Hello Again Everyone!!
Like so many people, I mark the passage of time through the milestones of certain achievements or memorable moments in my life. But unlike the vast majority of people, I tend to mark these memorable moments in the way that Korean temples change. I know that that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, these religious beacons that stand the test of time, but Korean temples do in fact change aesthetically. Perhaps this is indicative of the ten years I’ve been here, and perhaps it points to a greater affluence in the Buddhist community in Korea. Either way, change is in fact all around us.
Perhaps there’s no greater example in the way that temples change than Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan. This once out of the way temple, at least according to 2003, has grown to be arguably the most popular temple in Busan (and for good reason).
The first time I ever attempted to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was in the winter of 2003. And the first taxi driver I attempted to get a ride from in Haeundae hadn’t even heard of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple; and that was with the aid of a Korean written note to assist both him and I. It took a second taxi driver to finally know where I wanted to go. And when I finally did arrive, the temple parking lot was nothing more than a dirt road that they dropped you off at before you hiked your way towards the temple by the sea. Back then, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple didn’t even have a main hall.
But like so many things, time has a way of changing things, whether it’s a gradual change or quite dramatic in style. Now, when you arrive at the temple, there’s a large paid parking lot with a loud corridor of vendors that are pushing their wares. Also, if you’d rather a bus ride to take you out to the temple, there’s now a direct bus that takes you to the temple with a convenient bus stop just outside the well manicured grounds. Included in all this change are the number of shrines that have popped up all around the temple like the tire shrine to help those Koreans that don’t want to get into a car accident. Additionally, there’s now a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that is situated on a rock outcropping. Before this, it had been all black; and back in 2003, it simply didn’t exist.
Even the ocean-side view that formally had no fencing protecting you from the waves that crash upon the shore, has a knee-high fence warning you of any potential dangers from the mighty sea that gives Haedong Yonggungsa Temple so much of it’s amazing beauty. Yet another dramatic change from the winter of 2003 is that Haedong Yonggungsa Temple now has a beautiful, large main hall that is elaborately decorated both inside and out. But perhaps the greatest change comes in the form of just how many visitors frequent the temple each and every day. It used to be that you would be one, among a handful, of visitors. Now, especially if you visit on the weekend, you can be crushed (or at least pushed) by the throngs of people that come to the beautiful Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
So much about Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has changed in the ten years I’ve been here; but then again, the temple is really just symbolic of the many changes that have occurred in my life. Not everyone has something tangible to point to to highlight the rapidity of change, but I have Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.