As I descended to conclude my Grand Namsan Hike (in Gyeongju), I passed by Chibulam, the ‘hermitage of the seven Buddhas’, which is right next to an ancient Silla rock carving of seven Buddhas.
First of all, I like the views of the partially forested, partially rocky mountain slopes from this section of Namsan.
And then I saw the ‘Seven Buddhas’ carving.
As far as my aesthetic tastes are concerned, this is the best artwork I saw during my grand hike of Namsan, and I think it was fitting that this was the last ancient Silla work of art on my planned route.
I then looked at the Chibulam hermitage itself.
Inside there was a nun, and she invited me in to drink tea. She speaks English quite well.
She joined the monastic order fairly recently. She says she is part of a … spiritual family? (I know she used the word family, but I don’t remember if she used the word ‘spiritual’). She has a spiritual mother, who is her teacher in Gyeongju, and she has a spiritual brother, who is also her teacher’s student. She says that her spiritual-mother is very nice, and that her temple allows visitors such as myself to stay.
She told me about another ancient Silla beautiful Buddha carving not far from the hermitage, and asked if I saw it. It was not in my guidebooks or map. She said that it’s not on an official trail, and that it might be a little tricky to find. Since I had already been hiking for hours in Namsan, I decided to pass.
(By the way, Dale did go to that Buddha carving, and reports that the path is short yet treacherous).
She gave me two postcards, one of ancient Buddha carvings at Chibulam, and another of the other ancient Buddha carving in the vicinity. Of course, both of those postcards got water damaged the next day when I went to Bulguksa in the rain.
She asked me about my religion, and I said I do not practice any religion, and she said, ‘Me too’. She says that, for her, Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion.
She says that she is currently the only person living in the Chibulam Hermitage, and that she will stay there through winter (which means she is probably still there right now), though she receives many visits from her spiritual family.
I had only been in South Korea for about a week, and she was the first Buddhist monastic I had talked to. Drinking tea, talking with her, and learning about her was very pleasant, and I am very happy I added a bit of human connection to my Grand Hike of Namsan. In fact, I consider it to be the highlight of the entire hike.
She gave me directions to the nearest bus stop, which was at the eastern edge of Namsan and about an hour away on foot going downhill. Just as I exited the mountain and returned to flat land, there was a modern Buddhist temple which had a relatively tall, Silla-style stone pagoda, shown above. I found the bus stop, and then made my way back to downtown Gyeongju.