Tuesday, December 18, 2007

unmunsa...the women's temple

built in 560, unmunsa is now one of korea's largest temples. it is located on tiger mounain, about one hour from daegu. in 1950 unmunsa became the largest women's buddhist seminiary in korea. about 300 nuns live and study here at one time. they follow a four-year course, learning the classic buddhist texts, chinese characters, and how to live an ordained buddhist life.

the head nun at unmunsa, myongsong sunim, writes, "whether we bow to the buddha or weed the ground, we must do it with exactly the same mind. if we bow to the buddha because the buddha is sitting up high, this is idol worship. if we bow to the buddha while we think the buddha lives outside of ourselves, this is idol worship. if we think our mind right here is the buddha, we are bowing to our true nature with respect, we are trying to curb thinking which would lead to self-importance or arrogance. this is the meaning of bowing." (taken from the book: "women on the buddhist path" by martine batchelor)

a beautiful view on our drive to the templethe trees that line the long temple road...they remind me of old, old beautiful gnarled women who have lived for thousands of years...whose lives are written all over their strong, wrinkled bodies.....who have stood in this sacred grove for centuries as guardians of this temple.a glimpse in sweet anticipation from outsideentrance to unmunsataeok and i in front of the 500 year old weeping red pine treei would have dreamed to have an ancient weeping pine like this to climb and play under as a child.this part of the temple is restricted to visitors every day of the year except in may on buddha's birthday...it is the seminary where the nuns study.the main sanctuary....taeok and i took our shoes and hats off and went inside....we each took a long cushion from a stack of many, upon which to kneel and bow....she taught me the traditional way to bow in respect and reverence to the buddha....in respect and reverence to our own true nature.paintings on the outside walls of the sanctuarytaeok translated this story for me....this monk was on his way to china to learn the buddha's teachings from a monk who had reached enlightenment.....he stopped for the night....in the dark he took a drink of water which tasted delicious to him. in the morning, he saw that he had sipped the water from a skull....he was instantly repulsed and threw up....suddenly he saw what had happened, that the once delicious water had so quickly become disgusting all because of his perception - the water itself had not changed. through this experience he understood the mind and did not need to continue on his journey to china for he himself became enlightened!carving of a lotus flower on the temple wall.....from the mud springs this incredible life of beauty....the perfect place for another temple concertan extraordinary painting of the buddha surrounded by children
lotus flower fountainbrilliant colorsas part of ancestral tradition, some persimmons must be left on the tree for the birds to eat through the winter season.the nuns take excellent care of the land....many of the plants were all bundled up to keep warm during the winter weather. it is said that the head nun deals so well with her student nuns because she takes such good care of the plants.taeok and i standing near one of the two three-story pagodas that are said to keep the energy of the temple land balanced.what a gorgeous chimney!a very old seated stone buddha statue - seokgayeoraejwasangpaintings of kuan yin, the goddess of compassion, on the outside walls of one of the temple buildings....a welcome sight amidst the plethora of patriarchal iconographyupon coming and going, one must pass underneath this tower where three times each day the nuns drum and sound the bell....calling forth the awakening of all beings.


L. Espenmiller said...

Your photos and descriptions make me want to come to Korea. This temple is filled with beauty. So still. I can feel the solitude and quiet. And being the lover of trees I am - well, breathtaking. Thank you for sharing this visual treat. The feelings evoked will feed my creativity today. -- Lisa

Nifty Galoot said...

Wow! Beautiful photos! What a great journey to go on. Sounds like you had a good time.

Season's Greetings to You!