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Maitreya Buddha, Gwanchoksa, Korea

Maitreya Buddha, Gwanchoksa, Korea

Buddha statue

The Buddha statue is the largest stone Buddha statue in Korea with a height of 18.12 m . In 967, during the Goryeo reign, the 38-year-long construction of the figure, also called "Eunjin Mireuk " ( Kor. 은진 미륵 , Hanja 恩 津 彌勒 ), began. The specialty of the figure is not only the size, but also the shape. A narrow body, a large head and a flat, extraordinary headgear.

On January 21, 1963, the statue was declared Treasure of South Korea Number 218.

The exact dimensions of the Buddha are: Height: 18.12 m, body circumference: 9.9 m, length of the ears: 1.8 m, height of the crown: 2.43 m.

A Buddha statue from Greece

A visitor to Korea can expect to see a landscape of boundless mountains graced with the presence of many beautiful Buddhist temples, each with its own Buddha statue. But even on mountains where no temple exists, it is not uncommon to find at least one Buddha magnificently carved onto a large rock. For Koreans, Buddha statues are a familiar sight—a part of everyday life—regardless of one's religion. However, few are aware that the Buddha statue originated not from India or China, but from Greece.

<Rock cliff Sakyamuni Buddha in Golgulsa Temple Gyeongju (left) and Bodhisattva in Namsan Mountain Gyeongju (right).>

In the early Buddhism of India, Buddha statues were not made at all. This practice followed the last testament of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), who forbade all worship of figures of him. But beginning in the Common Era, the region of Gandara—an area of Afghanistan that is today known as Peshawar—began to change. The people of Gandara primarily practiced Buddhism, and it is here that Buddhist followers encountered Greek civilization. This encounter left a deep and lasting impression, especially the conquests of Alexander the Great in the early fourth century. During this time period, Buddhists first encountered Greek temples and Greek gods like Zeus and Hercules, a discovery that naturally led to the creation of Buddha statues, their object of religious worship. But Gandara Buddhists, who had no experience making Buddha statues, at first made them out of the statues of Greek gods. In fact, some Buddha statues were made directly out of statues of Hercules. Due to this practice, the Buddha statue took on Western features like deep-set eyes and a high-bridged nose. This type of Westernized Buddha statue was brought to Korea through China. This is why the early Buddhist statues of Korea have faces that look somewhat Western in appearance.

<The Buddha of Seokguram Grotto, a sculptural masterpiece noted for the realistic expression of the Buddha.>


The first list of Korean cultural treasures was designated by Governor-General of Korea in 1938 during the Japanese occupation with "The Act of Treasures of the Joseon dynasty". [3]

In 1955, the South Korean government declared as National Treasures the items previously on the Korean Treasures Preservation Order issued during Japan's occupation of Korea. The current list dates to December 20, 1962, when the Cultural Protection Act was enacted by the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction. There were 116 items on the "National Treasures" list at that time, with others designated as "Treasures". [4]

Numerous amendments have been made to the list since that time, most recently in 2004.


Beopjusa is one of the most celebrated spiritual places and popular tourist attractions in South Korea. Just like Beomeosa Temple located in Busan, the Beopjusa Temple is one of the head temples of the traditional order of Korean Buddhism known as the Jogye Order. This particular brand of Buddhism dates back to the period of the unified Silla Empire. The Beopjusa Temple was originally constructed in the seventh century by a monk named Uishinjosa. It is a magnificent place located in the southwestern foothills of Songni Mountain in South Korea&rsquos North Chungcheong Province. The Palsangjeon Pagoda and Golden Maitreya Statue are the two most recognizable and sought after attractions at the temple, but the entire complex and setting is enchanted and serene.

