Tongdosa temple is one of Korea's five "Palace of the Jewel of Nirvana" temples, where the relics of the Buddha substitute for a statue. Precept Master Jajang brought the relics, including part of the Buddha's robes, from China and enshrined them (646C.E). Consequently, the temple represents the Buddha of Korea's three Jewel Temples and it also is a Full Monastic Training Temple, with Yeongchuk Monastery.
Mt. Yeongchuk surrounding the temple resembles Mt. Grdhrakatu where the Buddha delivered the Lotus Sutra and Tongdo, the name of temple means "Pass through (to) Enlightenment." In addition, all monks have to pass through the Diamond Precept Platform(Geumganggyedan) at the temple, where ordinations take place.
It is traditionally a Seon Temple which has had many famous monks including Seon Master Gyeongbong.
Before entering the temple compound, the visitor has to pass over the "windless" bridge which leads into a forest of "windless" pines. Most temples have a bridge-often over a wonderful rushing torrent- before the gates to the compound.
There are numerous temple buildings between the Iljumoon(one pillar gate) and the Daeungjeon(Main Buddha Hall). Of special interest is the Tongdosa Museum that is the only one in the world dedicated to the preservation of Buddhist temple paintings.
As far as the number of buildings is concerned, there are over 50 temple buildings inside of temple compound, the largest temple in Korea.
Many of these ancient buildings look today just as they did in the past. There are many small 20 hermitages scattered around the temple grounds. The river-valley and forest near Tongdosa are an ecological paradise.
Daeungjeon is usually the place where Buddha's statue is enshrined. But in Tongdosa temple, there is no Buddha's statue, because there is Geumgang ordination platfoem(Diamond Precept Platform) where the Shakyamuni's sariras are kept alongside of Daeungjeon. The main spirit of constructing Tongdosa temple is at the Geumgang ordination altar. It is a kind of pagoda preserving Shakyamuni's sariras. Receiving ordination at this altar has the most precious meaning because it is presumed to be the same meaning as receiving it from Shakyamuni Buddha. It is National Treasure No. 290.
Eungjinjeon is also known as Nahanjeon(the hall of Arahat:disciples), named after this building's central figure, the 16 disciples of Buddha. Nahan translates into "Arahat" in sanscrit, and there are several connotations of this word. It refers to the concept of self-improvement by offering food to Buddha(eung-gong) the concept of bringing others to enlightenment by following truth(eung-jin) or the state of having nothing left to learn(Muhak). Generally, Nahan represents a being transcended the life of egotism and worldly desires through a life of devotion and self-discipline by following Buddha's teachings.
Myeong-bu refers to the afterworld or hell. Accordingly, Myeongbujeon is a reproduction of the other world. The Ksitigarbha bodhisattva, the central figure of this hall, postphoned to become a buddha in order to make all sentient beings enlightened. Many Buddhists visit this hall to pray that their ancestors are reborn in Paradise.
Portraits of the three Great Masters, shrine of three sages(Moo-hak, Jigong, Naong) in Korean buddhism. They have been held in great respect by many buddhists even in these days.
It means a Shrine of mountain gods. An old man on the mountain tiger in the picture represents a mountain god that is human guardian protecting us from evil spirits. Originally, it is not a part of buddhism. It is a kind of native beliefs which people in Korea believe that spirits exist everywhere since ancient times.
It has been used meditation hall only for monks, so admission is very restricted to ordinary people. Monks from all over the country gather together in order to carry out meditation training during summer retreat(Apr, 15th~Jul,15th) and winter retreat(Oct,15th~Jan,15th) each year.
the Pavillion of sutra is the building where the wooden printing blocks of fifteen major Buddhist scriptures are kept.
It is written about the journey of Buddha's sariras on the front side, Buddha's journey and the contents of his speech at each area in the back of gravestone.
This hall is the home of the Medicine Buddha who resides in the Jeongyuri world in the East and not only leads people to reach nirvana but also cures them of disease and protects them from disasters. The Medicine Buddha always faces the east. It is said that in this past life, the Medicine Buddha, in carrying out his duties as the Medicine King put forth twelve wishes in order to eliminate pain and sadness for humankind. Thus, this Buddha is also called the Great Medicine King Buddha(Dae uiwangbul) to symbolize his past.
The title of Yonghwajeon, where the statue of the Maitreya(the Buddha of the Future) was enshrined , derived from the belief that will appear under the Yonghwa or dragon tree in the dragon realm. It is also known as Maitreya Hall, as the statue of Maitreya is enshrined. After Shakyamuni reached nirvana, the Maitreya will appear on earth some 5 billion 670million years later to save those souls which even Shakamuni could not save. For this reason, the Korean people have widely believed in the Maitreya as the Buddha of Future since the three Kingdom period(B.C. 57-668A.D.) This world symbolizes the wealthy and carefree dragon's realm, where the Maitreya rules over dragons, flying Chinese phoenix, and lotus blossoms.
It's supposed to symbolize as a Shakyamuni Buddha's rice bowl.
It is not only illuminating the dark regions of a temple but its light symbolizes the truth of Buddha which leads humanity down the path of good.
This hall enshrines the Bodhisattva of loving kindness and compassion (Gwanseeumbosal, Avalokitesvara). This buddha relieves mankind from suffering, and gives benefits to living creatures, regardless of whether one believe in Buddhism.
The Daegwangmyeongjeon is where the Vairocana(the cosmic Buddha) is enshrined. Vairocana means "to emanate bright lighst far and wide" The hand gesture of this Buddha is right hand wrapped around the thump of his left hand. It sybolizes how the buddha will soon be at one with the people of this world.
The protrait hall for the Great 85 Masters of Tongdosa temple
This gate represents the fact that visitor is passing from the secular world into the spiritual world of the temple. These two worlds are not different from one another, they are not two, non-dual like life and death, encounter and seperation. Ultimately, Buddha and sentient beings are not different but the same. Somewhere before reaching the main entrance to the temple, you see the bridges crossing over a stream. This crossing is also a symbolic purification.
This place enshrines the Amitabha(the Buddha of infinite light) and thus is also known as the Amitajeon, or as the Muryangsujeon because it represents the eternal tranquility of paradise. The Geuknockjeon, being the world of the Western paradise ruled by Amitabha Buddha, is always positioned to the west, erected there in order to make worshippers face that direction. There is never any suffering in paradise which is an ideal world with only happiness. Accordingly, if those who desire this world memorize the mantra "Namu amitabul", then they will invoke a new life in paradise.
This gate enshrined four different kings who ruled over the four directions(east, west, south, north). Cheonwangmun(the Four Guardians Gate) was erected not only to protect temple itself but also as an atempt to maintain the purity and cleanliness of the temple, with guardian kings to chase away evil spirits, that's why their faces look so fearsome.
Manseru was originally used when Buddhist conferences or important Buddhist ceremonies were conducted. Now it is used as a buddhist souvenir shop and bookshop.