August 18 - 24, 2019: Issue 417
By George Repin
When Gautama Buddha died in 486 B.C.E. there was no record of his Dharma – his teachings – which he always delivered verbally. The Buddhist monastic community was faced with a problem of “authority” and the lack of a means of resolving doctrinal disputes. Accordingly, as many as 500 senior monks and Buddha’s disciples convened and, at the direction of Mahakashpa Buddha’s successor, the Buddha’s teachings were recited in full and, after verification by others who had heard the Buddha, were compiled as an authoritative body of doctrine and discipline. The meeting subsequently became known as the First Buddhist Council. Ananda, Buddha’s cousin, who had been the Buddha’s constant companion recited his teaching on doctrine and behaviour, and on meditation techniques. These were adopted as the Sutta-pitaka,the “basket of discourses”. Upali, a monk who had been close to the Buddha recited his rules and regulations, most of which derived from Buddha’s responses to specific situations.
Right: Haein-sa Temple is in this mountainous area.
These became the Vinaya-pitaka, “the basket of disciplines”. Subsequently these two “baskets” were supplemented by a third basket, the Abhidhamma, made up of systematic reflections on the Buddha’s teaching. These three constitute the Tripitaka – the “three baskets” which are commonly referred to as a canon of Buddhist “scriptures”. However, Buddhist teaching continued on a verbal basis for several centuries before the contents of the Tripitaka were written down in the Third Century B.C.E. The Tripitaka is sometimes referred to as the Pali Canon because of the language in which it was first written.
The Tripitaka Koreana is the world’s most comprehensive and oldest intact version of Buddhist treatises, laws and scriptures in Hanja script with no known errors. The compilers incorporated older versions from various sources and added content written by respected Korean monks. The accuracy of the version is attributed to Sugi, the National Preceptor, who carefully checked it for errors. It was carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th Century after the original set, first carved in 1087, was destroyed by fire during the Mongol invasions of Korea in 1232. The revision and recreation of the Tripitaka took sixteen years, from 1236 to 1251.
The wood used is said to have come from China and was subjected to extensive and careful preparation. After three years submerged in salt water it was submerged for a further three years in fresh water before being buried for another three years. After drying for three years it was deemed ready to be carved. Each block is 70 cms. long, and 24 cms. wide. The thickness varies between 2.6 and 4 cms. and each block weighs about three to four kilograms. On average there are twenty-two lines to a page and fourteen characters in each line.
The blocks are preserved at the Haein-sa Temple complex set in a beautiful mountainous area of South Korea. The temple has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building housing the Tripitaka was built in 1488, designed in such a way as to maintain the temperature and humidity relatively constant to better preserve the blocks, despite the area being exposed to heat in the summer and snow in the winter.
As Edward B Adams in 1976 wrote in his Korea Guide “Considering all the temples of Korea, if you had time to visit only one Korean temple then Haein-sa should be chosen.”
Photographs by George Repin in 1991
A building in the Temple complex.
Storehouse for the Tripitaka.
Above: Shelves holding carved wooden blocks. Below: Close-up of the blocks.
Previous Reflections by George Repin
The Nineteen Thirties Remembering Rowe Street The Sydney Push Saturday Night at the Movies Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram A Stop On The Road To Canberra City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s Hill End The Paragon at Katoomba Seafood In Sydney How Far From Sydney? Cockatoo Island Over The Years The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991 Busby's Bore The Trocadero In Sydney Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection Gloucester and the Barrington Tops A Millenium Apart Have You Stopped to Look? Gulgong Il Porcellino Olympia Durham Hall Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia Hotels at Bondi Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone The Goroka Show - 1958 A Gem On The Quay Staffa The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls The Coal Mine At Balmain The Hyde Park Barracks The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant Waldheim Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955 King Island Kelp The Mercury Theatre Around Angkor - 1963 Angkor Wat 1963 Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli Chairman Mao's Personal Physician The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross The Oceaographic Museum in Monaco The Island of Elba Russian Fairy Tale Plates Meteora Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska Cloisonné Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories Not A Chagall! Did You Listen? Did You Ask? Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand Borobudur Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells Murano University of Padua Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi Pula The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park Aphrodisias The Divine Comedy Caodaism Sapa and local Hill People A Few Children Cappadocia Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997 Hotere Garden Oputae Children of the Trobriand Islands Page Park Market - Rabaul Rabual Kotor, Montenegro Galleries of Photographs I Lascaux Galleries of Photographs II The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia Ivan Meštrović - Sculptor Delphi Gallery of Photographs III The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point San Simeon - "Hearst Castle" Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982 Russian New Year Mycenae "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska The White Pass and Yukon Route Totem Poles Tivkin Cemetery Krka National Park - Croatia Tavistock Square and the BMA Orthodox Easter Wieliczka Salt Mine A Walk on Santorini Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958 A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist Kraków Lilianfels Collonges-La-Rouge Gingerbread Houses Cape Sounion Delos Wroclaw Colonial Williamsburg Gruyères Strasbourg Coventry Cathedral The Roman Theatre at Aspendos Turkish Carpets The Duomo of Orvieto Rovinj The City Walls of Dubrovnik Monaco - Snapshots Bonifacio, Corsica Autumn in New England USA The Great Ocean Road Pompeii Didyma Lawrence Hargrave 1850-1915 The Corinth Canal Malta Snapshots of Amsterdam Café Central - Vienna The Forbidden City - Beijing, China A Ride on the Jungfrau Railway - 1954 Snapshots in the Highlands of Scotland 1954 Must See Sights in Paris - 1954 Corfu Reflections On the Nineteen Thirties The Gold Souk in Dubai Stromboli Ha Long Bay - Vietnam Lake Argyle The Bungle Bungle Range Langgi Inlet, W.A. White Cliffs, NSW - 1990 Sturt National Park - May, 1990 A Few Statues and Water Spouts The Dodecanese Archipelago Rhodes Lindos The Church on Spilled Blood - 2005 Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad Repin's In "Ladies In Black" Signs of the Times at Sydney Museum: Repin Inns
Copyright George Repin 2019. All Rights Reserved.