The Beopjusa Temple is most commonly associated with the worship of the Maitreya Buddha, or essentially, the Buddha in waiting. This entire stream of thinking and belief system stems from a prediction by Gautama Buddha that his teachings would disappear after his earthly death (500 years after to be exact) and that another enlightened one (the Maitreya) would then need to return to reawaken the teachings of the Buddha and reestablish the path to nirvana or enlightenment. The Golden Maitreya Statue signifies and pays homage to the Buddha-to-be in a sense. Part of the way this belief works is that it will not be until the Buddha (Gautama) is literally forgotten and all accounts of his teachings are gone that a need for the Maitreya to come. Buddhism however remains a strong system of belief and faith around the world so perhaps the Golden Maitreya Statue will have to wait for quite some time longer, standing watch over the celebrated temple at Beopjusa.

One of the most appealing parts of a visit to the Beopjusa Temple is the tranquil environment where you can witness the harmony between nature and humanity. Monks have resided on these grounds for millennia and the Songni foothills could not provide a more perfect setting for this spiritual place. Two massive pine trees of the exact same height guard either side of the main entrance to the temple, creating one of the most aesthetically stunning characteristics of Beopjusa. Although the temple was burnt down when Japan invaded the Korean mainland in the late 1500s, some of the artifacts and items remain from some 1,300 years ago, including an iron kettle that used to serve up to 3,000 monks their daily rice. All around the temple you will find ancient inscriptions carved into big boulders near the pine tree-covered hills.

South Korea Map

After entering through the main gates, the most celebrated building at Beopjusa can be seen. The Palsangjeon Pagoda stands five stories high and is ornately decorated with stunning reliefs, carvings, and paintings. Another main attraction at Beopjusa is the Jeongipumsong Pine Tree, a tree that is said to be 600 years old. This is one of the most spiritually significant places in South Korea. If you have a chance to visit this part of the county, you should make it a priority to see this magnificent site.

Maitreya: hope for the future

Sit. Think. Wait—for the isolation to end, for a future where things will be better.

For many of us, COVID-19 has made this a daily routine. You might be surprised to find out that we share this in common with one of Buddhism’s most important bodhisattvas: Maitreya, the Future Buddha.

While Buddhism eventually came to have Buddhas as countless “as the sands of the Ganges” throughout the entire cosmos, there is only one Buddha at a time in any given place and age. Buddhists believe the appearance of a Buddha is an exceptional event for those happy few who get to experience it. This is thought to have already happened over two millennia ago in this world, and unfortunately now is a time of decline between Buddhas, when the teachings of enlightenment slowly degenerate and then disappear. Becoming a Buddha is no easy feat, and it takes an unimaginable number of lifetimes of training and sacrifice, during which one is known as a bodhisattva. The bodhisattva Maitreya has completed all of the stages leading to enlightenment, and now he resides in a spiritual realm, watching and waiting for the moment when the experience of suffering is such that people will be able to understand his teachings and he can appear as the next Buddha.

Maitreya rose to prominence in the region approximating modern Pakistan and Afghanistan, around the first century A.D. His popularity was immediate, and can be gauged by the vast numbers of images surviving from this period, second only to those of the historical Buddha Gautama, the “Sage of the Shakya Clan” (Shakyamuni). Maitreya can be identified in these early works by the rich jewelry with which he is decorated. This symbolizes the fact that bodhisattvas maintain a certain amount of attachment to stay in the world and help people, unlike Buddhas, who as fully enlightened beings are unadorned. He is also usually shown standing, to distinguish him from Gautama, who sits in meditation.

Maitreya spread east with Buddhism, through Central Asia to China, and from there to Korea and Japan. Along the way, his appearance changed many times. One form in particular took a strong hold in East Asia during the sixth and seventh centuries, and resulted in some of the loveliest sculptures ever made: the Pensive Bodhisattva. In this form, Maitreya is shown seated, with one leg crossed over the other, leaning slightly forward to gaze upon the world, with a finger raised to his cheek in contemplation (one might see a resemblance with Rodin’s Thinker, in which the pose reemerged more than a millennium later). The Pensive Bodhisattva motif was already present in earlier Central Asian art, but it became especially popular in China during the sixth century, and HoMA’s relief sculpture of the subject in our Buddhist Gallery is a representative example. The fluid lines of drapery, more suggestive of calligraphy (which was emerging as the most respected art form in China at the time) than sculpture, are characteristic of the time, and give the sculpture an energetic presence despite its small size. Within the following hundred years or so, the Pensive Bodhisattva spread to Korea, and it was there that the true masterpieces of the genre were created, two magnificent bronze sculptures that are today considered Korea’s greatest treasures (they can be found on the National Museum of Korea’s website, National Treasures number 78 and 83). Two equally impressive sculptures also survive in Japan, one at Kōryūji in Kyoto, and one at Chūgūji in Nara (both of which can also be readily found online).

