A lot of international monks and nuns like to stay in Hwagyesa to practice the *Seon Buddhism. * Seon is equivalent to Japanese ‘Zen’ or Chinese ‘Chan’.
The Temple is located deep in the foothills of Samgak Mountain, even being close to the Seoul center. It was founded in 1522 C.E. during the reign of Joseon King Jungjong, in the Buheodong region of Samgaksan, as the hermitage Bodeokam. Bodeokam was a hermitage founded during the beginning of the Goryeo Dynasty in the vicinity of the present Hwagyesa.
Hwagyesa received a lot of support from the Joseon Dynasty’s royal family, particularly during the reign of King Gojong, when the Queen Mother and her retainers would frequent go to the temple, so it became known as the “Palace temple.” In addition, in 1933 a group of nine Korean literature scholars stayed at the temple for the conference to finalize the unified orthography of the Korean Hangul alphabet.
But more than anything else, the name Hwagyesa is widely known due to the efforts of the Korean monk Ven. SoongSahn (1927-2004). Ven. SoongSahn started living and practicing at Hwagyesa in the mid 1960’s. During his frequent world travels, he taught more than 50,000 disciples around the globe. There are more than 100 international monks and nuns who ordained under Ven. SungSan Sunim at Hwagyesa. During his lifetime Ven. SoongSahn came to be revered as a living Buddha, due to his incredible efforts and influence spreading the Dharma abroad. After he entered Nirvana in 2004, the mourners at his funeral and subsequent public cremation were predominantly international monks and nuns.
Hwagyesa’s Templestay Program
Hwagyesa does not give the feeling of being in a city, even though it is still technically located in Seoul. Once you pass through the Iljoomun (One Pillar Gate), another world unfolds before you. Whereas outside the Iljoomun all the houses are tightly packed together, inside the temple gate, the forest lined road stretches into the distance. The sound of the water resonating from the valley below, is yet another gift that welcomes the visitor. People often drop by the stream for a short time, just to soak their feet. The practice of 3000 bows, being held every last Saturday Evening of the month is also very well.