Friday, January 13, 2012

The World of Wonhyo pilgrimage

Last year in the month of December a group of pilgrims staggered into the site of “Wonhyo's Cave” high on Wonhyo-bong, a 510-metre peak southwest of Seoul. Some of them had been on the road for 15 days.

They achieved the first known re-enactment in more than 1,300 years of a journey the famous Korean Buddhist saint Wonhyo made from Gyeongju to the area of the cave, which now bears his name.

The journey exposed them to the heart of Korean kindness, and opened rare doors to the spiritual culture of the hermit kingdom. During the journey they had striven to look inside and emulate the level of self-understanding or enlightenment that Wonhyo had achieved in the area of the cave in the 7th Century.

Many adventures met them on the way.

One of the pilgrimage narrated "Fortunately as dark closed in, we chanced upon a small isolated hermitage. Ven. Sangmin, one of our party and a Korean Buddhist monk, spoke to the solitary monk at the temple, which was called Jajang Am, and is part of Oeo Temple. The monk, Ven. Park Chong-sang Seunim, offered us lodgings for the night. He gave us bedding and cooked us an evening meal and also breakfast, and when we thanked him, he bowed and said in Korean 'thank you for giving me the opportunity to show loving-kindness.'"

the pilgrims covered just shy of 500 kilometers, much of which was walked along back roads and mountain tracks. The journey took them from Gyeongju to what is known as Wonhyo's cave near Dangjin. After their arrival the pilgrims celebrated Wonhyo's enlightenment by drinking pure spring water in a brief ceremony. Wonhyo's own enlightenment had come about after he had accidently drunk putrid water from a human skull.

"It was a wonderful way to finish what had been a series of incredible hikes from temple to temple to ‘minbak’ (family inn) across the Korean Peninsula," said Tony MacGregor, who conceived the idea of the pilgrimage in 2007 when he was working in Korea as a journalist. "We hope the pilgrimage becomes an annual event." Details of the journey are posted on

Source: The Korea Times

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