle and is gone too fast to catch our eyes. However, there might be other ways to feel the colorful joy this changing season brings.
Written and photographed by Seonae Yun (pressphoto.co.kr)
Jinkwansa Temple, 354 Jingwan-dong Eunpyeong-gu Seoul, is a monastery for Buddhist nuns only. Near to both the hustle and bustle of this huge city and the solemn atmosphere of Bukhansan National Park, it gives visitors wonder and surprise. It was no exception to those who entered the temple gate on the 2nd Saturday of February. They were foreign customers of the Korea Exchange Bank which sponsored the daily Templestay program for them. The shade of trees on the ground inside the gate, which features warrior temple protectors, greeted the foreign-culture-seekers into the temple compound. It was spring according to the Korean traditional almanac, but the rocks in the valley around the temple were still covered with snow.
This is Hongjeru Pavilion where the daily Templestay programs proceed. Daily Templestay is a shorter form of the two or three day Templestay. It is designed for people who cannot find longer time but wish to experience Buddhist culture at a temple during daytime programs with various topics according to the occasion.
When the participants reached the pavilion, it was bustling in preparation for that days’ topic: temple food making. It was cold in the hall and the sound of the hot-air blower interfered with the silence of the place.
The opening ceremony was held at Nagawon with a welcoming address from the Head monk of the Temple Ven. Gyeho and Templestay Director Ven. Eungchan. Nagawon is a multifunctional place; monks sleep, dine and practice there. So you could see the monks’ ceremonial robes hanging on the row. When I first visited Jinkwansa before, the wooden floor of Nagawon caught my eye. It was still impressive to me.
The next step was to take off mundane things. However, because of the cold, we had to wear the temple clothes over our own. While the foreign participants were heading to Hongjeru, other visitors observed them with curiosity.
Making steamed rice with lotus roots in variegated colors
and Steamed rice with a lotus leaf
Participants were all ears and did not want to miss any of Ven. Eungchan’s instruction. At last they made steamed rice with a lotus leaf! All wraps, lotus leaves, were collected to steam in a big pot. Would I get my exact wrap back? Maybe yes or maybe not. There was no mark or tag on the wraps.
Steamed rice with lotus roots in variegated colors was a bit more difficult. My hands were shaking when the Venerable said that we should be careful plugging up each hole of the lotus root, observing the proprieties. It is absolutely not an easy job to put a grain of rice, which was soaked in water with natural dyeing materials, into such small holes. Therefore when I finally finished, I took pride in my work.
Mr. Pratim Roy and Mrs. Kohinoor Dev Roy, an Indian couple, proudly showed off their accomplishment. They talked about their experience at Woljeongsa Temple that they had been to, adding “We could realize again that Ancient Korea has a close connection with India in religion and history.”
All our laborious and colorful rice work was also collected to steam in a pot. We could not claim our own work; however, it would be good to share each other’s sincere mind for the work, because we felt a kind of bond for being there together. Thinking about all this food was working up my appetite.
Deep-fried potatoes and perilla stems
Lunch was served not in the form of monastic communal meal (Baru Gongyang), but in the style of a more general setting of Korean dishes. It was to help foreign visitors and, at the same time, to arrange the dishes neatly. Participants enjoyed seasoned vegetables and potato stew with perilla seed powder. I especially liked sliced potatoes and perilla stems oiled and toasted.
After lunch we found time to have tea at Seongsisanrim, a tea house on the way to Hongjeru from Iljumun(One Pillar Gate). Participants enjoyed talking, asking questions and sharing answers. They were curious about Ven. Eungchan’s life; where is his hometown, what made him decide to be a monk, etc. During this conversation Scott Kalb’s knowledge on Korean and Korean things were helpful to our group, making the conversation joyful for everyone including Mr. Larry Klane, former president of Foreign Exchange Bank and his wife.
Next was the time for hard practice. Making 108 prayer beads and Seon (Zen) practice were waiting for us. Participants gathered at Hongjeru again. While we were trying to learn about the proper posture for meditation, there came a sigh of discomfort from the foreign participants. After 10 minutes of meditation in silence, finally the monk allowed us to free our body. He advised us to relax the tensed muscles through stretching, adding that the monks take at least 50 minute meditation sessions at a time.
Martine Prost, who participated in the program with her Korean husband, loosened herself up by holding and stretching her arms above her head. Her stylish winter outfits were catching during all the programs. I was curious about how they met and their marriage about 35 years ago, but I refrained. I was not old enough to understand other’s life.
