Friday, September 17, 2010

Temple Stay

I spent last weekend at Geumsansa Buddhist Temple in Jeollabuk(do) Province.  -do in Korean means province or island.  It was approximately 3 1/2 hours by bus from Seoul.  The Geumsansa Temple is located in the mountains and the scenery was breathtaking.  The calm and relaxing atmosphere made for a truly great retreat from city life.  Geumsansa was founded during King Beop's reign during the Baekje Dynasty in AD 599.
After changing into our fabulous monastic clothing, our first task was making a lotus lantern.  Let's all remember that Korea is extremely hot and humid during this time and obviously air conditioning is non-existent in a Temple.  Do you like my beautiful lantern?
We hung our lanterns up in the building that was used as our "classroom."  Mine is on the right.  There is a Buddhist saying that says, "Please attain Buddhism in your next lifetime by lighting a lantern in this life.''
This is a photo of our "classroom" where we spent a lot of time learning about temple life.
This was the way to our sleeping quarters...
This is where the women slept.
This is where we slept.  The mosquitoes were a bit atrocious.
We crossed this beautiful bridge each time we went back to our sleeping quarters.
Walking up to our sleeping quarters...I always love bamboo.
A beautiful, serene environment.
At dawn and sundown, these bells are rung by the monks.  We rang them at sundown and the whole process has a lot of meaning.  To sum things up as best as I can, the bells are rung to put to sleep and wake up the animals and all that is part of nature.  It's kind of like an alarm clock to alert nature that the work for the day is either finished or is just beginning.  Directly after ringing the bells, we headed into the Main Buddha Hall for a ceremony.

This is the monk that ran the temple stay and our translator.
Looks like the translator is puzzled...
This is the Main Buddha Hall which represents the Buddha of Today.  I took some photos inside but they really didn't turn out...which I am so upset about.  I couldn't get the photos I wanted during this trip and my frustration is going to bring me to the electronics market tomorrow.

The ceremony was beautiful.  We just followed along with the monks while they chanted.  We had learned the proper way of bowing before we went to the ceremony.

We also got up at dawn...3 AM...when the bell ringing begun once again to wake all of nature.  After the bell ringing we went into the Main Buddha Hall for another ceremony.  It was calm and peaceful in the morning...but definitely a bit early.  We went to bed at 10 p.m. and I had a hard time sleeping since I usually go to bed much later.  3 AM came very fast!
After the ceremony, we met back in the classroom for some traditional tea and fruit.  These two monks were absolutely amazing!!  During this time we were able to ask questions about Buddhism or a monk's life in the temple.  It was nice to have both a male and female perspective.  They had never met so many foreigners in their life.  I am so happy to have met them for the brief time that I did...they were truly remarkable.
So delicious.
We also took a walk in the Temple's forest to see the "Love Tree."
She was so beautiful when she talked about the tree and it's meanings.  She really has a kind soul and wanted to share her love with others...and wanted us to do the same.  She had us hug one another, thank, and forgive one another.  She's amazing.
This is the Love Tree.  Two branches that came together as one...
Next, is what I thought was the most meaningful part of the trip for me.  We were given 108 beads and a string.  108 represents the 108 mental anguishes taught by Buddha.  We were to go into any building and bow 108 times, putting a bead on the string each time.  Each time concentrating on a wish.
When you walk into any Buddhist building in the Temple you must bow three times to say hello to Buddha and when you leave you must bow three times again to say goodbye.  This isn't counting the 108 times I bowed for the necklace. 
When you bow, it isn't just a bend over mechanism.  1)You get a large pillow and place it in front of Buddha.  2) You stand in prayer position 3) Go down to your knees in prayer position 4) Bend down with your head resting almost or on the pillow 5) turn your hands over like a book and bring them up to your ears to show you are reading/listening/understanding Buddha's teachings 6) Put your hands back down and go back up in prayer position on your knees 7) use your muscles and go directly in standing position again while maintaining your hands in prayer position.  Make sense?
I chose to make my necklace in the Buddha of the Future Hall.  They seemed to have been doing some renovations in that Hall.  This is the Buddha that I prayed to.
Then I went back into the classroom and they helped burn the ends to complete the necklace.
It rained the entire weekend which made for some pros and cons.  It made things a little messy and it would have been nice to do meditation outside rather than inside.  But we did get out of CHORES and it was relaxing to meditate while listening to the sound of the rain.  Here are some pics around the Temple.
Can you see the lotus lanterns above??
This is a natural spring.  This is where I filled up my water bottle.
This is the Buddha of the Future building where I made my necklace.
Everywhere in Korea you will find these rocks.  You add a rock to the top and make a wish.  When you add your rock to the top, it strengthens all the wishes below it.
hmmm...I found this sign in the bathroom??
This was outside our sleeping quarters.  In Korea, the floor is heated when it's cold.  Now-a-days, the floors are heated with circulating water underneath the floor.  The traditional way of heating is burning wood underneath like pictured.
This was outside the cafeteria.  This is also a traditional way of cooking.  There was only vegetarian food at the Temple.  It wasn't amazing and it wasn't disgusting either.  Just rice and vegetables and tofu.  Buddhists believe that not one grain of rice should be wasted so you must take what you absolutely will eat.
Well, that about sums up my weekend at the Temple.  Although we practiced some zen meditation, I was still exhausted when I got home.  I got home Sunday night at about 7 a.m. and slept pretty much until the next morning when I got up for work.  Buddhist Monks work hard!  It was a great experience and I learned a lot.

1 comment:

  1. 1. So cool! Wow, 108 beads and bows and wishes. How long did that take?
    2. Please get someone to translate that naughty bathroom sign before leaving Korea.
    3. I chuckled when you said you got out of chores. Oh, KHeil. :)