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2nd Wonhyo Pilgrimage Trek Launches on Saturday Sept 1st

The second trial-run of the Wonhyo Pilgrimage Trail will kick-off with a dinner in Gyeongju Friday evening, and an early-morning start from Bunhwang-sa on Saturday — finishing that day’s trek at Gogul-sa and then pressing onward north then west. This is a religious-tourism project a few of us woiguks have been planning & pushing since 2007, with support from some Korean friends. This time the pilgrims will be making a pro-quality video as they go, recording the landscapes, temples & villages along the way, and interviewing monks about Wonhyo’s philosophy & other Buddhist ideas. Should be some adventurous fun, again!

Here is Tony’s recent press-release:
Second Wonhyo pilgrimage aims to re-enact Korean saint’s journey of 1,300 years ago

SEOUL – On September 1 a group of seven pilgrims will leave Bunwhang-sa temple in Gyeonju to re-enact the famous journey the Korean Buddhist saint Wonhyo made from Gyeongju to the area of Gaya-san Wonhyo-bong near the west coast port of Dangjin, more than 1,300 years ago.

This is the second Wonhyo pilgrimage. The first one, an exploratory trip, took place in December of last year. In that journey, the pilgrims covered just shy of 500 km, much of which was walked along back roads and mountain tracks. The journey took them from Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Korean Shilla kingdom, to what is known as Wonhyo’s cave near Dangjin, on the west coast of South Chungcheong Province. The second pilgrimage is expected to finish in the same place.

Tony MacGregor, one of the organizers of the pilgrimage, said the first journey was an inspiring experience. “We saw a side of Korea that is usually hidden – a wonderful kindness, and a profound spiritual culture that is very open. In fact, we were so impressed that this time we decided to make a documentary film of our journey, interview the monks we meet on the way and record their way of life.”

Wonhyo’s journey resulted in his enlightenment. Legend has it that he and fellow spiritual seeker Uisang, took shelter from a storm in an old tomb they thought was a cave. During the night Wonhyo became thirsty and began searching on the ground for a gourd of water. He found one and picked it up and drank deeply from it. The water was sweet and refreshing and he slept deeply until dawn. In the morning he discovered that the vessel he had drunk from was not a gourd but a human skull. It was not filled with sweet, clean water but instead was full of dirty rainwater, rotting meat and maggots. He was so revolted by what he had drank that he fell on his knees and vomited. At that moment, the question came to his mind “Why? Why was the water so sweet and refreshing in the night and yet so revolting in the day?” The answer came to him that it was his mind that determined the difference between the water at night time and in daytime, not the water itself. He realized that truth is created by the mind. At that moment, he attained enlightenment.

On the first pilgrimage, after their arrival at Wonhyo’s cave on December 18, the pilgrims celebrated the saint’s enlightenment by drinking pure spring water from vessels they took to the cave during a brief ceremony. “It was a wonderful way to finish what had been a series of incredible hikes from temple to temple to minbak (family inn) across the Korean Peninsula,” said Tony MacGregor, who conceived the idea of the pilgrimage in 2007 when he was working in Korea as a journalist. “We plan to do the same thing at the end of this second pilgrimage.”

The cave, he said, is an unpretentious place, a dark hole gouged into a huge rock, a good place to shelter from rain but not a comfortable place to spend a night. It was once venerated as the home of a mountain spirit before Wonhyo meditated in it , after which it became a Buddhist shrine honoring him. The cave provided a symbolic end to the journey, he said, and was not the actual tomb where Wonhyo attained enlightenment, a spot about which there is no consensus.

MacGregor said the pilgrimage was a joint effort between him and his friends and was inspired by the kindness and goodwill from Koreans that he and his friends had experienced during their stays in Korea. “We wanted to say thank you to Korea and Koreans in a special way, and what better way than through a pilgrimage to honor Korea’s most beloved and respected Buddhist saint, Wonhyo.”

MacGregor thanks the Templestay Program and the Jogye Order for their help and cooperation with the project.

More information about the pilgrimage can be found at www.inthefootstepsofwonhyo.com

Media attention and any othe support or interest is welcome!
CONTACTS:     Tony MacGregor, tony.macgregor@gmail.com 010-8694-1250.        Chris McCarthy, inthefootstepsofwonhyo@gmail.com
David A. Mason, mntnwolf@yahoo.com http://www.san-shin.org 82-10-9734-9753, in Seoul

Photos from the launch of the first trek last December.
I’ll post the schedule in the comments…

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Tentative schedule by Tony, certainly could change according to circumstances:

    Bunwhang-sa, Gyeongju City, Gyeongsang-bukdo. 054-742-9922
    September 1, 2012 – Walk
    This is the kick-off temple in Gyeongju. We will arrive early in the morning on Sept. 1, film people making their oblations and talk to temple staff before heading towards Gogul-sa and O-eo-sa. Perhaps David Mason can give a talk about Wonhyo. I also can give a brief talk about the pilgrimage.