That’s it. That’s all for that day’s adventure of exploring some parts of Korean and Buddhist culture. At the end of the program, when the chilly wind was blowing outside the temple building, we sat around together at Nagawon to share tea and snacks. Many questions about Korean Buddhism, temple and monastic life popped up here and there. That section was marking the end of the short but informative programs.
We changed back to our clothes. Temple clothes were light whether we put them on or took them off. On the contrary, mundane clothes were heavy and thick. My body felt a little uncomfortable in them. However, I did not have any other choice. Anyway it was certain that these worldly outfits would protect me from the severe cold from outside.
- Donghwasa : Healing the World’s Suffering(2011-08-29)
- Mt. Palgongsan, which is known as a sacred mountain, is located in Gyeongsang Province near Daegu City, in the southwest region of the Korean peninsula. The mountain is dotted with temples and religious sites, and enjoys popularity with people who search for spirituality and want to go beyond the limits of the physical world. One of those places frequented not only by Buddhists but also culture-seekers is the temple Donghwasa. Originally built in 493 C.E., this renowned temple has been a haven for those who wish to have a sense of ancient history and monastic practice in our every-day lives.
Essence of Korean Culture
Donghwasa : Healing the World’s Suffering
Daeungjeon, Main Buddha Hall of Donghwasa Temple
Mt. Palgongsan, which is known as a sacred mountain, is located in Gyeongsang Province near Daegu City, in the southwest region of the Korean peninsula. The mountain is dotted with temples and religious sites, and enjoys popularity with people who search for spirituality and want to go beyond the limits of the physical world. One of those places frequented not only by Buddhists but also culture-seekers is the temple Donghwasa. Originally built in 493 C.E., this renowned temple has been a haven for those who wish to have a sense of ancient history and monastic practice in our every-day lives.
Have you ever seen the tail of a phoenix?
Like many other Korean temples, Donghwasa got its name from a legend. When Master Simji reconstructed the temple in 832 C.E., flowers of Foxglove trees (Paulownia Coreana) suddenly bloomed, even though it was still winter. The monk took this as an auspicious sign blessing the project, and he changed the temple’s name to its present one, which means ‘Temple of Paulownia Flowers.’
This legend leads us to another story, as people connected this myth to a phoenix, the legendary noble creature, which was said to only dwell in Foxglove trees. According to the theory of Feng shui, the fact that the topography of the temple resembles a phoenix sitting on her eggs supports this legend. People therefore believed that this sacred bird dwelled there and sanctified the temple. You can find some proof of this, for when you enter the temple compound, you will find a pavilion named the Bongseo-ru, meaning ‘place where the phoenix dwells.’ In the middle of the stairs to the pavilion, you can see a rock that is considered to be the tail of the phoenix, and three oval stones lying under the rock that are the bird’s eggs.
In oriental tradition, the phoenix symbolizes the emperor, and this fits the fact that noble families once visited Donghwasa, which was a royal temple at that time, in order to pray or pay tribute to their ancestors. This also is a reminder of the fact that, according to records, Master Simji was born a prince in the Unified Silla Kingdom. He gave up the throne to his uncle amid political strife and became a monk. What a coincidence!
These auspicious heavenly beings are seen flying over the Buddha images in the Daewoong-jeon (Main Buddha Hall), adorning the Buddha’s realm with magnificence.
Go forth for the people and country
Temple Bazaar: Sep. 1 (Tue.)- 5 (Mon.) 2011, Donghwasa Temple
In the Korean Buddhist tradition, monks used to exchange things to be recycled by others. The temple bazaar revives this spirit in modern times. This year’s temple bazaar in Donghwasa adds more activities that provide participants with a chance to experience Buddhist culture and philosophy. Flying lanterns and LED kites at the opening and closing ceremonies will create breath-taking spectacles in the sky. Exhibitions of the monks’ favorite collections, of their own creations and the tunnel of 10,000 lanterns will dazzle you. Other than performing arts such as concerts, musicals and drum dances, you can experience creating various Buddhist artworks such as porcelain, wooden gongs, and even pagodas. You can make your own unique souvenir of Korean culture, too, through Korean traditional paper making, natural dyeing programs, and so on. You can also hunt for a treasure in the flea market.
