Geumsansa Temple Stay
It was kind of spur of the moment when Ashley asked me if I wanted to go on a temple stay with Adventure Korea at the beginning of last week. I said no at first, thinking I should continue saving money for my out of country excursions, but the fact that this was on my to-do list and it’s been nice weather, well, I changed my mind.
I spent some time with Buddhism back in undergrad going through my “Contemporary Religious Thought” and “Asian Religions” classes. I feel a strong attraction to Buddhist thought and teachings. Though I was raised Catholic, and have since come to identify myself as Pagan, I’d like to say that Buddhism is like my next door neighbor. I have always found it very calming, with the ability to center my thoughts and put things in a greater perspective.
The weather was not exactly what I would call favorable that weekend. It was raining almost constantly, and in the mountains it was cold and windy. Still, the cherry blossoms were beautiful and seeing the greenery along the hillsides was refreshing after months in the city. Upon our arrival, we received our dharma clothing and room assignments. Lynn, our interpreter, was very kind and accommodating. Our weekend monk was all smiles and laughter, not to mention being exceptionally wired for living in the middle of nowhere. (He has a twitter, a facebook, two cell phones, and a tablet.)
After experiencing our dinner, it was time to begin the evening ceremony. The whole group walked across the main complex of Geumsansa to where the giant bell rests. Our monk explained that there were four instruments used to ward off evil and banish the troubles of the world and its creatures.
We braved the wind and the rain to experience the evening’s service in the main Buddha hall with other monks. It was difficult to focus with the people near me snapping pictures when they should have been prostrating themselves. For me, I found it frustrating that people were more interested in being tourists at a time of meditation and reflection, rather than participants in the cultural practice. I would have liked to stay longer, but it was then time for the Q&A with our monk. Most of the questions revolved around reincarnation and enlightenment. We were served delicious rice cakes and tea before heading to our futons on the floor of our rooms.
Ash and I considered waking up for the optional 3:00 am morning service, but once her alarm went off, we nixed the idea. Rolling out of bed around 4:30, we headed over for morning meditation and then a monastic style breakfast. Since the weather wasn’t favorable, we all got out of doing chore work and opted for naps instead. I can honestly say that was the best nap I’ve ever had. We were able to do our walking meditation, though really it was more of just walking to the woods to see a unique set of trees and take pictures with our monk.
Then it was time to make our Buddhist beads, or rather a necklace of 108 wooden beads. We were instructed to go to any temple on the grounds and meditate while making our necklaces. Each bead represents one wish made by the person stringing them. After each wish, you must bow or prostrate yourself to, in essence, eradicate your misdeeds. It was definitely a moving experience, and easily my favorite part of the trip.
I have included a video of my weekend at Geumsansa, as well as more in-depth commentary about what we experienced there. The particulars about the monastic meal, some rules and behaviors we were expected to follow, and more information about the special trees we visited. I apologize for the quality; it was fine on my computer, but seems to not have transferred well.