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Light of Truth Shines in South Korea on Buddha's Birthday

The Seoul Times, May 21, 2016

Ven. Donghwi of Yeoraesa Temple Enlightens World

Seoul, South Korea
-- A variety of lotus lanterns are hung at a Buddhist temple in Seoul on the occasion of Buddha's birthday, which falls on May 14 in 2016.

<< A variety of lotus lanterns are hung at a Buddhist temple in Seoul on the occasion of Buddha's birthday, which falls on May 14 in 2016.

Buddhas Birthday is the May 14 (Saturday), 2016, this year and it is celebrated as national holiday in South Korea for both Buddhists and laypeople a like.

Locally called "Seokga Tanil (???)," or "Bucheonim Osin Nal,” literally "the day when the Buddha came," the Buddha's Birthday falls on the eighth day of the fourth month according to the lunar calendar in South Korea.

As in Korea many other Asian Buddhist countries designated Buddha's Birth as their official holiday. They include Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong.

It is the festival day for virtually all Korean folks, Buddhists or non-Buddhists alike, since Korean Buddhism boasts of over 1,500 years of tradition. There are presently more than 22,000 Buddhist temples scattered across the country.

On this day or even before a month ahead all the temples and laypeople's homes are lit with various colorful lotus lanterns in their wish to enlighten earthly world with the light of the truth.

On this joyous day streets are also dedorated with a long line of lotus lanterns leading all the way to the temples. Nation's all Buddhist temples offer free meals and tea to all visitors. The free lunch is served normally with "sanchae bibimbap," or a bowl of rice mixed with various mountain vegetables.

In the evening of May 7, 2016 the main street of Gwanhwamun in downtown Seoul was lit with a massive lotus lantern parade. Tens of thousands of locals and many other foreigners took part in the long procession of 100,000 lotus lanterns.

Special ceremonies were held at all the Buddhist temples in and around Seoul area. Among hundreds of them were Chogeysa Temple (???: 02-768-8600) in Gyeonji-dong in Jongro-gu, Bongeunsa Temple (???: 02-545-1448) in Samseong-dong, Gilsangsa Temple (???: 02-3672-5945) in Seongbuk-dong, and Seunggasa Temple (???: 02-379-2996) in Gugi-dong in Jongro-gu.

Jingwansa Temple (???: 02-359-8410) in Jingwanoe-dong in Eunpyeong-gu is easily accessible by subway or bus.

Bulamsa Temple (???: 031-527-8345) in Byeolnae-myon in Namyangju City in Gyeonggi Province and Sammaksa Temple (???: 031-471-5978) in Anyang City in Gyeonggi Province were also good places to visit.

Ven. Donghwi, chief monk of Yeoraesa Temple in Hongcheon

In particular, Yeoraesa Temple (???: 033-434-7232) in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, was filled by many Buddhists and laypeple who attended a special Buddha's Birthday ceremony and shared the free lunch each other afterwards.

Its chief monk Ven. Donghwi greeted each of them and wished them a good luck and a health. Se wants to turn her temple to a center of world Buddhism on a spacious plot surrounded by deep mountains.

"I want to shed light of truth on the people with the blessings of Buddha," Ven. Donghwi said. "My temple is the center of Happy Mandala, the right source of the true light of the world."

In recent years Ven. Donghwi has been quite busy, opening her own Buddha hall in the upscale Apgujeong area of Seoul, and other branches in North America.

Statistics say that nearly 23 percent of South Korea's 48 million population are Buddhists or its laypeople. Buddhism is the largest religion followed by Protestant Christianity and Catholicism.

South Korea's largest Buddhist sect, Chogye Order, boasts of 14,000 Buddhist priests at its 2,500 Buddhist temples. There are 28 Buddhist sects in South Korea.

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