Decorative lotus flower from 봉선사 Bongseonsa, South Korea, with rain from Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Matt Lemon Photography. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Bongseonsa is the head temple of the Buddhist Jogye Order in South Korea. It stands in Jinjeop-eup, Namyangju, right next to my former graduate school. Bongseonsa was built in 969 during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), but its current name dates back to 1469, when Queen Jeonghui of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) changed the name at the time that her husband King Sejo was buried nearby. The name can be interpreted as “temple of revering the sage”. Due to wars and invasions, the temple has been burned down and rebuilt several times, so one could say Bongseonsa has experienced one of the very things lotus flowers symbolise: reincarnation.
“The lotus flower represents rebirth, both in a figurative and a literal sense. The rebirth can be a change of ideas, an acceptance of Buddha where there once was none, the dawn after one’s darkest day, a renaissance of beliefs or the ability to see past wrongs. In a literal sense, the meaning of the lotus flower in Buddhism represents rebirth as a reincarnation, such as in the Buddhist religion, when a soul leaves this world in its present form to be reborn in another.” [Source]
I took many walks to Bongseonsa, some of the most memorable ones with my professor and friend Helena Meyer-Knapp, and in May 2009, I sought out the peace and tranquility inside the temple as the news broke that 노무현 Roh Moo-hyun, the self-taught human rights lawyer who served as South Korean president from 2003 to 2008, had committed suicide. His death affected me more than I could have anticipated. Not only had I respected him for his human rights advocacy and conciliatory approach towards North Korea, I was also about to fly back to my home town where my mum was soon to lose her battle with cancer. I brought her this memento from Bongseonsa and a few years later, when my father moved home, I took it with me. It’s one of the few belongings that always travels with me and so it’s now hanging in the window of my Belfast apartment.
This video was shot with a Lenovo Tab a7-30 and then converted and cropped with ezgif.