Korea is an exciting and dynamic place to live, but the 빨리 빨리 (quickly, quickly) culture in big city Seoul can become exhausting. Like the yin-yang Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhism is on the opposing side of this fast paced lifestyle and emphasises calmness and clarity.
The ‘relaxation’ temple stay at Magoksa encourages participants to remember to live more simply and find some balance in the gentle silence around Magoksa temple.
A mere two hour bus ride from Seoul tucked away in the farmlands of Gongju’s cabbage and chestnut strewn countryside lies the timeworn but beautiful Magoksa temple.
Founded in 640, Magoksa temple has sustained its ancient grandeur. Some of the temple’s treasures include a five-storey bronze-tipped pagoda, of which there are few remaining in the world, and a juniper tree planted by independence leader and scholar Kim Gu. The temple is also a popular destination to enjoy beautiful Spring and Autumn scenery.
In addition to the beautiful sceneries, there are a number of reputable eateries around Magoksa. The restaurants at the entrance to the temple path offer visitors the opportunity to sample the local cuisine. These dishes and sides are abound with fresh mountain vegetables, tofu and an assortment of local specialties such as deodeok (더덕).
MAGOKSA’S RELAXATION TEMPLE STAY
Temple stay’s are open to all people of any religious belief or background. This cultural experience offers participants a deeper understanding of Korean Buddhism. The ‘relaxation program’ at Magoksa conviniently begins in the afternoon and ends at around midday the next day.
After a prompt but friendly reception from the temple staff the program commences with a casual tour of the grounds, and a brief introduction to monastic life and Korean Buddhism. For foreign participants, this tour is led by Magoksa’s resident English speaking monk who willingly answers any queries. The program schedule allows ample free time to get changed into temple attire, explore, and take pictures at a leisurely pace.
Much like the temple uniform at Magoksa; accommodations are simple but comfortable. After exploring the temple freely participants can relax in their lodgings before the evening meal. Meals are taken silently as a group in the cafeteria. The menu consists of vegetarian food made with locally grown ingredients and must be entirely eaten- nothing is wasted.
The day ends early after ringing the Dharma bell, an evening prayer, and tea ceremony. Participants in the foreign temple stay program are shown the proper method of bowing before the ceremony. During the evening prayer 108 bows are performed in unison to the rhythmic tap of a wooden moktak (which is more physically draining than might be expected). Afterwards, a tea ceremony with a monk allows members to enquire further about Buddhism, the temple history, and monastic life. Each participant is given a small wooden bracelet to assemble and take home as a memento.
Participants arise early at 3am on the second/final day of the temple stay as it is believed to be when the atmosphere is at it’s purest. After a final prayer and breakfast the group can partake in an optional walk together through the surrounding foggy forest to a small hermitage.
Upon their return participants fill out a brief feedback form before cleaning their rooms and ‘checking out’.
Overall, this temple stay provided a lot of freedom to explore the temple at your own pace. Activities were optional so good for a first time participant who may just want an overview of temple life before taking on a more strict temple stay experience. The temple stay program at Magoksa is easy to book and participate in as a foreign/English speaking guest. Both the Korean and English speaking staff at Magoksa were friendly and helpful for the entirety of the stay, from booking to check out. The most surprising aspect of the temple stay was the level of personal interest the staff took in participants. While there was a lot of discussion about temple life and buddhism in general, the mentor/monk for this particular stay (Steve) was genuinely personable and was able to have more individualised discussions while maintaining a comfortable group atmosphere.
TEMPLE STAY SCHEDULE:
|14:00~15:00||Arrival & registration|
|18:00~18:30||Ringing the Dharma bell and evening prayer|
|18:30~20:00||Tea with a Monk|
|03:30~04:00||Dawn Yebul (chanting)|
|04:00~06:00||Individual practice or rest|
|06:00~07:00||Breakfast (Baroo-gong-yang – traditional temple meal)|
|11:00~11:30||Feedback & ‘check out’|
|11:30~12:30||Lunch /cleaning and departure|
Take an intercity but to Gongju. Take bus 770 or 610 beside Gongju bus terminal to the last station.
Admission Fees (free for templestay participants)
Individual – Adults 2,000 won / Youth 1,500 won / Children 1,000 won
Relaxation program 50,000원 per person (at the time of publishing)
Reservation available on the Temple stay website
Address : 567, Unam-ri, Sagok-myeon Gongju-si Chungcheongnam-do
Tel : +82-41-841-6221
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org