Written on Week 33 (2013)
Published months later
From one of my students I heard that one could stay overnight on one of the Buddhist temples. Honestly, the comment raise my attention and I decide I want to try it. The search on the internet started and I found this temple stay website. Due to the time, location and cost I select this temple: Geumsunsa
My adventure in the temple stayed started at the moment I wanted to reach the temple. It can be challenging, particularly if one has not knowledge of korean language, so despite the website has good explanation to transmit a message might be challenging. First, I got down in the wrong side of the subway Kyungbokgung (???) station. However, I am thankful for that mistake as I saw that this particular station is VERY interesting.
Secondly, I wrote the name of the temple in latin characters and I though to get a taxi once I emerged from the subway station. Surprisingly, my English message did not say anything to the taxi drivers. Then I went to ask help to dunkin-donuts personnel, which were very kind to help me. They wrote the name of the temple in Korean but still the taxi drivers say no. The temple did not show up in the GPS, it seems. So again with the dunkin donuts personnel, we wrote the whole address and indications, in Korean, and one employee helped me to talk with a taxi driver. Finally I was on my way. When I was reaching my destination the streets were getting narrower, to the level that a car had difficulties to go through…. then we reach the limit and I needed to walk.
This temple is in Seoul, and without a question, simultaneously is not in Seoul. Check the path from the following photos.
Where the bus might drop you
If you want to continue up, you need to walk
Getting to the Temple
Finally, I reached the temple, but to my adventures previously described, I arrived 30min little late, shame on me.
This is the main door the temple.
Once in the temple, we receive clothes and the program of activities is explained. At this moment we were mixed koreans and foreigners. Afterwards, we were only together for the meals.
The next photo is our schedule, which was in our room’s wall during my temple stay.
The first activity is the tour around the temple. Now that I am writing my memoirs, I see I missed important shots, but hopefully this set of photos offer an insight of the temple.
For me was interesting to hear the explanation of the doors. Big temples have three doors, which means the paths towards Nirvana. In these temple we had two, the main door to the temple (showed in an earlier photo) and the second door (shown below) the entrance towards the stairs that take us to the main temple.
The second door is on the right side, in the “middle” of the photo. I am taking the photo from another angle.
My impression, for a very short exposure to Buddhism, is that as other religions has several symbols. To me was interesting to learn some of their symbols, making me aware of my own ones as catholic. For example the stairs towards the main temple has a meaning.
In reference to the constructions the buildings are colorful and inviting. It called my attention that the ceiling of this building is actually a garden of the main temple:
The celing of the previous building and garden of the following temple
There are also offers for Buda, and for the dead. As I said, in our believes we use several symbols, which in my personal experience are very important. One day I will talk about this.
In this case food is an offer as well as the lamps, which in my personal opinion I think are beautiful.
The position in which Buddha has his hands have also meanings. (Here link1, link2 and link3 with information)
Here some photos showing the temple(s) and surroundings:
Detail of the construction with the nature surrounding us
Ceiling of one building and the roof is the garden of the main temple.
Pick to the view of another temple
One side of a temple (downstairs, after the 1st door but before the 2nd door). The hanging lamps are the preparation lamps to a celebration for the decease.
View of the temple downstairs
Lamps in the ceiling
Main temple is above this construction. The garden is the ceiling of this building.
Outdoors view from the main temple
Detail inside the temple.
Here we making a line to get our dinner. We are in purple uniforms while the monks are in gray. Yes, we ate sitting on the floor and the food was vegetarian and very good.
Line for dinner
As with Catholics, Buddhists can also make money donation to for the construction of their temples, in this case their names are written on the tiles being used in the construction, as in this case:
Name of donators
View of the temple towards busy Seoul:
View of Seoul
Another activity was the bell ringing. We all tried. Of course the best sound emerge when the Monk hit the bell. In here I got an adventure, because I was on the other side touching the bell to sense how long the cling last and suddenly a new hit. Oh man! That was loud.
Me posing after hitting the bell (me as always melting therefore ALWAYS with a bottle of water in my pocket!)
Hitting the bell
To finalize the day we had the 108 prostrations, from which we were practicing how one should make them.
While practicing, I confess that to me made no so much sense, but I was doing it as respect to the temple. They were accepting me as a visitor despite being from another religion and the less I can do is to do it properly.
The monk who was with the foreigners realized we were tense, so we did some yoga before the prostrations, which with the environment suits quite well. How much I remember my friend Anika, she would have LOVE IT!
However, at the moment to make the 108 prostrations, we have a CD in English and then it make so much sense. A lot of the things Catholics pray for are also expressed in Buddhism, give thanks for what we have, value, ask for guidance, etc. To me the understanding of each prostration transform the sense of it.
The temple where the foreigners were located was BEUTIFULLY illuminated with the lamps. It really offer a special atmosphere with the doors open, contact with nature, the light of the lamps, from several offers, and the prostrations connecting a physical activity with an inner conversation, call it spiritual if you wish.
Photos of the Temple at night:
inside the temple where we did the prostrations
After the prostrations, we were ready to sleep. We slept on the floor. As people knows me, when I did the judo and sometimes my back requests hard-surfaces to sleep on, so to sleep on the floor is not a problem for me. I slept well. The best of this night was that we could listen the river while falling to sleep. This was a LUXURY!
To finalize this post some photos of my walk at night through the temple, before falling to sleep.
View of Seoul at night
The light of our room
The next day, in the part 2 of this post. 🙂