*For more information: Tel 053-985-4404, www.dongwhasa.net
Special Templestay Related with IAAF World Championships in Daegu
Entitled ‘Meditation Practice - In Search of My True Self,’ Donghwasa Templestay provides specific programs to guide the spiritual journey of participants. ‘Meditation with starlight,’ and ‘Meditation in the monk’s stele field,’ are good examples of these specialized programs. Basic programs such as tea ceremony, lotus lantern making and monastic formal meals will be included, too.
*Period: Aug. 27 – Sep. 4 2011
*Departure place & Time: 9:00 a.m. in front of The Grand Hotel
*For more information: Tel 053-428-4002(EXCO Tour)
Templestay Summer Programs
Templestay : A Journey in Search of my True Self
This is a unique opportunity to experience traditional culture and the lifestyle of Buddhist monks in ancient temples that have carried on the heritage of Korean Buddhism for the last seventeen hundred years.
A variety of specialized Templestay summer programs are being offered this year at temples throughout the country.
- Each temple has its own unique programs:
Many of the 118 temples that offer Templestay also run diverse programs throughout the year, including seasonal events and regional culture festivals.
For example, Beopheung-sa, a temple located in Yeongwol-gun, Gangwon Province, runs a program in which you make “dream pouches,’ where you can store your dreams for a year. Participants diligently make their own pouches, then write their dreams on a card and put it inside the pouch; they then carry it around on their bodies for the duration of the two day program, giving them the inspiration to fulfill their wishes. When all the programs have finished, the pouches are hung in the Beopheung-sa Yaksajeon. At the end of the year participants can come back again and see if their dreams have been realized.
The program at Magoksa temple in Gongju, Chung Nam Province, uses the technique of group counseling as a kind of meditation on loving-kindness through which participants heal deep wounds within themselves, and then learn how to maintain this mind of compassion. Starting first with themselves, participants practice radiating total compassion to their families, neighbors, and ultimately all sentient beings. The Magoksa “Compassionate Meditation” Templestay program is the quintessential program for healing body and mind.
Haeinsa temple, which preserves the world-renowned Koreana Tripitaka, runs a program that lets participants personally come in contact with the sutra collection and even try printing the wood blocks themselves. Spreading ink onto wood blocks modeled after the original sutra tablets and then printing them on rice paper is a unique way to connect with the timeless wisdom of the Seon patriarchs and the message of truth held within.
There is also some time to visit the small hermitages located all over Mt. Gaya, the mountain behind Haeinsa. The footprints of monks who have practiced there for ages still remain at these hermitages; even today one can still get some sense of their practice, as many monks continue to train there in pursuit of enlightenment.
In addition, the temple Golgulsa is one of the places where you can experience the practice of Seonmudo. The formal name of Seonmudo was originally “Buddhist Diamond Spiritual Awareness,” as it incorporates elements of yoga, meditation, and the Buddhist practices of self-awareness and introspection. Seonmudo training lets us straighten out our unbalanced bodies and minds so that we can become mentally and physically healthier.
Naesosa (Buan, Jeonbuk Province), situated in the foothills of Mt. Neungga in Byeonsan Peninsula National Park, is one of the temples whose scenery is considered to be the most beautiful of all. Naesosa runs a Templestay hiking program that lets participants appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding area. A course that takes you from the pine scent of the Naesosa One-pillar Gate to Mt. Naebyeon, the Jikso Waterfall, Jaebaeki Pass, the Gwanum Peak crossroads, the fir tree forest, and then back to Naesosa lets participants get a sense for the natural scenery and fragrances of Mt. Neungga and Mt. Naebyeon.
Most of the temple programs provide participants with training outfits, but since not many temples provide clothing for children, you should make sure to prepare it yourself.
The fee for participation at most temples is W 30,000-50,000. For more information, contact the Korean Buddhist Cultural Corps at (02) 2031-2000, or else consult their website at www.templestay.com. You can also personally contact the individual temples themselves for more information.
The Front view of Bulguksa Temple
After Buddhism first came to Korea by way of China in the fourth century C.E, this foreign-born religion gradually permeated all aspects of people’s lives, forming the foundation of Korean consciousness. It reached the pinnacle of its development with its official recognition as a state religion by the Silla Kingdom (BCE 57-CE 935), and after Silla unified the Korean peninsula, it not only served a religious function, but was looked upon as a protective power. Temples of magnificent scale were built in and around Gyeongju, capital of Silla. Among those, Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto (C.E. 751) were the two supreme accomplishments of Korean Buddhist architecture.
