images of the crossing over

Release

Tomorrow is the 15th day of the first lunar month: the end of the winter retreat (동안거 해제) as well as the traditional day of “saving lives” (방생) usually in the form of live fish intended for market. Our temple will purchase fish, although as I recall we usually buy fresh-water eels, not true finned beings, and release them along the banks of the Geum river. Although this release has roots in Buddhist doctrine, it will be accompanied by a ceremony to appease and comfort the Dragon King, ruler of all bodies of water. Fish belong to the Dragon King, and by releasing fish–instead of birds, which I hear is popular in Chinese/Taiwainese versions of this same ceremony–we also ask for the blessings of the King. An exchange that fits into the general economy of merit as conceived and practiced in Korea.

All that aside, part of the closing ceremonies for the end of the winter season includes a chesa, or ceremony for the ancestors. Tomorrow will not include an offering ceremony (불공) for Jijang Bosal, or Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, but Jijang Bosal is frequently a part of ceremonies for the dead. Said to guide those in the bardo from one life to the next and to have vowed to enter any of the realms of existence to save beings there, Jijang Bosal is a popular figure in Korean temples.

Our temple has an entire wall dedicated to Jijang Bosal in the main Dharma Hall. A central altar features the Bodhisattva with two attendants, but flanking the larger statue are one thousand smaller statues. They are mesmerizing without overwhelming, the waves of repetition soothing without distracting. I’ve personally never had much of a connection with Jijang Bosal; my personal practice has largely been dedicated to Avalokitshvara and Sakyamuni Buddha. This winter, however, I began reciting the sutra of Jijang Bosal in conjunction with a repentance and mantra practice. Little by little, the Bodhisattva has been approaching as this kido continues.

Tomorrow, looking at our soon-to-be-released fish, I’ll think of Jijang Bosal, hoping that one life at a time, we are all become more like the Bodhisattva: an endless repetition of great vows in the face of all manner of suffering, wave upon wave of resolution and actualization for the sake of all beings.

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10 responses

  1. I love the ranks of buddhas and bodhisattvas found in Korean temples – and the calm Jijang Bosals in your photograph are especially wonderful.

    May the Dragon King extend his blessings to all beings!

    February 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm

  2. Jizo! In Japan, his statues are everywhere, sometimes so eroded, they just look like big stone eggs beside the road.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:03 am

    • Dave–Japan’s JIzo’s are, in their rounded (and eroded) form, more compelling than Korea’s Jijang Bosal’s to me. I travelled back and forth to Fukuokua by boat about three times for visa issues before I got my religious visa, and I remember being surprised by Jizo’s omnipresence as I walked around the city: not only in temple courtyards or on altars, but urban roadsides, apartment complex gardens, stairwells…

      Barry–Of all the bodhisattvas, I’ve only seen Jijang Bosal replicated in this manner (I’m leaving out the ever-popular representations of the 500 Arahats, because they’re a different class of being). The color of the statues is actually a kind of medium jade with gold touches, but I’ve always preferred our altar in black-and-white. The Dragon King was certainly having fun today: we woke up to a significant snowfall; but it melted, amazingly, by noon and apparently the release of the eels was a tremendous success. (I stayed home with my dharma sister to clean up after the ceremony.)

      February 17, 2011 at 8:22 am

  3. The Sanjusangendo temple in Kyoto has 1001 gilded statues of Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), each with 40 arms.

    February 20, 2011 at 12:43 am

    • Dave: only 40? ….I’m disappointed. *grin*

      Koreans only really seem to dig Avalokiteshvara in her transsexual, two-armed form; she’s dressed like one of the Chinese Madonna Guan Yin’s in white, complete with veil and…mustache? Koreans always paint a mustache on Kwan Se Um Bosal. It’s a pity, because I’ve always been drawn to 1000-armed Avalokitshvara, mustache or no. (Perhaps because I dreamed of having swan’s wings attached to my back when I was young, and all those arms look like so many sweeping white pinions.) But 40 arms? It’s the first time I’ve heard of it. No pictures from that temple, I suppose?

      February 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm

  4. Wonderful! Thank you, Sunim!

    May I ask, do you recite a short version of the JiJang Bosal Sutra?
    My friend and I picked up the small booklet with his Suttra at Jogyesa, but there was much more than we expected. We weren’t sure if there was one part that was usually chanted or the whole thing.

    I was able to find this sutra, “Om Salva Motja Moji Sadaya Savaha.”
    Do you know if this is commonly chanted?

    Sorry for all the questions! I understand if you’re busy!!!

    thank you,
     성불하십시요 (^_^)

    February 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

  5. Wonderful! Thank you, Sunim!

    May I ask, do you recite a short version of the JiJang Bosal Sutra?
    My friend and I picked up the small booklet with his Suttra at Jogyesa, but there was much more than we expected. We weren’t sure if there was one part that was usually chanted or the whole thing.

    I was able to find this sutra, “Om Salva Motja Moji Sadaya Savaha.”
    Do you know if this is commonly chanted?

    Sorry for all the questions! I understand if you’re busy!!!

    thank you,
     성불하십시오 (^_^)

    February 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    • Thank you. I recite the long version, 지장보살본원경. I actually wasn’t aware there was a short version, although there may be a single chapter that is popular and recited separately.

      The mantra you mentioned is the repentance mantra. It’s recited as a part of the “Thousand Eyes and Arms Sutra” (천소경) as well as during other repentance ceremonies, for example on the last day of a “Mandala of Compassion Method of Repentance” (자비도량참법) chanting/practice. The mantra is also recited any time you receive precepts–five precepts, bodhisattva precepts, novice precepts, full precepts, etc.–while you receive the small burn on your arm. (The burn comes from the line about negative karma in the Thousand Eyes And Arms Sutra: “when one sees all karma as empty/negative actions are completely burned up, like grass in the fire.”) I also know some folks who chant the repentance mantra when they bow.

      So yes, this mantra is very common! It’s a good practice.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:31 pm

      • Thank you, that was very helpful.
        I took my precepts almost three years ago, but I honestly don’t remember what we chanted when Sunim burned our arms. I’ll see him later today, I’ll have to ask!

        There probably isn’t a short version, we were just surprised at how long it was! haha

        Thank you again for your response. _/\_

        February 26, 2011 at 12:04 am

      • You’re welcome!

        I don’t know if everyone does the “yeon-bi,” which is the small burn (usually done with the lit tip of a piece of incense; it’s small and not painful compared to how they used to do it, with a piece of cotton thread dipped in wax coiled on the forearm!).
        I was also daunted by the length of the Jijang-gyeong the first time I tried to read it. But…if you practice sutra recitation a lot, not only does it get easier (I can now recite half the sutra in an hour or so, and that’s at a deliberately moderate pace), but it’s really a wonderful practice. The meaning slowly seeps up out of the words and into your mind.

        February 26, 2011 at 6:31 am

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