A scenic view of Bueunsa Temple from the surrounding mountains of Mt. Cheontaesan.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Continuing with the weekly celebration to the lead-up to Buddha’s birthday this Monday, I thought I would share yet another one of Korea’s beautiful Buddhist temples. This time, I explored Bueunsa Temple. Buensa Temple (부은사) was the last major temple I had yet to visit on Mt. Cheontaesan. I was told by an English speaking monk at the temple, whose English was excellent, that the temple dates back 1800 years. And it was first established during the Gaya Kingdom from visiting monks from India.
When you first arrive at Bueunsa Temple, after making your way up a steep gravel road, you’ll be greeted by the temple’s dorms and kitchen. Behind this building, and to the left, is the temple’s main courtyard.
Immediately, you’re greeted by a modern looking Yongwang-dang dedicated to the shaman deity, Yongwang (The Dragon King). There are two oval glass windows that allow you to look inside the hall without actually going inside. Inside of this hall, there’s a nice painting of Yongwang with a statue of Okhwang-sangje (The Daoist Jade Emperor) to the left. To the rear of the Yongwang-dang is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. Sitting on the main altar of this newly established hall is Chiseonggwangyeorae-bul, and he’s flanked by Ilgwang (The Bodhisattva of the Sun) and Wolgwang (The Bodhisattva of the Moon), which are backed by an older mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Flanking this triad of statues is San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse). There are also some nice new murals of the Nahan inside of this hall.
To the right of these two shaman structures is the natural wood looking bell pavilion. The bell pavilion houses some impressive Buddhist ceremonial music instruments like the Braham Bell and the Dharma Drum. Interestingly, and in front of the bell pavilion, is a map of what the head monk wants the temple to eventually look like when it’s completed.
Next to the bell pavilion is the main hall. It’s surrounded by some nice Palsang-do paintings of the historical Buddha’s life. Interestingly, I met the man that painted them, Mr. Gwan, because he had just completed them the day before. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a set of five statues. In the centre is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked to the left by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) to the right. And to the far left is a golden haired (Jijang-bosal) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the far right. To the left of this altar, and harkening back to the temple’s origins, is a sign dedicated to King Suro, the founding king of the Gaya Kingdom. The altar is surrounded by a beautiful canopy and hundreds of tiny golden statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. On the far right wall, there’s a beautiful large guardian painting. This is fronted by Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). This is the most impressive statue of this Bodhisattva that I’ve ever seen.
It was at this point that the head monk at the temple spotted me. He yelled out of the main hall to someone that a foreigner was visiting. It was at this point that I met a nice monk that speaks flawless English. He told me a lot about the temple and a hidden treasure at the temple. There’s a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the monk’s quarters. This statue is over 300 years old. And it’s accompanied by three murals that date back 80 years, the most notable being the mural on the left dedicated to San shin. The other two murals are dedicated to Amita-bul and the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). And in front of this statue and mural are the purported remains of the historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that the head monk paid a lot of money in Nepal to bring them back to Korea. In the future, and as part of the temple plan, there will be a pagoda that will be built to house these remains. It was thanks to the English speaking monk, that I was able to see all of the temple’s hidden treasures.
As for the rest of the temple grounds, there is a Nahan-jeon dedicated to the Disiciples of the Historical Buddha to the right rear of the main hall. There are some interesting statues of the Nahan riding elephants inside of this hall. Also, there is the triad of Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s flanked by Jaehwagalra-bosal (The Past Buddha) to the left and Mireuk-bosal (The Future Buddha) to the right on the main altar, and beautiful murals of the Nahan surrounding this central triad.
Up the mountainside, and to the right of the temple grounds, is a cave with a triad of statues inside. The climb is about 1.5 kilometres, but it provides for some amazing views of the temple, the Nakdong River, and the sprawling valley below. As for the cave itself, it’s a rather deep cave with a protective cover over top of its entrance. The triad of stone statues that sit on its altar are Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Dokseong (The Recluse) to the left, and Mago Shin Seon (A shaman spirit), which is an extremely rare deity to see at a Buddhist temple.
HOW TO GET THERE: Unfortunately, unless you have your own car, or you can hitch a ride, this temple is impossible to visit through public transit. Hopefully, if you’re interested enough to visit, the map below will be enough of a help to find this remote temple.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Just for having an English speaker as a monk alone, this temple rates as highly as it does. It’s so nice to be able to talk to someone that can explain the intricacies of the temple’s history. Also, the kindness of the monks to allow me to see the temple’s private treasures like the Amita-bul statue and the San shin painting are two other highlights to this temple. This temple is littered with shaman deities, a gorgeous main hall, and a cave shrine, which only help enhance this temple’s overall rating. And yet, it’s not even complete. I can only imagine just how amazing this beautiful, but humble, temple will be when it’s completed.