Baekdamsa Monastery(Bongjeongam Hermitage)
Bongjeongam Hermitage is one of five Buddha's relics temples in Korea. This place is the highest spot among them. Bongjeongam Hermitage is located on North-West corner of Socheongbong(소청봉 小靑峰 small blue peak) Mt Seorak. Bongjeonam is one of affiliated hermitages with under Baekdamsa monastery. Here is a sacred and holiest Sakyamuni Buddha's relics stupa. This Buddha's relics are brought from Tang Dynasty China by Vinaya master Jajang in 643 CE and erected hermitage here. After that master Wonhyo(677CE) and master Bojo Jinul(1188CE) rebuilt and Heanjeok improved in 1518 Yi Dynasty. Again master Deungwoon repaired in 1548 and master Seojeong improved in 1632. Name of Bongjeong was originated from master Bongjeong who practiced here in Silla Dynasty.
-from 《Compendiums of the Korean Temples》by master Kwon Sang-no-
Sakyamuni Buddha Sarira stupa
Śarīra is a generic term referring to Buddhist relics, although in common usage it usually refers to pearl or crystal-like bead-shaped objects that are purportedly found among the cremated ashes of Buddhist spiritual masters. Relics of the Buddha after cremation are termed dhātu in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. Śarīra are held to emanate or incite 'blessings' and 'grace' (Sanskrit: adhiṣṭhāna) within the mind stream and experience of those connected to them.
Master Jajang went to China to learn Buddhist sutras and receive higher ordination from Silla Dynasty. When he returned to the Korean peninsular he brought Buddha's relics which were relics of head bone from central Asia. The Buddha's relics were brought from India via central Asia originally. Master Jajang enshrined the Buddha's trlics in five places in Korea. Bongjeogam hermitage is one of Jeokmyeolbogung(Nirvana Dharma Palace적멸보궁 寂滅寶宮) in Korea. Bongjeongam Sarira's stupa is located on the highest elevation and the Buddha's relics were enshrined on the stupa. Throughout the year many Buddhists and general people come to Bongjeongam Hermitage and worship. From religious point of view, this religious worship is beyond controversy. We just go and meet the Buddha there. The historical Buddha was demised but his relics are alive here and there in the world such as India, Srilanka, China and Korea. Worshiping the Buddha's relics is also practice and praying for family's peace. When you vow the sarira stupa you vow your mind. Vowing the stupa is a sort of meditation. The stupa and your mind become one and in harmony. This is Buddhist practice.
In Korean Buddhist tradition, there is a woonsunabja(운수납자 雲水衲子 cloud and water wanderer) monk. Many wandering monks came to Bongjeongam and practiced very hard for three months or more. A wandering monk should cope with living oneself. So Bongjeongam was very popular for wandering monks who were Seon(zen)monks. Nowdays most of vistors to Bongjeongam are devotees who make merits and praying in front of the Buddha's relics stupa all the night the through. A woonsunabja is like a Dhutanga who is 'renunciation', known in Thai as 'Thudong').
Bongjeongam hermitage is open for anyone who wishes to practice meditation and pray for oneself or family. There is simple facilities for vistors such as dharma hall where you can practice and pray. If you want to visit Bongjeongam hermitage you go first Baekdamsa monastery first and get useful information and guidelines. Bongjeongam is holiest and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage place so you had better get some notice from Baekdamsa monastery office. ou can stay one night at Baekdamsa monastery and next early morning starting to come up Bongjeongam in which it takes about five or six hours from Baekdamsa monastery. Please do not wory about cost. All you have to is making donation which is depending on your finacial condition.
Writer: Dr. Lee Chi-Ran
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