Friday, April 24, 2015

Songgwangsa, a "Jewel" Monastery

Buddhism has Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community of monks and nun). In Korea there are three outstanding monasteries, each corresponding to one of the Jewels: Songgwangsa represents the Sangha, Tongdasa the Buddha, and Haeinsa the Dharma.

In 1969 Songgwangsa won the status of a Chongmin (Comprehensive Monastic Training Center), following that of Haeinsa. A monastery can only be designated as Chongnim when there are halls for Seon meditation, Kyo doctrine, Pure Land recitation, and Vinaya, which enables one to practice Seon and study doctrinal understanding in one place. Currently five Chongnims in the Jogye Order exist in South Korea.

Jinul, the founder of this temple, established a distinctively Korean style for Seon practice. He advocated a "sudden awakening/gradual cultivation" approach: full enlightenment can be attained by initial awakening through Hwaom doctrinal understanding and then cultivated gradually by Seon practice.

Restoration Periods

Upon entering the four guardians' gate, the visitor can see an amazingly large wooden bowl with a storage capacity of 250 gallons for rice, specifically used for the many visitors who came to attend National Rituals held at the temple around 1724. This bowl helps one to imagine the magnitude and popularity of the temple grounds at its heyday. Unfortunately, two wars destroyed the original structure: the invasion of Hideyoshi (1592-1598), and then in more modern history, the Korean War (1950-1953). Every time it was destroyed, there was strong determination to rebuild and restore the temple to its former glory. A thousand-day retreat was held (date unknown) to raise funds for the reconstruction of the main hall and lecture hall.

Source - the bisarigusi, or rice bowl that can contain 250 gallons of rice.
Brief History of Songgwangsa

Very little is known about the early history of Songgwangsa. In the Shilla period, there was a relatively small temple called Kilsanga, according to records. In 1190, Master Jinul formed a retreat group, samadhi (concentration) and prajna (wisdom) community at Keojosa in North Gyeongsang province. After seven years he had to expand to accommodate his growing community, and found a suitable site. The name of the mountain was changed to Mt. Jogye, after the mountains where the sixth patriarch of Seon (Zen), Huineaun, had lived in China.

The name Jogye has been adopted by the leading order of the present day Korean Buddhism, in which the heritage of cultivation has been handed down. This temple eventually became Songgwangsa, and over time Jinul produced 15 more National Masters during the Koryeo period.

Seongbo Museum

Seongbo Museum is the genealogy library of Songgwangsa and it holds two national treasures, National Treasure No. 42 (Wooden triptych Buddhist statue of Songgwangwa) and No. 43 (Royal Eddict Issued to Great Master Hyesim).. The temple grounds itself holds an additional National Treasure (no. 56, a hall containing the portraits of the 16 national masters), nine Treasures, two tangible cultural heritage items, and one natural monument (no. 88 - two Chinese juniper trees living on the temple grounds for 784 years).

Unclear whose stupas these are, but stupas on temple grounds are for venerating the temple's great founders. Perhaps these are the 16 national masters .... perhaps.

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