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Korean Buddhist Cultural Heritage

Tongdosa Temple (통도사)

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Writer Jogye Date23 Aug 2018 Read6,008 Comment0


1. Tongdosa Temple

Tongdosa Temple is a temple is at the foot of Yeongchuksan Mountain located in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province The temple was built by Precept Master Jajang in 636 A.D. Precept Master Jajang installed the Geumgang Ordination Platform and enshrined the sarira of Shakyamuni Buddha there in order to lead Budddhism with the Buddhist precepts of Silla Dynasty. Tongdosa Temple has been the mountain monastery that represents precept in Korea from Goryeo Dynasty to Joseon Dynasty and present period without any disruption.

In Goryeo Dynasty, Tongdosa Temple was consisted of the Platform area and the Yeongsanjeon Hall area. In the 14th Century, Tongdosa Temple became a large monastery creating the foundation for its development to what can be seen today. In the early Joseon Dynasty (15th Century) when the state was downsizing the Buddhist temples, Tongdosa Temple was recognized in 1407 as the temple to pray for the future of the state allowing it to keep its property as it is.

During Japanese invasions of 1592, the sarira was fled to another location while the main hall of Tongdosa Temple was burned down. However, the rebuilding effort continued from 17th Century. After the main hall was rebuilt in 1645, the reconstruction project continued to complete the three parallel area system with the Main Hall as the upper axis, Daegwangmyeongjeon Hall as the central axis and Youngsanjeon Hall as the lower axis.

Tongdosa is the temple that best represent the features of a comprehensive monastery. There are various buildings support the practice, worship and life of monks and Buddhist followers. The Main Hall coupled with Geumgang Ordination Platform is the essential hall of faith for worshiping Buddha. It is unique that the Main Hall did not enshrine a Buddha statue due to the sarira enshrined in Geumgang Ordination Platform. Many buildings for practice are also dispersed in the temple area. Tongdosa Temple is a comprehensive monastic training complex equipped with a Seon center, a lecture center and a precept center. Among the monastic practices of Korean Buddhism there are practices of Seon, teachings and precepts. A Seon center is where one practice Ganhwa Seon by seeing oneself clearly. A lecture center is where one studies the sutras. A precept center is where one practices the precepts. There are also living quarters for monks and lay practitioners at the comprehensive monastic complex.

Tongdosa Temple is a mountain monastery that has special meaning due to the Geumgang Ordination Platform. An ordination platform is a place where the ritual of ordination takes place. The ordination platform in Tongdosa Temple is a Geumgang Ordination Platform where Buddha’s actual sarira is enshrined. Ordination ritual takes place in other temples with ordination platforms as well, however Tongdosa Temple’s Geumgang Ordination Platform is a holy ground at the peak of inherited ordination tradition and its ritual symbolizing the spirit of Korean Buddhism.

A noteworthy ritual at Tongdosa Temple is Gaesan Daeje (開山大齋). It is a ritual that takes place on September 9 by lunar calendar to commemorate the establishment of the temple by the founder Precept Master Jajang and to vow to succeed his effort.


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