At a time when people accepted with deadly seriousness the idea that the world was degenerating into an inevitable apocalyptic end, and that the teachings of enlightenment were already becoming inaccessible, Maitreya had a powerful political and cultural resonance. Rulers associated themselves with Maitreya (or even identified themselves as his manifestation on earth), as did rebels, and charismatic religious leaders attracted followers to millenarian cults, becoming political forces in their own right. HoMA’s sculpture reflects some of this tension between different social classes, which was already evident in the early sixth century. Many of the first cave chapels in China in which such carved images appeared were sponsored by emperors (with clear implications identifying both the deity and the emperor as objects of worship). Over time, though, as further caves were opened, groups of people would join together to sponsor a chapel, and each of them would commission one small image such as HoMA’s Pensive Bodhisattva. This resulted in spaces of a fundamentally different character, not with one unified iconographic program reflecting the priorities of the state, but rather with dozens of more or less independent smaller niches and icons, often squeezed together in a haphazard fashion, each reflecting the hopes of an individual or family. In this sense, Pensive Bodhisattva is of profound interest in offering a window into personal belief beyond the official state practices otherwise dominating historical sources.

These personal beliefs, relevant to our own so many centuries later, were centered on patience (sit), reflection (think), and hope (wait). The hope that, however bad things might sometimes seem, the future will inevitably be positive.

– Shawn Eichman, Curator of Asian Art

Pensive Bodhisattva
China, Northern Wei dynasty, early 6th century
Gift of Mrs. Carter Galt, 1954

The founder, Uisin, named the temple Beopju (‘Residence of Dharma’) because a number of Indian sutras (scriptures about Dharma) he brought back with him were housed there. [1] The temple includes more than 60 buildings and 70 hermitages, including the highest wooden pagoda in Korea, Palsangjeon. Like most of the other buildings, this was burned to the ground in the Japanese invasions of Korea. [2] The pagoda was reconstructed in 1624.

In the Goryeo Dynasty, this temple is said to have been home to as many as 3,000 monks. A few facilities from this period still remain on the temple grounds, including a cistern and iron pot for serving food and water to thousands of monks.

It continued to play an important role in subsequent centuries, but shrank as the state's support for Buddhism disappeared under the Joseon Dynasty. Joseon Dynasty founder Taejo is said to have retired to a spot near Beopjusa after tiring of his sons' fighting.

Beopjusa Temple owns a number of cultural heritage items: 3 national treasures 12 miscellaneous treasures 21 items of tangible cultural heritage of Chungcheongbukdo and 1 item of cultural heritage material. In addition, the temple itself is designated Historic Site No. 503, the region Scenic Site No. 61, and it is also home to two natural monuments.

Among its cultural heritage possessions, one is truly unique. It is the only wooden pagoda in Korea that has preserved its original appearance, named Palsangjeon (National Treasure No. 55). Originally there were two such structures in Korea, but when the Main Buddha Hall at Ssangbongsa Temple burnt down in 1984, Palsangjeon became the only surviving wooden pagoda designated a cultural heritage. In a hall open on four sides, the Huigyeon Bosal (The Beautiful Bodhisattva, Sudarsana) (Treasure No. 1417) is enshrined. This bodhisattva stands on a foundation stone and carries an incense burner on his head to fulfill his vow to offer incense to the Buddha for eternity.

