Saturday, October 7, 2017

Seokbulsa Temple, a Hidden Jewel (Busan)

Seokbulsa is a hidden gem of a temple. It's a bit remote and the climb can be taxing, but the view is positively spectacular and worth every drop of sweat. From the temple a view of Gwanggali Bridge and an expanse of the city of Busan can be seen beyond richly rolling green hills. The East Sea lays in a contrasting flat reflecting expanse beyond the forested rolling Geumjeongsan mountain. Quite breathtaking to see. As for the temple itself, surprisingly in this "modern" era with cultural tourism to most temples, there is no English sign anywhere around. Neither is there a templestay program! Hurray! I really appreciated this distance from commercialism, and this remoteness was reflected in the devote behavior of the people who were there to bow, meditate and pay respects to the mountain spirits.

According to Dale's Korean Temple Adventures, this temple was formerly known as Byeongpungam Hermitage, or "Folding Screen Hermitage", based on the way the rock faces formed a screen between the folds of the mountain. The name was changed to Seokbuksa Temple, "Rock Buddha Temple", probably after the faces of the rock screens were carved with 10-meter tall Bhuddhas, Boddhisattvas, and guardians. 

Central in the folds of the screen and the figure that everyone is praying to is Gwanseeum-bosal, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. On each rock face to the left and right are two Heavenly King Guardians, with the left wall also having an image of Birojana-bul, the Buddha of Cosmic Energy, and the right wall also having another Buddha image. Numerous recessed shrines are below the Gwanseeum-bosal, and on the climb up the stone staircase are 16 smaller stone bas reliefs of the 16 Nahan. Ascending onwards is the highest and remotest building containing the Sanshin, "the Mountain Spirit", and Dokseong, "Recluse", of course in their typical most remote position ... vestigial figures of shamanism incorporated in Korean Buddhism.

Several intwined dragons holding pearls in their mouths are fashioned in the walled perimeter around the Dharma Bell.
Passing the buildings to the recessed folds of the mountain to see the great carved guardians and the multiple recessed shrines. The tranquility of this temple provokes reflection and lends an atmosphere of respectful sacredness.
Not a place for tourism, but a quiet spot for meditation and prayfulness.
The woman prays to Gwanseeum-bosal, Bodhisattva of Compassion. 
And yet in the middle of 108 bows, the cell phone rang and (lady on the left) answered and proceeded to have an intense conversation. Then the 108 bowing continued.
Two of the Heavenly Guardians watch.
To my right are a line of 16 Nahan carved into the face of the rock wall, above, hidden, but still there lending their celestial support.

This little boy was learning to do his bows as well.
Again, two Heavenly Guardians to the right and a Buddha figure to the left.

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