The view from Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do before the incident.
Hello Again Everyone!!
I’ve literally been to hundreds of Korean temples and hermitages during my time in Korea. And in all that time, I’ve only ever been denied entrance to one temple. I’ve been restricted from seeing certain halls that were off-limits, but never been told that I couldn’t see an entire temple. That all changed when I visited Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do in the summer of 2012.
Before visiting a good friend in Gimhae at 5 p.m., I decided to visit Buljosa Temple in northern Gimhae. I had driven by it a couple times, so I decided to do a little research online to see what the Korean blogs were saying. Simply put, I liked what I saw, so I decided to visit Buljosa Temple the next time I was in the neighbourhood.
Having parked my car just outside the long staircase that led up to the temple courtyard, I decided to take a few pictures of the beautiful valley down below. And as I made my way up the stairs, I decided I would take a video of the climb.
At first, I didn’t even notice him. It wasn’t until I got near the top that I finally noticed a monk. Right away, I could tell, as he stood by a white dog, that something was a bit off. Immediately, I could tell that he had some sort of brain surgery, as his head was a bit misshapen. He had a strange look in his eye, with his shoulders slumped over, as he told me, in Korean, “안돼요! 들어오지 마세요!” (or “No! Don’t come in here!”, in English). So in Korean, I asked him why?
A short video of the head monk at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae.
He looked a bit surprised that I would ask him why. I guess his word was gospel. He simply said no again. So I asked him if he was a monk, because he wasn’t dressed like one. He told me that he was. So I then asked again why I couldn’t come in. He simply said no and pointed me back towards my car.
Perplexed, I decided to call my wife and ask her to talk to the monk. Unfortunately, he had disappeared as soon as he had appeared. So my wife phoned the temple some time after I left.
The same monk answered my wife’s phone call. She asked him why he had denied me access to Buljosa Temple. His first response was that he hadn’t. Then he said I misunderstood him because I couldn’t speak Korean, even though I was conversing with him in broken Korean. Finally, he came clean and rather strangely answered that people had been spying on him. He never said who, but I would assume it was Koreans. So it was strange that he would deny the only non-Korean to ever visit the temple. My wife then explained to him that I had the Jogye card, which is a card that gains you access to any temple under the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, which just so happens to be Jogye, to which Buljosa Temple falls under. This went on for a bit longer, until he finally apologized for not allowing me to see the temple. He invited me back to his temple, but it would take another year until I finally decided to see this beautiful temple. However, this second time, I was able to avoid him and see the temple unhindered from his strange and paranoid gaze.
Almost a year later, I was finally able to see Buljosa Temple…without incident.