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He lives in a cave on a mountain
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
승인 2013.09.05  09:22:07
페이스북 트위터
▲ The view from Sanbang-gulsa, a grotto that is also a Buddhist temple, is stunning, with Sagye-ri harbor in the foreground and the islands off shore in the distance. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

He lives in a cave illuminated by soft candlelight at the top of Mt. Sanbang. No need to call ahead. Never have to make a reservation. Just show up anytime - early morning, mid-afternoon, or in the midnight hour. Everyone should be as gracious.

Recently I jumped into my older-than-dirt Damas van and pointed her nose west toward a softening tangerine sun that was slowly melting into the sea.

In less than a half hour I was parking at the base of the mountain, the wrinkled sea on one side and the mystical Mt. Sanbang crowned in a shroud of mournful clouds on the other.

Starting the climb up four hundred plus stairs my mind was playing Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. By the time I reached the entrance to the cave an inky darkness was clinging to the top of the mountain. And while I know it's true, Rock and Roll will never die, I switch off the music in my head to listen instead to nature's song.

I stood alone on top of the world and felt humbled by all things that are pure and true in this great big, wild world. The trees atop the mountain bowed in respect to the legendary Jeju wind and the sea whispered ancient secrets on the shoreline.

Stepping into the entrance of the cave another of nature’s sounds joins the celestial orchestra. Drip, drip, drip. Pure sweet water falls from the cave ceiling and into a stone well. I was thirsty. I drank deeply.

The cave is always lit with the soft light of a hundred flickering candles. In the back of the cave on raised stairs sat the solemn stone Buddha illuminated in golden light.

▲ Formed 700,000 to 800,000 years ago, Mt. Sanbang is one of Jeju’s oldest rock formations, and is a must-see for tourists, geologists and mythology enthusiasts alike. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

I said a prayer for my family, friends and all of humanity. I prayed for peace in a troubled world that too often fails to see the beauty and truth of simplicity and all that nature has to offer. The entire earth seemed to exhale in a long mournful sigh and my heart overflowed with the miracles of life.

I sat on a bench reading and writing with the narrow beam of a small flashlight. I was surprised to hear heavy footsteps plodding up the steps. A drunken man stumbled into the cave with a Cass beer in each hand. He was mumbling incoherently and falling up the stairs where the stone Buddha waited patiently.

Honestly, the man's heart was so heavy and his burdens great as he unleashed a cascade of melancholy wails and hysterical laughing fits. In just a few minutes the man, exhausted and shattered, fell to his knees, as we all have done during stormy weather when maybe we thought that the sun would never shine again. He placed one of the beers at the foot of the Buddha and stumbled back out into the black night, never even noticing my presence.

When I finally started my journey back down the mountain my eyes were filled with dozens of blazing diamonds on the dark sea. The fishermen had settled into another night on the water and their boat lights were like shining beacons. And it is at that moment that I learned to breathe again and match my breaths with the true whimsical sighing of the universe.

It seemed the whole maddening earth had been silenced and the only sounds that remained were the Jeju wind dancing in the trees, the soft ballads of the sea and the beating of my heart.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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