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Temple Stay

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The monthly event at Hongbeopsa Temple for July was a temple stay. As opposed to being free, like all their other events are, this one was 20,000 won, compared to 40,000-50,000 for other temple stays.

At 3pm we arrived, checked in, went to our rooms and changed. Next, we had orientation and met a monk from Texas. She came to Korea in 2001 as a teacher and in 2004 became an ordained monk. She had to travel 5 hours to be with us for the temple stay. I am very grateful that she came because she was able to better explain everything we were doing, why we did it as well as what our Western perceptions were as opposed to what is real.

There are two main ways to hold your hands. One is pushed together, so no light gets though, with your arms flat. The other is to hold your right hand in your left hand, because the right does the bad things, and place them just below your belly button. This is where our energy comes from, and where breathing comes from when we are younger–if you look at a baby, their stomach moves when they breath, not their chest. It is also important to have good posture, to make breathing easier.

Then, we did the Heart Sutra which is the ‘heart’ of Buddhism. Overall, it is about emptiness, which is not negative, but rather just a different state.

After we had a break and then silent dinner, which was not too silent because the head monk kept giving us directions on how to lay out our bowls, how to receive the food, how to eat, and how to clean. It lasted an hour and a half but was only silent for about 20 minutes.

You are given 4 bowls that are wrapped in a cloth, with a place mat folded underneath, napkin on top, and chopsticks and a spoon on top of that.

Everything must be taken apart in a special way. Untied, folded in half, the napkin and utensils placed on your left knee, and then the tie is folded in half again. The lid is then removed from the bowls and the tie is placed on top. Then, the  place mat is unfolded in a the bowls are placed in the left bottom square–this one is for rice. The 2nd largest goes in the right bottom square–this one is for soup. The 3rd largest goes in the right top square–this is for water. The 4th largest (smallest) goes in the left top square–this one is for ‘side dishes’–vegetables and tofu as well as a yellow squash to clean the bowls after.  The utensils are placed in the water bowl and the napkin on top of tie.

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The water is then poured into the largest bowl, swirled around, poured right, swirled around, poured diagonal, swirled around, poured right. Next rice is served and we place it to our foreheads to say thanks. Next, soup is served, then the side dishes are passed.

When you eat, you must hold your bowl up to your face so no one sees your eating face. This just made us look around the room a lot–I kept finding my eyes were wandering.

To clean warm rice water was poured into the rice bowl and you had to use the yellow squash to clean it by pressing the squash against the bowl with chopsticks. This was poured right, and diagonal. After, we drank the hot rice water so there was no waste. We were also supposed to eat the yellow squash which I find disgusting so I did not eat it. A bunch of ladies in training tried to force me but the head monk made them stop. The hot rice water was not bad to drink, it was just chunky and pulpy which I also find disgusting–I always buy no pulp. Finally the water was poured around the bowls again and then poured into large buckets. Finally, we put the bowls back together with the lid on and place them in a crate and the napkin and other cloth items in another crate with the utensils.

Next we had another recess followed by meditation. First we did chanting, which was done in Korean so only the Koreans and the Texas monk chanted–everyone else just followed their actions of bowing. Next was sitting silent meditation for 30 minutes, followed by silent walking for 10, then silent sitting again for 20. During the sitting, we had our hands in another position: making a circle with our fingers overlapping on the bottom and the thumbs just touching on the top. They should not be pushing but just enough together to hold a piece of paper up.

A good way to clear your mind and not zone out is to count to 10 or to chant something in your head that you want to change.  Meditation should not be something where you are repressing other thoughts; my favorite metaphor she used for this was that a rock does not stop grass growing forever–when you pick up the rock, the grass will grow again.

Next we had fruit and went to our rooms at 10. Some people sounded like they were throwing a party which was frustrating since we had to be outside at 4:00. At 10:30 the noise stopped completely though.