Bulguksa, a grand complex of various worship halls and pagodas, is a depiction of the Buddhist Elysium described in some scriptures, while the man-made cave temple Seokguram, apparently built to complement Bulguksa, judging from its size and atmosphere, represents the state of Nirvana. This shows that the people who designed these temples envisioned the combination of Buddhist practice and ultimate enlightenment - in other words the realization of Buddhist ideals and the awakening to one’s true-self. In this arrangement, the journey to enlightenment began at Bulguksa on the western slope of Mt. Tohamsan, which was considered a holy mountain by the people of Silla. The final destination of this pilgrimage was, of course, Seokguram Grotto, near the top of the mountain. It was a way to seek the radiance of enlightenment.
Bulguksa : Realization of Buddha Land
As the name Bulguk (佛國) implies, the temple was designed to manifest the blissful land of the Buddha in the present world. It was intended to embody the happy land where mortal beings are liberated from the sufferings of life by following the teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, the temple had to be not only faithful to the teachings of the Buddha but also beautiful as well.
The temple compound is divided into three sections: the realm of Sakyamuni Buddha, the realm of Amitabha, and the realm of Vairocana Buddha. The main courtyard which is dedicated to Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, is reached by climbing up the thirty-three stone stairs named Baekun-gyo (白雲橋, “The Bridge of White Clouds”) and Cheongun-gyo (靑雲橋, The Bridge of Blue Cloud), and through the Jaha-mun (紫霞門, Mauve Mist Gate). “Jaha” refers to the auspicious mist which is said to surround the awakened one, Buddha. These bridge-like stairways symbolically connect the earthly world below and the world of Buddha above.
In front of Daeung-jeon, the main Buddha hall enshrining a gilt-bronze Buddha triad, stand a pair of famous pagodas, Seokga-tap, or the Shakyamuni Pagoda, and Dabo-tap, or the Pagoda of Many Treasures. The arrangement of these two pagodas is the realization of the scene from the Lotus Sutra, where the Buddha of Many Treasures emerged out of the earth to witness the greatness and truth of Shakyamuni’s teachings.
The two pagodas form a rather dramatic contrast in their appearance. The three-story Seokga-tap is a model of simplicity and princely dignity, while the highly decorated Dabo-tap pushes the limits of aestheticism that can be reached by a stone pagoda.
The Geuknak-jeon, or the Paradise Hall, dedicated to Amitabha, is located to the west of the main courtyard. From the surrounding area, the hall is reached through a separate gate, Anyang-mun (安養門, “Gate of the Pure Land”) and stairs named Yeonwha-gyo (蓮花橋, “The Lotus Bridge”) and Chilbo-gyo (七寶橋, “The Bridge of Seven Treasures”). Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, vowed that all who called his name would be born into this paradise after death.
UNESCO World Heritage: Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto(1995)
National Treasures: Dabo-tap(No.20), Seokga-tap(No. 21), Yeonwha-gyo, Chilbo-gyo (No. 22), Cheongun-gyo, Baekun-gyo (No. 23), Seokguram Grotto(No.24), the Golden Seated Vairocana Buddhist Statue (No. 26), the Golden Seated Amitabha Statue (No. 27), and Sari-tap (No.61).
Seokguram : Smile of Enlightenment
Seokguram Grotto is located about 4 km from Bulguksa, an hour-long walk up a steep, winding mountain path. Meticulously designed to guide the faithful into the holy land of the Buddha, this stone temple guides one on a mystical spiritual journey to the realm of nirvana in a limited span of time and space.
After passing through the arched entrance into the rectangular antechamber and proceeding down a corridor, walls decorated with images of various guardian deities, worshipers leave the secular world behind and prepare to face Buddha in the main rotunda. An image of serenity and power, the Buddha is seated cross-legged on a lotus throne, with his eyes half-closed in meditation and a faint smile on his lips. This depicts the moment of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree after long years of meditation, with his hands poised in a hand gesture touching the earth to call it to witness his realization of enlightenment. Worshipers who experience Nirvana realize that life and death are one in the void of nothingness.
Chiseled out of a single granite block, the 3.5 meter-high Buddha image envisages Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha with sublime beauty and majestic dignity, epitomizing the aestheticism of Korean Buddhist sculpture. With the combination of masculine strength and feminine grace and the personification of divine and human natures, the Buddha represents the ideal human being who has perfected his existence in this world - not as a supernatural figure superior to mere mortal sentient beings, but as a one who started his search as a man and finally attained eternity. The Buddha looks as if, since is also a man, that he knows everything about us, and that everyone else is a Buddha too.
