South Korea

Seoul: Bongeunsa temple

Just north of the COEX Center (and next to the flat of our friends), lies Bongeunsa. This is a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of crowded city life.

The temple is a major centre for the Seon (Zen) sect of Buddhism, which focuses on meditation. Established in 794 by Yeon-hoe , the temple was originally called Gyeonseongsa (meaning “seeing true nature”). The temple was rebuilt in 1498 and renamed Bongeunsa (meaning “offering benefit”). The buildings have been rebuilt many times over the centuries.

We entered through Jinyeomun (Gate of Truth), protected by four fierce guardians painted on its doors.

We made our way to Beopwangru – the Dharma Kind Pavilion. This pavilion houses the Buddha, the king of the Dharma (teachings). Inside there are 3,300 miniature Buddha statues.

We walked past the different temple buildings – and were immediately greeted by thousands of white lanterns everywhere.

They were beautiful to look at, they lined every path – and while we were at the temple, we saw more and more people adding lanterns to the ropes next to the path.

We did not know if this was something special, but when we asked our friends, they said, they’ve seen it before. So it was not an unique occurrence, but still we don’t know the tradition behind it (if someone does, please let me a comment below).

This is Mireuk Dabeul, the great statue of Maitreya Buddha. Maitreya is the future Buddha who vows to save sentient begins in the ear after the lifetime of Sakyamuni Buddha. The statue is 23 metres high and shows Maitreya coming down to earth to save all those who are suffering.

We walked back to the main Buddha hall, which is called Daewoongjeon and watched monks and people praying. Even if it was during the week, the place was filled with people mediating, chanting and praying.

The beautiful window frames behind Patrick are from Panjeon, the tripitaka hall.

A hall that’s been used to storage sutras (Buddhist scriptures). It’s the oldest building in the temple compound, but very beautiful to look hat.

Next to it stands the bell pavilion, with a Dharma bell, a Dharma drum, a cloud-shaped gong and a wooden fish.

These four instruments are struck just before the services at dawn and in the evening, with the intention of saving all beings in the universe.

The sound of the Dharma bell saves the dead spirits in hell, the Dharma drum animals, the cloud-shaped gong the spirits wandering in the air, especially birds, to paradise, and the sound of the wooden fish creatures in the water.

It’s an amazing temple, in the middle of a busy city – and you can find more information here as well as details about the temple stay (two days in the temple) as well as temple life (two hours during the day).

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