A new Korean Buddhist temple called Bunhwang-sa will open on Saturday in Bodh Gaya, India. A delegation of 150 monks from the Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, plan to attend the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony will be led by Ven. Wonhaeng, president of the Jogye Order. The event marks the first time that a large group of pilgrims has traveled from Korea to Bodh Gaya since the outbreak of COVID-19 over two years ago.
The temple is part of the Jogye Order’s “One Million Vows Assembly” initiative, led by Ven. Wonhaeng with the aim of ensuring a strong future for Korean Buddhism. The initiative is in response to shrinking numbers of Korean Buddhists and the rapidly declining birthrate in Korea.
Speaking of the initiative, Ven. Wonhaeng said: “Each of us standing alone may be small and weak, but if the aspiration of a million Buddhists can be channeled together, we can achieve anything, anywhere in the world.” (Korean Buddhism)
Plans to build the temple began in 2019, when two women, Salmae and Yeonchui, donated 5 billion won (US$3.9 million) toward its completion. After that, members of Tongdo-sa, one of the three largest Buddhist temples in Korea, donated a 6,600-square-meter plot of land for the temple. The land is situated some 200 meters from the Mahabodhi temple complex at the heart of the city. Construction began in 2020 and progress has moved forward without major delays, despite the pandemic.
The temple will take up half of the donated land and will feature a Buddha hall, meditation hall, guest quarters, PR office, tea rooms, and a health clinic for local residents. Photos from earlier this year show the temple in its construction phase, with sweeping Korean-style rooflines in place before a sea of steel bars, where another building will be erected. Traditional Korean lanterns have been placed around a tree on the site, along with several Buddha statues awaiting their final home in the temple complex.
The name “Bunhwang” refers to the fragrance of a lotus flower, which stays untainted, despite blooming in mud. The term means Fragrant Emperor and is the same name given to a temple established in 634 CE in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 BCE–935 CE).
The temple in Korea was commissioned by Queen Seondeok (r. 632–47) as an act of devotion, in the hope that it would restore peace and prosperity to the land. In bestowing the same name, supporters of the new temple hope to bring good fortunes to pilgrims and the people of Bodh Gaya, who have long been among the most impoverished of India.
Ven. Wonhaeng and others hope that the move will be an important step in bringing about a revival of Korean Buddhism in the 21st century. As plans were set forth for the temple two years ago, he said: “One person’s aspiration will move 100 people, and 10,000 vows will flow into a grand river of one million vows. We will never stop our ardent prayers until the bright future of Korean Buddhism unfolds wide before us.” (Korean Buddhism)
The city of Bodh Gaya, located in Bihar State in northeastern India, is the best known of Buddhism’s four main pilgrimage sites. The other three are Lumbini, in Nepal, where the Buddha was born, Shravasti, where the Buddha gave his first teaching, and Kushinagar, where he passed away or entered paranirvana.
According to data from 2015, approximately 56 per cent of South Korea’s population holds no religious affiliation. Christians make up the majority of religious people in the country with some 27.6 per cent of the population, while Buddhists account for 15.5 per cent.
Korean-style Buddhist temple to open in Buddhism’s holy site in India (The Korea Herald)
Bunhwang-sa Temple to be built in ‘the land of Enlightenment’ (Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism)
Related news reports from BDG
Korea Resumes Annual Lantern Festival to Celebrate the Birth of the Buddha
Jogye Buddhist Order Condemns Perceived Religious Bias in South Korea
Buddhist Temple to Open Tripitaka Koreana to the Public for the First Time
Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya Reopens to the Public After Months of Lockdown
UPDATE: South Korean Buddhist Temple Enshrines Buddha Statue Gift from India
Korean Buddhists Join Fellow Religious Leaders to Call for Ban on Discrimination Against Minorities
Buddhists in Bodh Gaya Fear for the Future After India Enacts New Citizenship Law