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1. Paradise Bridge to One Pillar Gate
Most temples use the symbolic layout of Mt. Sumeru. A temple represents the journey across oceans and mountains to reach Mt. Sumeru from Jambudvipa.
Each temple has a bridge that crosses over a stream. The bridge represents crossing the eight oceans that separate Jambudvipa and Mt. Sumeru. It also represents crossing from suffering to the joy of enlightenment. This Paradise Bridge is also called the Bridge of Liberation. The head of a dragon is often carved into the underside of the bridge. The dragon protects the temple from evil demons. Buddhists believe a person’s own negative emotions are the demons and that one must cross with a virtuous mind.
Horse Dismount (Hamabi)
After the bridge, visitors often encounter a sign carved in stone saying “hamabi”, which means to dismount from one’s horse. In ancient times, this sign was meant to remind noblemen, who usually travelled on horsebackto dismount. There is no belief of higher or lower castes within the temple confines and all are treated as equal disciples of the Buddha. It also reflects the humility that is requisite in learning the Dharma
Flag Pole Supports (Dang-ganjiju)
Before the One Pillar Gate, there are two stone pillars where wooden flag poles can be inserted. In the past, flags would indicate the sect and announce temple events. Moreover, the flags were symbols of the temple being a sacred place of Dharma.