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Templestay Summer Programs
Templestay : A Journey in Search of my True Self
This is a unique opportunity to experience traditional culture and the lifestyle of Buddhist monks in ancient temples that have carried on the heritage of Korean Buddhism for the last seventeen hundred years.
A variety of specialized Templestay summer programs are being offered this year at temples throughout the country.
- Each temple has its own unique programs:
Many of the 118 temples that offer Templestay also run diverse programs throughout the year, including seasonal events and regional culture festivals.
For example, Beopheung-sa, a temple located in Yeongwol-gun, Gangwon Province, runs a program in which you make “dream pouches,’ where you can store your dreams for a year.  Participants diligently make their own pouches, then write their dreams on a card and put it inside the pouch they then carry it around on their bodies for the duration of the two day program, giving them the inspiration to fulfill their wishes.  When all the programs have finished, the pouches are hung in the Beopheung-sa Yaksajeon.  At the end of the year participants can come back again and see if their dreams have been realized.
The program at Magoksa temple in Gongju, Chung Nam Province, uses the technique of group counseling as a kind of meditation on loving-kindness through which participants heal deep wounds within themselves, and then learn how to maintain this mind of compassion.  Starting first with themselves, participants practice radiating total compassion to their families, neighbors, and ultimately all sentient beings.  The Magoksa “Compassionate Meditation” Templestay program is the quintessential program for healing body and mind.
Haeinsa temple, which preserves the world-renowned Koreana Tripitaka, runs a program that lets participants personally come in contact with the sutra collection and even try printing the wood blocks themselves. Spreading ink onto wood blocks modeled after the original sutra tablets and then printing them on rice paper is a unique way to connect with the timeless wisdom of the Seon patriarchs and the message of truth held within.
There is also some time to visit the small hermitages located all over Mt. Gaya, the mountain behind Haeinsa.  The footprints of monks who have practiced there for ages still remain at these hermitages even today one can still get some sense of their practice, as many monks continue to train there in pursuit of enlightenment.
In addition, the temple Golgulsa is one of the places where you can experience the practice of Seonmudo.  The formal name of Seonmudo was originally “Buddhist Diamond Spiritual Awareness,” as it incorporates elements of yoga, meditation, and the Buddhist practices of self-awareness and introspection.  Seonmudo training lets us straighten out our unbalanced bodies and minds so that we can become mentally and physically healthier.
Naesosa (Buan, Jeonbuk Province), situated in the foothills of Mt. Neungga in Byeonsan Peninsula National Park, is one of the temples whose scenery is considered to be the most beautiful of all.  Naesosa runs a Templestay hiking program that lets participants appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding area.   A course that takes you from the pine scent of the Naesosa One-pillar Gate to Mt. Naebyeon, the Jikso Waterfall, Jaebaeki Pass, the Gwanum Peak crossroads, the fir tree forest, and then back to Naesosa lets participants get a sense for the natural scenery and fragrances of Mt. Neungga and Mt. Naebyeon.
Most of the temple programs provide participants with training outfits, but since not many temples provide clothing for children, you should make sure to prepare it yourself.
The fee for participation at most temples is W 30,000-50,000.  For more information, contact the Korean Buddhist Cultural Corps at (02) 2031-2000, or else consult their website at www.templestay.com.  You can also personally contact the individual temples themselves for more information.
The Front view of Bulguksa Temple
After Buddhism first came to Korea by way of China in the fourth century C.E, this foreign-born religion gradually permeated all aspects of people’s lives, forming the foundation of Korean consciousness.  It reached the pinnacle of its development with its official recognition as a state religion by the Silla Kingdom (BCE 57-CE 935), and after Silla unified the Korean peninsula, it not only served a religious function, but was looked upon as a protective power. Temples of magnificent scale were built in and around Gyeongju, capital of Silla. Among those, Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto (C.E. 751) were the two supreme accomplishments of Korean Buddhist architecture.