At 4am we went outside and did walking meditation around the grounds and then into the temple. We then did 30 minutes of silent sitting meditation followed by the 108 bows which seemed to go by quickly. I was not counting, but it took about 10 for me to get into a rhythm and at about 70 I was just falling to my knees, not going down slowly; however for the last 10 I was back into a rhythm. After, we did walking meditation next to a river which was beautiful. By the time we started walking the sun had come up and rose beautifully behind the Buddha statue atop the temple.

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Next was a little break followed by picking up leaves, as monks need to be self sufficient and this was our lesson in that.

After was breakfast which was rice, vegetables, tofu, and bean sprout soup. Again, we cleaned our own bowls but this time we were able to use sinks.

Next we made bracelets which was frustrating. We put beads onto string, which was then tied in a certain way that I never saw because it was taken from me, then given back assuming I knew what she did when her hands were covering anything I was supposed to see. It reminded me of kite making where we were supposed to do the work but everyone came over and did everything for us. Not what I signed up for. I figured out how to continue doing the loop she had done and finished but she laughed at it because it was a spiral and not straight. Oh well, it worked. Many others had the same problem and had a monk make theirs for them. After we finished the drawstring part we added on beads at the ends of the drawstrings and did a different loop there. We were all given one large bead and told not to use it. I then had to give it back to the person leading us. Strange. There were also bracelets made by monks that were supposed to be given by the best 3–and none were given to anyone. Stranger.

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We ended up leaving at 10:30 instead of 10:00 so it was impossible for me to make the hike that was going on on Sunday. I should have known better because these events always end late.

The coy fish were acting strange. Kissy kissy!

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Jeju Overview

I went to Jeju Island (Jejudo) this past weekend (June 22-23 2013) to hike Hallasan, see the sunrise from Seongsan, go to the lava caves (all 3 are UNESCO sites) and go to Love Land. There were a few other things we were able to do along the way.

Before I get into those smaller things, here’s a few tips or facts about Jeju in June/Summer:

  • Humid to the point where it is sticky
  • Many many many bugs
  • A few options for jimjilbangs to sleep at, which you can find via Google or the TripAdvisor chat boards
  • There is a great guide to get from the airport that is green and tells you about all the attractions on the island (not in any real order, mind you, just schedules as to what they think you should do as a foreigner, couple, family, or solo)
  • There is also a great bus information sheet you can get at the airport too. While it does not have times, it tells you which bus to take to get where, how long it takes and how much it is. I have posted some of the timings on the Hallasan and Seongsan posts.
  • Taxi drivers might be a bit pushy, but push back and don’t let them try to take you to town when you just want to go to the bus stop
  • A lot of the land is dedicated to growing Jeju Oranges and raising horses, cows and goats

There is a maze near the lava cave, about 500 meters away. Kimnyoung Maze Park. It is meant for kids but they won’t stop adults and they will hold your backpack for you. There is a beautiful garden here, and you get to ring a bell when you finish the maze. Just keep in mind that the green part on the map is not the hedges…It costs 3,200 to get in but you get a 500 won discount if you say that you walked there instead of taking a taxi.

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Not much to say about Love Land for those who know what it is…if you don’t it’s other name is Penis Park because of all the penis statues, boob statues, and statues of people having sex. It costs 9,000 to get in, but children and older people get a discount. That’s right.

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After this we stopped by the Jeju Museum of Art as it is right next to Love Land and was seemingly free…The ticket booth only had signs for the special exhibit and that cost so we thought we just wouldn’t go though it. Little did we know we would be pushed though it, you were supposed to pay 1,000 won to enter anyway and there was no one to check tickets.

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Meiji Shrine (Foundation Day Parade)

This was probably the worst day to go see the shrine, as there was so many people it was hard to see the buildings. However, the parade was amazing, making it the best day to go to the shrine.

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Foundation Day is the day that Japan was unified under one Emperor. The Americans I found thought that there was 23 floats to represent the 23 different groups that became unified at that time (I did not see the whole thing so I’m not sure how many floats there were.

People cared them for about 2 miles! There probably 60 people holding each one up and they looked like they were struggling.

