Temple Stay Hysterics

One of the things on most visitors “To Do List’ when the come to South Korea is a temple stay at a Buddhist temple. Regardless of your religious views, it can be a very interesting, informative and authentic immersion in the culture.

Unless of course you happened to come on a particular temple stay with us to Magoksa. It would have been a very interesting trip, but perhaps not quite as authentic and relaxing as some of the other visitors to Magoksa would have excepted.

It all started at 3:30 on the Sunday morning. I’m sure many a regretful story starts at around that time in the morning, except, unusually, this is when we were waking up, instead of just going to bed as on many weekends.

Magoksa Temple

One of the highlights of a temple stay is following the monks around on their usual everyday routines and duties. So if morning prayers start at 4:00am, you’re up praying with them. Hence the 3:30 wake up call…..

Anyway, off the whole lot of us trooped off to the temple in the pitch black of night. We were quite a diverse group of almost exclusively foreigners, with Americans and Canadians as usual forming the bulk of the group. However, we had met a couple of South African girls in the mix, and so we had a little Saffa group going on. Once we got to the temple, we found that the beautiful wooden temple was too small to hold all 80 of us for the morning bows. All 108 bows. So we weren’t to upset to stand at the back and watch the others do there bows, and get a good workout at the same time. At that’s when the trouble started.

Pitch black outside, the temple is dead quiet apart from the low chanting of the monks in front, and the smell of incense hangs heavy in the air. It’s quite a sight watching the monks, and 40 tourists, crammed in like sardines, bowing in front of the large golden Buddha. Until one of the South African girls we’d met lost her balance and fell over. Since everyone was standing so close to each other, this set off a game of human dominoes, which completely ruined the mood inside the temple. We could not contain our laughter at the back, and had to go stand outside for a little. So much for a peaceful and spiritual start to the day.

Dominoes anyone?

Next up, meditation time. We moved on to hall, and were met by a monk who was going to show us the ropes for the mediation. Showing us the lotus position and explaining the concept behind mediation, the last thing he said before we were expected to sit silently in the lotus position for 30 minute is that this would hurt. What?! Thankfully though, he gave us a lifeline. If we were feeling too sore and stiff from sitting in such an unfamiliar position for so long, we were to stand up QUIETLY for a few minutes to shake your legs out. Easy really.

Except if you’re my mate sitting to my left. Ten minutes in, and I can sense him fidgeting and struggling. Taking the easy way out, he stands up. Rather, he tries. Since his legs have gone dead from the awkward sitting position, he promptly falls over, HARD. On wooden floors, which echoed beautifully though the silent hall. Just to make sure he disturbed everyone, he also knocked over a few empty water bottles, scattering them to all corners of the hall. Meditation shattered.

Unfortunately, it does not stop their. Banished to one corner of the hall for breakfast, we were by now famished. A Buddhist breakfast is quite a process, with some very specific rules. Firstly, it’s eaten in complete silence, and what ever you dish up must be finished, including the water used to wash your dishes with afterwards. Well, that would have been good to know before we asked for extra helping of the soup (Yup, soup for breakfast). Except it appears someone switched the soup for what tasted what cold, used dishwater would taste like. This realisation very quickly led to an outbreak of giggles (I know, we sound like teenage girls here, really what was up with us) that just could not be stopped. Once again, the strict rule of silence and quiet went out the window.


So, a word of warning to anyone who is planning on going on a temple stay. Choose who you bow, meditate and eat next to very closely. It could make all the difference.

Published in: on 09/06/2010 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Monday Picture

Beomeosa Temple.

Situated high above the South Korean port of Busan is the Buddhist temple of Beomeosa, whose mountanious setting is a real drawcard to visitors. Visit the temple around Buddha’s birthday to see it in all it’s glory.

Published in: on 24/05/2010 at 10:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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