    Walk to Gogul-sa, Toham-san Area, Gyeongju National Park. Overnight Sept. 1/ 2, 2/3 and 3/4. This is the temple Wonhyo passed into nirvana at. It is very active and famous for its Temple-Stay program, as well as its unique cliff-carved Buddha figure.

    Tuesday, Sept. 4 – Walk to O-eo-sa, southern Pohang City; visit Wonhyo-am and Jajang-am. Then travel by van to Daejeon-sa, Juwang-san NP, Gyeongsang-buk-do. Overnight Sept. 4/5, 5/6 and 6/7.

    Friday, Sept. 7 – Walk to Cheongryang-sa, Cheongnyang-san Provincial Park, Gyeongsang-buk-do. Overnight Sept. 7/8, 8/9

    Afternoon Sunday Sept. 9 – Walk to Yongmun-sa (south slopes of the Baekdu-daegan Range), Gyeongsang-buk-do. Overnight Sept. 9/10, 10/11

    Afternoon Tuesday, Sept. 11, Walk to Gimryong-sa (south slopes of the Baekdu-daegan Range), Gyeongsang-buk-do. Overnight Sept. Sept. 11/12, 12/13

    Afternoon Thursday Sept. 13, Travel to Yeongpyong-sa, Chungcheong-namdo. Overnite Sept. 13/14, 14/15

    Afternoon Saturday Sept. 15, Walk to Shin-gu-am, Chungcheong-namdo. Overnight Sept. 15/16, 16/17

    Afternoon Wednesday Sept. 17 – Walk to Gap-sa, Gyeryong-san National Park, Chungcheong-namdo. Overnight Sept. 17/18, 18/19

    Afternoon Sept. 19 – Walk to Magok-sa, Chungcheong-namdo.
    Overnight Sept. 19/20, 20/21

    Afternoon Sunday Sept. 21 – Walk to Sudeok-sa, Deoksan Provincial Park, Chungcheong-namdo. Overnight Sept 21/22, 22/23, 23/24, 24/25

    Afternoon of Tuesday Sept. 25 – Closing ceremony at Cave on Gaya-san Wonhyo-bong.

  • RolyPoly

    “Pilgrim” is a specific word used for those who are going to Jesus’ heaven.

    Just use “Religious trip”.

    You don’t have to steal Christian word, thereby reducing Jesus’ hope as one of many religions.

  • RolyPoly

    I was wrong.

    Webster dictionary defines the word in broader sense,
    1: one who journeys in foreign lands : wayfarer
    2: one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee

    I just wanted to say that Jesus’ promise is unique.

  • R. Elgin

    Per #2, I more so appreciate the problems in promoting an event like this in a country that is so blinded by evangelical nonsense that they have not the appreciation or wisdom to invest in their own magnificent cultural heritage. Some in government and business try to cover up this aspect of their culture since it does not glorify their ideas about Jesus and promote their own sense of self.

    Frankly, evangelical Koreans remind me more of Iranians and their mullahs that would destroy their ancient sites only because those ancient kings were not Muslim.

    This is a wonderful event and I regret I am too busy to go.

  • http://samgukyusa.blogspot.com/ Yeongung

    Good luck with the documentary! I really hope I can see it when you are done. I wish I could go on the pilgrimage as well. Even if you don’t look at it for it’s religious aspects, such a journey would be magnificent.

  • JG29A

    On the first pilgrimage, after their arrival at Wonhyo’s cave on December 18, the pilgrims celebrated the saint’s enlightenment by drinking pure spring water from vessels they took to the cave during a brief ceremony.

    So they did the exact opposite of the supposed point, drinking objectively pure water. I’ll bet that if several of them got a water-borne illness, there’d by government inspectors there in a jiffy, using science rather than blaming the sufferers for lack of subjective powers.

  • R. Elgin

    Per #6, that may be true, however it does not detract from Wonhyo’s original insight regarding the nature of reality. Just the mere observation of something can change what we regard as reality. As per the original post:

    . . . He realized that truth is created by the mind.

    I believe he meant “reality” instead of truth. This is a profound observation that I wrestle with all the time.

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    well, i’m sure they searched for some putrid tomb-drip water, but ya know that’s kinda hard to find these days, and expensive if ya do :-)

    Nobody’s trying to replicate Wonhyo’s seongbul exactly; to try would be to entirely miss “the supposed point”. Each of the million people that have attained enlightenment through Buddhism have done so in their own way, each experience unique. We seek to celebrate Wonhyo’s attainment and be inspired by it, not to imitate him.

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    the kick-off dinner last night, at a suburban Gyeongju restaurant under that dramatic full moon, went well. (so i’m told, as i was was prevented by personal business from being there — will meet-up with the pilgrims later-on). They started walking at 8am today — good weather for it.