Templestay for New Year
Buddhist temples nationwide start retreats for 2012
By Do Je-hae
The settling of the past year and the arrival of a new one is an opportune time to reflect and plan. Responding to people’s need for quiet rumination, some Buddhist temples run special programs to help visitors reflect on the last 12 months and set plans for the New Year.
The templestay program is considered an all-year round program, but the Jogye Order, running many of Korea’s oldest and most prominent Buddhist temples, recently announced a series of special programs at certain temples for the New Year.
“The New Year templestay programs are designed to help participants start the New Year with a renewed sense of purpose and energy and the participation in these programs has been increasing,” an official with the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism said.
“In particular, they offer a glimpse of traditional practices that are not easily experienced in city life. Because the programs revolve around traditional cultural experience, there is an increasing interest in them among children, students and families.”
Rise in the popularity of Buddhism-related practices like meditation retreats and templestay programs has brought the religion much closer to everyday life.
The upcoming year is a special milestone for the templestay program.
Heading into its 10th year, the program has emerged as one of the nation’s most successful tourism activities.
At the time of the program’s inception, only 33 temples participated. Now, there are 118 temples around the nation that host templestay visitors, according to the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism, an affiliate of the Jogye Order.
Last year, 20,000 foreign visitors were registered in the program. Since 2002, a total of 500,000 people have completed templestays.
When the templestay program was first conceived, it was around the time when Korea co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Japan as a way of providing affordable accommodation to foreign visitors.
But more importantly, Korea wanted to improve its cultural image in the international community through providing a close experience into the world of Korean Buddhism.
There are 38 temples running New Year programs across the nation, with many located in the Gyeonggi and southeastern Gyeongsang Provinces.
Templestay programs usually include monastic formal meals with healthy, vegetarian dishes; tea ceremonies; morning and evening chant services; and “Seon” or Zen meditation.
The communal Buddhist meal service or “Balwoo gongyang” is a unique way of eating in Korean temples, where food is consumed in total silence and not a single grain of rice is wasted.
Reservations can be made online at the www.visitkorea.or.kr or www.templestay.com.
One of the most well-known among the temples running the New Year program is Buseok Temple in South Chungcheong Province.
Ven. Jookyung, the chief of the temple, provided a New Year message for visitors in a promotional magazine of the Jogye Order.
“The reason that people cannot achieve their goals is that their actions do not match their desires. The reason people lack action is that they are idle and not determined enough,” the monk said. “People are advised to be courageous and industrious to achieve what they desire.”
Here is an introduction to some other temples with New Year templestay programs.
Daeheung Temple in South Jeolla Province runs programs for young people in college who are having difficulty finding jobs for 10,000 won. Call 061) 534-5502.
Jikji Temple, located at the foot of Mt. Hwangak in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, was constructed in 418 during the Silla Kingdom. Situated in perfect harmony with the surrounding valley and pine forest, the temple is home to the Birojeon hall, where approximately 1,000 Buddha statues are enshrined.
Visitors can also experience traditional games and cooking of traditional foods. More information is avilable at 054) 436-6174.
Located at the eastern foot of Mt. Jiri, Daewon Temple was first built in 548 during the Silla Kingdom. It runs a templestay program ideal for healing the mind and body with special herbs from the region. It also boasts a great hiking course. It will run an all night hiking course to mark the New Year. Call 055) 972-8068.