Forget about Gangnam style…when in Seoul there is so much to see beyond the glitz and the glam. Beyond the hustle and bustle (Korean women are ALWAYS running and nobody patiently waits for elevator doors to close…they repeatedly hit the close button), there is a quite retreat known as Bongeunsa. Bongeunsa is a Buddhist temple where like many other unique and interesting places, I found through geo-caching. Needing to drop off a travel bug, I discovered an interesting monastery only blocks away from my hotel.
Founded in 794 during the reign of King Wonseong by the monk Yeon-hoe, at the time the highest ranking monk of Silla, It sits on the slope of Sudo Mountain in Samseong-dong, across the street from the ultra-modern COEX Mall. Buddhism in Korea was violently repressed during the Joseon Dynasty.
Bongeunsa was reconstructed in 1498 with the support of Queen Munjeong, who revived Buddhism in Korea for a short time in the mid-16th century. In 1551 it became the main temple of the Zen (Korean Seon).
Today it is a revived temple complex with several buildings and rooms for followers and guest to meditate in. There is an air of friendliness to visitors and I even had the opportunity to sit for a very humble meal of rice and soup.
After dropping off my travel bugs and picking up a few in return, I stuck around to just relax on one of the trails on the side of the mountain. Later in the evening, I returned to watch the drumming ceremony. As an avid percussionist, I was completely captivated by the experience.
I believe that to understand a culture, you have to first understand that culture’s faith, food, and recreation. This is something my time in the military taught me, and lessons I still carry today. I am very solid in my faith, and though not a Buddhist, I found I could go into one of the buildings where others were praying, and I could simply relax and enjoy the atmosphere as I prayed on my own (Celtic Daily Prayer).
I was glad for the visit and I was more aware of the 4am gong and 6pm drumming. I made it an evening pilgrimage most nights to watch the four percussion instruments be played as part of a faith-based ceremony.
I won’t pretend to understand the faith, but found its followers very open to me being in their presence and very thankful for their acceptance of me. Great photo opportunities and it made me with I had my Dad’s technical expertise for taking great photos. At some point I need to get a great point and shoot digital and save my iPad and GoPro for other things…