Walk with a monk
Follow the monk
Arrived 10am with the plan to stay at the this temple for the night. The invitation from the head monk at this temple has been for 2 years or more. His history with this temple dates back a long way, since he was 14 years old. It was a surprise when I first met him as he spoke perfect English which is very rare, I haven’t come across many people that do speak good English while I’ve been in Korea during my two months here. Later I found out that he is well travelled and has spent 10 years in Sydney at a Korean Temple where at the end of his stay he got his Australian citizenship. He’s even spent time in my home town of Christchurch at a Korean temple which I never knew that it existed, so next visit to Christchurch I must make an effort to visit the place before I proceed on my next challenge of the Te Araroa Walk (3,000kms, 5 months)
As we arrived to late for the 10 o’clock ceremony, I spent the time exploring the surrounding area where I entered a cave that had been converted into a small temple with the image of the Buddha carved from rock and candles lighting up the room to give a peaceful and warm environment to sit and pray.
Lunch was at 12 noon sharp, my favorite with 6 types of vegetables, rice and garden leaves with an added bonus of being plenty of tofu soup. After lunch, which took only 20-30 minutes, the monk’s helper showed me to the room where I’m to stay the night then he went away and rested, with instructions that he will return at one o’clock. The room belongs to an older monk aged 81 that is away at the moment. Lovey unit over looking the valley where he had positioned a very comfortable armchair to take in the valley view and surrounding mountains.
It’s a small unit that has an ensuite and once the floor heater had been turned on, it became very cozy with the bed mattress been laid out for me.
The next activity was at 5:30 which was to be dinner, and then at 7pm we had half an hour of ceremony. But before all that, in the afternoon, I helped the monk in selecting photos to put into the photo album that is to represent the aging monks achievements of building/renovating the temple and his traditional writing which can be viewed in a museum quality display which I had already seen on my last visit some weeks ago.
Eunhwa, my Korean girlfriend, her friend and a sister with nephew came to visit the monk and brought along with them a couple of pizzas and coca-cola so we sat for the next couple of hours eating, drinking coke and talking with the monk in a very confortable room that had floor heating. Finally the green tea came out where the monk carried out a well-rehearsed ritual of making tea for 9 guests which was poured into little cups and served to us.
Dinner was the same as lunch but without the tofu, make me wonder if the monks at the temple get the same food day in and day out, maybe that’s why he was happy to see the pizza only a couple of hours prior.
Just before 7pm, the temple bells starting to ring, Korean Buddhist temple bells (beomjong) are a symbol of Korean Buddhism, it’s more of a big bell being hit with a large wooden log hanging from the ceiling by a couple of chains. Its defiantly not random action of just banging the bell a few time, but instead the monk chants while doing so at a set rhythm with a total of 28 times which is then finished off with a lighter bell which I couldn’t see from the distance. Then at precise 7pm, we started the ceremony and to my surprise, after 15 minutes I was told that part one of the ceremony has finished and I could go if I liked. I did contemplated about staying to experience the whole process but three others were leaving and to be honest, I had done 4 hours straight which took me up to midnight on my last visit to this very temple. Yes my knees were tired after that.
The chanting from the monks standing in front of the Buddha statue was a relaxing, carming experience, just looking around the room that was rich with colors, Buddha symbols and the many lanterns that hung from the ceiling with each having a number on a tag with some writing on it, maybe it was some prayers for loved ones that have passed away or just words from the Buddha’s teaching on how to live a peaceful life all this gave me a pleasant warmth in the chilly night air.
I had a restless night sleep, not sure if it was because of the new surroundings or maybe that the alarm clock was set just before 3am. Except for two monks, I was the only person there. The ceremony started before 3 o’clock, with a single monk walking around the temple building three times chanting and making a rhythmic beat on the wooden bell that he carried with him. Meanwhile the other monk was ringing the bigger bell just like he was doing earlier in the day, but when that was finished and I entered the temple building, I was surprised to find that I was the only one apart from the monk to be there.
I managed to get an hour or two sleep before the breakfast bell rang, I was the last to arrive which was a little nerve racking as I had to serve myself without following others on how to prepare my food and what plates to use. Usually I’m being corrected along the way, use the spoon, don’t due the chopsticks in that dish, use the bowl in this case, Funny, this time I used the bowl for the rice and vegetables then noticed when I sit-down, that everyone else used a large plates.
My time came to an end at about 9am, and lucky for me the monk was kind enough to give me a lift to the main bus station and even came with me to the ticket box and helped me buy the ticket to Hamyang