Max Visits Mu Ryang Sa

I told the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) that Max and I were going to visit Mu Ryang Sa. She responded, “Huh?”

Mu Ryang Sa, the largest Korean temple outside of Korea, the Malt's destination.

Mu Ryang Sa, the largest Korean temple outside of Korea, the Malt’s destination.

That is pretty much the reaction you will get from many folks on Oahu when you mention the name of the largest Korean Buddhist temple outside of Korea. It’s just not that well known.

Despite its relative obscurity, Mu Ryang Sa (the name means “Broken Ridge Temple”) is a fascinating place. It’s found at the end of a narrow, winding road that penetrates deep into Palolo Valley just a few miles from Waikiki Beach.

Even the derivation of the name is interesting. It is called Broken Ridge Temple in part because the Honolulu City Council denied a request by the temple builders to exempt it from the height restrictions in the building code.

Notice how the roof was cut from a peak to a flat surface which may have ticked off a lot of monks but, of course, they would never show it.

Notice how the roof was cut from a peak to a flat surface which may have ticked off a lot of monks but, of course, being monks they would never show it.

As a result, the contractors had to cut off the peaked portion of the temple roof.

The resultant “broken ridge” is a sore spot for the temple monks but they have turned Buddhist lemons into theological lemonade and point to the construction debacle as a learning lesson proving that all in life is an illusion and that “ignorance should be ignored.” (a shot across the City Planning Department’s bow, methinks.)

The Malt had a special affection for this statue which I think is the Goddess of Mercy.

The Malt had a special affection for this statue which I think is the Goddess of Mercy. Max apparently equates mercy with treats.

Mu Ryang Sa is not an ancient worshipping place. It looks old because of its traditional architecture, designs and ornamentations. Whilst Mu Ryang Sa holds replicas of pagodas and statues dating to the 5th century, the temple actually started construction in 1980.

It is more than just a lovely place for the monks to hang out, chant and meditate. The temple is also a cultural community center with educational, cultural and monastic programs.

For three bucks (less for seniors – cough – and students) anyone can visit the temple and explore the grounds and even enter some of the buildings. Dogs, Maltese for example, are prohibited and therefore must be smuggled on to the temple grounds.

Dogs are not permitted. That's not a dog. That's Max at a pagoda.

Dogs are not permitted. That’s not a dog. That’s Max at a pagoda.

Long term, Mu Ryang Sa hopes to launch a four-year college that is devoted to Buddhist studies in English.

The school wants to focus on Korean Buddhism, language and culture including Korean dance, music, calligraphy and tea ceremony. The marketability of a degree in tea ceremony is left open to debate.

The temple gardens are both lovely and peaceful and, according to a certain Malt, they smell good, too.

The temple gardens are both lovely and peaceful and, according to a certain Malt, they smell good, too.

The temple founders also want to establish a nursing home and hospice care facility for Korean elderly.

There is much to see at Mu Ryang Sa starting with an impressive entryway where giant statues of the “Four Heavenly Kings” guard each of the cardinal compass points and prevent the evil spirits from entering. According to legend, they sit up high and use their feet to squish the bad guys.

The Heavenly Kings keeping the riff-raff off the property. This photo by David Chatsuthiphan at http://www.unrealhawaii.com

A cockroach-eye view of the Heavenly Kings keeping the riff-raff off the property. This photo by David Chatsuthiphan at http://www.unrealhawaii.com

A focal point of the property is the World Peace Pagoda. In the center of the pagoda’s base is a small urn, holding the remains of the Buddha. These came from a temple in Sri Lanka and are revered by believers as genuine relics of the historical Buddha.

The Bell Tower houses an impressive bronze bell that is a copy of the historical Emille Bell in Korea, the oldest Buddhist bell in Korea and the largest ringing bell in the world.

The main temple featuring the manifestations of Buddha, photo by David Chatsuthiphan.

The main temple featuring the manifestations of Buddha, photo by David Chatsuthiphan.

Dominating the temple grounds is the main building – the Hall of Heroes – which holds several manifestations of Buddha in a stylized Chinese setting which reminds visitors of the migration of the religion to Korea from China.

