At Gyeoungju's Bulguksa Temple, you'll find lots of low-relief, colorful and symbolic structures supporting building rooves and overhangs, common of the Silla Dynasty (the Era in which the Bulguksa Temple was built). Particularly the yin-yang symbol (or 'Taeguk', which is also the symbol on the Korean Flag) can be seen quite often without searching for it (a means of subconscious intervention, perhaps?)---Well, the Taeguk is one of the most prominent Korean symbols, connecting positive and negative forces, creating a balance and a sense of harmony in the universe, tying in both Confucian and Buddhist principles. You'll also find beautifully painted Lotus flowers which, after perusing a few websites, I come across their special meaning, I quote:
"The lotus flowers, or "Renge," express the universal laws such as Inter-Dependent Existence, Uncertainty of Life, Cause and Effect, and Purity. The lotus grows in muddy waters and blooms beautiful flowers. The flowers and leaves are never stained with the dirty water because the leaves and flowers have a waxy surface that repels water. Human beings are easily stained with the wrong, but the lotus flower keeps its purity.
In fact, without the muddy water, the lotus will never grow. The fact that beautiful flowers bloom only from the muddy water symbolizes the law of Inter Dependent Existence. Similarly, the bad and the good exist together in a society.
Most trees and plants bloom flowers from small seeds. However, the lotus is unique to have its flower and seeds at the same time. People often forget that the beautiful flower is the result of the small seed growing. Just the same, people forget that it may be their bad deeds and actions that may have caused an adverse effect on them, and they blame others for their misfortune. In this manner, the lotus flower reminds us of the law of Cause and Effect.
The life of a lotus flower lasts only for four days. It symbolizes the law of Uncertainty of Life.
Thus, the lotus flower symbolizes the universal laws. The flower also symbolizes truth, purity and beauty that most religions seek. The Buddha Sakyamuni expounded these truths with similes, his previous lives, parables, and his speeches in a scripture, or "Kyo," called "Myoho Renge Kyo."
Digression: Have you ever wondered what Pee-Wee Herman meant when he said in his 1980's "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" daily show? "Mek alek a hi-mek a hiney-ho!" Actually, there were times when I heard "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" eminating from my tv screne when "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" was on---what a coincidence. I've always wanted to know what that meant when I was a kid, chanting "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" over and over, watching Pee-Wee spin around his fortune teller in a box and riding his red bike across the world!
It was interesting to feel a sense of calm and relaxation while I was at the temple. Walking from one temple to the next, Buddhist believers were prosthrating (bowing), leaving donations of money in designated bins located at the openings of temple doors--once inside, many representations of Buddha, in many forms. I saw one particular temple that housed the Buddha along with his 'deciples'. At one temple, I saw a woman sweeping the dirt around the temples in a Zen pattern. There was no 'dirt' to be picked up.. perhaps, leaves or trails of outside dirt? I had no clue. I saw yet another woman doing the same thing at another temple, only this time, 'cleaning' the dirt with a water hose. Again, I found this strange.
I still feel much of an outsider here. Alas, I was the only foreigner within a 300 meter radius around me. But I feel more of an objective learner to this strange and fascinating culture. Wow...and to think that I have taken so many pictures---of not only my trip to Gyeoungju on Korea's Independence Day (August 15th), but of Mt. Gatbawi, my hometown (Seobyundong) and downtown Daegu. And I have yet so many places to travel here. I'll have a hard time not wanting to fill up pages and pages of observations, historical info and tid-bits of information found along my travels...
Unless of course you're about to leave Bulguksa Temple (like I was...) and you come across a Buddhist Monk walking swiftly, tenderly past you, with admiration about him, and a clean-pounce in his step..........scrambling quickly to grab my camera, I swung around and snapped this shot of him walking up the stairs to the upper courtyard. There was nothing but silence, and my lungs grasping for air in a way that wouldn't distrupt this beautiful moment.
One of life's little pleasures; fascinating!