It’s been a year since my last post, which was about Yongjusa Temple on Buddha’s Birthday. There’s no post better to end my dry spell than writing about Bongamsa Temple (봉암사).
Unlike other temples in Korea, Bongamsa Temple is open to the public for only one day of the year–on Buddha’s Birthday. Founded in 879 during the Silla Dynasty, Bongamsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Huiyang (희양산) in Northwest Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Steve and I were fortunate to have visited the temple three years ago and I remember it vividly.
Since it was a last minute trip, we figured we were better off driving there than taking public transportation. We encountered heavy traffic on the way there so we arrived after 3pm.
After finding a nice spot to park, we started the 20-minute walk to the temple.
Midway through our walk, a very nice woman in traditional garb offered us a ride to the temple.
She dropped us off near the entrance of the temple and we thanked her profusely. We walked along the path, guided by the colorful lanterns. As we neared the temple, all we heard was the stream’s flowing water and everywhere we looked was luscious greenery.
Bongamsa Temple is one of the “Nine Mountain Schools of Seon (or Zen)”. In 1982, Bongamsa Temple and its surrounding area were closed off to the public for a better meditation environment. The Iljumun or one pillar gate stands as the boundary between secular and spiritual worlds.
Walking around the temple grounds, I experienced a sense of peace and calm unlike any other place I’ve been to in Korea.
Bongamsa Temple has 5 cultural treasures: Jeongjindaesa Wonotap 정진대사 원오탑 (Treasure No.171), Jijeungdaesa Jeokjotap 지증대사 적조탑 (Treasure No.137), Jeongjindaesa Wonotapbi 정진대사 원오탑비(Treasure No.172), Jijeungdaesa Jeokjotapbi 지증대사 적조탑비 (Treasure No.138), and a 3-story stone pagoda 삼층석탑 (Treasure No.169). The first two are stupas for preserving relics of Jeongjindaesa Geung Yang (878∼956), a famous Buddhist monk in the end of the Shilla and the early stage of Goryeo, and Jijeungdaesa Do Heon (824-882), the founder of the temple. The third and the fourth were monuments honoring these two extraordinary Buddhist monks. The last one is a pagoda that has a uniquely preserved top or finial which includes the sacred jewel, dragon jewel, and the flame.
Besides the banner outside the main hall, Bongamsa Temple was simply decorated with white lanterns only in its main courtyard. Visitors can write their wishes on paper which were placed on each lantern.
As the sun started to set, few people were left and we experienced how it must be like for the monks 364 days of the year.
Here’s Steve’s video of our visit:
For more information about Bongamsa Temple and how to get there, go to their website or read Robert Koehler’s articles on his site and on the KTO’s website. You may also call the tourism hotline, 02-1330.
Bongamsa Temple address: 485 Wonbuk-ri, Gaeun-eup, Mungyeong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do (경상북도 문경시 가은읍 원북리 485)
What is the most serene place you’ve been to?