Posted by: rbbadger | September 18, 2011

More from Beomeosa

Yesterday, I put up some photos of Beomeosa (M-R: Pŏmŏsa, Yale: Pemesa).  I have some more to share.  One thing which may surprise Western visitors is the use of swastikas in Buddhism.  The swastika does not carry the same malevolent images to Koreans as it does to Westerners.  Therefore, one should not be surprised to see temples identified on maps with swastikas or swastika decorations to be found there.

This temple has a couple of pagodas.  One of them is very old, dating back to the Unified Shilla era (669-935 AD).  The other pagoda, located outside the museum of Seon (Zen) Buddhism is taller with seven stories and is said to hold relics of the historical Buddha.

The museum has a sort of Shilla look to it, as it has the wings on the top of the roof commonly seen in Gyeongju.  It is fitting, as the Shilla Kingdom was very enthusiastic in its embrace of Buddhism.  It was the state religion.  Buddhism remained prominent, even as the later Joseon dynasty did much to persecute it.   

I’m not sure why, but many companies and all government agencies seem to have these cute mascots.  Korean Buddhists are by no means exempt.  Here are Beomeosa’s mascots.


The last photo is of the Mountain Spirit shrine.  Professor Robert Buswell of UCLA, who spent a few years as a monk of Songgwansa Temple and whose book The Zen Monastic Experience is essential for understanding Korean Buddhist practice, states that shamanic shrines, such as the Mountain Spirit shrine, are never places for Buddhist religious ceremonies.  While candles are lit and the laity do bring offerings, these are more for the laity than for the monks.  Additionally, the main activity of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism is Seon (Zen) practice.  There are monks who do perform the ceremonies, but they are generally separate from the monks who practice Seon exclusively. 

This image is of the Mountain Spirit.  This is from Geumnyeonsa, a small temple located inside the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.  You can see photos of that temple by clicking on this link

The Jogye Order does have a number of monks who are foreign-born.  One of them, the Ven. Hyon Gak Sunim, appears often on BTV where he lectures in both Korean and English.  There is a temple made up largely of foreign monks.  One of the very prominent monks of Korean Buddhism, the late Great Seon Master Seung Sahn, attracted a number of followers in the USA including the Ven. Hyon Gak Sunim.


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