Monument to Wonhyo

Monument to Wonhyo

This is the base of a monument built in 1101 in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of Korea, to honor Wonhyo Daesanim, one of the most famous people in Korean Buddhism. I took this picture a couple of weeks ago, after spending three days at Golgulsa Temple, also in Gyeongju.

This is the most famous story about Wonhyo. It occurred while Wonhyo and another man were traveling to China to study the dharma. One night, during the journey, the weather was severe and they were forced to spend the night in a very dark, underground shelter:

“Wonhyo felt thirsty during the night, and in the darkness began to search for water. He was able to discern an object that looked like a gourd. He picked it up, and found that there was water inside. He tasted it, and it was very sweet. He drank the contents in one gulp, and having satisfied his thirst, slept soundly until dawn. The next morning, when he awoke, he remembered what had occurred and looked for the gourd. The gourd, however, was nowhere to be seen, and he saw only human skulls littering the ground. The gourd had in fact been one of these skulls, and the sweet-tasting water rain which had collected inside. Examining the inside of one of the skulls, he saw that the water was alive with maggots.

Wonhyo realized that every image and phenomenon comes about as a result of discrimination within the mind, and nothing else. He turned to Uisang [the other young scholar he was traveling with] and said,

‘Did you see me suffering from thirst last night?’

‘I saw you in great pain, drinking water from a bowl.’

‘When I awoke this morning, I saw it was not clean water that I drank, but putrid rainwater gathered within a human skull. When I drank it, it was truly refreshing, and I slept afterwards in great content. After my discovery this morning, I vomited and felt great discomfort. The water this morning is no different from last night. When I did not know what it was, I found it refreshing, but when I found out, I felt discomfort. The dirtiness or cleanliness of an object does not reside in the object itself, but rather depends on the discrimination within our mind. Now, therefore, I realize that everything is created by the mind. Because I have realized this truth, I cannot suppress my joy, nor my wish to dance and sing.’

Having realized the principle of Mind-Only through this experience, he no longer needed to travel as far as China to seek the Dharma.”

Wonhyo returned to Korea.

The text is excerpted from Master Wonhyo, An Overview of His Life and Teachings, by Jeong Byeong-Jo.


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