BUDDHA ROCKS: TEMPLE STAY IN KOREA

HF Crewon March 13, 2014 at 5:57 pm

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Want to escape from the tall skyscrapers, busy crowded streets and the flock of people shoulder to shoulder in the city? Here’s a nice relaxing experience that you must get if you’re in Asia.

I was lucky enough to visit Woljeongsa, a temple located near the east coast of South Korea with a group of friends during Buddha’s birthday for a temple stay overnight. Popular for foreign tourists visiting Asia including Korea, Thailand and Japan, participants signed up for this temple visit program get to stay one night and a total of two days in an actual temple and experience the lifestyle of a monk.

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Due to the special holidays, the temple was decorated in colorful lanterns.
Due to the special holidays, the temple was decorated in colorful lanterns.
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The parade lasted for about an hour along the whole temple site.
The parade lasted for about an hour along the whole temple site.
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By the time we returned to the temple, it was dark, so the lanterns started to glow.
By the time we returned to the temple, it was dark, so the lanterns started to glow.
The octagonal, nine-story stone pagoda was also lit up in the dark, creating such a beautiful view that made us want to linger there for more despite the early curfew.
The octagonal, nine-story stone pagoda was also lit up in the dark, creating such a beautiful view that made us want to linger there for more despite the early curfew.

Since the program was suited to the actual life of a monk, we all had to go to bed early at 9pm and wake up at 4am in the morning the day after. The morning was packed with activities, starting from the morning Buddhist service, which was all about reciting Buddhist prayers and bowing. This part was the highlight of the actual monk-lifestyle experience, because we didn’t know what was going on and had to just follow our instructor on all the reciting and bowing. Also, no photos were allowed in the Buddha praying hall. The praying was soon followed up by the 108 beads threading, in which we had to thread one bead to a thin string every single time we bow. Quite a workout, all of us could feel the muscle pain in our thighs the day after!

After all the morning activities, we were given temple style breakfast, which was full of vegetables in small portions. The Buddhist tradition urged no leftovers and eating in silence. It was 7am when we were given some free time on our own. It felt like noon-ish after all the morning activities. Some took a walk in the refreshing fir tree forest, some took a rest in the rooms and some played a traditional Korean game.

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Before leaving the temple, some monks took us around the whole temple, in which we were lucky enough to visit some special temples for women monks.

All the monks at Woljeongsa were friendly to us, noticing that we had foreigners in the group, they tried to speak English to us. The monks occasionally offered us snacks when we were strolling around the temple, and the English guide handed out bookmarks in traditional Buddhist ornaments as souvenirs.

‘Spending Buddha’s Birthday, one of Korea’s National Holidays, was an amazing experience. I had the opportunity to learn more about Buddhism as well as to feel how the life on a monastery is, with all the prayers, ceremonies, cleaning and meditation. I arrived at the Temple Stay stressed by the daily routine of the city and departed with a calm and relaxed state of mind,’ says Wagno, from Brazil, who participated in the temple stay. Indeed, for those who want a calm getaway from the bustling sounds of the city, a tranquil stay at a temple might be the best for you.

Woljeongsa Temple (오대산 월정사)
Address: 63, Dongsan-ri, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Tel: +82-33-1330 (Available in English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese)
Website: www.woljeongsa.org

About the program:
Programs might vary, but the basic program includes Buddhist rituals such as meditation, praying ceremony, tea drinking and a Buddhist traditional meal. Other activities might include lantern making, lantern parade and mountain trekking.  The temple stay program is primarily designed to raise awareness on the public’s understanding of Buddhism. Therefore, the program is not restricted to one’s religious belief.

TEXT: JISU J
PHOTOGRAPHY: JISU J / HOKK FABRICA
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