Monday, April 19, 2010

Beomosa Temple Stay: In Which I Act Like a Monk

When I told my friends that I signed up to do a temple stay they thought I was a bit nuts. Not because you pay to wake up at 3am or sleep on the floor but because I am absolutely terrible at sitting still. Terrible. I am a champion fidgeter. I surprised myself at my ability to hold still...except for the need to shift my legs every few minutes.  Sitting cross legged for any length of time is extremely painful.  However, I don't think I shifted my legs more than the other foreigners.

I'm not sure if large groups of foreigners have ever booked a temple stay all at once. Busan Meet-up group organized 20 people for the weekend which was apparently enough of an event for a reporter to trail us all weekend, taking photos and notes in addition to the volunteer who takes pictures for the Beomosa website. I'm fairly immune to having my picture taken by strangers at this point but it was a bit strange to have it done while meditating. 

The entire experience was surreal. As soon as we arrived, everyone changed into a pajama like outfit that we stayed in for the next 24 hours. We were really lucky to have a translator.  Salsa Boy did a temple stay last year without one and it was a bit tricky to follow along with all of the rules and customs.  And yet the spoken parts were only a fraction of what went on. So much of it was just about observing yourself, the world around you and thinking about...whatever needed to be thought about.

Everything was just overwhelmingly peaceful.  Exhausting but serene.  It's difficult to describe.
 This is me, in my pajama like outfit, sans makeup or hair styling.  We were waiting for everyone to get changed and settled. The boy behind me is in fact passed out, using a rather large novel for a pillow.
Even though most of the trees are still bereft of leaves the flowers blossoming on the cherry blossom trees (and whatever this pink variety)  were stunning.
 Lovely door painting.
I have yet to go to a temple and not taken at least 30 photos of the ceiling and rafters. At least I don't post them all!

I've seen the big drums at all of the temples but I didn't realize that they were still in use.  They are played before the night time service and at the 3am service (at least those are the times I got to witness it). It was AMAZING. Several people played before it was over. When it was a new monk's turn he started off on the side while the other monk kept going so that there was no interruption of sound.
Around the temple complex.

The best thing about waking up at 3am is that you are sure to catch the sunrise.

So, how do monks eat? Very carefully, very precisely, and with absolutely no waste.

Totally vegetarian and actually far yummier than it might look. The bowl on the top right with the water is used for cleaning the other bowls when you are finished. Whatever water is leftover at the end of the meal is collected, and if there are any food particles in it the entire row of people/monks has to drink it. Their philosophy is (basically) that so many people in the world go hungry, the least we can do is try not to waste what we have.
Passing around the side dishes, silently. No talking during Buddhist monk meals!
The view from the top! We climbed up a mountain to the visit the hermitage for a meditation session.
It never ceases to amaze me how pockets of city sprout up in between the mountains everywhere here.


Good-bye pseudo monks! Even us monks have to make a call occasionally.

5 comments:

Nancy K said...

Ah, morning on the mountain meditation. Not your first time for this. I bet the view was a bit different at Outdoor Academy!
Wonderful pictures. I'd love to see a gallery of just ceiling and beam pictures.

Alex said...

Maybe I'll do that one day when I don't have any idea on what else to post about...

Kyle Crum said...

I can relate to the "hard to meditate" thing. At the beginning of yoga classes, the teachers want me to focus on my breath for 10 minutes, during which time all I can think about is "this is boring...". Maybe some people aren't cut out to me monks?

eraponte said...

Oh my GOD, you're so cute in that picture! ...er... I mean.. Oh my Buddha!!!

Hey, so I'm proud of you for doing that! Way to go. Was it not 3 days? Your outfits were way cooler than ours. Now how come you didn't go all the way and shave your head?!?!

Glad to see that your "Being Brilliant," as is usually advised by The Doctor. Fantastic!

-Salsa Boy

Alex said...

@Kyle: I'm okay with the meditating...it just hurts my legs to sit that way.

@era: Nope, mine was not as hard core as yours, only Saturday and Sunday.