Monday, June 4, 2012

Beomeosa Temple (Pusan)

Rather than focusing on the buildings and stone lanterns and other national treasures located in various points around this large temple with 1,330 years of history, this temple has a lot of rich cultural points that I find much more fascinating than the temple, so I'll share these :)

The Legend of Geumsaem Spring and Beomeosa Temple

The Geumsaem, literally "gold spring", legend reveals how Geumjeongsan Mountain in Busan has been a great spiritual site since ancient times and how the mountain got its name. This legend is documented in Dongguk Ueoji Seungnam (Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea).
"On the summit of Geumjeongsan Mountain, there is a rock which is as tall as three people standing one on top of the other, and at the top of the rock, there is a fountain. The fountain is always full of water of a golden hue, and never runs dry even during periods of drought. A certain legend says that a golden fish once rode on a five-cardinal-colored cloud and descended to this fountain from the Brahma heaven to play there. Thus, the mountain on which the fountain was placed was named Beomeo (Nirvana Fish)."
A similar yet more specific tale relating to Buddhist Supreme Master Uisang, who founded this temple during the reign of King Mu of Silla dynasty, is recorded in Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms).
"The Japanese military was preparing to invade Silla via the East Sea with 100,000 warships. Then, a  troubled King Munmu had a dream in which a deity appeared and told him that if he went to Geumsaem together with Buddhist Supreme Master Uisang to pray for seven days, he would be able to defeat the Japanese. He followed the deity's advice, whereupon the earth shook, and Buddha, the heavenly king, and the Child Buddha appeared. They went to the East Sea together to defeat the Japanese troops. Greatly delighted, King Munmu promoted Uisang, and erected Beomeosa Temple below Geumsaem."

Gomodang Shrine? unclear

 The Legend of Gomodang Shrine

Another legend, and one surrounding a woman who gets venerated - imagine that!!!
"Some 400 years ago, a woman from the Miryang Park clan turned to Buddhism after her marriage failed. She became a hwaju bosal (a Buddhist nun who collected money for charity) at Beomeosa Temple and dedicated herself wholly to Buddhism, earning the praise of many Buddhists. Shortly before her death she said to the senior monk, "When I die, please cremate my body. If you build a shrine for the Gomoyeongsin goddess at Godangbong Peak and hold rites for her, I will become a guardian goddess and help Beomeosa Temple.

The shrine was built in fulfillment of her dying wish, and since then two annual rituals have been held, on the 15th of January by the lunar calendar, and during the Dano Festival, in remembrance of her. Although Beomeosa Temple prospered, a group of young monks once damaged the shrine in protest against the holding of memorial services in her honor. However, when a number of ominous incidences occurred, they repaired the shrine."
For symbolism or a ceremony?

I'm not quite sure what was happening here but one young monk was explaining to the younger monk the position for the broomsticks and the very correct way of positioning them, one on each side of an ascending staircase. The monk went into great detail explaining, and younger brother monk kept nodding his head sagely. My friend and I passed by 30-40 minutes later and the broomsticks were gone. Just found this very curious.

Cheongryong Am (turtle-shaped rock)

A turtle is one of the 10 eternal creatures, the 싶장생, and in some Asian cultures an ancient turtle has been said to support the universe. I'm sure there are multiple meanings of the turtle - here are just a few in Korea - 싶장생, a symbol of power and strength, General Lee Soon Shin's famous turtle ship - and now a turtle rock nestled between temple buildings. On the side of the so-named turtle rock is a poem carved by Dongak Leeanul (1571-1637), one of the most popular poets during the Joseon Dynasty.
Buddhist devotee Lee from Deoksu
lives in Dongrae
there are two people
enjoying the beauty of nature
in an old temple covered with fog
stepping stones welcome us and
fine green trees give us pleasure
on the blue-colored rock that has been here for thousands of years
I engrave a poem now.
I'll let the reader figure out the capitalization and punctuation. Korean writing until recently did not have punctuation so if I add commas or periods where I feel they are necessary, my interpretation and the readers may differ.

Palsang Dokseong Nahan Jeon (Hall of Palsang Dokseong Nahan)
Tangible Cultural Asset No. 63, Busan City

Very unusual architecture as Korean architecture is based on 90-degree angles, so where did this very unusual and elegant arching door come from? The building itself is a treasure and more treasures are contained inside - also they are not the typical treasures so will interesting to relate. This hall has three doors, only the center one is arched, and through each door is another phase of Buddhism - the birth of Buddha in 8 drawings (Palsang Hall), the self-enlightenment of Nabanjeonja (Dokseong Hall), and then 16 enshrined saints who were nachal, meaning harmful to people, but were taught Buddhist teachings and became enlightened so that they changed to nahan, or good people. Two elderly people were bowing and venerating Nabonjeonja in the center hall - notice their correct positioning of the feet and toes; hands also have correct positioning.

Budo Garden

At the entrance to Beomeosa, visitors are given an English brochure with some small information about the archeology of the buildings, artifacts and etc. Most of the content is descriptive rather than culturally informative (I'm usually disappointed in that department - sigh). But the pictures showed some interesting angles or clarified what the viewer was looking at - temple building, stone lantern, pillar, stone staircase, wisteria garden (nice, but not in bloom - Natural Monument No. 176 because the grove contains 500 wisteria in a huge grove), and then "Budo Garden". Having no idea what a budo was, we could get an inkling from the stone upside-down urn-like constructions, so we figured another type of burial container ... and we were right. But we also wanted to go there since it looked cooly green and inviting. The brochure was devoid of maps, layout or direction ... so we politely bowed to a monk and asked directions. Wow, the female monk was delighted and directed us in a small feathery voice. The directions were quite complicated, but I figured I could get there, but she worried ... and directed another passing female monk to show us. Turns out, it was a good thing she guided us. We got on a hidden trail, wove through trees and skipped along a heavily bouldered riverbed for about 10-15 minutes before coming to a refreshing tiny clearing shrouded in green branches and speckled with light ... the budo garden. How lovely!

The garden contains 30 pagodas with 11 in one row, 10 behind and 9 behind that. 654 names of master priests including the Uisang, the founder of Beomeosa, have their relics retained here. My friend and I were more interested in sitting in the pastoral setting, chatting and then taking a few picts before I headed back to the bus station for the long return ride to Seoul.

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