Many people hardly had any clothes on at all! It was pretty cold too. Some just wore socks.

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Once inside the shrine itself they carried the floats to a man standing higher than everyone else, cheered, and walked backwards away.

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There were also some amazing drummers.

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In the center of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace and the Gardens which is nice even in winter. Wish I could go back in summer to see all the flowers but I don’t think that will happen because of the cost of flights (usually). There were some swans in the pond outside the garden itself.

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There were some interesting plants there, including some things that I did not think could survive in the cold weather that is Japan in winter, like palm trees.

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Some plants were in bloom and were beautiful up close.

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There were also some trees growing from the tops of rocks, which confused me as there was no way to go up and see if the rock was hallow and had dirt inside.

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There is a look out to Mt Fuji but you can’t go and look from it as the building is very old.

After going to Sensoji Temple I walked down the river to Edo-Tokyo museum.

I walked into Kyu-Yasuda Garden on the way, which was beautiful. And super warm. I image it to be like Eagleton in Parks and Recreation where it’s on a hot spring and Pawnee is not.

Tokyo 1 319I also walked past the Ryogoku Kokugikan which is where they have Sumo Wrestling and there was an event on so I could not go into the free museum.

Tokyo 1 332The museum opens at 9:30 and I got there just before that. You also start on the 6th floor and go down from there, which I thought was odd but the other museum I went to did the same thing.

I thought the museum was really interesting as I did not know much about Japan or Tokyo before World War 2 other than Tokyo used to have a different name and there was an emperor and samurai and ninjas. No samurai or ninja stuff in the museum. Edo seemed welcoming and respectful: the main thing I remember reading said that although people did belong to 4 different groups they were able to talk and share information about their role so others could learn about it if they wanted to. Thus, some samurai knew how to farm, some farmers knew about being a merchant and some merchants knew about craft work.

Once you’re on the 6th floor, you cross a bridge which seems like it was built in a traditional way. There is a Theater and a Western style building below you as you cross. They built a model of the bridge in another room on the 5th floor too.

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On the other side is a bunch of models of what the city used to look like, and they have really intense details. There are some other things there as well, like clothes and swords.

Tokyo 1 362 Tokyo 1 375 Tokyo 1 376Next I went down to the 5th floor where most of the stuff is. I really liked the paintings.

Tokyo 1 394 Tokyo 1 402 Tokyo 1 434 Tokyo 1 448Block cutting and printing became very popular during the Edo period, and was also how some people wrote subversive things about the government.

Tokyo 1 406They also had a theater set up that tells a ghost story every 15 minutes. I missed it and didn’t realize that they characters moved. It shows stage tricks.

Tokyo 1 460There was a mini room that shows a special exhibit, which, at the time, was about a man who traveled and did paintings of different areas of Japan along the train route.

Tokyo 1 466Next was the Tokyo room.

In the last month of 1867 an order was promulgated designating the restoration of imperial rule. this order thereby decreed a new government. In the month of the following year, battles took place at Toba and Fushimr, then anti-bakufu forces advanced to Edo, where they met no resistance. Some members of the pro-bakufu forces formed a unit named the shogitai and ensconced themselves at the kan-eiji, a temple at ueno. But this group was easily subdued. Its defeat spelled the end of ever two-hundred years of tokugawa rule, Edo, which had once been the home of well over a million inhabitants thereby also declined in vigor. The new government aimed to establish a unified state with centralized rule. Old practices were discarded: the new area was named Meiji, and Edo was renamed Tokyo. For a short time Tokyo was a kind of deserted wasteland but with the establishment of a street of government offices adjacent to the palace, the city, with its center around the nihonbashi area returned to normal. now it had become the capital of japan in name and deed.

There were very detailed models here as well.

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There was a poster for the 14th meeting of the suiheisha, which was really intense looking.

Tokyo 1 492Next was a part about the air raids with a model of what normal houses looked like that the time–taped windows and all.

Tokyo 1 503My favorite sign was this though:

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