A few weeks ago, the weekend of the World Cup Final, to be exact, I was feeling a bit nervous. And by a bit nervous, I mean that I was nearly beside myself thinking about my favorite team (Germany) playing for the championship. To help myself survive the weekend I decided to go to one of the most peaceful places I have been to in this country.
Bongeunsa Temple is one of my favorite places in Seoul. It is right in the middle of Gangnam (yes, like the song) which is one of the wealthiest and busiest districts in the city. But, unlike its surroundings, Bongeunsa is a peaceful and reflective oasis.
I’m not a particularly religious person. And I would love to say that I went to the temple to meditate and clear my mind, but that’s not actually true. I have not mastered the art of meditation. I can sit with a clear mind for about 3 seconds, and then the thoughts start racing. So my trip was just to enjoy walking around the temple complex, and relishing in the calmness that surrounds.
Bongeunsa has a giant statue of Maitreya Buddha. It is 23 meters tall, and the tallest such statues in Korea. It’s really tall. The space in front can be used by anyone that wishes, but they do also have dance performances here and other events.
Surrounding the statue, in various nooks and crannies in the rocks and vegetation, you can find mini shrines set up by people. Either small Buddha statues or stacks of wishing stones.
The stacked stones can have many meanings. From what I gather, they can be used for wishing something for yourself or for another person. Three stacked stones can represent either a seated Buddha, or the Buddhist triad. Some people also believe that they simply represent balance. (Disclaimer: As I said above, I’m not religious, so this might be completely and utterly wrong.)
The temple complex itself is large and has many buildings. One of my favorite things to see is when a monk is ringing the giant bell by swinging a giant log into it. It is such a loud low sound, and rings for such a long time… it’s very calming. There is also a drum that is just as large as the bell.
Inside the temple itself. Sometimes its very quite, other times the chanting fills the room, and the entire complex.
One last shot from the temple. As I said, it’s located in the middle of Seoul. It is directly across the stree from COEX (the building with the curved roof,) which is a giant convention center and shopping mall. It has a huge movie theater, an aquarium, tons of shops, and the entire convention center as well.