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Beomeosa Temple Stay

Temple-stays in Busan let us non-monks get a peak at life in the temple: 108 bows, waking at 3am, sacred silence, and a quest for happiness.

Our translator described enlightenment as a clear pond. A person can immediately see a drop of red dye in crystal water, she said. However, a drop of red dye in dirty water disappears. Likewise, an unhappy mind cannot quickly identify the root of unhappiness, anger, and greed. However, a happy enlightened mind can swiftly see the cause of negative thoughts and stop them. Our temple stay group was told that Buddhists believe that unhappy thoughts are not real, but shadows that our mind produce, that only we can stop.

Buddhists seek happiness. The head Monk of the Beomeosa Temple said that many people chase rainbows their whole life. They look for money, love, and fame to make them happy. But when they come to the end of their rainbow, the end of their lives, they are not truly happy nor enlightened.He said “I have no hair, no money, no girl friend, but I am happy. Happiness does not come from eating a lot, sleeping a lot, speaking loudly and often, or finding true love. Happiness must be found within our self.” ( All monks that spoke to us had great senses of humor. They giggled and made comments about their shiny bald heads. Perhaps this comes with enlightenment?). He said taking little and contentment with this lifestyle equals true happiness.

But he did not condemn marriage, just said do not depend on another, on love, for it; for happiness, a person must create on their own. If we rely on the person we love for our happiness they will always fall short. This will create resentment.

So make yourself happy then if you want, find a person to share this with. So wise, wise one.

Ten paintings on the backside of the meditation building depicted a boy and an ox. The boy finds the ox, befriends it, and over time the ox turns from brown to white, the boy rides the ox, and eventually the ox walks away. Metaphorically this represents enlightenment. It takes time and in the end one must ignore it, because to be bragging or always aware of a higher state does not represent true enlightenment at all.

The ox not only appears in Buddhist art but also myth. In the middle of Beomeosa Temple court-yard, inside a pagoda sits a massive drum made of cow hide. Interesting since Buddhist are vegetarians. However, legend has it that one monk many years ago predicted he would come back on a certain day at a certain hour. He told the monks to eat him and enjoy the meat. Once eaten he would help the monk reach enlightenment.

The Monks beat the drum like a stomp performance on Broadway stage, even at 3am when this bleary eyed foreigner had trouble focusing her drifting contacts and still ached from the 108 full bows (on my knees, nose to the ground) the night before.

Three hours later at 6am we ate breakfast. Eating in the temple is a ritual. Each person has four bowls that must be arranged a certain way, unwrapped from its swaddling cloth a certain way, then cleaned a certain way. We ate in silence. The monk who ate with us finished much quicker than us, and sat quietly meditating. When done each person must scrub their dish with their yellow radish, drink the dirty water when done, and finally eat the radish. Waste not.

To reach Beomeosa, from Ulsan University take the 1127 city bus to Nopodong. Get off the bus and go one stop on the subway to Beomeosa station. Take bus 90 to the temple. Reserve a spot prior to temple stay.

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