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Haiensa Temple Stay

I feel at peace. I feel calm almost in a dream-like state. I feel like everything is at one and I feel tired. For someone who thinks too much and has problems falling asleep all of these feelings are great. I got here earlier than I was supposed too. I was to arrive around 4 but got here at 1 which was fine since I could just drop off all my stuff and then explore the area. These two wonderful monks helped show me on my way. They even complemented me on my horrible Korean.

Haiensa is one of Korea’s three largest temples often referred to as the ‘Three Jewels.’ The temple houses the Tripitaka Koreana – a 13th century collection of wood carvings of Buddhist scriptures and the oldest and most complete collection in Chinese characters. Naturally the collection is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple’s name means ‘Temple of Reflection on the Smooth Seas’ and takes its name from one of the passages which compares the wisdom of the Buddha to a calm seas as the waves are caused by worldly desires.

Coming here was a way to escape all the crowds of the city and reconnect with nature. Arriving here first I was not that connected as bus loads of students were wondering the complex. The place is massive compared to some of the other temples in Korea. There were a lot of people who were on bus tours and a lot of kids on school trips and such. There was a lot of noise but I managed to find a quiet place to sit and just think. Gradually the crowds began to go home and there were only 5-6 people who were going to spend the night in the temple.

I checked into my room, a basic room with no furniture and a lot of mats to sleep on. It is heated with ‘ondul’ heating, meaning heated water pipes through the floor. The price includes a dinner which I went to get at 5:40-6:08 pm. The times are exact. The food was vegetarian and we were told we could eat as much as we like as long as we ate what is on our plate. The dinning room was quiet. Monks on one side. Visiting monks in the middle. Lay people, us, on the other side. Everyone ate in silence.

On one side of the grounds is a big bell and a huge drum. The monk began banging the drum in a rhythmic fashion similar to what I have seen at Lion Dances in Hong Kong. One would drum and another would join then the original drummer would rest for a bit. The small crowd took pictures. The big bell would start ringing meaning the beginning of the services in the main hall.

The main Buddha Hall had three buddha’s. The floor was polished wood. The monk would begin the chants and banging on a piece of bamboo. The chants would start and were repetitive. After a while I could almost recite them but alas too shy to say them. I just closed my eyes and entered a meditative state. With my eyes closed my mind began to wonder about friends, family, Korea and mostly about my love. On both sides of me people were doing the prayer bowing. I just sat with my eyes closed in deep thought. This sense of peace continued to wash over me. The ceremony was an hour, far longer than the ones I had experienced in Japan.

I walked around the grounds of the temple one more time. The sun was down. The air was cool. I felt good but I felt tired. Everything was great.

Published in Sights and Travels

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