day Buddha was going somewhere with many of his disciples, and they saw a pile
of dried bones. To everybody’s surprise Buddha suddenly bowed to the bones.
So His assistant Ananda asked Buddha, “Sir, you are the teacher of three realms
(sense-sphere realm, the material realm, the immaterial realm) and the compassionate
father of four types of beings (1. beings hatched from eggs; 2. beings born
from a womb; 3. moisture-born beings like insects; 4. apparitionally born beings
like gods or denizens of hell). How come you bow to the bones?” So the Buddha
said “Ananda, this pile of bones could be my ancestors or my parents from a
previous life. That’s why I am bowing to these bones.”
As this episode shows, Buddhism considers respect for parents a great merit.
Also, in Korea traditionally we have been educated that we should be faithful
to our parents, although these days this concept seems to be getting weaker.
But there is one temple which still tries to impart this important fact to people.
is located in Hwasung-si in Kyounggi Province. Unlike other temples which are
located in the mountains or in cities, Yongju-sa is just on the outskirts of
Suwon, close to a paved road, so it is very convenient to visit. To understand
this temple’s present situation, we should look into its historical background.
This temple was first built during the Silla dynasty, and called Galyang-sa,
but was destroyed during a war. During the Chosun dynasty, king Chung-jo rebuilt
it. As you may know, in the Chosun dynasty, the government encouraged Confucianism
but suppressed Buddhism. Then you may wonder why king Chug-jo rebuilt this temple
even in those circumstances. At first his policy concerning Buddhism was like
other kings in the Chosun dynasty. His father, the heir-apparent, was killed
in a rice box (a wooden container used to store rice) by his grandfather. There
was schism between factions. He was a victim of that quarrel. Anyway Chug-jo
always felt sorry for his father’s disgraceful death. One day he happened to
listen to a Dharma talk about the Filial Piety Sutra by Venerable Bo-gyoung.
This sutra teaches us how great parents’ love and sacrifice are. The king was
so moved by the contents of the sutra that he decided to build a temple. He
appointed Ven. Bo-gyoung as a money collector for all of Korea. The night before
they were going to have a celebration of the completion of the temple, Chug-jo
dreamed that a dragon was flying in the sky with a magic ball in its mouth.
After this dream he named the temple ‘Temple of a dragon with a magic ball’.
Yongju-sa has several programs which especially emphasize the importance
of respecting parents. One of the biggest events it holds is an annual festival
honoring Chug-jo’s father. Many citizens of Kyounggi province participate in
this event and remember the beautiful story of King Chug-jo’s filial act. Also
Yongju-sa opens its doors to about 200 students in summer, teaching temple life
and respect for parents. This temple tries to awaken the importance of filial
piety to the people around the area in many other ways, too.