The Diamond Gate at Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do.
The next article about lesser seen things at Korean temples or hermitages is about the Geumgangmun Gate, or the Diamond Gate in English. So what exactly does it look like, where is it found at a temple, and what is its meaning?
Like all the other gates at a temple, it’s situated out in front of the main temple courtyard. It is placed behind the Iljumun Gate but before the Cheonwangmun Gate. So it’s the second in the collection of five gates, if all the gates are located at the temple. This gate can also be called the Inwangmun Gate (Benevolent King Gate), or Haetalmun Gate (Liberation Gate).
How the Geumgangmun appears from the outside at Daeheungsa Temple in Haenam, Jeollanam-do.
So what is the meaning behind this gate? If this gate is called a Geumgangmun, which it’s most commonly referred to as in Korea, then its origins are in Hinduism. Geumgang means diamond, which is the hardest possible substance. It can’t be harmed by any other material, but it can cut or break other material. So it’s a symbol of the Buddha Dharma as the supreme truth or wisdom that can’t be contradicted by other ideas. Also, the Diamond Gate symbolizes how a diamond can cut through any delusions that cause suffering.
However, if the gate is called a Haetalmun Gate then the name implies that by passing through this gate one moves from the human world and into the Buddhist world. This inspires an individual to seek liberation from worldly suffering.
The plain looking Haetalmun Gate at Dogapsa Temple in Yeongam, Jeollanam-do.
The Geumgangmun Gate is similar in appearance to the Cheonwangmun Gate. It’s a large gate that is closed in design. There may be various Buddhist-motif paintings adorning the gate, or it can be left unadorned. One such motif is the depiction of two guardians. One of these fierce-looking guardians is called Ha because his mouth is open and forming a “ha.” This is the cosmic syllable symbolizing the beginning. The other guardian is called Heng. He has his mouth closed and his nostrils are flared. He’s called Heng because his mouth is formed like it is making a “heng” sound. This is the cosmic syllable representing the end. So together, Heng and Ha form the sound “om,” which means the absolute. A great depiction of these two on this gate can be found at Naewonsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
The guardian Ha found on the door of the Diamond Gate at Naewonsa Temple.
Heng found opposite of Ha at Naewonsa Temple.
As for the interior of this gate, and much like the Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll customarily find four figures inside this gate. The first two figures, either painted or statues, you’ll encounter, which can be fierce or even comical, are Vajra protectors. They protect the temple and those visiting the temple. They are connected with the Vedic mythological concept of a vajra, the thunderbolt of Indra, who is a great energetic power that can blast through all worldly delusions.
A cheerful Vajra guardian found at Dogapsa Temple.
A whole lot fiercer looking Vajra guardian at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do.
And a slightly chubbier looking Vajra guardian at Magoksa Temple.
The other two images, again, either in painted or statue form, are Bohyun-bosal and Munsu-bosal. Bohyun-bosal will appear on the left side of the gate, while Munsu-bosal will appear on the right. Inside this gate, they appear as infants. They both appear as boys because they symbolize innocent wisdom and eternal youth. Specifically, Bohyun-bosal rides a six-tusked white elephant. He is the Bodhisattva of great vows, great conduct, and benevolent actions. Also, he’s associated with the virtues of Buddhist practice and meditation. Munsu-bosal, on the other hand, rides a blue dragon or haetae (mythical creature that controls and consumes fire). He embodies the perfection of wisdom. Also, he inspires Buddhists to become wiser through study and clear thinking. So the reasons that these two are housed inside this gate are pretty self-explanatory for those wanting to worship at a Korean temple.
Munsu-bosal at Daeheungsa Temple.
Bohyun-bosal found at Magoksa Temple.
Great examples of the Diamond Gate can be found at larger temples throughout the Korean peninsula. Some great examples can be found at Magoksa Temple, Dogapsa Temple, Geumsansa Temple, Daeheungsa Temple, and Beopjusa Temple.