Beomasa Temple Stay
Equal parts meditation retreat and monk watching; the Beomasa Temple Stay was an introduction into mindfulness that will not soon be forgotten.
We arrived in Busan around 12 noon and were pleasantly surprised to see that our destination was a single subway stop away. Upon exiting the subway, an additional 4,000 won taxi ride took us right to the temple gate.
After looking around for a minute or so, a series of inviting “Temple Stay” signs brought us right to a small house where we were welcomed right in, given some tunics, and told to change and give over all of our electronics for one day.
Already I was excited.
Take Off Your Clothes!
Putting on a plain blue tunic stripped away all the distractions. It was like starting from scratch.
The first monk we met was a polish man named Chom Mun (Heaven’s Gate). Chom Mun, coincidentally enough, began studying buddhism in Cumberland, RI at the Zen Center; a Zen Center that is a mere 10 minute drive from my house in Woonsocket, RI! On top of that, we were both in RI for the same 17 years, from 1988 until 2007!
Synchronicity is Everywhere.
So with a sort of “fated” attitude about the whole thing, we began to delve into what soon became an introduction to mindfulness. We learned how to to be 100% present in everything we do, respect simplicity, and respect order.
We walked in lines, meditated in rows and learned how to breath.
Nothing matters but the present. It is literally all there is and all we can do.
We ate dinner and breakfast the way the monks do. Carefully unstacking our bowls in silence, serving food to each other, looking at our food, and eating; all in silence. There was no food wasted and everything was put back into it’s rightful place.
We went to bed at 9:00 sharp and woke up at 3:00 am. In the morning, the first stirrings of gongs and bells gave a very mystical feel. Sort of a dreamlike atmosphere.
We walked in a line to hear the morning drums calling all sentient beings to practice. A wooden board called the spirits of the air, a wooden fish was banged to call the creatures of the sea and a giant drum called all the creatures of land. We were all called to do the same thing: Be and realize “Who am I?”
Next We Woke Up.
In one of the main temples, we followed the monks through 108 prostrations. A process that involves falling on one’e knees, put the left big toe over the right, bowing the head to floor, hands palm down on either side of the head, flip the palms face up, raise them to ear level, and then raise back up.
It was the best morning exercise for mind and body. The purpose was once again a practice in 100% mindfulness, being present in the moment and no where else. That is all there is, literally.
After breakfast and a hike to a smaller mountain refuge, we headed back to the temple stay house for one more talk from another monk on mindfulness and breathing. Korean Buddhism, the only one I have learned anything about, places tremendous emphasis on breathing in stillness and silence. This was the type of meditation we practiced. Just breathing quietly, no chanting, left hand cupped by the right, thumb tips touching resting right in front of the bellybutton; the energy center.
We had a nice small group during our temple stay. There were two women from Hong Kong, a German family from Berlin, three Koreans, two Americans and one Canadian. This gave a really intimate and relaxed atmosphere to the whole stay and it is something I really want to do again.
I’ll Be Back
It was an eye-opening experience and it is something that can give a really unique perspective when traveling in Korea.
I also hope to see Chom Mun again!