Bulguksa, a grand complex of various worship halls and pagodas, is a depiction of the Buddhist Elysium described in some scriptures, while the man-made cave temple Seokguram, apparently built to complement Bulguksa, judging from its size and atmosphere, represents the state of Nirvana. This shows that the people who designed these temples envisioned the combination of Buddhist practice and ultimate enlightenment - in other words the realization of Buddhist ideals and the awakening to one’s true-self. In this arrangement, the journey to enlightenment began at Bulguksa on the western slope of Mt. Tohamsan, which was considered a holy mountain by the people of Silla. The final destination of this pilgrimage was, of course, Seokguram Grotto, near the top of the mountain. It was a way to seek the radiance of enlightenment.
Bulguksa : Realization of Buddha Land
As the name Bulguk (佛國) implies, the temple was designed to manifest the blissful land of the Buddha in the present world.  It was intended to embody the happy land where mortal beings are liberated from the sufferings of life by following the teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, the temple had to be not only faithful to the teachings of the Buddha but also beautiful as well.
The temple compound is divided into three sections: the realm of Sakyamuni Buddha, the realm of Amitabha, and the realm of Vairocana Buddha. The main courtyard which is dedicated to Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, is reached by climbing up the thirty-three stone stairs named Baekun-gyo (白雲橋, “The Bridge of White Clouds”) and Cheongun-gyo (靑雲橋, The Bridge of Blue Cloud), and through the Jaha-mun (紫霞門, Mauve Mist Gate). “Jaha” refers to the auspicious mist which is said to surround the awakened one, Buddha. These bridge-like stairways symbolically connect the earthly world below and the world of Buddha above.
In front of Daeung-jeon, the main Buddha hall enshrining a gilt-bronze Buddha triad, stand a pair of famous pagodas, Seokga-tap, or the Shakyamuni Pagoda, and Dabo-tap, or the Pagoda of Many Treasures. The arrangement of these two pagodas is the realization of the scene from the Lotus Sutra, where the Buddha of Many Treasures emerged out of the earth to witness the greatness and truth of Shakyamuni’s teachings.
The two pagodas form a rather dramatic contrast in their appearance. The three-story Seokga-tap is a model of simplicity and princely dignity, while the highly decorated Dabo-tap pushes the limits of aestheticism that can be reached by a stone pagoda.
The Geuknak-jeon, or the Paradise Hall, dedicated to Amitabha, is located to the west of the main courtyard.  From the surrounding area, the hall is reached through a separate gate, Anyang-mun (安養門, “Gate of the Pure Land”) and stairs named Yeonwha-gyo (蓮花橋, “The Lotus Bridge”) and Chilbo-gyo (七寶橋, “The Bridge of Seven Treasures”). Amitabha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, vowed that all who called his name would be born into this paradise after death.
UNESCO World Heritage: Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto(1995)
National Treasures: Dabo-tap(No.20), Seokga-tap(No. 21), Yeonwha-gyo, Chilbo-gyo (No. 22), Cheongun-gyo, Baekun-gyo (No. 23), Seokguram Grotto(No.24), the Golden Seated Vairocana Buddhist Statue (No. 26), the Golden Seated Amitabha Statue (No. 27), and Sari-tap (No.61).
Seokguram : Smile of Enlightenment
Seokguram Grotto is located about 4 km from Bulguksa, an hour-long walk up a steep, winding mountain path. Meticulously designed to guide the faithful into the holy land of the Buddha, this stone temple guides one on a mystical spiritual journey to the realm of nirvana in a limited span of time and space.
After passing through the arched entrance into the rectangular antechamber and proceeding down a corridor, walls decorated with images of various guardian deities, worshipers leave the secular world behind and prepare to face Buddha in the main rotunda.  An image of serenity and power, the Buddha is seated cross-legged on a lotus throne, with his eyes half-closed in meditation and a faint smile on his lips. This depicts the moment of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree after long years of meditation, with his hands poised in a hand gesture touching the earth to call it to witness his realization of enlightenment. Worshipers who experience Nirvana realize that life and death are one in the void of nothingness.
Chiseled out of a single granite block, the 3.5 meter-high Buddha image envisages Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha with sublime beauty and majestic dignity, epitomizing the aestheticism of Korean Buddhist sculpture. With the combination of masculine strength and feminine grace and the personification of divine and human natures, the Buddha represents the ideal human being who has perfected his existence in this world - not as a supernatural figure superior to mere mortal sentient beings, but as a one who started his search as a man and finally attained eternity.  The Buddha looks as if, since is also a man, that he knows everything about us, and that everyone else is a Buddha too.
