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Friday, 4 April 2014

Namo Palbeon Daebosal, Part XVII: Mihwangsa, Haenam, Southern Jeolla


Mihwangsa (Hanja: 美黃寺) is a Buddhist temple on Dalmasan (Mount Dharma), nicknamed ‘Geumgangsan (Diamond Mountain) of the Korean peninsula in 164 Mihwangsa Lane/Mihwangsa-gil, Seojeong-ri 1-beonji, Songji-myeon, Haenam County, Southern Jeolla Province, South Korea. It is considered to be the southern-most temple on the mainland, was established in 749 as a branch temple of Daeheungsa, the head temple of the 22nd district of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

According to the Dongguk Yeoji Seungram (a geographic book from the Joseon Dynasty introducing features of each province in Korea), sometime during the Silla Dynasty, a stone ship arrived at the port off the coast of Dalmasan. A man adorned in gold was standing on the ship holding an oar.

People heard beautiful sounds, a heavenly hymn glorifying the Buddha’s virtue, coming from the ship. But when they approached the stone ship to investigate, the ship moved back away from the shore. However, when they gave up and turned their backs to leave, the ship would return closer to the shore again.

This went on for several days. Finally the ship anchored at the port after the Great Master Euijo Hwasang, along with two monks and a hundred of the residents, purified themselves and offered up prayers.

On board the ship they found 80 copies of the Avatamsaka Sutra, 7 copies of the Lotus Sutra, the statues of the Vairocana Buddha (Birojanabul), the Manjushri Bodhisattva (Munsubosal), 40 saints, 16 Arahats, 53 great enlightened masters, and 60 nahan (arahants, enlightened disciples of the Buddha), and some altar paintings.

After opening a golden box they broke open the black rock, found on the ship, a tiny black cow emerged from the rock suddenly growing into a large cow.

Latter that night, Great Master Euijo Hwasang had a dream where a man in golden robes came to him said "I am the king of Wujeon Guk (India). The shape of the mountains in this area is auspicious and suitable for a shrine to ten thousand Buddhas. Please place the Sūtras and statues on the back of the cow and establish a temple where it lays down."

The next day Great Master Euijo followed the instructions he had received in the dream and went on a journey. The cow fell when while crossing Dalma Mountain, but got back up again and kept on going. The cow continued on for quite some time before again falling down. But this time the cow did not get back up so Tonggyosa was established where the cow first fell, and Mihwangsa where the black cow fell down the last time.

The temple is named Mi (beautiful) after the unusually pleasing, strangely musical bellow of the black cow, and Hwang (yellow/gold) after the golden robes of the man in Great Master Euijo's dream.