…this was one of the many profound statements shared with us by one of the monks at Bulguksa Temple. What a centering way to begin the day. And how fortunate we were to spend an hour learning first hand about Korean Buddhism. The setting was tranquil and quickly brought us all to focus on the present moment.
A Treasure of Silla Buddhism
Bulguksa Temple was constructed over a period of more than 20 years during the 8th century. This sacred space served as a center of Silla Buddhism and prayer for the protection of the land from foreign invasion. Sadly, the entire complex was destroyed by Japanese invaders in the late 16th century. Thankfully, and following extensive research, these glorious grounds were reconstructed between the years 1969-73. These pictures only offer a taste of the great beauty and oneness with nature. The area is vast, masterfully planned and truly serene.
Our dialogue with the monk will become a highlight of this visit to South Korea. We could feel his energy. And his words, both spoken to us directly in English, as well as translated by a member of the temple staff, were quite impactful. When asked if he had family, he simply replied, “everybody is my family.” He shared the outline of the daily practice, beginning with prayers at 4am and concluding with evening prayers. We learned that these prayers focus on gratitude, acknowledgement of the Buddhas and personal intentions. He assured us that “the most important thing is your mind.” Perhaps most poignant was being reminded that “everyone is connected. If someone else is suffering, so are you.”
Our morning continued with a guided walk of the large complex. We viewed several pagodas housing different shrines and Buddhas: Sakyamuni Buddha and his 16 disciples; Amitabha, Buddha of the Western Paradise; and Vairocana Buddha, embodying truth, wisdom and cosmic power. These visits often coincided with with prayers and chanting. The ornate and impressive Buddhas are made from Bronze and plated in gold. Several of the originals were saved and ultimately returned to their homes following the restoration of Bulguksa Temple.
We conclude our lovely morning creating lotus lanterns. How fun! And what a peaceful, communal way to cap off our experiences. Particularly sweet were the kind words of encouragement we received by passers by, including several Korean children on field trips! :) Some of us added to the garden of rock sculptures nearby as well. I look forward to having my lantern as a remembrance of this wonderful Fall day in Gyeongju.
“Just focus on now … all the time.” Wise words from a Korean monk.
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