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Echoes of the Great Pines: The Monks of Songgwangsa

Echoes of the Great Pines: The Monks of Songgwangsa


~ Monks of Songgwangsa Temple

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Price: $30.62

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Echoes of the Great Pines Buddha, Dharma (Buddhist teachings), and Sangha (the Buddhist monastic community) are called the three jewels of Buddhism. The three most prominent monasteries in Korea -- Tongdosa, Haeinsa, and Songgwangsa -- represent each of these three jewels. Songgwangsa Temple is considered the Sangha-jewel monastery, and it's monks are renowned for their excellence in chant and recitation. This disc contains the prayer chanting and recitation of scriptures performed in the early morning by the Monks of Songgwangsa Temple. The title comes from the temple's name -- 'Song-Gwang', which means 'big or many pine trees.' The Ritual of Sound Daily services in the morning and evening make up the most fundamental ritual in practicing Buddha's teachings. The morning service, performed at 3am every day at Songgwangsa Temple, is especially important as it is a ceremony conducted to open up a world filled with Buddha's ways. The morning ritual precisely follows the established order: Wake Up Sound, Morning Bell Chant, Four Instruments, Main Chant, Vow of Enlightenment, the Heart Sutra, and the Diamond Sutra. Wake Up Sound signals the beginning of a new day; it is a ritual undertaken to purify the temple grounds, in which the monks go around the temple premises before entering the Dharma Hall (the main hall). In Morning Bell Chant, the officiant monk prays for the salvation of all people and also for Enlightenment of all Buddhist disciples. Four Instruments is a ritual that involves the performance of four instruments (the Dharma drum, great bell, wooden fish drum, and cloud plate); the monks pray for the liberation of all living beings on the ground, in the sky, in the sea, and below the ground, while playing the instruments. Main Chant consists of Dagerye (tea offering) and Paljeongrye (eight sincere bows): Dagerye is the sequence of offering clean water to Buddha; Paljeongrye symbolizes devotion to the three jewels of Buddhism. Vow of Enlightenment is a prayer for devotion to the three jewels and Enlightenment. The recitation of the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra is a ritual that aims to achieve a clear understanding of the Buddha's ways. The Heart Sutra, which is recited in it's entirety, is a brief scripture that teaches about wisdom and Gong (emptiness). The Diamond Sutra, the foundational scripture of the Korean Chogyejong order, is a written account of Buddha's teachings. Only a part of it is recited. As the morning service has been a core part of the daily routine of the monks for centuries, it's execution seems quite natural; at the same time, it does exude a deep sense of solemnity perhaps because it is performed in the quiet stillness before the morning dawn and belongs to an unbroken 1,300 year old tradition of practicing Buddha's ways in Korea. There is something unique about the services at Songgwangsa Temple: 'sound' itself holds a special importance in them. Each sequence in the liturgy can be identified by the distinctiveness of it's sound. In Wake Up Sound, you only hear the temple block; in Bell Chant, you hear the metal bell and chant of the officiant monk; in Four Instruments, you hear the sounds from the four grand objects-- the Dharma drum made of broad leather, the great bell made of massive bronze, the fish drum made of a thick wooden log, and the cloud plate, made of an iron plate in the shape of a cloud. After Four Instruments, the ritual continues on with chanting, in which you encounter various musical styles. In Dagerye, the clear voice of the officiant monk's recitation is responded to by the massive chanting of 'won-soo-ae-nap-soo'(this can be translated as 'have mercy on us and accept') by the monks and community, which is grandiosely repeated several times. In Paljeongrye, the chanting becomes a massive chorus. In both Paljeongrye and Vow of Enlightenment, the chorus has strict formality. The chanting reaches it's climax with the Heart Sutra, where the completeness of the scripture and the musical tension of the recitation also come to the highest point. The Diamond Sutra appeals more to the intelligence rather than emotion, thereby leading the participants to the heart of Buddha's ways. At precisely 3am every morning at Songgwangsa, the temple block sounds from the Dharma Hall and starts to fill the space between the Dharma Hall and the Bell and Drum Tower, the Sangha-jewel Hall, the Hall of Hell, and also the hermitages that surround these halls in multiple layers. Soon this sound transforms into chant and escapes from the boundaries of the hermitages. When the chanting crosses the ground in front of the Dharma Hall and reaches the Bell and Drum Tower, it is then succeeded by the sound of the four instruments. It is the Dharma drum that starts off, followed by the great bell. The echoes of the bell reverberate back and forth between the Dharma Hall and the Bell and Drum Tower, preparing for the transformation of the usual everyday space of the monasteries into a unique space of sacred sounds. The sounds from the wooden fish drum and the cloud plate enclose the space, as if forming an invisible wall preventing any sound from scattering or vanishing. When the sounds from the four instruments cease, the transformation is complete, and the space is taken over and filled with human voices. The monks in the Dharma Hall chant in unison and the whole Songgwangsa Temple transforms into a universe of pure sounds. The sounds of the early morning service lead us to the piety of Buddha. The chanting melts away the coldness of the pre-dawn wind and conveys Buddha's ways through it's melody and rhythm; the resonance of the four instruments drives out the darkness and awakens all living beings to Enlightenment. Is it really a mere coincidence that the microphones that captured the sounds and echoes of the mountain temple were placed just beside the ears of the Buddha statues in the Dharma Hall? I guess not. After all, the most harmonious of all these sounds are meant to be heard not only by the ears of mortals, but by the ears of the Buddhas. The sounds of instruments and men alike are all prayers to be heard by the Buddhas, which longed for liberation from all pain and suffering. Music of 1,300 years The long-lasting tradition and the teachings of a prominent master are the foundation of the excellence of the Buddhist chant at Songgwangsa Temple. It's monks have always given special attention to the musicality of the daily services, deeply believing that religious ecstasy can be achieved through music. This tradition can be traced back to about one thousand years ago during the Koryo Dynasty. The great Zen master Jinul (1158-1210), who led the renaissance of Songgwangsa Temple, stressed in his Gye-Cho-Sim-Hak-In-Moon ('Introduction to Buddhism for beginner disciples') that when chanting monks should not just follow the voices of others but know the melody by heart. This teaching of the great master still remains vital to the chanting of Songgwangsa monks. The history of Korean Buddhist music can be traced back to the 7th century and the rituals of daily services also date back to that time. This gives Buddhist service music in Korea a history of over 1,300 years. Dagerye was included in the liturgy during the Silla Dynasty (BC 57~ AD 935); Vow of Enlightenment during the Koryo Dynasty (AD 918~1392); and the Bell Chant includes various Ge-moon (poems containing Buddhist teachings) since the Koryo Dynasty. The recitations of the Heart Sutra and Paljeongrye show the influence of modern Korean Buddhism as well. Thus, a long and significant history flows through the daily services at Songgwangsa Temple that remain a vital part of the temple to this day. In the pre-dawn darkness, the prayers and chants of the monks at Songgwangsa Temple wake all creation to a new day and echo all the longings for liberation that go beyond the great pines. Listening to this sound and absorbing it's spirit may indeed help you realize that Enlightenment is not too far away. Kwon, Do Hee Asian Music Research Institute, Seoul National University.

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Artist: Monks of Songgwangsa Temple
Title: Echoes of the Great Pines: The Monks of Songgwangsa
Genre: International
Release Date: 4/9/2011
Label: CD Baby
Product Type: CD
Catalog #: 43000
UPC: 8809318430002
Item #: 154614X
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