Liberatation Gate at Dogap-sa Temple in Yeongam Frees Us from Afflictions and Fetters __ Gwon Jung-seo

Liberation Gate at Dogap-sa Temple in Yeongam
Frees Us from Afflictions and Fetters
 
Dogap-sa Temple is nestled in the foothills of Mt. Wolchul. Literally meaning the “rise of the moon,” “wolchul”refers to the mountain on which the Buddha dwells, and “dogap” means “a temple connected to the Way” like juxtaposed mountain peaks.
 
(top) Symbolically removing human afflictions, the liberation Gate of Dogap-sa stands firm.
(bottom) Image of Samantabhadra as a child enshrined at the Museum of National Preceptor Doseon
In the Ten Causes for Rebirth in the Pure Land, there is a passage, “Having a mind like calm and clear water, one can naturally see the Buddha, who may be likened to a full moon. This can be compared to clear water which reflects the actual moon above.” In other words, “The rise of the moon” symbolizes the Dharma body of the Buddha that dwells constantly without change.
 
Built in 1473 during the reign of Joseon’s King Seongjong, Dogap-sa’s Liberation Gate (Haetal-mun) stands solemnly at the entrance, symbolically removing the afflictions of all who pass through it, as it has done for over 500 years. On its outer façade is a plaque that says “Dogap-sa Temple on Mt. Wolchul,” informing us it is the front gate of Dogap-sa, and on the opposite side is another plaque which says “Liberation Gate.”
 
The Liberation Gate is three bays across and two bays deep. It has a gabled roof and double-layered eaves, which are supported by single brackets on top of the pillars. Of the three bays, the middle bay is the actual passageway, while the bays on the left and right are blocked off with red stakes. Originally, Narayana Vajra and Hidden Track Vajra, who guard the gates of temples, were thought to have been enshrined in the alcoves toward the front, but they are missing. In the two alcoves toward the rear of the gate were enshrined images of Manjusri and Samantabhadra as children, both 1.8 m high, but they are currently on display at the Museum of National Preceptor Doseon. 
Dogap-sa’s Liberation Gate has a three-story stone foundation on which stand entasis pillars, topped by two-tier brackets and a ridge beam. What’s distinctive about this gate is that it was built in a single bracket architectural style but uses multiple brackets. In this regard it is a very unusual temple gate. As in the Hoejeon-mun Gate at Cheongpyeong-sa Temple, possessing characteristics of the late Goryeo and early Joseon eras, the Liberation Gate at Dogap-sa is significant, both historically and culturally.
In the Anguttara Agama there is a relevant passage: “The gate of liberation is vastly void! That is the way one pays respect to the Buddha. Contemplate that both the bygone past and upcoming future are empty. That is the way one pays homage to the Buddha.”
 
Gwon Jung-seo is an expert member of the Gyeonggi Cultural Alliance and a Dharma instructor of the Jogye Order. His Korean publications include: “Satirical Humor of Buddhist Art” and “Doors and Bridges of Temples.”

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