Greet the new year calmly, far from the noisemakersThe Christmas season’s bustle gives rest and quiet a premium. Here is a chance to recoup some energy by ending 2003 ― or starting 2004 ― amid the sounds of wooden gongs and chanting monks and the glow of lotus lanterns.
Buddhist temples across the country invite expatriates and Koreans to stay at their (mostly) isolated compounds, an exceptionally peaceful way to greet the New Year. Eleven temples open their gates from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. Waking up at 5 a.m. may not sound too pleasant, but why not start the New Year a bit earlier?
Jagwangsa Temple in Daejeon presents two expatriate-only programs, tomorrow and on New Year’s Eve, where participants can see how Buddhists greet the new year. During the two-day program, which costs 50,000 won ($40) per person, visitors meditate under a Buddhist monk’s guidance, greet the new year’s first sunrise and make a wish by bowing 108 times. Founded fairly recently, in 1977, Jagwangsa Temple is not rich in history, but it is known for its expat temple stay programs. In addition, Jagwangsa Temple offers Buddhist services in English at 10 a.m. on the second Sunday of each month.
Combine an East Sea sunrise with lessons on sunmudo, a Zen martial art, at Golgulsa Temple in North Gyeongsang province. Sunmudo contains aspects of yoga, meditation and martial arts, promoting a balance between body and spirit, self and non-self, static and dynamic movement. For an affordable 10,000 won, overnight visitors with enough stamina are invited to offer 3,000 bows to Buddha.
Nature lovers will enjoy bird watching at Buseoksa Temple, set in a mountain in South Chungcheong province. Buseoksa Temple takes pride in its exquisite surroundings, far removed from the hubbub of Korea’s densely populated cities.
A classic temple stay program is available at a number of temples. If time is a concern, Jogyesa Temple in Jongno, central Seoul, is a good option. The temple offers a two-day program from New Year’s Eve, which includes candle-lighted walks around temple pagodas and a choir performance. Other temples offering temple stays are Magoksa and Gapsa in South Chungcheong province, Songgwangsa in South Jeolla province, Naksansa in Gangwon province and Seowonsa Temple and the Baekryeon Buddhist Culture Center in South Gyeongsang province.
Temple stays are open to anyone, regardless of their religion. The programs have been well-received by a broad spectrum of people, according to Maya Lee, who serves on the committee that organizes the activities. With garments and meals provided, the only essential baggage is the preparedness to say good-bye to 2003 and hello to 2004.
by Chun Su-jin
For more information, call the Committee for Buddhist Temple Stay at (02) 732-9925 (English is spoken)