THREE GIANT BUDDHAS

ruben-150x150by Rubén Hornillo Rodriguez

There are times in your life when you just need that extra little push to make things happen. You want to get into a particular school, find a better job (or just any job!), start making money with your business or something as simple as putting an end to a dry spell! I was in exactly that situation in 2010 when I visited Buddhist Temples all over Asia in search of that X factor. After visiting temples with Giant Buddhas and buying charms there, good things started to happen. So, if you happen to have the opportunity to travel around Asia, I suggest you visit the following temples.

 

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SINHEUNGSA TEMPLE, SEORAKSAN’S NATIONAL PARK, KOREA       

Sinheungsa, located in Seoraksan’s National Park, is the oldest Zen Buddhism temple in the World. For those of you who might be wondering why such a place is in Korea and not in Japan, some trivia: Japanese culture, and Zen Buddhism, originated in China and traveled to Japan via the Korean peninsula. This temple, first built in 653, has a pretty awe-inspiring, 48-foot (15 meters) high statue of Buddha on one of the main hiking paths in Seoraksan’s National Park. This work of art, named “Tongil Daebul” (Reunification) was built in 1992 to symbolize and encourage the reunification of the Korean people.

A hike in Seoraksan in Autumn is a must-do activity. The turning of the leaves, from green to a very intense red is regarded as one of the most beautiful natural spectacles by Koreans, and that’s why they make pilgrimages by the thousands during the 2-3 week-long season. I never saw so many people hiking at the same time! The paths are always crowded, even if there are several that take you to different places. An easy and recommendable one leads to the cave of the hermitage Gyeojam. Koreans know how to monetize the business of hiking, and there are plenty of places to eat typical hiking savories like bibimbap, pajong and one of their national drinks, makkoli.

 

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KOTOKUIN TEMPLE, KAMAKURA, JAPAN

If you are ever around Tokyo and want a more intimate Buddhist experience than the always-crowded Asakusa temple, you can hop on a train to Kamakura and make use of your Japan Rail Pass. In less than 2 hours you’ll be on your way to one of Japan’s most charming temples. The main reason people come here is to see the 44-foot high (13 meters) bronze statue of Amitabha Buddha that dates to 1252. The inside of the Buddha can be visited so that you can get to experience what a Buddha feels on the inside (excuse the lame joke, I couldn’t help it).
After visiting the temple, taking some fabulous Instagram shots and buying a lucky charm or a replica of the statue that fits in your suitcase, you can visit one of the surrounding restaurants. I had the best suyikaki ever in one of them. After that, you can hop on the train back to Tokyo just in time for Tokyo’s night life.

 

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TIAN TIAN BUDDHA, HONG KONG

If you think Hong Kong is a futuristic, fast-paced city with no room for spirituality, think twice. 75% of the former British colony is a Natural Reserve, and located in the mountains of Lantau Island is what could be considered the skyscraper of Giant Buddhas, the Tian Tan Buddha. This masterpiece of modern architecture, built in 1993, is more a Buddha-shaped building than a statue. The interior of the statue is full of rooms, stairs, and serves as a museum. The Great Buddha is 112-foot (34 meters) high.
In the vicinity, you can visit the Po Lin Monastery, an international Buddhist retreat center There is also an outdoor shopping mall where you can buy souvenirs. From here you can take a gondola lift back to Tung Chung, at sea level, where you can catch a subway back to more urban areas of Hong Kong. During the ride make sure you take in the amazing views from the cable car as you descend from the peak of the island. It’s quite a breathtaking experience.