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"How can a Fish Survive without Water?" ~Templestay Weekend

SOUTH KOREA | Friday, 13 July 2007 | Views [2898] | Comments [1]

"How can a fish survive without water?," was what we were asked to meditate on by our host monk, during our 20 minute sitting meditation. I went on another 'Adventure Korea' trip, but this time I went on a Templestay weekend to Naesosa Temple, in Byeonsan National park region, Jeollabuk-do province. It took us four hours by bus to get to this enchanting temple, near the west coast of Korea. To learn more about Naesosa, click here.

http://english.tour2korea.com/03Sightseeing/DestinationsByRegions/Depth04.asp?ADDRESS_1=36071&ADDRESS_2=34928&konum=1&kosm=m3_1&sight=sightseeing&sightseeing_id=210

On our way, we stopped at Gyeokpo Port, Chaeseokgang Cliff on the west coast. I was excited to see this beach area, since it was the first time I had been this south of Seoul. This port, was the headquarters of naval forces in old times, and served as the hub of sea transportation linking many islands to the Yellow Sea. The sea cliffs were just stunning, and Chaeseokgang Cliff resembles a stack of books.

Can you see all the small stacks of stones along the cliff? Do you know what they represent? I was curious myself. Stacking stones is actually a Buddhist precept, and is a form of worship and asking for good fortune. Read more about stacking stones here.

http://www.tomrchambers.com/index-96.html

Chaeseokgang Cliff with stacks of rocks on each layer. Up close and personal with the stack of stones There was a pier that we didn't have enough time to go on, but it had a lighthouse at the end of it. Unfortunately, it was very overcast, and foggy, so the view isn't as clear as I'd have liked. The rocks along the coast, reminded me of the Grand Canyon. As you can see, some of them had green moss growing on them.

After spending an hour or so walking around enjoying the rocks, and cliffs, we had to board the bus to get to Naesosa temple. The temple is in a national park, so the views were stunning along the way.

Our goal of the templestay was to live like a monk for a day and a half. I knew monks led a strict, and disciplined life - although I didn't truly know how strict, till after the templestay weekend was finished. 

When we arrived, we all had to change into the same outfit. It was killer hot on Saturday, and the outfit was a brownish colour, of long pants, and a long shirt that tied up at the neck. It was also way too big for me - which wasn't a complaint, since I'm used to Korean sizes being way too small. It wasn't exactly the coolest outfit. I thought I'd die of heat exhaustion before I became a monk (or at least lived like one). I was having visions of being in jail - with the only thing missing being the ball and chain.

One of the monks came to talk to us, and since he talked Korean, we couldn't understand him. There was a translator there to tranlate his words into English, but I got the feeling throughout the weekend that, a lot of what was said was, "lost in translation." Many times the translator had a hard time expressing himself in English, because he was also Korean, you see.

It was then time for dinner. We were advised not to talk at all once we entered the dining hall. Our meal was vegetarian and consisted of rice, kimchi, and a few other things that I wasn't quite sure of what they were. It was nice to be able to eat in silence. That is one thing that I enjoy is being able to eat a meal in contemplation, and solitude. Silence is hard to find, living in Seoul.

Aftewards, we got to make lotus lanterns from scratch. I enjoyed doing this, and put a lot into the process. In fact, It took me a long time to finish my lantern. I was the last person working on it; and while everyone was walking around me eating potatoes, (evening snack) I was adding more leaves to my lantern. The finished product could of looked better if I had more time, but then again, I knew no one would notice it but me.

After the lotus lantern event, we had to get to bed. We were told that we would be woken up by the sound of a bell, at 3:30am. We ended up going to bed at 10:30pm, and all the girls slept in one small room on the floor, with a blanket and pillow. Of course I couldn't sleep, knowing that I'd have to get up in less than five hours. It was so hot in there, I thought I'd die. At least there were fans on the wall to help cool it down.

At 3:30am, I heard someone clapping in our room, and a bell being hit, in the distance. I could barely get up, but finally pulled myself up, when I was told that we had to be in the main temple hall in ten minutes. Being barely awake, we all walked to the main temple hall to chant, and bow to Buddha. The evening before, we were taught how to properly bow, and practiced bowing as a group. In the main temple, we had to chant, and bow many times before Buddha. The whole experience seemed surreal, but I did really enjoy it. It seemed very peaceful, and holy in a way that I can't describe. I left the temple feeling, more awake, and more like a monk than ever.

We then went back to the temple we slept in, and had to do a sitting meditation. We sat in two rows, in the half lotus position. The monk told us to focus on the question, "How can a fish survive without water?" At the time, I didn't realize how good a question it was to be able to focus on, as our thoughts drifted onto other things. I had done meditation a long time ago, so I knew what it was about. It was nice to be able to get back into it. I enjoyed the peacefulness about it, and could hear the birds through the screened doors.

After meditation, we had a traditional Korean breakfast. It took almost an hour just to set up for the breakfast. We were seated in two rows facing each other. We each were given a set of bowls/chopsticks/spoon/, all tied up in a bow. We were taught by the monk, how to set up our bowls, in an orderly fashion. Eight of us, had to serve the food from big stainless steel pots into each bowl, then we had to clean our bowls with fresh water, that was poured out of the biggest kettle I've ever seen. Once everything was served, and our bowls were in order placed in front of us, then we could eat in silence for fifteen minutes.

After breakfast, we had half an hour to get ready to go on a four hour hike to a waterfall. I was quite tired, but looking forward to exploring more of the park. I'll write about it in my next story.

Tags: adventures

Comments

1

You have been truly blessed to visit such nice places. I can just feel the purity in these pictures. Thank you for sharing this great experience.

  Peter Nov 19, 2008 8:06 PM

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