There are forty different divinities such as Bodhisattvas, Buddha’s disciples, heavenly kings and protectors embodying various aspects of Buddhist teaching enshrined there; this small but noble grotto temple symbolizes Buddhist philosophy and aestheticism, and was the epitome of religious belief, science and fine arts in the golden, enlightened age of ancient Korean architecture.
Story by Yangja Ha & photo by Yang, Byung-joo (www.zenphoto.kr)
- Sudeok-sa Temple Offers Soul-Searching Experience(2011-04-23)
- Spring-time in the small pocket of beauty that is Deoksan Provincial Park, will expose crimson azaleas that blossom on awkward-shaped mounds of rock that whittle away at the ghost-like sea mist, as it creeps through the mountain top where Sudeok-sa Temple stands.The park itself, which is in South Chungcheong Province on the west coast, is divided into Mt. Deoksung that enshrouds Sudeok Temple and Mt. Gaya its highest peak at 678 meters. The greater area, known as Yesan-gun, is steeped in Baekje period (18 B.C. - A.D. 660) history, supporting numerous cultural relics from that long era. This sets forth for the visitor, a unique temple stay at Sudeok Temple ― the head temple of the Jogye Order's 7th district and headquarters of monastic training for Zen Buddhism in Korea.
Spring-time in the small pocket of beauty that is Deoksan Provincial Park, will expose crimson azaleas that blossom on awkward-shaped mounds of rock that whittle away at the ghost-like sea mist, as it creeps through the mountain top where Sudeok-sa Temple stands. The park itself, which is in South Chungcheong Province on the west coast, is divided into Mt. Deoksung that enshrouds Sudeok Temple and Mt. Gaya its highest peak at 678 meters. The greater area, known as Yesan-gun, is steeped in Baekje period (18 B.C. - A.D. 660) history, supporting numerous cultural relics from that long era. This sets forth for the visitor, a unique temple stay at Sudeok Temple ― the head temple of the Jogye Order's 7th district and headquarters of monastic training for Seon (Jap: Zen) Buddhism in Korea.
Sudeok Temple was founded during the late Baekje Kingdom period in the 7th century. There are two separate claims on who was responsible. The first in 599, by Buddhist Master’s Chim-yong, and the second by Master Sung-je under the reign of King Uija in 647. There is even a record of it being founded in 384 A.D. during the 4th century when Buddhism was first introduced to Korea.
However, there is a better and more interesting story that perhaps settles any confusion about the creation of the temple; a story that was splendidly narrated to me by Ven. Jung-hyun on my autumnal visit to Sudeok-sa. From behind one of the temple dorms, next to a small flat cliff-face of rock, Ven. Jung-hyun described how about 1,400 years ago, there was once a beautiful young woman from this area called Su-deok. She would come to this very rock and sit on it praying for the construction of a temple here. In the same area lived a wealthy young man, Deok-seon, who had been seeking her hand in marriage. One day she suggested to Deok-seon that if he built her a temple here, then she would marry him. Eager, he began construction, but upon completion the temple was burnt to the ground.
[ Sudeok Temple's prayer hall, Daewoongjeon, is Korea's oldest wooden building]
Rumors at the time suggested that the temple was destroyed because Deok-seon's intentions were tarnished by his lustful attraction for Su-deok. Ignoring the rumor, he tried again, and during his second construction attempt it was once again razed to the ground. Realizing his ulterior intentions, he solemnly prayed for the safe construction of the temple, and on his third attempt it was successfully constructed and named it Sudeok-sa. Deok-seon then proposed to Su-deok and she accepted his hand in marriage.
Their first night of wedlock was to be spent at the new temple, but when he tried to kiss her, she refused him. Angry he tried to force the issue further, but Su-deok fled. Pursued by Deok-seon, she ran towards the very rock that she used to pray on, and desperate in flight, she ran straight into the rock, vanishing into its surface, never to be seen again. All that remained were one of her shoes, and the hallowed impression of a flower embossed onto the surface of the rock.
It was a great story and a great introduction to the temple that captivated the 50 odd visiting overseas and local students from OISTAT (International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians). They were taking part in the temple stay program as part of an international workshop for ritual inspiration sponsored by their host Sangmyung University Seoul Campus. Upon completion of the story, Ven. Jung-hyun told the group to look into the rock and asked, ``Can you see the flower, where is the flower?' His request was met by reflections of approval. Indeed, because our thoughts were now embossed by this image of Su-deok, you could see her flower tarnished on the rock face.
