Let’s have a taste of monastic life in the Seoul city! Korea’s templestay programme has become a traditional Buddhist cultural programme amid the interest of locals and foreigners. You can relax and experience the simple ways of a Buddhist monk at a beautiful Korean temple in the mountains yet near to the city.
What can you do?
This unique cultural programme allows participants to have hands-on experience of monastic life at traditional temples which preserves over 1700-year-old history and culture of Korean Buddhism. Various programmes such as Seon (zen) meditation, 108 prostrations, tea ceremony, making lotus lanterns or prayer beads, cooking and trying traditional temple food and more. All meals provided are vegetarian and are made from ingredients gathered from nature.
(i) 108 Prostrations (108-Bae)
By physically lowering the bodies and humbling the selfish egos in the practice of Buddhism, where bowing is to take refuge in the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sanga), respect for others and keep a humble mind in Buddhism. Performing 108 prostrations is yet another way towards the realisation of the true-self, and it is a very effective form of moving meditation. In Buddhism, 108 defilements represent the worldly sufferings, and for every bow can purify one defilement.
(ii) Seon Meditation (Cham-Seon)
Seon meditation is an important Korean Buddhist practice method, turning the intention inwards and illuminate the true-self. Through learning the basic of Cham-Seon, you can look for your true nature with concentration and observation, and practice it in daily lives then you can truly live in harmony with all beings.
(iii) Formal Monastic Meal (Barugongyang)
The entire community dines together, sharing the same food, and not even a drop of water is wasted. Eating is also part of Buddhist practice, you will feel gratitude for the food that is served, and receive it keeping in mind that it is the only medicine to support that bodies on the path to enlightenment.
(iv) Tea Ceremony (Da-Seon) / Conversation with a Monk over Tea
Have a cup of tea at a quaint, ancient Buddhist monastery. The subtle fragrance wafting from the well-brewed tea will relax the body and clear the mind. The hustle and bustle of urban life will fade away as you calmly chat with the monks and fellow participants. It is one of the meditations to practice mindfulness and concentration through brewing and drinking tea. When you drink tea, your five senses work at the same time, where your eyes see the colour, ears hear the sound of the water, the nose smells the fragrance, the tongue tastes the flavour of the tea and your hands feel the warmth of the cup.
(v) Making Prayer Beads
Prayer beads are traditional prayer tools for Korean Buddhism, made by threading beads one-by-one onto a string with hopes for enlightenment. Prayer beads with a smaller number of beads are called danju (short beads) and ones with 108 beads are called 108 yeomju. This signifies putting out the 108 mortal desires by counting the beads. As you count the self-made prayer beads in your hand, you will feel your scattered soul gathering in one place.
(vi) Buddhist Ceremony (Yebul)
Twice a day at Korean Buddhist temples, during the early dawn and evening, people pay their respects and make offerings to Buddha. The ceremony begins with the playing of the four Dharma instruments: the Dharma drum, Dharma bell, wooden fish and cloud-shaped gong. It is a time of prayers for the wellbeing of all living creatures, a time that reminds one of the universal mysteries present in all sentient beings.
(vii) The Four Dharma Instruments (Samul)
At Korean Buddhist temples, four Dharma instruments are sounded at the morning and evening Buddhist ceremonies. The instruments are the Dharma bell, Dharma drum, wooden fish and cloud-shaped gong. The Dharma drum holds the vow to save all animals that dwell on land, the Dharma bell for beings suffering in hell, the wooden fish for all life forms that dwell in water, and the cloud-shaped gong for birds of the sky. Templestay participants will have a chance to sound the temple bell only.
(viii) Temple Food
Temple food refers to the vegetarian food eaten daily at Buddhist temples, which is natural, healthy and also a part of Buddhist life. At Buddhist temples, the food uses seasonal vegetables to satisfy both flavour and nutritional needs, as well as comforts both mind and body. In temple food, food is a cultural core that gives a concrete form to the essential teachings of Buddhism on its path to healthy living and ultimate enlightenment.
