Temple Stay in Korea

Have you ever heard about ‘ Temple Stay ‘ ? It’s basically staying at the temple, doing meditations, some Buddhist rituals, and also numbers of Korean cultural activities. But hey, for your information, ‘Temple Stay’ is one of the popular activities to do in Korea. I got a chance to spend days at the temple doing some rituals and meditations when I was living in Korea. As a part of my cultural classes, I couldn’t avoid or even refuse my teacher’s plan to go to the temple. Moreover, my friends were excited about going there. Yeah, seemed hard … but well, we will never know if we don’t try, at least once.

So we departed from Nonsan-si, Chungnam-do at 7:00 AM by riding the school bus. We headed to Danyang ( 단양 ), a small city located at the mountain’s feet which is so quiet and far from the night clubs or bars’ noises. It’s quiet close to Seoul. We need to take a 2-hour-trip to Seoul. From Nonsan to Danyang, we spent 3,5 hours on the bus. Most of my friends slept because of the early departure. Maybe they wanted to save their energy before being ‘ bullied ‘ at the temple.576092_10151512116248754_227324512_n

 We arrived at 14:00 AM there and let’s say ….. the temple is amazingly enormous. Since it was raining, we were given a disposable plastic raincoat. The guide who has an extra job as a photographer guided us to go to the dorm. The dorm is so nice. Rooms are all equipped with 2 foldable beds and 7-8 Korean traditional pillows. One room can accommodate 6 people. The other good thing is every room has a hotel-style bathroom. But they also provide some shared bathrooms outside of the rooms. Then we directly went to the 5th floor of the dorm. There was a big hall where 2 monks with big smiles sitting and waiting for us. I saw a grand piano as well on the left side of the hall. The female monk ordered us to grab a sitting pillow from the pillows stacks on the corner of the hall and then gather in the middle of the hall. I forgot what her name was, but I remember about her smile most. Nice yet mysterious. We were afraid that she’ll talk in Korean all the time, since our Korean skills are not as good as Koreans ( of course ~~ 헐~ ). In fact, she can speak English very well. She told us that she used to live in the US before. No wonder. After that, she introduced the male monk who sat on her right side. He can’t speak English, so he talked in Korean all the time. Maybe if you can’t understand Korean yet, you’ll end up like me, looking at the male monk who spoke first and trying to understand what he’s just said then giving up to interpretation and finally listening to the English translation given by the female monk. Then I felt dizzy because of it.555101_10151512116528754_928897034_n

 After the short briefing, our next agenda was having lunch. The agenda we’ve been waiting for ages. We expected to be able to eat much since we were so hungry. But then we found out that they wouldn’t feed us with seafood, fish, or chicken, or even pork and beef. They served vegetables which were served in various side dishes as we found radish kimchi, spicy stir-fried bean sprouts, slices of cucumbers, and slices of lettuce. So we queued to get our trays and the cooks gave us rice which is mixed with some kinds of peanuts and also doenjang jjigae or fermented soybean paste soup with seaweed inside. Then we queued again to get the side dishes we wanted to eat. Well, it was like a vegetarian buffet though, so you can get as much as we want. But you need to eat them all without leaving anything. People will definitely stare at you if you dare to leave something in your tray, you even need to lick the leftover soup in it.

At night, we had free time. Since that day was my friend’s birthday, one of my friends secretly brought a tempting Paris Baguette cheese cake with a Pororo birthday hat and also some candles. Since the boys’ rooms were in front of the girls’ rooms, so we could easily call them to gather in the hall way. You know, it was the most silent birthday party I’ve ever attended. Man, you need to be so quiet in the temple. Remember, you’re not spending time at the night club hahahahaha. Since there were 30 of us, so each person got a one-bite-size cheese cake. It was a piece of happiness after having a nice vegetarian lunch.903096_587670904578336_877648432_o

Our agendas were started at 3 AM. At 2:30, there was an alarm which interrupted our priceless sleeping time. So, we needed to go to the temple to have a morning pray ritual. We made a long line, followed the monk to walk around the temple and went back inside of the temple. Inside of the temple, we sat on the sitting pillow and then followed the monks to bow to a big Buddha statue. But since I have a religion, I got a choice not to bow. I stayed at the back of the line with some of my friends and luckily got a WiFi connection inside of the temple. Cool !

At 7 AM, we did silent mountain hiking. This activity trained us to be more patient. When we walked, we had to refresh our mind and be silent. I had a hard time during the hiking since I never like hiking and I couldn’t joke around with my friends. But then I took my headset out and started to listen to some EXO or Super Junior’s numbers on my song playlist hahaha. Don’t try this if you want to have a peaceful mind.576100_10151512110213754_548061853_n

The morning ritual and mountain hiking were the regular activities we have to do every day. But there were some Korean cultural activities we could enjoy during our temple stay. We had a Korean style tea party and gathered with some monks also lotus making class. I wasn’t capable enough to make such crafts so that’s why mine wasn’t good enough.But the tea time was very nice. We were taught how to brew tea correctly and when the tea was ready, we poured to the tea to everyone in our groups before pouring it to our own cups. There were some pieces of one-bite-sized sweet cakes which could be enjoyed during the tea time.483882_587670984578328_2015688814_n

Another one was a formal Buddhist lunch tradition. We were given sets of bowls with spoons and chopsticks. Then they served the rice and side dishes in the middle. We received our bowl sets one by one handed in by the male monk. After receiving the bowl set, we had to bow to express our gratitude. Then we headed to the middle side and took our food. In the end after finishing all of your food, we had to pour water on it and clean our bowls by using kimchi then drink the water. I still remembered how it tasted.527750_10151512115483754_680054682_n

Therefore, temple stay is a nice choice if you want to refresh your mind during your stay in Korea. There are some choices of temples and you can adjust your schedule to follow their programs. It’s not gonna be a waste at all. You can get more benefits by joining temple stay. So, are you interested?

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