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.