The Folding Screen of Celestial Charts (Treasure No. 848) is a cultural heritage not directly related to Buddhism. Featuring 300 constellations consisting of 3,083 stars, the Charts were created by Kim Tae-seo and An Guk-bin, two scholars from the Meteorological Administration. They are based on charts their teacher, I. Koegler, made in 1723 during his stay in China. Of all the celestial charts made by Koegler, this one is the largest and most accurate, thus giving it international value as well. It is thought that these charts were given to Beopjusa Temple by King Yeongjo when the Wondang (Prayer Shrine) for the king's deceased Royal Concubine Yeongbin of the Yi Clan was established here.

Another unusual heritage is the stele of Ven. Jajeong Gukjon (慈淨國尊: 1240-1327) (Tangible Cultural Heritage of Chungcheongbukdo No. 79). A memorial to this monk who had risen to the rank of National Preceptor was inscribed on the natural stone cliff by royal decree of King Chunghye. Seonhuigung Wondang, a structure located behind the Main Buddha Hall, is the prayer shrine for Yeongbin of the Yi Clan, the mother of Crown Prince Sado and a royal concubine of King Yeongjo. Having the same name as her shrine in the Chilgung Shrine Complex (where ancestral tablets of seven royal concubines are kept), it is unusual a prayer shrine for a royal concubine be located in a temple.

Another cultural heritage relic to see is the Stone Pot, Tangible Cultural Heritage of Chungcheongbuk-do No. 204. A stone sculpture in the shape of an earthen pot, it is partially buried in the ground at a site 40 meters (131 feet) left of Chongji Seon Center. Cultural heritage experts have no idea about its purpose, but legend says it was used to store kimchi.

Beopjusa was chosen by Bruce Lee as the original setting for the movie Game of Death, with the five floors of Palsangjeon pagoda representing five different martial arts. Since Bruce Lee died before the movie was completed, the screenplay was changed, and Beopjusa was edited out. [3]

Maitreya Buddha, Gwanchoksa, Korea - History

    • Beopjusa Temple
    • Beopjusa Temple, situated on Songnisan Mountain in Boeun-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do Province, is the main temple of the fifth diocese of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
      According to Dongguk-yeoji-seungnam (Survey of the Geography of Korea), Beopjusa Temple was founded in 553 (14th year of King Jinheung’s reign) by Spiritual Patriarch Uisin. It’s been said that the name of the temple, Beopjusa, was given because Spiritual Patriarch Uisin went to India on a quest of the Buddha-Dharma and stay here after returning on a white donkey carrying with him the Buddhist scriptures. Accordingly, Beopjusa means a “temple where the Buddha Dharma stays.” This story is also recorded in Sinjeung-dongguk-yeoji-seungnam and Joseon-byulgyo-tongsa. Based on other records, it was also called Gilsangsa and Songnisa.
    • According to the historical results, Precepts Master Jinpyo later returned to Songnisan Mountain and marked an area where auspicious plants grew. Then, he immediately went to Geumgangsan Mountain, where he founded Baryeonsusa Temple, where he stayed for 7 years. Then, while staying at Busauibang in Buan, Yeongsim, Yungjong, Bulta and others living on Songnisan Mountain came to the Precepts Master to receive the Dharma. Precepts Master Jinpyo said to them, “I’ve marked the area where auspicious plants grew on Songnisan Mountain. Build a temple there to save the world according to the doctrines and the Dharma and disseminate them among the future generations.” Obeying the master, the group went to Songnisan Mountain and found the area marked by the master. There, they built a temple, named it Gilsangsa, and held their first Jeomchal Assembly there. It is believed that Gilsangsa Temple was the precursor to Beopjusa. Considering that the temple was referred to as Songnisa in Dongmunseon (Anthology of Eastern Literature) written in 1478, it is believed that the temple was first called Gilsangsa, then Songnisa and then Beopjusa.
    • Palsangjeon of Beopjusa Temple

    Okar Research

    "Saoshyant is a figure of Zoroastrian eschatology who brings about the final renovation of the world, the Frashokereti. The Avestan language name literally means "one who brings benefit," ….The role of the Saoshyant, or Astvat-ereta, as a future saviour of the world is briefly described in Yasht 19.88-96, where it is stated that he will achieve the frasho.kereti, that he will make the world perfect and immortal, and evil and Druj will disappear. He is identified as the son of Vîspa.taurwairî and it is stated that he will come forth from Lake Kansaoya/Kansava.". …Boyce, Mary (1975), A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. I

