Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hwaomsa Temple in Jiri Mountain

Hwaomsa Temple, literally meaning "The Flower Garland Temple" from the Avatamsaka Sutra, is the head temple for the Jogye Order. It is one of the 10 most most famous temples in South Korea, and is home to the largest number of national treasures (with the exception of Bulguksa); hence, with four national treasures, the entrance fee is W3,500 while that of Bulguksa is W4,000. By knowing the number of famous artifacts in a temple, one can know the relative cost of the entrance fee as the cost reflects the number of national treasures stored within.

The four National Treasures within Hwaomsa: 

  • Gakhwangjeon Hall - a two-storied wooden hall and one of the largest Buddhist halls in South Korea is a masterpiece of mid-Joseon Buddhist architecture, and one retaining its original dancheong (five colors, albeit faded of decorative paintwork).

  • An ancient stone lantern shaped like a lotus flower in full bloom is considered representative work of the Unified Silla period. Stone lanterns generally represent the light of Buddha and are therefore positioned in front of main prayer halls or pagodas. This stone lantern is the largest one in Korea at 6.4 meters high.
  • A three-storied stone pagoda supported by four stone lions was carved by Priest Yeon-gi to honor his mother. Of interest is the facial features of the four lions which display the four cardinal emotions of joy, anger, love and sorrow. The lions themselves are highly symbolic in Buddhism as the word is a common metaphor for the Buddha.

  • Lion Pagoda of Hwaeomsa in front of Wontongjeon Hall is thought to be 9th century. Each of the four lions perch on a lotus pedestal and have a lotus design on its head. Together they support a square stone of which the purpose is unknown, perhaps for preserving sarira or for holding memorial services.
Other national cultural heritages include:
  • hanging painting of Hwaeomsa Temple (The Vulture Peak Assembly) 
The painting is contained within the specially made box!
And that is seriously one very loooong box!
  • five-story stone pagoda in the east and west of Hwaeomsa Temple
  • Daeungjeon Hall of Hwaeomsa Temple
  • stone Avatamsaka sutra (the "Flower Garland" sutra) of Hwaeomsa Temple
  • higan cherry of Hwaeomsa Temple 
  • bojeru pavilion of Hwaeomsa Temple 
  • stone lantern at Gucheungam hermitage of Hwaeomsa Temple
On slopes above Guyre the temple is located a fifteen-minute taxi ride into the southwestern Jirisan National Park, and sits high in a boat-shaped valley which points towards rivers, indicating good pungsujiri (geomantic) values. Jirisan is one of five sacred mountains in Korea: Taebaeksan (N), Tohamsan (E), Jirisan (S), Gyeryeongsan (W), and Buaksan (center), so Jirisan's location is very propitious when you consider the valued pungujiri energy of the five directions embodied in these five mountain ranges. Originally devoted to shamanic worship, with the arrival of Buddhistic teachings and the spread of Buddhism throughout the country the mountains were converted into the homes of bodhisattvas.

The Four Gates of Hwaomsa

When entering a temple in Korea, the number of gates might vary a bit based on the size of land on which the temple was built. However, temples almost always have the first gate, symbolic of entering into the spiritual land of Buddha and meditation as well as entering onto the road to enlightenment. Sometimes the second gate, because of insufficient land space, is painted on the outside of the third gate, which is the gate of the four heavenly kings. Finally is the fourth gate, the gate of "no two" or the gate of duality. Hwaomsa is one of very few temples that encompasses all four gates; normally a temple has but three (I have heard of a temple with five), and to pass through the three is to enter the border between the land of Buddha and the secular world. Symbolically, one passes into the sphere of enlightenment.

1st gate - "Ilju-mun" or One Pillar Gate symbolizes having one mindedness. Two large wooden pillars support the tiled gated entrance, but even though two pillars are used, when looking at the side view of the gate, only a single pillar can be seen, hence, the name reflecting the viewpoint of Buddha Dharma, that is, having absolute and immutable truth as well as having the pure mind as the first step in reaching the land of Buddha.

2nd gate - "Geumkang-mun" or Diamond Gate, but it is sometimes called the Inwang-mun (Benevolent King Gate) or Haetal-mun (Liberation Gate). Geumgang references "diamond", the hardest possible earthly substance, and therefore cannot be harmed by other substances but it can cut and break those other materials. Therefore, it is a symbol of Buddha Dharma as the supreme truth or wisdom that can't be contradicted by other ideas with its superior strength to cut through delusions that cause suffering. (If it is called the Haetal-mun, then the name implies the passage from the human world to the Buddhist world, and in turn inspires an individual to seek liberation from worldly suffering.

The Geumgang-mun often, but not always, has various Buddhist-motif paintings adorning its gate. This gate has 2 bodhisattvas (Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal ) sitting on a lion (haetae - the haetae seems to have originated from Buddha's lion) and an elephant. The influence of yin and yang is obvious in their clothing, the blue and red respectively. The bodhisattvas appear as boys as they symbolize innocent wisdom and eternal youth. Munsu-bosal rides a blue-dragon or haetae (mythical creature that controls and consumes fire) and he embodies the perfection of wisdom as well as inspiring Buddhists to become wiser through study and clear thinking. Bohyun-bosal, on the other hand, rides a six-tusked white elephant and is the bodhisattva of great vows, great conduct and benevolent actions; he is associated with the virtues of Buddhist practice and meditation. So together, these two represent the virtue of conduct while aiming to attain the perfection of wisdom.

Fierce-looking guardians are also often painted on the doors or on great effigies, one is called "Ha" because his mouth is opened and forming a "ha" sound, the cosmic syllable symbolizing the beginning. The other guardian is called "Heng", and his mouth is closed but his nostrils are flared as if making the "heng" sound, the cosmic syllable representing the end. So together, Heng and Ha form the "om" sound, which means the absolute.

