Daewonsa Temple Stay

At the beginning of March we had a three day weekend. Whilst most of our friends went abroad or skiing, three of us decided to go to Jirisan National Park, for a two day temple stay at Daewonsa (대원사).

After a a few hours, two buses, lots of snacks, and a “20 minute” hike, we arrived at the temple. We found out that we were the only people there that weekend which was great news, as it meant we would have the place to ourselves along with the nuns. We were given our attire for the weekend, some oh so sexy oversized faded maroon trousers, and shown our little room for the night.

Our teacher for the weekend was Hae Sung, a lovely nun who had the skin of a 26 year old despite being 47. She had lived at the temple since she was 23 years old, and had travelled across the majority of Asia, as well as living in South Africa for a year. She was so down to earth and approachable about things, that we felt at ease with her instantly, especially after we found out that she enjoys a cheeky shot of soju every now and then.

We chose to follow the daily routine of the temple which went roughly as follows:

  • 3am wake up for morning prayers, chants, and 108 bows.
  • 6am breakfast.
  • 6.30am communal work.
  • 9am meditation.
  • 11.30am lunch.
  • 1pm meditation.
  • 4.30pm dinner
  • 5pm evening chants and prayers.
  • 9pm bed time.

The schedule is tough but they let us off with a lot though, including going back to bed after morning prayers and sleeping through breakfast! 

We had a fair amount of free time, although a lot of activities were provided. We made gorgeous lotus lanterns, which caused a lot of jealously when Cat’s asparagus esque lantern didn’t turn out exactly how she wanted it. The park rangers of Jirisan took us on a short hike around the local area, and gave us some information about the history of the park, and reassured us that despite numerous warning signs, there weren’t any bears lurking around. We also had the chance to make prayer beads. For every bead put onto the necklace, you had to make a wish, and bow to ask for this wish to come true. It was hard work on the knees, and the mind (I’m pretty sure that “take the bus more” isn’t an appropriate wish…), but it gave the whole activity more meaning than if we’d just sat there gossiping whilst threading beads onto string.

I joke to everyone here that doing this temple stay “sorted my life out”. I would like to pretend that I have discovered the Buddhist ways of life, and have had an epiphany reminiscent of Eat Pray Love. But, it didn’t. What the temple stay did do was allow me to get out of the city and away from the commercial, social, technological world that is Daegu. Yes, I still went on facebook and kakao, but it wasn’t soul destroying if I didn’t check my phone every five minutes. It was refreshing to be somewhere miles away from anything else, where the simplest things were appreciated. Where you only took as much food as you could eat, where you willingly woke up at 3am in the pitch black to pray for what you believed in. 

More than anything what the trip and Hae Sung taught me, was that recently I’ve given other people and situations a lot more power over my emotions than I should. I get overly attached and emotional about the silliest things, I’ve become ridiculously jealous of things that don’t actually have any impact on my life, and quite bitter about certain situations in general. She taught me that it’s important to let yourself feel emotions, particularly negative ones, but that instead of letting them consume you, you just accept them for what they are and move on from them. I’ve also been suffering quite badly with anxiety since Christmas, and tend to get in panicky moods over things that shouldn’t have any affect, so the whole weekend in general calmed me down a lot, and allowed me to refocus my priorities for life while I’m here.