There are forty different divinities such as Bodhisattvas, Buddha’s disciples, heavenly kings and protectors embodying various aspects of Buddhist teaching enshrined there this small but noble grotto temple symbolizes Buddhist philosophy and aestheticism, and was the epitome of religious belief, science and fine arts in the golden, enlightened age of ancient Korean architecture.
Story by Yangja Ha & photo by Yang, Byung-joo (www.zenphoto.kr)
- Sudeok-sa Temple Offers Soul-Searching Experience(2011-04-23)
- Spring-time in the small pocket of beauty that is Deoksan Provincial Park, will expose crimson azaleas that blossom on awkward-shaped mounds of rock that whittle away at the ghost-like sea mist, as it creeps through the mountain top where Sudeok-sa Temple stands.The park itself, which is in South Chungcheong Province on the west coast, is divided into Mt. Deoksung that enshrouds Sudeok Temple and Mt. Gaya its highest peak at 678 meters. The greater area, known as Yesan-gun, is steeped in Baekje period (18 B.C. - A.D. 660) history, supporting numerous cultural relics from that long era. This sets forth for the visitor, a unique temple stay at Sudeok Temple ― the head temple of the Jogye Order's 7th district and headquarters of monastic training for Zen Buddhism in Korea.
Spring-time in the small pocket of beauty that is Deoksan Provincial Park, will expose crimson azaleas that blossom on awkward-shaped mounds of rock that whittle away at the ghost-like sea mist, as it creeps through the mountain top where Sudeok-sa Temple stands. The park itself, which is in South Chungcheong Province on the west coast, is divided into Mt. Deoksung that enshrouds Sudeok Temple and Mt. Gaya its highest peak at 678 meters. The greater area, known as Yesan-gun, is steeped in Baekje period (18 B.C. - A.D. 660) history, supporting numerous cultural relics from that long era. This sets forth for the visitor, a unique temple stay at Sudeok Temple ― the head temple of the Jogye Order's 7th district and headquarters of monastic training for Seon (Jap: Zen) Buddhism in Korea.
Sudeok Temple was founded during the late Baekje Kingdom period in the 7th century. There are two separate claims on who was responsible. The first in 599, by Buddhist Master’s Chim-yong, and the second by Master Sung-je under the reign of King Uija in 647. There is even a record of it being founded in 384 A.D. during the 4th century when Buddhism was first introduced to Korea.
However, there is a better and more interesting story that perhaps settles any confusion about the creation of the temple a story that was splendidly narrated to me by Ven. Jung-hyun on my autumnal visit to Sudeok-sa. From behind one of the temple dorms, next to a small flat cliff-face of rock, Ven. Jung-hyun described how about 1,400 years ago, there was once a beautiful young woman from this area called Su-deok. She would come to this very rock and sit on it praying for the construction of a temple here. In the same area lived a wealthy young man, Deok-seon, who had been seeking her hand in marriage. One day she suggested to Deok-seon that if he built her a temple here, then she would marry him. Eager, he began construction, but upon completion the temple was burnt to the ground.
[ Sudeok Temple's prayer hall, Daewoongjeon, is Korea's oldest wooden building]
Rumors at the time suggested that the temple was destroyed because Deok-seon's intentions were tarnished by his lustful attraction for Su-deok. Ignoring the rumor, he tried again, and during his second construction attempt it was once again razed to the ground. Realizing his ulterior intentions, he solemnly prayed for the safe construction of the temple, and on his third attempt it was successfully constructed and named it Sudeok-sa. Deok-seon then proposed to Su-deok and she accepted his hand in marriage.
Their first night of wedlock was to be spent at the new temple, but when he tried to kiss her, she refused him. Angry he tried to force the issue further, but Su-deok fled. Pursued by Deok-seon, she ran towards the very rock that she used to pray on, and desperate in flight, she ran straight into the rock, vanishing into its surface, never to be seen again. All that remained were one of her shoes, and the hallowed impression of a flower embossed onto the surface of the rock.