Statuary abounds. Some of the figures are on a grand scale and some are tiny and tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the temple grounds, for example, a crowd of 1080 miniature figurines of disciples.

There are (allegedly) 1080 of these little rascals located behind the Main hall and representing the faithful disciples.

There are (allegedly) 1080 of these little rascals located behind the Main Hall. They are said to represent faithful disciples.

There’s a lot more to see at Mu Ryang Sa and I’d recommend you click on the gorgeous photo site done by David Chatsuthipan. Like David, I do not pretend to fully understand what I am looking at when I visit there but my eyes gobble up the beauty nonetheless.

Max seemed to enjoy his visit. The selection of sniffing material was extensive and I’m pretty sure he got a small buzz from the incense. The AJF and I agreed to return again sans pooch to explore this hidden piece of Oahu at greater depth.

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21 Responses to Max Visits Mu Ryang Sa

  1. tavelaudrey says:

    Buddy The Maltese Dog, says: Wow Max, your so lucky to live around such interesting and beautiful history. I especially like the picture of you by the Goddess of Mercy and the picture at a pagoda. However, I find the picture of the pitched roof to be very interesting and I would hate to be bad, put on the edge of the roof for punishment or for doing something bad. That would scary me It was nice to hear from you again, I always look forward to your letters,
    Fondly,
    Buddy & Audrey

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beyond impressive and hard to believe it’s isn’t an antiquity-quite lovely! So does Max know the difference from Korean Buddhism and other ‘flavors’? I’d be curious of any differences. I’ll looking forward to your next outing sans pooch and all the wondrous sights you unearth. Thanks for sharing. David’s website is fantastic and oh-so colorful!😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. loisajay says:

    I am impressed that Max has mastered the art of ‘looking away.’ Who is Max of which this man speaks? I am here for treats and incense, and wow! those Heavenly Kings!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kismet says:

    All of us here can forget our internal squabbles and put our very small weights behind the monks over the bureaucrats. No contest. Case closed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The dispute was a huge issue locally. It does seem kind of silly to cut off that one piece of roof just to comply with the codes but that’s the way the rules work and I guess the monks needed some better lobbyists.

      Like

  5. Lesley says:

    Aren’t those colo(u)rs wonderful?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are every bit as bright and striking in real life as they are portrayed by the camera. I believe there is some meaning behind the choice of those colo(u)rs but I’ll have to research that a bit as I cannot remember what the point was.

      Like

  6. Given the strength of the Korean community I shouldn’t have been surprised at finding a temple there….but so huge a place!

    Sounds as though the monks had not fully appreciated the importance of the ancient ceremony of presenting envelopes when seeking planning permission. It is an entrancing dance with much toing and froing…

    Looks as though Max is enjoying his freedom after being banged up in high security for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, the Korean community has become a major political, economic and social force in Hawaii. The neighborhood in which I live is predominantly Korean now; 20 years ago it was mostly Japanese and before that a mix of other ethnicities. The main drag through this part of town is Ke’eaumoku Street but it is now called Koreamoku Street.

      Yes, Max was thrilled to be out and about but was worried that, if caught sneaking into the temple, he would face further incarceration. Recidivism is a terrible thing in a Malt. They turn mean, get tear drop tattoos under their eyes and start lifting weights in the exercise yard.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. tynecastle says:

    But did the treat for Max manifest themselves that’s the question?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps his prayers to the Goddess of Treats were successful because he did indeed get a tasty poi & chicken cookie upon his return home. It’s not entirely clear whether the treat was the result of divine intervention or the soft heart of the Alpha Japanese Female.

      Like

  8. kerbey says:

    The heavenly kings and myriad little Buddhas give me the heebeejeebs, even more than knowing that you are a dog smuggler. Criminal or not, I did like this turn of phrase: turning Buddhist lemons into theological lemonade. I think I’d rather practice lemonade ceremony than tea ceremony.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. markbialczak says:

    Peace, yes, Tom. Great shots.

    Like

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