'Health is the best benefit, satisfaction is the best property, trust is the best fate. But nothing is happier than peace of mind.' These words appear in the scripture of Dhammapada, one of the most widely read Buddhist scriptures. Currently, we live in a world focused on material wealth, but it is hard to say if we are happy and content with life. Rather, we hold out, hoping that the day will end quickly. We know that happiness comes from peace of mind rather than material wealth, but finding it is not easy in this complex world. Consequently, more and more people are trying to spend their days connecting with nature, away from reality. This SMT reporter experienced a temple stay to gain peace of mind among nature.
Movement in the air as a leaf falls
Temple stay is a traditional cultural experience program that entails living the daily life of an attendant in a temple. In the past, temples were spaces only for those wishing to become Buddhist priests or training in Buddhism. Therefore, few people visited temples without any religious purpose. However, the temple stay experience began in earnest with the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup. At that time, there was not enough accommodation for all the visiting foreigners, so the government and the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism joined forces to promote temple stay. Temple stay began with the practical aim of covering the insufficient amount of accommodation, but in other words, introducing Korean culture to foreigners visiting Korea was also a goal. This year marks exactly 20 years since the phrase temple stay appeared. More than 6 million people have experienced temple stay since then, and more than 140 temples still offer it. Now temple stay is one of Korea's representative cultural experiences and was selected by the OECD as an "excellent creative and competitive cultural product."
Since a temple is a place where Buddhist priests live, there is a code of conduct to follow. First, when you walk around a temple, you should naturally place your right hand over your left hand, lightly touch your abdominal area, and keep your body straight and upright. Also, when entering or exiting the gates of a temple, passing in front of a Buddha statue, before and after deep bowing, and when meeting a Buddhist priest, you should do "hapjang" which means pressing your palms together as if praying. Having hands pressed together, straightening your body, and opening your chest and shoulders shows respect. There are also specific behaviors when entering a temple hall. Upon entering, you should avoid the middle door and choose a side door instead because the middle door is the door where a Buddhist priest enters. Also, we should avoid sitting in front of the Buddha and rather sit on the left or right. A temple is a space for worshiping Buddha and a space where Buddhist priests live, so there are various rules and a code of conduct when experiencing temple stay.
Washing away the worries of the world
This SMT reporter went to a temple stay at the end of the summer. Although there are many temples near Seoul, she chose Daegwangsa in Bundang-gu, Seongnam City, which was easy to get to without a car. The journey to the temple was beautiful because it is located in the mountains. The first day's theme was 'a day of emptying one's mind' and was attended by 40 people. The room she was assigned was a place where less than four people could sleep overnight and had a bathroom. After the room assignment, there was an orientation on temple etiquette and a lesson on how to bow. After that, an hour-long chat with a Buddhist priest was scheduled. However, when she went, the Buddhist priest was away, so the conversation with him was postponed to the next day. After the orientation, she went into a Buddhist sanctum to do 108 prostrations. This is a method to cleanse oneself of defilement and sources of suffering, and every bow releases one of the 108 afflictions, allowing the person to reflect on their behavior. According to the Buddhist priest's video, the act of 108 prostrations is performed for about 25 minutes, repenting for one's sins. This SMT reporter bowed 108 times for the first time and her knees creaked. If your joints are not good, you can do it in a sitting position, which is easier on the body. After that, it was dinner time. In the temple, a set amount of food is given, and you must wash your own dishes. After 108 prostrations, the reporter ate a delicious dinner with gratitude. In the temple, there is only vegetarian food, so she could eat it without any discomfort. For the rest of the day, there was free time to watch the sunset and the stars above the temple from the top of the mountain and bedtime was at 9 p.m.
The second day's theme was 'filling your mind.' At Daegwangsa, 'Yebul' which is a ceremonial service involving chanting, vowing and praying begins at 3 a.m. This ceremony is the most basic ritual to announce the beginning and end of the day. It is a prayer to greet the Buddha enshrined in the temple and pray for peace throughout the world with one's body and heart. Although it was very early, many people gathered in the Buddhist sanctum. Although the SMT reporter's legs were stiff due to the 108 prostrations the previous day, she attended the early morning 'Yebul.' Listening to people's prayers with the sound of a 'moktak' which is a wooden percussion instrument used for chanting by Buddhist clergy, she felt calm and gained peace of mind. In the morning, a hike had been originally scheduled for after breakfast, but instead of hiking, the delayed chat with a Buddhist priest and tea was scheduled. People asked him questions, and this SMT reporter also asked him about her typical worries, and he gave a wise answer. After the conversation with the Buddhist priest, people had free time to organize their thoughts and meditate. In her free time, she sat on the lawn with her mother and talked about many things she didn't usually say while looking at the magnificent trees around the temple. After that, people wrote a review and checked out.
Things that get brighter as it's quiet
"Are you looking forward to tomorrow?" Most people live like hamsters on wheels and continue to worry about small things such as "what if other people hate me" or "what if today's meal is spoiled?" Moreover, people gradually live life forgetting how to get off the wheel. So, people begin to regard time to get off the wheel as mandatory. Temple stay is made for that. Naturally, being in the temple is temporary and people go back to the wheel again. However, if people are not looking forward to tomorrow and are tired of today, leaving the city and staying with nature in a temple will be vital for tomorrow.