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It wasn’t until the monk banged the gong and we all stopped bowing that I truly realized how intense Buddhism is. Our robes were drenched in sweat and our hair was plastered to our heads.

Temple Stay: Living with the Monks

It wasn’t until the monk banged the gong and we all stopped bowing that I truly realized how intense Buddhism is. Our robes were drenched in sweat and our hair was plastered to our heads.

These weren’t your ordinary bows either. Just ask Emily Moreland, a former English teacher, now graduate student at Colorado State University. “The most memorable part of my temple stay was learning and performing 108 bows; even though my legs were killing me for the next 3 days. The stillness in the air, the lull of the monk’s chanting, and the sense of community that I felt as I knelt again and again was so foreign to me, yet so fulfilling.”

Buddhism is all about overcoming life’s obstacles, be it mental or physical through the power of the mind. It is this uncomplicated and pure approach to life that has drawn people for hundreds of years to the religion. Since its inception in India, Buddhism has continued to spread and develop throughout the world. In Korea, Buddhism or “Tong-bulgyo” was first introduced from China in 372 A.D.

Temples throughout Korea introduce West-erners the opportunity to experience the lifestyle of a monk (in Korean known as “Su-nim”) for two days and one night. I stayed at the Hongbeopsa Temple located in Seondugu-Dong in Busan. There I found myself draped in the traditional robe, dyed naturally in orange with persimmons. The clothes were ideal for sitting cross-legged and meditating, which we did after awaking at 4 a.m. It was a surreal experience with the frogs croaking in the background amidst the still sounds of the early morning. It might have been the lack of sleep, but there was something deep I felt besides soreness from the bowing. It was like a strong sense of contentment mixed with a splash of serenity. We were told the monks routinely wake up and meditate at that time because it is the calmest, most tranquil part of the day – the time when the Earth’s energy is at its peak. Mark Swinhoe, an English teacher at Arum Little Campus in Danggam-Dong, found his temple stay experience, “to be a very peaceful experience,” but added that he doesn’t “feel more inclined to follow Buddhism.” An early breakfast follows meditation, but with all the precision and care of serving the food, we didn’t eat for over an hour after we sat down. Food bowls had to be ceremoniously positioned in front of us and all of the verbal instructions from the monk had to be translated.


Once we had our chopsticks and spoon set in the correct bowl, Western volunteers passed the food as we all carefully served ourselves, being mindful to take only what we could eat – monks never waste food. Once we had devoured all of our rice and vegetables (monks are vegetarians) we had to clean our bowls with rice water, a piece of yellow radish and then with water. If we came across any small morsel it had to be eaten.
The monk that guided us throughout our weekend experience was an immensely kind man. His face constantly lit with a smile and a glimmer in his eyes. During our question and answer session, I asked him what it was like to be living so close to a nearby Christian church. He gently scratched his chin and told the interpreter that for the most part the temple and the church co-existed next to one another without problems. The monk then chuckled and told us how the pastor had brought him a cross – complete with the crucified Jesus – as a welcome to the neighborhood present. The monk said he kept it in his room and thought of it as an interesting piece of artwork.
Regardless of your religious background, everyone wants to live a happy life and that is the goal of the monthly Han Na Rae Culture events ( On October 18th, there is a free excursion to Mt. Namsan from 9:00 ~ 16:00 p.m., with a free lunch included. On November 15th, there will be a Mask Dancing event. Seats are
limited, so book it early.
The Buddha once said, “Cultivate the good. If this cultivation were to bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to do it. But as this cultivation brings benefit and happiness, I say,
cultivate the good.”

Questions & Reservations: 010-4104-8390 010-5581-2059.




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