Where can you join?
While you are staying in Seoul, you can experience mindfulness meditation and templestay programme at several temples with an English service as following:
The temple was constructed in the 10th year of Shilla King Weongseong’s reign (794). In 1498, Queen Jeonghyeon refurbished Gyeonseongsa Temple at the east of King Seongjong’s royal mausoleum and renamed the temple as Bongeunsa. With over 1,200 years of history and Buddhist heritage, the famous temple consist of 13 types of 3,479 Buddhist scriptures, including the works Kim Jeonghee are stored here. The Buddhist ceremony called Jeongdaebulsa, is held every September 9th of the lunar calendar, where monks march carrying the scriptures on their head and recite the Beopseongge (Buddhist rites).
Bongeunsa Temple, also known for its breathtaking natural scenery which includes the area of Gwangneung forest that was designated as the UNESCO Biosphere reserve. With the templestay, you will be able to walk through the forest opened exclusively to templestay participants. Relax and learn how to control your body and mind with Bongeunsa’s monk through its exceptional templestay programme.
Jogyesa Temple is the administrative headquarter of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, located in the heart of the city in Insadong. Surrounded by urban buildings, the temple is convenient to visit, offering a great escape from the big city for both locals and foreign tourists.
The front yard of Jogyesa Temple is filled with lotuses in the flowerpot. It is also one of the main locations for the annual Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) held around April and May where the entire courtyard is embellished with paper lanterns.
At Jogyesa, you can hear the sound of a Dharma Drum which is believed to guide the common people on the righteous path. Another highlight of the temple is the pagoda that houses Shakyamuni Buddha’s relics brought by Sri Lankan monk, Ven. Dalmabara. You can get a chance to learn about Korean Buddhism as well at the Central Buddhist Museum. Take a time to look into yourself with the sounds of the Dharma Drum and the temple bell and learn to be a true hero in your life!
International Seon Center is a modern Buddhist temple in Seoul city that offers templestay programmes focusing on Seon meditation, as well as a Buddhist propagation training center. By practicing Seon meditation, you will have a chance to observe your mind and learn how to breathe correctly. This will lead to spiritual awakening and you will learn to live “Now and Here”.
Templestay at International Seon Center has more meditation sessions compared to other temple stay programmes at other temples, allowing you to ease up, open your mind and think about yourself. You will experience sitting meditation, walking meditation and group meditation in addition to an introductory lecture on Korean Buddhism.
Nestled in the mountain valleys, it is a quiet place to relax, refresh and rediscover peace, as well as experience Korean Buddhist culture from various programme in templestay. Korean traditional architecture can be seen in Hanok Village which is located right below the temple. The temple also renowned for its authentic temple food for over a millennium.
The temple consists a Buddhist College that offers various classes from beginner to advanced levels in Korean, and the International Zen Center is for international visitors and has regular Sunday programmes in English for participants to learn about meditation and have Dharma Talk with other practitioners.
Geumsunsa Temple, a 600-year-old Korean traditional Buddhist temple that located in Bukhansan National Park, well-preserved nature is offered with a mountain stream flows from Beebong Park and Hyangrobong Peak, passes under Hongyaekyo (Bridge of Nirvana) at the temple, yet it is still located in the center of Seoul.
With a tranquil atmosphere and a stunning view of Seoul city, the mountain temple specialises as a concentrated Seon meditation temple. You can attend Buddhist chanting ceremony, have conversations with the monks about Buddhism or your concern or go for trekking in Mount Bukhansan.
Myogaksa Temple, located to the east of Seoul in the quiet residential district of Jongno-gu. Established by Monk Taeheo Hongseon in 1930, Myogaksa Temple being situated on Mount Naksan based on Feng Shui, with the belief that it would bring peace and happiness to the residents of Seoul. Join a templestay programme here to relax and recharge yourself with nature.
More information about PLUS SEOUL and Seoul Convention Bureau is available at www.miceseoul.com.