Day 11 – Study Trip South Korea

-Written by Gerton van Middendorp & Wesley van der Sommen-

Today is the day everyone was “looking forward” to: the temple stay. We went to the Myogaksa temple in the north of Seoul to do a traditional temple stay. Because we had to leave the hostel for a day, everyone had to pack their bags and get ready to leave. Maybe going out last night wasn’t a great idea..

Upon arrival we changed into traditional clothing and we were requested to go to the main hall for the introduction. A story was told about a buddha who saw a lot of poorness, pain and injustice all around him. He decided to gain control of his body and mind by withstanding himself from 3 ‘poisons’ of the soul: Desires, anger and ignorance. The 5 desires are: money, food, sleep, love and power. When you cant withstand the urge of any of the sins, anger comes into your mind and ‘poisons’ you. After the prince changed his life and could withstand his urges, he got an enlightment and got a “buddha mind”.

15.00. Prostration time. We were shown exactly how to bow. This ritual was necessary for every ceremony. As a fact, it was just an exhausting workout, because 108 bows were required. Actually we were supposed to be glad because some other temples require ten times more bows a day! The instructor performs 108 bows a day, which only requires 10 minutes for her. Because it was our first time, it took almost half an hour for us. Most of us finished the challenge and will probably feel it tomorrow!

The second part was meditation. We sat down in the same position for 25 minutes while focussing on our breath only.

Two rules were: no sleeping and don’t make noisey. The evening ceremony started at 17.00 when the gong/bell was rang. The practising buddhists sang and we bowed a few times. The ceremony took only fifteen minutes, while the morning ceremony and the meditation tomorrow will both take an hour!

Food was served at the cafeteria after the ceremony. All food has been donated to the temple. The food does not contain meat in the temple. Since 2002 tourists are welcome in the temple. Before that time, the monks ate only three different vegetables, every day the same. However, a chef is paid to cook nowadays. The monks can appreciate that.

In the free time after dinner, we explored the surroundings of the temple and took some pictures. It was beautiful, especially after sunset when the lampion turned on.

21.00, time to sleep. The meditation did good to us. We were ready to combine our inner peace with physical rest we definitely needed after a tough week. Too bad we need to sleep on a thin mattress…