    ". frashokereti is a restoration of the time of creation. At the end of the "third time" (the first being the age of creation, the second of mixture, and the third of separation), there will be a great battle between the forces of good (the yazatas) and those of evil (the daevas). Frashokereti is the Avestan language term (Middle Persian frašagird) for the Zoroastrian doctrine of a final renovation of the universe,". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frashokereti

    "…described in Denkard 7.10.15ff as follows: Thirty years before the decisive final battle, a maiden named Eredat-fedhri ("Victorious Helper") and whose nickname is "Body-maker" will enter a lake (in Yasht 19.92, this is "Lake Kansava")….http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saoshyant

    "….The events of the final renovation are described in the Bundahishn (30.1ff): In the final battle with evil, the yazatas Airyaman and Atar will "melt the metal in the hills and mountains, and it will be upon the earth like a river" (Bundahishn 34.18), but the righteous (ashavan) will not be harmed…..Time will then end, and truth/righteousness (asha) and immortality will thereafter be everlasting."…..Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji (1938), History of Zoroastrianism

    "Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pāli), Maithree (Sinhala), Jampa (Tibetan) or Di-Lặc in Vietnamese, is regarded by Buddhists as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he is referred to as Ajita Bodhisattva…..Maitreya is a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor of the historic Śākyamuni Buddha. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time when the Dharma will have been forgotten by most on Jambudvipa. It is found in the canonical literature of all major Buddhist schools (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna), and is accepted by most Buddhists as a statement about an event that will take place when the Dharma will have been mostly forgotten on Earth…..The name Maitreya (Metteyya in Pāli) is derived from the Sanskrit word maitrī (Pāli: mettā) meaning "loving-kindness", which is in turn derived from the noun mitra (Pāli: mitta) in the sense of "friend"."….http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maitreya

    Bodhisattva Maitreya debout Pakistan Shahbaz - Garhi art du Gandhara Ier-IIIème siècle Schiste gris musée Guimet

    "Some have speculated that inspiration for Maitreya may have come from the ancient Indo-Iranian deity Mithra…. According to a book entitled The Religion of the Iranian Peoples, "No one who has studied the Zoroastrian doctrine of the Saoshyants or the coming saviour-prophets can fail to see their resemblance to the future Maitreya."….Tiele, Cornelis P. The Religion of the Iranian Peoples.

    "In the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, in the first centuries CE in northern India, Maitreya is represented as a Central Asian or northern Indian nobleman, holding a "water phial" (Sanskrit: Kumbha) in his left hand. Sometimes this is a "wisdom urn" (Sanskrit: Bumpa). He is flanked by his two acolytes, the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu. Maitreya-samiti was an extensive Buddhist play in Pre-Islamic Central Asia. The Maitreyavyakarana (in Sataka form) in Central Asia and Anagatavamsa in South India also mention him."….The Maitreya-samiti and Khotanese…http://www.gengo.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/

    Mithraic relief. Rome, 2nd to 3rd century AD (Louvre Museum)

    "In search of the Roman Mithra in Miroku and Maitreya…..In 'Mithra in Japan, China and Korea' by Tojo, Masato, in his search of the Mithra in Buddhist iconography and ideology, the case for the Roman Mithraic cult as well as earlier Indo-Iranian-Scythian or Sakka culture is built up as follows:…Miroku originates from the middle Persian name “Mihrak” for Mithra…..“The name Miroku itself is the definitive attestation that the origins of Miroku is Mithra……According to Prof. Imoto, the origin of the name Miroku is Middle Persian Mihrak, which is the nickname for Mithra. Mihrak was transcripted into Mi-l’әk* (Miroku 弥勒)…..

    What Are the Main Branches of Buddhism?

