The Power of a Bodhisattva’s Vow
The Strength to Endure Our Time in the Secular World
Dosoram Hermitage of Seonunsa Temple in Gochang
Yun Je-hak | Freelance Wrter
One bodhisattva received a prediction of his own future enlightenment from Sakyamuni Buddha. He passed away before Buddha did and now resides in Tusita Heaven. He is Maitreya Bodhisattva. His vow was to be reborn in this world as a Buddha 5.67 billion years after Sakyamuni Buddha passed away, and to liberate all sentient beings who have been suffering and not been saved since Buddha’s nirvana.
For most, a period of 5.67 billion years is beyond our imagination or understanding. For some people, however, each moment can be that long. Perhaps that is why Dosoram Hermitage was built?
It is not clear when Dosoram was established. According to its temple record, the hermitage was established at the same time Seonunsa was founded. Two stories about the origin of Seonunsa have been passed down. One says it was established by Silla’s King Jinheung (534−576), and the other says it was built by Seon Master Geomdan in the 24th year (577) of the reign of Baekje’s King Wideok. Around that time this area belonged to Baekje, but Silla and Baekje were fighting for control. Thus, I consider the latter story to be correct.
On the rock cliff west of Dosoram is carved a giant statue of Maitreya Buddha, 13 m high and 3 m wide (Treasure 1200; Rock-Carved Seated Buddha at Dongburam Hermitage Site). According to one story, it was crafted by Seon Master Geomdan at the request of King Wideok. Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration estimates it was crafted in the early Goryeo era.
It had been long rumored that there were “secret predictions” about the future hidden within the solar plexus of this Maitreya Bodhisattva. In 1892, two years before the Donghak Peasant Rebellion, an incident occurred that gave credence to this legend. At the time, rumors spread among the peasants that when the secret predictions were revealed, Hanyang, the capital city of Joseon, would perish. Son Hwa-jung, a leader of the Donghak Rebellion, along with Jeon Bong-jun, decided to remove the secret predictions, which they did. The news spread instantly, and the dream of a new future breathed new life into the rebellion. The content of the secret predictions is not known. In fact, more important than the content was the “power of the story” which made people believe in the legend.
Since its establishment, Dosoram has remained a monastery devoted to Maitreya. However, at some point, it also became a renowned temple for praying to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. It is said that the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva statue (Treasure 280) enshrined in Dosoram’s “Inner Court of Tusita Heaven” is a masterpiece crafted in the late Goryeo era; its excellence as a heritage site is secondary. What has primary importance is the power of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s vow to not attain enlightenment until hell is completely empty and all sentient beings in the six realms of rebirth are saved.
Photos | Shin Byeong-mun (photographer)