It was a great story and a great introduction to the temple that captivated the 50 odd visiting overseas and local students from OISTAT (International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians). They were taking part in the temple stay program as part of an international workshop for ritual inspiration sponsored by their host Sangmyung University Seoul Campus. Upon completion of the story, Ven. Jung-hyun told the group to look into the rock and asked, ``Can you see the flower, where is the flower?' His request was met by reflections of approval. Indeed, because our thoughts were now embossed by this image of Su-deok, you could see her flower tarnished on the rock face.
[ The Flower Rock at Sudeok Temple at Yesan-gun, South Chungcheong Province ]
On that introspective note, it is important to perhaps understand what the temple represents to the Jogye Order. Designated in 1984, as the main center for Seon (Zen) studies, the temple accommodates about 200, with half that population being female nuns living on a separate site. So, what is Seon Buddhism? Seon, meaning `meditation', is translated from the Chinese word `Chan', which in turn is derived from the word `Dhyana' that comes from the ancient classical literary language of Sanskrit in India. `Zen' as it is more commonly known in the West is the Japanese translation of the Korean word Seon. Its practice in Korean Buddhism is a highly important aspect of study towards seeking the truth. It comes as a result of one of the two major schools of Buddhism, Mahayana and Theravada. Both are different expressions of the same teachings of Buddha.
Theravada, the more orthodox and theoretical approach to Buddhism emphasizes the belief of ethical conduct, meditation and wisdom as its base to accumulate goodness and purity. Mahayana, which is practiced in Korea and North East Asia, expresses the use of meditation as a way to look inward and not outwards when trying to reach enlightenment. It focuses on enlightenment as being more of a `sudden awakening', but even if a person achieves that state, they must continue with the gradual practice of Seon, the practice of enlightenment, or of being awakened, to remain awakened!
Seon Buddhism was brought to Korea from China by Master Beom-nang sometime between 632 and 646. Later, during the 8th and 9th century, the famous Nine Mountain schools (Gu-san) was built to become the initial monasteries of Korean Seon Buddhism, which is now the most prominent style of Buddhism in Korea. However, perhaps, the most notarized cultivator of Seon Buddhism in Korea was Master Chin-ul during the 12th century. Retreating to the mountains, he founded the current day Songgwang-sa Temple in South Jeolla Province, which supports a thriving Seon community. Seon remained a significant part of Korean Buddhism up to the Joseon Kingdom Period in the 14th century which then saw it ushered to one side by Confucianism.
More recently, Sudeok Temple helped the revival of Seon tradition by producing many great monks, Venerable Master's Gyeong-ho (1849-1912), Man-gong (1872-1946) and Won-dam (1926-2008), which in turn helped it to become established as the headquarters for Korean Seon tradition.
[ Participants meditate at Sudeoksa ]
The importance of meditation as a practice is regularly emphasized on temple stay visits. Ven. Jung-hyun at Sudeok Temple re-emphasized that notion to us. He introduced two sessions of Seon practice, and once again in his dynamic style he led us, at night, to the `Tabi-jang’, the temple-grounds graveyard, where monks are cremated.
There, as we sat under the starlit night he talked to us about `causation' and the cause of suffering. Birth is suffering yet we celebrate it. Death is suffering, yet through a strong desire to live, we mourn it, and that this desire for things that we have no control over is what causes human suffering. If we can control or remove those difficult desires, then we will in turn end suffering this is called the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. Ven. Jung-hyun believed that Seon meditation was a vital tool towards reaching that understanding and philosophy. In the warm dark air of the night, he then asked us to look up at the stars and ask ourselves this, `What am I? Where is your star?' And on that note he slapped his `Juk-bi' (bamboo stick) and summoned us to meditate. But before we broke into humble silence, he pre-concluded that we should listen to the insects and become one with nature. As we did this, not a breath could be heard everyone was captivated by his way of teaching.
The next day, the power of Sudeok Temple was re-enforced to us all at the early Morning Prayer session. At 3:30 a.m. we went into the 700-year-old `Taeung-jon', -built in 1308, making it the oldest wooden building in Korea - and participated in the `Yaebul', or chanting service. There a group of 12 monks chanted the sutras. In the early morning light, we sat enchanted by their chorus of undulating voices that completely filled the interior and acoustics of this ancient hall. Under the chanting spell of the monks, the silent 50 strong group of visiting overseas students, were transmigrated back in time by the spirit of the beautiful maiden named Sudeok.