3rd gate - "Sacheonwang-mun" or Four Heavenly King (or Guardian) Gate is where the four celestial guardians, two on each side, tower over the pilgrim. These spiritual guards are in charge of the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) and the four seasons. They also protect the temple and crush any demonic opponent underfoot. With ferocious expressions, people are made to bow before them and contemplate their minds to rid themselves of evil thoughts for if a mind is not pure enough to enter into the peaceful world of Buddha land, the Heavenly Kings will prevent that person from continuing beyond the second gate. According to ancient Buddhist cosmology from which they derive, the Heavenly Kings stand approximately 750 feet tall and live 9 million years; they are not earthly beings as depicted in the gate sculpture but are powerful and long-lived Devas. These protectors were present at the birth and other significant events in the life of Buddha. Vaisravana, the guardian of the North, is their captain and is recognized by the pagoda he holds in his hand. Virudhaka, defender of the south, holds a sword. Dhritarashtra, warden of the east, holds a stringed instrument. Virupaksha, keeper of the west, holds a serpent.

As a Korean-guide told me, these kinds of gates were built during the Imjin Wars and were to protect the followers from invasion.



4th gate - "Buli-mun" or Gate of Non-duality is basically a derivative of Buddhist teaching that truth is nothing but to be one with all things, forming a unified whole. In other words, all the ostensive dualities such as birth and death, good and evil, love and hate are not two but only one. It is the intent of "Seon" practice to eliminate dualistic thinking -- that discriminatory tendency in which people parse self from the world. In short, there is no difference between life and death, good and evil; they are two things but not duals, just as people cannot judge because they see only the outside and not the whole. Therefore, enlightened people do not judge.

Just as the lotus flower is the symbolic flower of Buddhism, it contains both the flower and the seed, which represents the cause and effect, cause and result, etc. If a person goes to paradise, he/she will have passed through the four gates (from intent for purity to attainment of lacking judgment) and thus paradise is populated only by those born of the lotus flower and not of the woman's womb.

The Vimalakirti Sutra is a Buddhist sutra close to the heart of Seon monks. It is a narrative about a sage householder, living at the time of the Buddha, who bested the bodhisattvas on the path to Buddhahood with a witty repartee that comprises the text. In the chapter "The Dharma-door of Non-duality" the discussion was on the question of how a bodhisattva could enter the dharma-door of non-duality to attain Buddhahood. Many bodhisattvas expressed wise opinion but when Vimalakirti was asked, he remained silent, thus expressing in subtlest terms the profound silence of enlightenment. This is the very silence that is sought through the gate of non-duality and is the heart of the temple.

The gates (typically three) are called "Mountain Gates" and lead to the door of Nirvana after attaining the three cores: emptiness, formlessness and wishlessness.

Ringing the Dharma Bell

At sunset, the monks gather for a peaceful and hauntingly beautiful evening ceremony, accompanied by soft chanting and the beat of the drum in the courtyard. Buddhism is said to be reason and balance, and balancing masculine and feminine life forces is an important concept. Particularly the sound of the bell symbolizes the coming together of these two and is the sound for unifying harmony between these two aspects of life. The bell symbolizes Buddha's voice; it calls for the protection of heavenly deities. The sound of the bells equals the sound of the Dharma, or entity or law, which sustains the order of all things in the universe. The ringing of the bell is usually an invitation to unified meditation of all the earthly sentient beings. It is rung 28 times in the a.m. for all living beings in heaven and 33 in the p.m. for all living things in hell.

The 4 (sentient) Things (4 물건)

The name and musical concepts of samulnori is derived from the four Buddhist instruments used in Buddhist ceremonies.

salmunori - "salmul" means four objects + "nori" for play
beings in the earth (underground)
living things in the water
creatures in the air
animals on the land

DRUM has two dragons ascending to heaven drawn on it to promulgate the teaching of Buddha. To hit the drum is to call/awaken the four-legged animals and in effect save them. The two-sided drum represents the yin (negative) and the yang (positive), which is a harmony and balance of sound.

FISH is to save all of the living creatures in the water. With fish-eyes that never close, neither does Buddha ever sleep. Dharma monks beat on the fish to keep them in a state of wakefulness. The round gourd-like "drum" is called a fish.

As the origin of the wooden fish story goes. a Chinese Buddhist went to India for scriptures but on the way had to cross a mighty river. Suddenly a fish approached to help him across. Halfway across the fish told the monk, "I have committed a crime and therefore have been sentences to live in this river for many years. You are in search of scriptures in India, so please help me atone for my misdeeds. If you meet Sakyamuni (founder of Buddhism), please ask him when I can become a bodhisattva." The monk agreed, crossed the river and continued on his way. 17 years later he was returning with scriptures in hand, but once again the river was raging. The same fish approached to help, and again halfway across the fish spoke, "Did you ask Sakyamuni when I could become a bodhisattva?" The monk could only reply, "I'm sorry. I forgot." The fish was angry and dumped the man and his treasured sutra into the river. The man of course lived but his sutra were spoiled. Angered, after the man returned home he made a statue of fish in wood and, recalling his misfortune, beat the wooden fish with a wooden hammer. To his surprise, each time he beat the fish, the fish opened its mouth and produced a Chinese character. The Buddhist became ecstatic and beat the wooden fish frequently until a few years had passed and he had acquired, character by character, all of the valuable sutra he had lost in the river.

CLOUD is a metal plate in the shape of a cloud and, when played with an iron or bronze cloud like drumstick, is a call to all of the living creatures of the air and for moving wandering souls to heaven.

BELL is the ultimate sound of Dharma and sustains all things in the universe.

The Diamond Gate – Geumgang-mun (금강문)

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