Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Templestay at Guin Temple

When I was studying in Korea, a buddy of mine, Kyle, and I decided to do a temple stay at Guin Temple, at the foot of Sobaek Mountain in Chungcheongbuk-do. It was a great experience, and before we actually started the temple stay we took some video of us surveying the temple grounds. Guin Temple -- or Goo-in-sah, as it would be pronounced in Korean -- is the headquarters of the Cheontae (Tientai, in Chinese) denomination of Buddhism in South Korea. Embarrassingly, I didn't do a lot of research into the place before I went. I thought it was located at Seorak Mountain in Kanghwa province, which is a famous mountain in South Korea (that's why I keep saying that in the video). Oops. Still, I hope this video can help convey what a beautiful place this is. Temple stay is a great way to get a taste of Buddhism without fully committing to anything. I'd say it's a must for anyone with a keen interest in East Asian culture.           

For those of you who don't know, a temple stay is when you go to a Buddhist temple and spend one or more nights there (it depends on the temple). During your stay you eat what the monks eat (tofu and veggies) and do what the monks do, including waking up at 3:30 am to do prayers and meditation-type stuff. It can be somewhat demanding, but it's a great experience. At our temple stay we were first treated to a tour of the temple and then participated in the evening rituals. After that we were given dinner, at which we were not allowed to leave even a grain of rice behind. After that we listened to a  lecture on Buddhism and meditation and we had to do 108 prostrations (it's exactly what it sounds like). The next day, at 3:30 am, we went through morning rituals and did a walking meditation up to the top of Sobaek Mountain (it was cold!) and back down. Than we had lunch and tea, where we talked about Buddhist stuff and got to ask the monks questions. The monks were really nice and we didn't feel as if they were trying to convert us or anything -- it was a good vibe. Here are some additional photos that were taken by one of the temple guides.
Kyle and I trying to make paper lotus lanterns. I suck at arts and crafts.
A morning walk around the temple. That's Kyle in front and I'm the dude two people back, behind the girl.
More walking meditation, through the main courtyard of the temple. All those pots are kimchi and dwaenjang (fermented bean paste, similar to Japanese miso).
This was one of the darma halls, in which a statue of the temple's founder is kept.
On the back of this elephant is a pagoda that is said to house a relic of the Buddha himself. I love this kind of stuff.
Here's our tea session. I'm the guy with the purple sleeves, looking quite chipper in spite of being woken up at 3:30 am for morning prayers.
These are the sorts of things you may experience on a temple stay, but each temple and denomination is a bit different, so it really depends on the temple. This one was pretty neat because it was huge and surrounded entirely by nature. I'd also like to point out that I'm not Buddhist or really religious at all, but this gave me an opportunity to take a look at Buddhism up close and personal. It's a religion that must be studied if you wish to engage with East Asia in any scholarly capacity.

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