If you desire a rich cultivating meditative experience, Sudeok Temple under the auspice of Deoksan Provincial Park is definitely worth a soul-searching visit.
For more information about Sudeoksa Templestay, contact to 82-41-337-0173
* By Roger Shepard, Contributing writer of the Korea Times
Speech should harmoniously resonate within any given area, in order to accentuate the beauty of the human voice.
The most beautiful sound in a mountain temple is the silence, though people sometimes forget that fact.
A bustling temple may seem chaotic, but you should stay for a while and wait until only those who comprehend the value of silence remain, as silence is the true language of the mountain.
Diagram: Yeong-Ohk Oh, CEO of Ogisadesign d’espacio Architects, inc.
Mr. Oh has a true love and appreciation of architecture that will carry on into the future. He began by making sketches of beautiful architecture He saw while traveling these drawings were later published in a book, and he was fortunate enough to have an exhibition.
- 'Different' and 'Wrong'(2011-04-09)
- Diversity is a part of the unavoidable reality in the world we live in. However, we often have a hard time accepting it, and contemporary Korean language usage reflects this attitude. It has been observed for some time that people confuse ‘different’ and ‘wrong’ and often use them interchangeably.
By Mok Gyoung Chan
Diversity is a part of the unavoidable reality in the world we live in. However, we often have a hard time accepting it, and contemporary Korean language usage reflects this attitude. It has been observed for some time that people confuse ‘different’ and ‘wrong’ and often use them interchangeably.
When they should have said, “you are different,” people say instead “you are wrong,’ and say “you think wrongly,’ instead of “you think differently.” I do not know when and how this has started in Korea, but it has become one of the most common mistakes. People nowadays make this error too consistently and frequently to dismiss it as a mere slip of the tongue. It perhaps signifies a notion deeply rooted in Korean’s psyche that oneself is the center of the universe and the ultimate standard by which everything should be judged.
Koreans often joke about this. ‘If I do it, it is a romance if others do it, it is an affair (adultery).’ Koreans also say, ‘ If I drive slowly, I am driving safely if others drive slowly, they are driving like a coward,’ ‘if my son speaks in a loud voice at a public place, he is being a positively assertive young adult if another’s son does it , he is being a loud-mouthed, spoiled brat,’ or ‘if I do it, it is a legitimate investment if others do it, it is shady speculation. ’ There are many more jokes in this vein.
If people can have a good laugh and forget about them just as jokes, it would b fine. However, these thoughts, if repeated, are like to develop into an embedded conviction that any ideas or concepts different from our own are wrong. More often than not, such entrenched beliefs will be translated and manifested into actions and habits, which make people implicitly force others to do what it right according to what they themselves think. One assumes his or her views are shared by all others, they are universal, thus right, and therefore others must follow them too.
I have a friend who is a small business owner. When sales are strong and profits are high, he would take his staff out and treat them with fancy dinners and visits to karaoke bars. He prided himself on being a nice and generous boss who knew how to have a good time and shared his good fortune with his employees. But one day, he started doubting were what his employees wanted but he eventually found out that some of them would rather go home to their families early. He realized that he might have spent money not for his employees’ happiness but for their discomfort in the form of forced gaiety. He wondered that perhaps it would have been wiser if he had given out cash bonuses instead of spending rather large sums of money for dinners and drinks.
Parents also do everything in the name of love, what they think is best for their children. However, it may be perceived only as fetters and shackles by the children on the receiving end. Everyone is different, living a different life therefore, it is only natural everyone has different characteristics and different views. It would be naively stupid to believe others will like what we like. Even identical twins group up to different personalities. Assuming people born of different parents in different time and space will all share the same thoughts and preferences is as absurd as believing there are rabbits with horns or turtles with hairs.
Language mirrors our ingrained habits and thought patterns. On the other hand, we may be able to change our behavior and way of thinking if we change our language use. It may be a slow process and difficult journey, but it is definitely worth trying.
[Very Special Happiness, from A Three-leaved Clover]