I’ve been to some ten different Buddhist temples in the mountainous regions of Korea taking in the rustic, centuries-old magnificent works of art and spiritual creations of man. I felt uplifted when entering doorways that millions, perhaps billions, of others walked through in search of peace and calm on their way to a potential enlightenment.
None however, have inspired more of a majestic feeling inside than the new WON Center in Seoul, Korea, where a bolt of soft and pure lightning once again struck me with what I can only describe as a divine presence that’s humbling and elevating at the same time.
There we were, some 50 Americans along with ministers from Chicago, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York, streaming into this spacious and modern house of prayer and meditation. It can seat some thousand people, we are told, and all I imagine seeing is beaming lights of goodness and compassion shining forth upon their heads.
The feeling of plain old goodness was palpable. It felt heavy while it also felt light, as light as I ever felt during a meditation when I realize that all is right with the world, just the way it is “right now.” Right in the present moment, if you know what I mean. No need to think of the past or some uncertain future when the “pure land” is right in front of you now!
I bathed in the rich effervescent feeling, letting a bubbling warmth spread throughout my body as I took in what speakers were saying and then viewed a short video on two large screens off the center of the front wall.
There is no ornamental carvings, stained glass windows or statues of any type in this gigantic hall where pews stretch back from front to rear. There is a photograph of the Founding Master Sot’aesan, on one wall, but right in the center is the symbol of WON Buddhism, a large circle, golden in color to represent how the heart and the mind is one and that we all can become one through the practice. WON Buddhism, in essence is the Circle of Life as depicted by the drawing created by the master in 1916, and is on display throughout the ministry’s holdings.
I was not the only one touched by such a “non-ordinary” feeling. A woman from Philadelphia who practices Hinduism from her native country of India, said she had been to many places of worship throughout the world, including Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments, but none compared to this one. “I felt moved,” she told me. A medical doctor on leave of absence from the WON Institute in Glenside, Pennsylvania, she said “It’s somehow different here.”
I’ve been to temples in Greece, the place of my father’s birth, and I cried at the Jewish Western Wall while visiting the Church of the Sepulcher in Jerusalem where Christians say Christ was crucified. While they were uplifting, they didn’t call out to me to “simply be” and leave all my earthly concerns outside
Another Philadelphian, a young man with a rugged beard and long dark brown hair — one whom I called a “Jesus-lookalike” — agreed with that sentiment. He too has visited many holy places, but felt this hall for the Korean WON Buddhists was speaking to him in a way he couldn’t explain.
“I felt it Mike,” he whispered to me as we toured the building where young mothers can take their infants and the elderly can lie on mats for the service. “I never felt like this before,” he added looking me dead in the face with what I can only describe as awe.
I told the president of the organization that built this temple what an impact it had on me. But I guess he heard that from thousands of pilgrims who made their way to what has become one of the country’s fourth largest religion since it was founded 100 years ago.
I can understand that, and wish them a thousand years more to continue the work they are doing for all of us. Thanks to you my WON Buddhist friends from all of us in America!.