I was driving around looking for a museum and encountered a very interesting, beautiful building. I took my daughter back to see it, and we got out of the car to get a closer look. About that time, we were approached by a Buddhist monk. He offered to show us around. The interesting building happened to be a Buddhist temple, and we got a tour.
We took our shoes off at the door, and all the floors were shinny hard wood floors. He explained to us that the temple had been built 10 years ago. We began speaking in Korean, but after a while, we discovered this man spoke English and had visited a temple in the U. S. At the entrance of the temple, there was a place where you could buy Buddhist paraphernalia.
He took us upstairs. At the first landing, there was a portrait of Buddha. On the next landing, there was a beautiful colorful picture he said that several Buddhist monks did together that had 5 chakras. Chakras are a type of Buddhist energy.
These pictures were under the statue of Buddha. They are supposed to depict different stories from his life.
These pictures were lining one wall depicting Nirvana.
These pictures were on the other wall also depicting Nirvana.
When we got to the top of the stairs, we entered a large room that had a large statue of Buddha in the middle and several pictures all around. He explained everything to us. It was extremely interesting. He said the lions mean protection from evil. He showed us the lotus lanterns and said they were lit once a month in a special ceremony. He showed us that behind the big brass statue of Buddha, there were many, many small brass Buddhas, and there were 5 types of Buddha statues. In each type, the Buddha was holding his hands in a different way meaning something different. I recognized the sign that the large Buddha statue was doing with his hands, and it meant love. Two of the walls were lines with beautiful pictures. He told us that these pictures were supposed to be pictures of Nirvana. He called it the ‘Buddhist Heaven. Nirvana is when the Buddhist has been good enough that he becomes one with the universe.
After we looked at the room with the large Buddha, he took us downstairs to another large room. This room also had an image of a brass Buddha. He said this room was where the practiced music and meditation. There were lots of drums. It was also where they studied, and he pointed to some desks that were folded up and some cushions for them to sit on while the studied. On either side of the altar where the Buddha was were interesting statues that looked like Buddhist monks to me, and I asked him about them. He said they were Buddha’s 16 disciples like Jesus’ 12 disciples. He said they had all gone on to enlightenment, Nirvana. He said in the lifetime of Buddha, he actually had 1,250 disciples, but these 16 were the most important.
There were 16 statues on either side of the altar that had the three Buddha statues on it. These 16 statues were the most important of Buddha’s disciples, and they have all gone on to Nirvana.
Pictures in the Hallway
After we had seen this room, he took us to another room and offered us some tea. He sat on the cushions on the floor at a low table with several small cups and a tea pot. We sat on the other side on cushions on the floor. We talked about the uniqueness of S. Korea because it was one of the most peaceful countries in the world having one of the lowest crime rates in the world. We attributed it to the fact that the two major religions are Christianity and Buddhism, and they are both religions of peace. He told us that he used to live in Busan, and in Busan, there were Catholic nuns who used to come and drink tea with him from time to time. He gave us green tea that was very much like the ocha that I drank in Japan.
We asked him some questions. I wanted to know why he became a Buddhist monk. He said his mother was a Buddhist, and he was raised to be Buddhist, and when he got old enough, he decided it was a good path and took it. He said when he was in contemplation one day, he remembered one of his past lives, and that he had been a Buddhist monk in his past life. He also added that what you did in your past life didn’t matter. In Christianity, we live once, and when we die, we either go to Heaven or Hell. However, in Buddhism, you live again and again. If you aren’t good, you will come back as a lower form of life, even a bug, but if you are good enough, you will come back as a human being, and if you are even better, you will come back as a Buddhist monk. If that Buddhist monk is good enough, when he dies, he is the one who finally goes on to Nirvana, a kind of Heaven, enlightenment, one with the universe. Christianity doesn’t believe in reincarnation like Buddhism does. Christians have one life, and after that one life, there is judgement.
We talked about our travels. He said he had been ten years as a monk in Myanmar. He was speaking English so well that I was curious to know if he could speak that language too, but he said no. He said English is an international language and that everyone learns English, so it is enough. He said living in Myanmar, he was silent for ten years. For ten years, he didn’t even utter a word. It was a kind of self control and meditation. American Christian missionaries don’t feel the way he did at all. When American Christian missionaries go into a country, they want to understand the people they are trying to help and be able to communicate in the language of their hearts, so serious Christian missionaries always study the language of the people where they go.
He gave us each a bracelet. He said there were Myanmar letters on the bracelet on one of the beads. He said the bracelets had a blessing written on them. The blessing was a wish that we would have white lotus blossoms meaning he wished purity for us. I just happened to have some bracelets I got last year at church when they were handing them out with a scripture from Ephesians about being strong on them, so I fished through my purse and also handed him a bracelet with a scripture on it. He knew we were Christians because when we exchanged name cards which is an important Korean custom, I gave him one of my cards from when I taught at Korea Christian University, and my daughter told him that I am a Bible teacher.
About that time, we decided not to keep him any longer. We thanked him for his time and for the tour. We told him we were glad to meet him because we truly were. He was a very nice man, and it was an interesting visit. He followed us to the door with the bracelet with the scripture written on it around his wrist, and we had his bracelets with the Buddhist blessing written on them on our wrists.