Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Korean Buddhism’


Well, we’ve been in Korea for close to a month and a half now and we haven’t really done many touristy things. So on Tuesday we remedied that and visited Haedong Yonggungsa, a spectacular Buddhist temple complex on an outcrop of rock overlooking the sea in Busan. 

We went with KJ’s friend Gae-young and her four-year-old niece Young-ju, whom we picked up at kindergarten after lunch. I don’t think she knew in advance that she would be meeting a 6’6″ white dude and a rambunctious mixed race toddler that day. The poor little thing seemed a bit stunned the whole afternoon. 

Haedong Yonggungsa

Haedong Yonggungsa

 

In the beginning, I wasn’t too sure about Haedong Yonggungsa, because the first thing you encounter as you walk in from the parking lot is a string of tacky little shops selling snacks and trinkets. Once you get past all that, though, the good stuff comes, starting with a row of imposing rock statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. These amused Ian greatly. 

After that, you come to a stone bridge. At the midpoint of this bridge, down below, are two stone figures. The lowest one is a tortoise with a bowl on its back and the one above is a goddess holding a bowl. This is one of the ways the temple makes money. If you can throw a coin into the goddess’ bowl, your wish will come true. I probably threw about twenty 100 won coins (about 10 cents) at the darn thing. I came close several times, but I didn’t manage to hit the target. Next time, I guess. 

All religions should make donating money this much fun.

All religions should make donating money this much fun.

 

The story goes that Haedong Yonggungsa was founded in 1376 by a great Buddhist teacher known as Naong. Unlike most Korean Buddhist temples, which are built on mountains, Naong built his temple by the sea to honor the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy. She lives alone near the sea, apparently, and rides on the back of a dragon.   

Devotional figures left near a statue of the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy's ride.

Devotional figures left near a statue of the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy's ride.

 

It is said that Naong was practicing asceticism in Gyeongju when the country fell victim to a terrible drought. The crops died and there was famine. The people were greatly upset at the gods for allowing this to happen and for not giving them rain. 

During all this, a sea-god appeared in a dream to Naong one night. The sea-god said that if a temple was built at the edge of Bongrae Mountain and if the people prayed there, the drought would end and happiness would return to the land. Naong was soon on his way and got started on the temple shortly thereafter. 

Many believe that if they pray hard at Haedong Yonggungsa, at least one of their wishes will be granted. As a result, it’s not just a popular spot for tourists. Lots of devotees come here, too – although I must say that I didn’t see a single Buddhist monk while we were there. Probably the first time I’ve ever been to a church, temple, mosque or synagogue without seeing a person of the cloth. 

My little guy and I check out all the little Buddhas.

My little guy and I check out all the little Buddhas.

 

Young-ju stands a safe distance from me and Ian as we all pose in front of the big gold Buddha, called Podaehwasung. If you rub his belly or nose, you will have a son.

Young-ju stands a safe distance from me and Ian as we all pose in front of the big gold Buddha, called Podaehwasung. If you rub his belly or nose, you will have a son.

 

A statue of the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy towers over one of the small temples at Haedong Yonggungsa. This is apparently the largest statue in South Korea carved from a single piece of stone. I don't believe the steel rods have any special significance.

A statue of the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy towers over one of the small temples at Haedong Yonggungsa. This is apparently the largest statue in South Korea carved from a single piece of stone. I don't believe the steel rods have any special significance.

 

The Jijang Bosul, a minor deity with the power to save people from hell.

The Jijang Bosul, a minor deity with the power to save people from hell.

 

Imposing statues of the twelve Chinese zodiac characters lined up to wish us a fond farewell as we made our way back to Gae-young's car.

Imposing statues of the twelve Chinese zodiac characters lined up to wish us a fond farewell as we made our way back to Gae-young's car.

 

And, no, Haedong Yonggungsa is not wheelchair accessible.

And, no, Haedong Yonggungsa is not wheelchair accessible.

 

Howdy and thanks for visiting gnomeless.com. If you enjoyed this post and would like to help us out, please share this link with your friends:  http://tinyurl.com/2cq22y3

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Gu In Jung Sa Temple Spring Ritual

Monks play instruments and chant during ritual to ask local god's protection of the town.

There are about a million Buddhist temples in Korea, and it seems like almost every little mountain in the country has at least one. Yesterday the father-in-law thought I might like to go over to the temple nearest the house to watch a ceremony they were holding.    

So off we went to Gu In Jungsa Temple, taking a shortcut past the cow pen and through the tiny hay-field of the miniature farm out behind the in-laws’ house. Then we went up the road a spell until we came to the small temple. Judging by the noise, the ritual was well under way.    

Two old men were sitting on chairs just outside the gate. My father-in-law said something to them and gestured towards me. I gave a good deep bow and said, “Ahn yong hasayo,” which is the formal way of saying hello to strangers and those older than you. It is one of the very, very few Korean phrases I have mastered and I enjoy deploying it at pretty much every opportunity.    

Having astounded the locals with my virtuosity in their own language, we entered the courtyard of the temple, where the ritual was being performed. I learned later the purpose was to ask the god of the mountain to protect the town.    

Sungmoo

A monk performs sungmoo, the dance to ask the local god to protect the town.

At first, it all seemed to be a pretty standard and straight-ahead Buddhist ceremony. There were drums, cymbals, moktaks (a hollow wooden percussion instrument) and chanting. There was a table loaded with offerings to the local deity at the front, the monks were to the left and the congregants were either sitting or bowing to the table or to the monks.    

Then I noticed something that surprised me: a big dead pig right beside the offering table. I’m no scholar when it comes to Buddhism, but I’m pretty sure there is something in there about not killing animals and the importance of being a vegetarian. I can understand that the rank and file might not follow this teaching, but shouldn’t the monks of a temple?    

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the pig had envelopes stuffed in his mouth. Then I saw some folks put 10,000 won notes in his ears (worth about $10). I knew what I would be asking KJ after we got home.    

Some pig

Jaymul pig with money offerings stuffed in his mouth and ears.

According to KJ, Korean Buddhism has been influenced by the animist traditions that preceded it in this country. The envelopes in the pig’s mouth contained money and were put there by believers so that their prayers would be answered. Same thing with the money stuffed into his ears.    

 These pigs are pretty important in Korea, apparently. When someone opens a business, they may buy a pig to help bring good luck. Usually it’s just the head, though. The value of these jaymul pigs (offering pigs) is determined by how big its smile is. The bigger the smile, the bigger the luck – and, naturally, the bigger the price.    

How sacrificing a pig for use in a Buddhist rite gets reconciled with the teaching of the Buddha and the sages who followed him is something I do not yet know. All I know right now is I’m looking forward to the opportunity to find out.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: