Beomeosa (Temple of the Nirvana Fish) is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Built on the slopes of Geumjeongsan in 678 as one of the ten major temples of the Avatamsaka School of Buddhism, it is one of the country’s most known urban temples.
Legend has the mountain where Beomeosa is found is said to have huge rock at the summit where there is a golden well which never, ever dries up. The water of this well is believed to have very special magical properties as one day a golden fish came from heaven and has lived there ever since. Aiden and I drank from a spring ostensibly coming from this well and the only magical powers were that it slacked our thirst on a sweltering day.
Beomeosa Temple is considered one of the three major temples in southeast Korea, along with Haeinsa Temple and Tongdosa Temple. Its strong Seon Buddhist spirit has earned it the title “Great Headquarters Temple of Seon Buddhism.”
Getting to Beomeosa is quite easy. So easy, in fact, that we decided to make it harder. As in, simply look for the subway stop that reads, “Beomeosa” and basically ignore all the other directions like “take bus 90 from the subway exit”.
I know when you do the little math conversion that 3km is basically…oh…uh…carry the one…about 1.8 miles and think, “no prob”. But it’s also important to note that Beomeosa is on a mountain slope. Which means that if you start below it, you’ll have to walk uphill. Also, note your stupid fitness tracker doesn’t take this into account and is basically mocking you that you only burned a mere 30 calories or something lame.
So, the irony is that you’re basically swearing and thinking terrible thoughts slogging up a mountain hike as you come to a temple of religious thought solely based to banish those thoughts.
Next is Beomeosa Daeungjeon, the main temple hall, built in 1614 after the temple was burned down during the Japanese invasions. Major remodellings of this building were undertaken in 1713, 1814 and 1871.
In the inner part of the temple grounds, there are several buildings used for ceremonies. At the time were there, most of them had chanting rituals happening, which was a very interesting experience as all doors were opened and you could peer inside to see the monks leading the chants.
While were there, an elderly man stopped us and asked if we wanted to hear about any of the history of the temple. He spoke very good English and patiently explained the significance of many of the buildings, both historically and their spiritual meaning to Buddhism.
When we complimented on his English, he told us about being a veteran of the Korean War and spoke thankfully for the sacrifice of the American people to help South Koreans in their time of need. It is a repeated theme we’ve seen and heard of from these older Korean generations. As much as we sometimes forget our own history, it is very present in the minds of millions of South Koreans who continue to pay respects and remembrance. We thought it was a fitting end to our visit.
And we did take the bus back down.