One of the perks of being a student in South Korea is, having the opportunity to attend cultural classes or trips to experience Korea’s rich culture. Since our school is a South Korean Buddhist university, our first cultural trip was a templestay experience at Guinsa Temple. It was my first time to stay in a temple, and I don’t have any idea what to prepare or what are we going to do there.
Buddhism in Korea
South Korea has a diverse religion. Buddhism entered Korea from China during the 4th century and is one of the dominant religions here. Buddhism was prominent in ancient times yet still influential until today. Thousands of temples are being established across the country right after Buddhism arrived in Korea.
Guinsa is the headquarters of the Cheontae School of Korean Buddhism located in Danyang Chungcheongbukdo, South Korea. It is also called the Temple of Salvation and Kindness. The temple is strikingly established and compressed into a narrow valley surrounded by mountains of Sobaeksan. It is one of the most unique and large temples in Korea. The temple has five notable structures, which comprise the Great Teacher Hall, Four Heavenly Kings Gate, 5-Story Dharma Law Hall, Cafeteria Hall, and the Three-Story Stone Pagoda.
What is Templestay?
Templestay is a special cultural program in several South Korean Buddhist temples that enables individuals to experience the life of Buddhist practitioners. It is a unique program that will give you a better understanding of the various aspects of Korean Buddhist history and culture. A series of meditation, chanting, a formal dinner, and tea ceremony rituals are part of the templestay program.
Guinsa Templestay Experience
Orientation and Making of DIY Prayer Beads
We had a 2-days-1 night stay in the temple. We rode our school bus, and it took approximately 4 hours from our university to Guinsa temple. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by some Buddhist monks. Right after checked-in at the accommodation building, they did a short orientation about the program and told us a brief history of Buddhism in Korea in the Interactive hall. They also taught us how to make DIY prayer beads, and they gave these to us before leaving the temple.
Silent Temple Tour
After the orientation and making of prayer beads, we did a silent temple tour. Before we reach the top of the temple, we climbed a lot of stairs. Yes, it was so tiring but, when we finally get to the top, a beautiful view of the temple is waiting for us. The very long climbing journey was so worth it. While doing this silent temple tour, we also did a walking meditation and had a chance to reflect on ourselves.
Temple Formal Dinner
In the evening, we had a temple formal dinner: Ballwoo Gongyang. We experienced to eat the traditional bibimbap meal that Buddhist monks usually eat at the temple, no meat, only vegetables. They gave us a set of utensils wrapped in a cloth and used these on preparing our food while following some certain steps. After eating, we cleaned up together. We washed the ballwoos and wrapped the utensils back to their original state. Reminder, if you will to try this, make sure to get the exact amount of food you can eat. It’s a rule that you should eat all what is in your bowl and leave no trace behind. And then, before going to bed, we did some meditation again.
On our second day, there was a morning ceremony, but I did not attend it because it’s too early, it started at 3:30 am. At 8am, they gave us some options to do. Walking meditation in a mountain outside the temple or attend a funeral ceremony. I chose the latter one since I was curious about how they do it.
I’ve been to many temples for sightseeing only. This Guinsa templestay experience granted me a chance to experience what it feels like to stay in a temple. Plus, I learned more about Buddhism and somehow created a sense of calm and inner peace.
For more information, you can reach the guinsa temple here:
- Address: 73 Guinsagil Yeongchun-myeon Danyang-gun Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea
- Tel: 043-420-7425,7397 / Fax: +82-43-420-7399
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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