[ The Flower Rock at Sudeok Temple at Yesan-gun, South Chungcheong Province ]
On that introspective note, it is important to perhaps understand what the temple represents to the Jogye Order. Designated in 1984, as the main center for Seon (Zen) studies, the temple accommodates about 200, with half that population being female nuns living on a separate site. So, what is Seon Buddhism? Seon, meaning `meditation', is translated from the Chinese word `Chan', which in turn is derived from the word `Dhyana' that comes from the ancient classical literary language of Sanskrit in India. `Zen' as it is more commonly known in the West is the Japanese translation of the Korean word Seon. Its practice in Korean Buddhism is a highly important aspect of study towards seeking the truth. It comes as a result of one of the two major schools of Buddhism, Mahayana and Theravada. Both are different expressions of the same teachings of Buddha.
Theravada, the more orthodox and theoretical approach to Buddhism emphasizes the belief of ethical conduct, meditation and wisdom as its base to accumulate goodness and purity. Mahayana, which is practiced in Korea and North East Asia, expresses the use of meditation as a way to look inward and not outwards when trying to reach enlightenment. It focuses on enlightenment as being more of a `sudden awakening', but even if a person achieves that state, they must continue with the gradual practice of Seon, the practice of enlightenment, or of being awakened, to remain awakened!
Seon Buddhism was brought to Korea from China by Master Beom-nang sometime between 632 and 646. Later, during the 8th and 9th century, the famous Nine Mountain schools (Gu-san) was built to become the initial monasteries of Korean Seon Buddhism, which is now the most prominent style of Buddhism in Korea. However, perhaps, the most notarized cultivator of Seon Buddhism in Korea was Master Chin-ul during the 12th century. Retreating to the mountains, he founded the current day Songgwang-sa Temple in South Jeolla Province, which supports a thriving Seon community. Seon remained a significant part of Korean Buddhism up to the Joseon Kingdom Period in the 14th century which then saw it ushered to one side by Confucianism.
More recently, Sudeok Temple helped the revival of Seon tradition by producing many great monks, Venerable Master's Gyeong-ho (1849-1912), Man-gong (1872-1946) and Won-dam (1926-2008), which in turn helped it to become established as the headquarters for Korean Seon tradition.
[ Participants meditate at Sudeoksa ]
The importance of meditation as a practice is regularly emphasized on temple stay visits. Ven. Jung-hyun at Sudeok Temple re-emphasized that notion to us. He introduced two sessions of Seon practice, and once again in his dynamic style he led us, at night, to the `Tabi-jang’, the temple-grounds graveyard, where monks are cremated.
There, as we sat under the starlit night he talked to us about `causation' and the cause of suffering. Birth is suffering yet we celebrate it. Death is suffering, yet through a strong desire to live, we mourn it, and that this desire for things that we have no control over is what causes human suffering. If we can control or remove those difficult desires, then we will in turn end suffering; this is called the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. Ven. Jung-hyun believed that Seon meditation was a vital tool towards reaching that understanding and philosophy. In the warm dark air of the night, he then asked us to look up at the stars and ask ourselves this, `What am I? Where is your star?' And on that note he slapped his `Juk-bi' (bamboo stick) and summoned us to meditate. But before we broke into humble silence, he pre-concluded that we should listen to the insects and become one with nature. As we did this, not a breath could be heard; everyone was captivated by his way of teaching.
The next day, the power of Sudeok Temple was re-enforced to us all at the early Morning Prayer session. At 3:30 a.m. we went into the 700-year-old `Taeung-jon', -built in 1308, making it the oldest wooden building in Korea - and participated in the `Yaebul', or chanting service. There a group of 12 monks chanted the sutras. In the early morning light, we sat enchanted by their chorus of undulating voices that completely filled the interior and acoustics of this ancient hall. Under the chanting spell of the monks, the silent 50 strong group of visiting overseas students, were transmigrated back in time by the spirit of the beautiful maiden named Sudeok.
If you desire a rich cultivating meditative experience, Sudeok Temple under the auspice of Deoksan Provincial Park is definitely worth a soul-searching visit.
For more information about Sudeoksa Templestay, contact to 82-41-337-0173
* By Roger Shepard, Contributing writer of the Korea Times
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