Bongeunsa is a Buddhist temple dating back 1,200 years to a time when Buddhism was oppressed. It’s located on a small hill in Gangnam, ironically in what is now such a busy financial and superficial mecca in Seoul (more on plastic surgery later).
After walking through some gates with fierce looking guards with spears painted over the giant doors, you walk up a path to Beopwang-ru, the Dharma King Pavilion. The picture doesn’t do it justice of course, but there were these two tapestries along the divider and offerings in the center. I wasn’t totally sure where to go but I found a handy brochure in English with a map! It helped to learn what the building were, but I still couldn’t understand many of the signs around so I was pretty cautious not to disturb any meditation or prayer sessions. There were people scattered throughout 8 or so other rooms on the premises, each hall housing different activities and recreations of important aspects of Buddhism in Korea. I didn’t go inside many of them but you could, and from the outside you could still peer inside at paintings and statues. Each building has beautiful murals covering the outside walls too.
This is a 23-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha coming down to earth to save those who are suffering. Excuse the bad pictures again, I was using the phone camera for the first week!! But you can still get an idea of the size by looking closely at the right foot of the statue where you can see 3 women sitting. I didn’t know if it’s just the placebo effect of reading the description of Maitreya, but it feels incredibly calming standing here.
This was the hall facing Maitreya. Below from ground level, you can catch the gorgeous designs on the ceiling, and on the floor above, there is a prayer space with a direct view of the Buddha.
The end of my loop around the premises brought me to Haesu Gwaneum-sang, a statue of The Bodhisattva of Compassion. Another figure who hears and feels suffering and in turn provides relief, located in a small pond to represent the lotus ponds protected by Amitabha Buddha.
In general, I would have liked to get inside more of the halls but it didn’t seem appropriate while others were inside, and particularly while I was still all sweaty from the walk to find the place (distances on map are further than they appear). I definitely confirmed that I want to do a temple stay while I am here, but I will probably try to go to one out in the mountains outside of the city to be a bit more in the zone, but clearly this tele gets used regularly by people in the area so its fortunate to be well-maintained despite everything going on in the surrounding. Speaking of which, this is just around the corner – wide streets full of traffic and modern architecture: