For the uninitiated, a temple stay entails spending at least one night in a Buddhist temple while experiencing the routines of monks and nuns.
Activities may include partaking in meditation, participating in tea ceremonies, attending early morning prayer, strolling through the woods, cooking traditional desserts, postrating (the art of bowing) and so on
The experience is meant to provide visitors a glimpse of monastic life while hopefully offering some peace of mind (and grounding) from exposure to nature, as most temples are usually situated on a mountaintop. Essentially, a temple stay is a bit of a zen retreat.
The activities visitors partake in are meant to harness spiritual concentration.
I went to my first temple stay last summer at Donghwasa Temple located on Mountain Palgong, about an hour north of Daegu. The program began Saturday afternoon and continued through Sunday noon. The activities visitors partake in are meant to harness spiritual concentration. One of the exercises we did was strolling through the woods blindfolded while guided by a partner. Each person took turns doing the guiding. Initially, participants were full of giggles and laughter, but a certain level of surrendering and trusting was essential to continue walking.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the overall program, the highlight was the food.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the overall program, the highlight was the food. Temple food, as is usually referred to in Korea, is vegan and free of salt, sugar, garlic, onions, and scallions. One wouldn’t think food without these condiments could be very tasty, but this is wrong! Perhaps, I was already primed to love the cuisine after watching Netflix’s Chef’s Table feature the cooking of Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan. But nonetheless, each meal at the temple was a spiritual experience in and of itself