    Over the centuries, two main branches of Buddhism emerged: a transmission that traveled to Southeast Asia, and a transmission that evolved in East Asia. A further offshoot of the northern transmission also developed. All three branches began in India, and developed further as they moved across Asia.

    Theravada Buddhism

    Theravada is believed to be the oldest form of Buddhism. The term itself comes into use later, but the Theravada tradition upholds the monastic path and adheres to the oldest surviving recorded sayings of the Buddha, collectively called the Pali canon. These original texts were set down in the Pali language by monks in Sri Lanka in the first century CE. Prior to this codification, teachings had been transmitted orally, and concern arose that original texts must be preserved in light of the growing heterodoxy that was developing in India.

    Theravada recognizes the primacy and humanity of the historical Buddha. The Buddha was an exemplary figure. Enlightenment is an arduous task, available only to monks who explicitly pursue the path of Shakyamuni himself. Theravada is the dominant form of Buddhism today in Sri Lanka as well as Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. The subject matter of Buddhist art from these traditions focuses on life events of the Buddha.

    Mahayana Buddhism

    Mahayana is a philosophical movement that proclaimed the possibility of universal salvation, offering assistance to practitioners in the form of compassionate beings called bodhisattvas. The goal was to open up the possibility of buddhahood (becoming a Buddha) to all sentient beings. The Buddha ceased to be simply a historical figure, but rather was interpreted as a transcendent figure who all could aspire to become.

    New sutras (texts) were added to the Buddhist canon, causing rifts among the various sects. Reformers called themselves the &ldquogreater vehicle&rdquo (Mahayana), and they labeled the traditionalists the &ldquolesser vehicle&rdquo (Theravada). The bodhisattva developed as an enlightened being who postpones his own salvation in order to help others. Initially understood as companions to the Buddha, bodhisattvas are spiritual beings who compassionately vow to achieve buddhahood, but have deferred this aspiration in order to liberate all creatures in the universe from suffering. The most popular bodhisattvas appearing in sculpture and painting include Avalokiteshvara (bodhisattva of mercy and compassion), Maitreya (the future Buddha), and Manjushri (bodhisattva of wisdom).

    Mahayana also spread to Southeast Asia, however its greatest impact is felt in the East Asian nations of China, Korea, and Japan. As Mahayana evolved, it continued to expand a vast pantheon of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other divine and semi-divine beings, drawing from and assimilating regional and local traditions.

    Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism

    Tantric or Esoteric Buddhism, sometimes called Vajrayana (the Vehicle of the Thunderbolt), developed about 500&ndash600 CE in India. An offshoot of Mahayana Buddhism, the origins of Tantric Buddhism can be traced to ancient Hindu and Vedic practices as well, including esoteric ritual texts designed to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual breakthroughs. Tantric Buddhism is sometimes described as offering a shortcut to enlightenment. Because some practices subverted mainstream Buddhism and Hinduism, engaging in acts otherwise considered taboo, its practitioners were secretive. Initiates worked closely with a spiritual guide or guru.

    Vajrayana Buddhism is most closely identified with Tibetan Buddhism, however, it also influenced parts of Southeast Asia and East Asia. Buddhism thrived in India for more than a millennium, reaching an expansive culmination in the Pala period in eastern India. By the 1100s CE, Buddhism had declined mainly as a result of Muslim incursions.

    Before this time, however, Buddhist doctrine had been transmitted to Sri Lanka, which became a further point of reference for the spread of Buddhism to Southeast Asia. Travelers and missionaries carried the message of Buddhism by sea and land routes through Central Asia into China by the first century CE. Buddhism flourished in China between 300 and 900 CE and provided a point of reference for Buddhism as it developed in Korea and Japan. Chinese translations of Indian texts contributed to the development of printing.

    Buddhism is still strong today in Bhutan, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, and Vietnam. Throughout its history and transmission, Buddhism has been very adaptable to local beliefs and customs, and the combination of these local forms with imported beliefs and symbols is a characteristic of Buddhist art throughout Asia.

    Watch the video: MireukMaitreya Buddha verse of the day 130408 (January 2022).