A 1,300-YEAR-OLD TREE, MORE THAN A LEGEND
Maggie H is a Global Explorer and Wellness Guru from Hong Kong. Among many spiritual endeavors, Maggie practices and leads Qigong meditation to help people around the world find their inner balance. Find out more about this practice and join her weekly on ICBRKR's live Eastern Philosophy & Meditation stream every Wednesday.
We may have heard of many stores in our lives, some of which are beyond our comprehension. This story is about a 1,300-year-old tree at the Buseoksa temple in Korea.
I saw this tree for the first time in the late 80s during a school trip to the famous temple. This temple has many national treasures, and in 2018 it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The temple was founded by a scholar-monk, Uisang, in 676 and was commissioned by King Munmu of Silla. With its long history of over 1,300 years, there are many interesting stories about the temple from various old books including the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (Samkuk Yusa, 三國遺事, published in the seventh century) and The Jahol Diary (Yeolha Ilgi, 熱河日記, published in the 18th century).
Muryangsujeon, the temple's main hall, is the second oldest wooden building in Korea and is also a national treasure (#18). Behind Muryangsujeon, there is a gigantic flat stone sitting almost as if it's floating in the air, hence the name 'floating stone' temple. Legend has it that when Uisang was leaving Tang (唐, current China) after finishing his study, a young lady called Sonmyo (善妙), who loved him very much, threw herself into the ocean and promised that she would become a dragon and protect him forever.
While he was trying to build the temple, thieves were occupying the area and interrupted the progress. Then, Sonmyo the dragon appeared; she lifted the stone and flew around with it threatening the thieves, and then, dropped the stone right there.
Uisang was thus able to successfully complete the temple, after which he had to leave for India for further studies. As he was leaving, he stuck his well-thumbed dharma staff right outside a small building called Josadang (祖師堂, national treasure of Korea number #19) and said, “After I leave, branches and leaves will grow out of this dharma staff and as long as this staff doesn't dry out and die, you'll know that I am alive.”
The tree has been there, under the eaves, close to the wall where no rain or morning dew can reach, for more than 1,300 years! It has been mentioned in many old texts and some famous scholars have also written poems of praise. The above picture is from the archives of the National Museum of Korea, taken some time during the Japanese occupation (1910 – 1945). As you can see, it's thin and small for its age and fame. I remember being disappointed when I first saw it, too. Well, the size has remained the same for so many years. The only difference is that back then, the fence was low and I could've touched the branches if I tried. Nowadays, it's completely protected with metal netting so that only the wind can get through.
Another interesting aspect of the tree is that though it usually blooms yellow flowers in lunar April around Buddha's birthday, it did not bloom during the Japanese occupation. When the Japanese no longer occupied Korea, the tree finally bloomed again after 30 years.
Such marvelous wonders in the world, like this tree, humble us to drop all our shallow knowledge and open our hearts.
The Sobaek Mountain where the Buseoksa temple is located is well known for turning leaves in autumn. I want to go there and sit next to the tree with an open heart; I'm sure then I wouldn't mind the metal netting at all.
See you soon, at the next ICBRKR Wellness: Eastern Philosophy stream, every Wednesday.
Maggie H is a Life Cartographer, Eastern philosopher, Qigong master, Buddhist and Taoist meditator, Feng Shui practitioner, and researcher of Buddhist scriptures. She lives in Hong Kong, and regularly travels to both India and South Korea to further her spiritual growth and development. Her lifelong motto is: "benefit to all humankind."
To find out more about Maggie's work, check out her website and join other ICBRKRs around the world in her live streams every Wednesday. Check the app, under Global Live Streams, for exact times in your location.
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