Korea's Religious Places - 1.1.5 Tongdosa Temple (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|* Jogyesa Temple (Seoul)||* Tongdosa Temple (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)||* Beopjusa Temple (Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do)|
Tongdosa Temple (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)
North of Busan, deep in a mountain valley is Tongdosa Temple, one of the “Three Jewel” temples, the temple of the Buddha. Here, there is a small pagoda that houses a relic of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. One of the many jewels, sarira, that cascaded from his cremated funeral bier was brought to Korea and given to Tongdosa Temple by its founder, the Silla monk Jajang (d. ca 658) in 646. Because this is the temple of the Buddha, rather than having an image of the Buddha in the main hall, there is a window, a long oblong opening in the wall, that looks out at the Adamantine Precepts Platform (Geumgang Gyedan, Ordination Platform) that houses the relic of the Buddha in a pagoda-like structure on the top of the precepts platform.
The main worship hall, the Hall of the Great Hero (Daeungjeon Hall), has been designated a National Treasure—no. 290, one of the more recent designations. The absence of any image of Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the main hall is remarkable for this temple. Everything centers on the Adamantine Precepts Platform, with a pagoda-like structure on the platform in the shape of an overturned cauldron, in which is enshrined the relic of the historical Buddha. At the morning and evening rituals, the monks face the Adamantine Precepts Platform, whereas at all other temples, the monks face the images of one or more Buddhas and often a set of bodhisattvas. Therefore, the atmosphere at Tongdosa Temple is different from that of all other temples. Indeed, Tongdosa means to save the world through the mastery of the Way to enlightenment.
The setting of Tongdosa Temple is like that of the other two jewel temples—Haeinsa Temple, the jewel of the dharma (the Buddhist teachings), and Songgwangsa Temple, the jewel of the sangha (the monastic community). All three are located several kilometers ascent into a canyon, with a beautiful and powerful stream running alongside the path to the temple. Tongdosa Temple occupies many acres of mountainside, including farmland that is farmed by the monks for the sustenance of the monks and visitors.
A temple stay at Tongdosa Temple includes an opportunity to partake of temple food—all vegetarian—in the way monks do, using the four bowls. Monks will partake of their meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in a common room where they sit on the floor, all facing the center of the room. A team of monks will serve the food that each monk will put in the four bowls—one for rice, one for soup, one for various vegetables, and one for water. On a signal, three claps of a split bamboo stick slapped against one’s hand, all will eat. No food is wasted. Using the water in the water bowl, the bowls are rinsed out, dried with a cloth, and then set on the shelf ready for the next meal. Simplicity is the key word for the meal and for all monastic life.