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Meaning and Symbolism Found in Korean Temples print

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1. Paradise Bridge to One Pillar Gate 2. One Pillar Gate to Gate of Non-Duality 3. The Dharma Hall and Buddha
4. Buddhas, Bodhisattvas & Dharma Halls 5. Buddhist Paintings 6. Stone Stupas and Lamps

3. The Dharma Hall and Buddha - Upon entering the Dharma Hall

The Luminous Land of the Buddha

Upon entering the temple a courtyard opens up to the Dharma hall (Kor. Beopdang) where the Buddha resides. From Jambudvipa, the symbolically journey crosses oceans and mountains and ascends Mt. Sumeru to finally meet the Buddha. Usually, the Dharma hall is built on a stone foundation elevating it above the courtyard and is commonly surrounded by white clay and a white stone foundation. This is so that sunlight will reflect off the white surface into the Dharma hall to illuminate the golden Buddha statue. As a result, the statue fills the hall with golden light. This ingenuitive design originated in Korea.

The Buddha and Bodhisattvas

Each temple is decorated with many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddhas are fully enlightened beings. Shakyamuni, Amitabha, and Vairochana Buddhas are the principal Buddhas of Korean Buddhism and are generally humbly ornamented. This symbolizes the fact that they have left the world of Samsara (endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth). On the other hand, the Bodhisattvas are richly decorated with necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, crowns, lavish robes, and belts made of gold. These items of material wealth mean the Bodhisattvas remain in Samsara in order to save beings from suffering. Thus, they dress in the manner of the world. The principal Bodhisattvas in the Korean tradition are Kwanseum Bosal (Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of compassion), Munsu Bosal (Manjushri, the embodiment of wisdom), Jijang Bosal (Ksitigarbha, who saves beings from hell), and Bohyeon Bosal (Samantabhadra, the embodiment of action). There are also other figures like Arhats, protector deities, the Mountain God, and the Dragon King found within Korean temples.
To the unfamiliar, the Dharma halls of Korean temples may be a strange sight. People bowing to golden statues may seem like idol worship. The statues represent the ultimate potential of beings to become a Buddha and homage is paid to the infinite goodness and to wisdom, which is our own true nature. This is represented by the golden statue. Although it is a representation, it still is considered sacred because of what it symbolizes just as an ambassador represents a country.

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