Monday, December 10, 2012

Living like a monk for 24 hours

This past weekend I had the opportunity to live like the monks of South Korea.

A photo with our Seunim after a morning walking meditation around the fortress.
KEB Bank (once again) gave its customers a chance to explore Korea on their dime and offered a weekend Temple Stay at Jeongdeungsa Temple on Ganghwa Island, located on the north western coast of the ROK.  Even though I was super excited to get chosen to participate, it was really David's strong interest in Buddhism that got me to sign up. 

After the excitement of winning passed, I had mixed feeling. The weather in Seoul has been brutally cold, in the negatives and snowing for the last couple days and this temple, located in the mountains even further north than Seoul, was guaranteeing a frigid weekend ahead.  I had been sick the week before and on top of that, from reading several blog entries, I knew that it wasn't necessarily a relaxing weekend that we had signed up for.  We were going to be expected to participate in the full program, which included going early to bed (9 pm) and waking up early (4 am), 108 prostrations (special bowing technique), keeping a silence code during monastic meals and community works.  Not to mention several sessions of meditation, which I don't know if you've ever tried meditating, but  it ain't that easy.  

I wasn't ready to be so devote but I was curious. And as it was a FREE opportunity and likely a rare one considering my days in Korea are limited, I decided to shake off the doubts and just go for it.  And I'm so glad I did.

The temple grounds were so beautiful covered in a clean and sparkly snow.  And our rooms were super warm (so much warmer than my apartment in Seoul!) and the food organically grown and delicious.  Every experience was new and without getting all cliché here, I have to say, I could truly enjoy this weekend and left the temple grounds feeling lighter and yes, more peaceful.  I didn't go there expecting to be enlightened, but it opened my eyes to a very different kind of life.

Jeongdeungsa Temple is the oldest temple in Korea dating back to 381 AD.  It's a beautiful place made even more beautiful by the newly fallen snow.

 The only downside to the experience, in my opinion, was some explanations were lacking. I would have liked a little more background information about Buddhism itself and the meaning behind certain ceremonies that we partook in. All in all though, the experience is definitely recommended for anyone who is curious about Buddhism, even just the cultural aspect of it, as well as people looking to escape to a secluded place in nature.   I'll probably put up another post with more pictures and details from the temple stay shortly but for now you can check out the following link for more info on Temple Stays (in English) in Korea:

Sunrise at the temple during our Community Works time.

No comments:

Post a Comment