Monk. Haeju (Jeon Ho-ryun, Department of Buddhist Studies)
Free from the fetters of subsistence, people nowadays are more concerned with the quality, and not just the quantity of their lives, hence the term 'well-being,' and that also includes vacation and retreats. This has resulted in more people choosing 'temple-stay' at Buddhist temples over ordinary vacations.
Temples in Korea are meeting the increased demand for temple stays by organizing a gamut of programs for lay believers and simple vacationers alike. Aside from a few places with year-round temple-stay facilities or individuals who stay for a few days, most participate in summer programs organized by temples, including increasing number of foreigners. Temple stays are also becoming more diversified, with specialized programs for children, teenagers, and college students, and families.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea, especially those seeking a weekend or a few days completely away from their jobs and stress of everyday livesat a mountain temple.
Yet again, the definition of a 'temple stay' as outlined by the Chogye Order's Task Force for Korean Buddhist Culture, should lay those fears to rest. The task force has defined a 'temple stay' as "exposure traditional culture and spiritual relaxation while experiencing daily routines of practitioners at temples combining great natural scenery and Buddhist culture." In short, temple stays are about experiencing Buddhist temple culture for oneself.
A typical day during a temple stay begins with waking up to the sound of bells announcing time for morning prayer, then arriving for breakfast of clean temple food. It is followed by sitting down for a meditation session, chanting, and reading of scriptures to clear the mind and spiritual growth. The participants can then either take strolls in trails surrounding the temple and take themselves away from the attachments of the hectic lay world, or sit down for tea in conversation to build precious relations. Although temple stays may vary depending on the type of program: religious, monastic experience, or retreat, all are intended for one essential purpose - to fine one's true self through experiencing the temple culture and the accompanying harmony between nature and humanity.
Every participant returning to lay life after a temple stay tend to treat people better, including the same people they have met every day, and discover the spiritual energy and comfort they never knew they had. Last but not least, temple stays can become a turning point of people's lives, filling them up with a richness of spirit and turning them into different people when they return.
Ryu Seo-hyun Monk. Jeon Ho-ryun
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