Shinhungsa is the main temple of the area known as Outer Soraksan Mountain.
The temple is remarkable for its constant changing over the centuries;
the temple changed position, name, and the school of Buddhism to which
Shinhungsa once stood where the Kensington Hotel stands today. It was
founded by Master Chajang in 653 CE and was burned down in 699. Master
Uisang rebuilt the temple three years later on its present site. Once more
destroyed in 1644, only three monks remained. One night, the three monks
had a dream in which they met a god who said that if they built the temple
behind the original site, it would never be touched by three disasters:
fire, water and wind. The monks built the temple there and called it Shinhungsa,
ˇ°Divinely Inspired Temple.ˇ±
There is a one-kilometer-long path leading up to the One-Pillar Gate.
Behind the Gate of the Four
Guardians there is a two-story study hall. On the walls of the outside
of the Main Hall, a Paradise Hall, there are the Ten Oxherding Pictures.
Inside the hall, Amitabha is enshrined, accompanied by Avalokitesvara and
Mahastramprapta, the Bodhisattva of Power. They sit under a bright canopy
of yellow dragons and behind the statues is a painting showing Sakyamuni
with various Bodhisattvas, the guardians at the four corners and some monks
including a very aged Kasyapa and a very young-looking Ananda, the Buddha's
long-term attendant. On the northern wall is a painting of the protector
of Dharma, Tongjin. Included in the attending gods is the kitchen god,
who has an unusual beard and holds antlers in his hand.
The Ten Oxherding Pictures, dating from 12th century Song China (1126-1279),
teach about the search and understanding of the mind, reminding practitioners
of the way to enlightenment. The ox is the mind and the oxherder is the
practitioner. At first, the herder cannot even find the ox. Then he sees
some tracks and these lead him to his first sighting of the ox.
Slowly he tracks the ox down, controls it and tames it. At the same time,
the mind is being purified - symbolized by the ox becoming whiter. Finally,
the oxherder, having gone through various stages of realization - the ˇ°ˇŰˇ±seen
in many sets of pictures - returns to the ordinary world with his higher
state of consciousness.
The Judgment Hall is dedicated to the benevolent Ksitigarbha, the Bodhisattva
who cares for those in trouble. Behind the statue is a painting showing
the Bodhisattva and the ten kings.
The shrine to the indigenous gods, between the Main Hall and the Judgment
Hall, contains a picture of the Sanshin. Sanshin is the God of the Mountain,
usually pictured with a tiger, and he is particularly remembered after
any large ceremony because everyone is grateful for being able to have
the temple built on the mountain. Toksong, the Lonely Hermit, is actually
more Buddhist in origin and represents the sole practitioner.
Ch'ilsong, the Big Dipper, controls human life expectancy and women
who had just given birth traditionally offered a skein of thread to Ch'ilsong
as a symbol of their hope for a long life for their baby. In Shinhungsa,
Ch'ilsong is surrounded by the sun and the moon, seven stars, the master
of the South Polar star and lots of heavenly beings. In the surrounding
mountains there are some interesting hermitages, some of which partly date
back to the time of Master Chajang.
Shinhungsa Temple TEL : (0392)636-7393
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