Beopjusa Temple Stay

On the weekend of May 14, my friends and I traveled to Beopjusa temple (법주사) where we did participated in a temple stay. This was a really unique cultural experience, especially since we were there for Buddha’s birthday. Located in the same area as Songnisan National Park (속리산 국립공원), Beopjusa temple is surrounded by woods and beautiful mountainous scenery.

To get to Beopjusa temple, you will have to travel by bus between 3-4 hours long depending on traffic. Since we went with group with about 20 people, we decided to reserve out bus tickets ahead of time. If you decide to reserve your bus tickets, you will have to find a Korean friend to help you as it is all in Korean. You can either leave from Seoul Gangnam Central Bus terminal (Express Bus Terminal) (서울 강남 센트럴시티 터미널) which is on subway line #3 or from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (동서울시외버스터미널) which is located on subway line #2. Take a bus to Songnisan. Be sure to go to the correct bus terminal if you reserved a ticket. My friends and I went to the wrong bus terminal and were very stressed about missing our bus, but luckily, we did not! The bus ticket costs about 17,000 won, and the bus routes are not direct. When we took the bus from Dong Seoul, there were several stops on the way, so don’t mistakenly get off the wrong one. Once you get to Songnisan Bus Terminal (속리산버스터미널), it is very small, there is one main street with restaurants and small shops. From the bus terminal, it is about a 1-2 km walk to the temple.

When we arrived at the temple, we checked in and were given clothes to wear which consisted of a vest and baggy pants. As a participant, you are required to wear a shirt with sleeves. These are a few rules we had to abide by while there: When walking together, we had to stay in two single file lines; Keep silent or only speak quietly when necessary; finish all food that you take; bow to the monks when you see them walk by. Because it was Buddha’s birthday, the temple grounds had a very festive atmosphere so keeping quiet was not as easy.

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On the first day, we took a tour of the temple grounds and learned about different symbols and meanings of certain practices. Some people who had previously done a temple stay told me the food was not good. However, when we ate dinner, it was a simple meal of vegetarian bibimbap (비빔밥) and soup which I found to be very edible.  We also got to witness Buddhist ceremonial drumming and bell striking. I also got the strike the bell twice. In the main temple, we participated in Ye-bool (예불) which consisted of chanting and bowing. After the Ye-bool, because it was Buddha’s birthday, we participated in a Lotus Lantern festival where we paraded back into the town. The parade ended with a beautiful fireworks display. After the parade, we went back to the temple, and it was 8:30 pm. However, we had to have the lights out by 9 pm to wake up by 3 am the next morning. Surprisingly, I was able to fall asleep easily after the long day.

The second day we gathered together at 3:15 am, and I felt very well rested. It was still dark outside, but we proceeded to the temple to participate in Ye-bool again. This was very different from the first time because the festive atmosphere was gone and the serene feeling of morning was in the atmosphere. After this, we performed the 108 prostrations that many people talk about during the templestay. It was a really good opportunity to for reflection, and the 108 prostrations actually took maybe 20 minutes maximum to do. Here is a video of the meanings of the prostrations in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7tuP2Muez4 . Once the prostrations ended, we had time to rest before eating breakfast. After breakfast, we took a 30-40 minute hike where we were able to meditate at the top of the hike.

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Overall, the templestay was a very interesting and enlightening experience. It was a good time to reflect on things going on in your life and enjoy nature. I would say my experience was not as calming as other people’s experience, simply because I attended on Buddha’s birthday. I highly recommend a templestay though if you are looking for a unique cultural experience.

 

Article by Catherine from the U.S.A.

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