Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pilgrims film re-enactment of Wonhyo’s journey

On Sept. 24 five pilgrims arrived at a small cave high on Wonhyo-bong peak southwest of Seoul, to shoot a documentary.

After 24 days on the road they had achieved the second 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 first re-enactment took place in December 2011. Several of the pilgrims participated in both pilgrimages. Their ultimate aim is to establish a permanent Wonhyo pilgrimage trail across the Korean peninsula and record their efforts.

“We made a documentary film of this second pilgrimage and we hope the film will become a powerful tool in establishing a permanent Wonhyo pilgrimage trail right across the peninsula,” said Tony MacGregor, a Canadian journalist and one of the organizers of the pilgrimage.

He said the film is scheduled to be released in both English and Korean on Buddha’s birthday in April next year.

MacGregor said that the pilgrims covered about 500 km, much of which was walked along back roads and mountain tracks. The journey took them from Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Korean Shilla Kingdom, to what is known as Wonhyo's cave near Dangjin, on the west coast of South Chungcheong Province, just south of Incheon.

Chris McCarthy, a co-director of the film, said the journey opened doors to the spiritual culture of the mountain monasteries, exposed them to wonderful examples of Korean kindness and offered opportunity for self-reflection on their life experiences.

Snorre Kjeldsen, his co-director, said the ultimate aim of the project team is for Koreans and international visitors to reconnect to themselves, each other, and to nature, while getting a chance to discover their own original, unchanging natures. “There is something very powerful about just walking. Most of the time we are all stuck in traffic, stuck in subways, stuck in our mental habits. By just walking life becomes very simple, and offers access to insight”, said Kjeldsen.

MacGregor said they visited 11 monasteries and talked to several abbots and many monks and recorded their conversations. “Through the film, we hope to share the wisdom of these monks who spent many years in the monasteries, and also share Korean Buddhism, which has unique qualities.”

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