A Trip to Gilsangsa Temple
Gilsangsa Temple, located on the southern side of Mt. Samgaksan in northern Seoul, may not be very old, only just registered in 1995, but it offers some great programs for those wishing to learn more about Buddhism as well as does a lot to help the community in the surrounding area.
The buildings were originally a part of a restaurant called Daewongak owned by Kim Yeong-han, but were donated to Monk Beopjeong Sunim and became a branch of Songgwangsa of the Jogye Order on June 13, 1995. Kim Yeong-han was very moved after reading Monk Beopjeong Sunim’s essay “Musoyu” (Non-Possession) and spent ten years convincing him to take her restaurant and turn it into a temple. The only thing she received in return was her Buddhist name, Gilsangwha, and a Buddhist rosary. She remarked that the only thing that she wished for “was that the temple would become an open space where all who came could forget the pains of life.”
The first thing one sees when entering the complex is Iljumun, the front gate that welcomes all to enter. Once inside, there are steps that lead up to Geungnakjeon, the main hall inside which is a statue of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. Instead of going up the steps, there is also a slope that leads up to the right from the gate that leads to Seolbeopjeon. Inside is a statue of Shakyamuni and behind the statue are 1000 seated statues of Buddha. This building is where those hoping to participate in a temple stay meditate, prostrate and sleep.
Following the path up behind the main hall from Seolbeopjeon leads past the living quarters and meditation buildings used by the monks that live on site. There are signs along the way requesting that those visiting remain quiet so that the monks can maintain their studies. This temple operates a Buddhist college, as well as a Zen meditation center and the volunteer group Malgo Hyanggiropgae (Clean and Fragrant) also work out of here.
This temple wouldn’t make it onto a list of must-see places if I were to have a friend visiting for just a few days, but the temple stay programs and the Dharma talks every week as well as the Buddhist classes they provide for beginners would all be great reasons to search this temple out for people interested in learning more about Korean Buddhism.
서울특별시 성북구 성북동 323
323 Seongbuk-dong Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, Korea
Subway: Hanseong University Station, Exit 6. Walk straight 50 minutes and there is a small etched sign in front of Dongwon Mart for a shuttle bus up to the temple. Departs: 8:30/ 9:20/ 9:40/ 10:00/ 12:00/ 13:00/ 15:00/ 16:30.
Visit their website for more information on the programs and times provided.