Travel Destinations

Experiencing a Temple Stay at Beomeosa in Busan

South Korea Beomeosa Temple Stay
Written by Carl Hedinger

Visiting a temple and staying overnight seems like a perfect idea if you’re going to the right place. During our 24 hours at Beomeosa Buddhist Temple in South Korea, the day-night-morning left a mark in so many ways. It still seems like a flash and I’m still trying to figure out how we did everything. I remember intense exhaustion setting in as we headed home after experiencing a temple stay at Beomeosa in Busan.

Temple Stay at Beomeosa in Busan

Beomeosa Fun Facts

South Korea Busan Beomeosa Buddhist Temple Grounds

Though situated in bustling Busan, Beomeosa couldn’t seem more isolated. It’s tucked away in the mountains like so many other temples here. For those choosing to do so, escaping from normal life is possible here. Beomeosa means “fish from heaven” and many believe that the well from which it came was filled with gold.

Afternoon Arrival

South Korea Beomeosa Temple Tea Ceremony

The dreariness didn’t dampen our spirits. Temperature-wise, the weather seemed perfect but those in charge of the heat disagreed. Our sleeping quarters and the main hall seemed more than warm-enough, as the floor heaters seemed to hover around 80 degrees. After the introductory round of bows, sweat formed around one of the two shirts I’d brought in a fit of unpreparedness. For my wardrobe, it was going to be a long day.

Bowing and Silence

Korea Beomeosa Temple Stay

Bowing and giving thanks to Buddha prevailed as the theme during our activities. The monks advised silence between us. Why? Because the minimal food was only intended to fuel us through the experience. It would’ve been wasted on thoughtless chatter anyway, according to the monks. I wasn’t always aware of how many times to bow down except for two occasions.

108 Bows

South Korea Busan Beomeosa Temple Prayer Beads

It’s hard to explain those two separate sessions where I performed a full prostration bow over 100 times, 108 to be exact. Thoughts surround it. I remember each time taking roughly 15 minutes, nobody speaking, exhaustion, and profuse sweat thanks to the heat. We bowed to the tune of our monk clapping a stick to keep time. The first round of 108 involved threading a necklace with one bead and a prayer each time our bodies met the floor while trying to keep up with the rest of the group who seemed to know this procedure better than I did. The floor heat’s relentless energy helped my gray uniform turn to a darker shade and the Monk heartily asked me how I felt after we finished.

The Friendly Monk

Beomeosa Temple Tea Ceremony

He always smiled. His beautiful personality was my gift on that day. Having a laugh whenever he could always loosen up a somewhat tense atmosphere. Everyone seemed on edge because after all, we were in a sacred place. Maybe that’s why he smiled. Living at the foot of a golden well—aka Mt. Geumjeong—I’d be happy too. Even after a brief sleep between 10 and 3 A.M. was interrupted for us to wake the rest of the world through a rainy drum ceremony, he smiled.

The Morning

Beomeosa Temple Stay Friends

After another round of 108 and some breakfast, we didn’t have much time left. A hike to a nearby hermitage for some meditation left me pondering the possibilities of a few minutes sleep but we started moving back down by the time those thoughts had settled. Staring at the morning fog that blanketed the mountains around us, the moment seemed too perfect to move away from. One round remained and it was something more familiar than the rest. A tea ceremony finished the temple stay off and after participating in the formalities; our gracious host offered a huge variety of teas green and black for us all to sample.

Looking Back

South Korea Busan Beomeosa Temple Main Hall

We had some time to just walk around the main hall and stared out into Beomeosa’s courtyard as the rain slowed. We’d visited various buildings throughout the temple site and even hiked to a beautiful hermitage yet this room always seemed like home. Looking back on that day, I still remember the bowing and remaining silent. Obvious takeaways of course, but the head monk’s pearly whites will never leave my memory. Somewhere, he’s probably still smiling and never going to stop, either.

Getting to Beomeosa

If you plan to stay in Busan, there are plenty of hotels in the city near hotspots like Haeundae Beach and Nampodong. If not staying near Beomeosa Temple, you can reach the temple via the Busan Subway (Line 1, Beomeosa Station) from Exits 5 or 7. From the station, walk along the main road (청룡예전로) for roughly 5 minutes and you’ll arrive at the Beomeosa Temple bus stop. Take Bus 90 and get off at the Beomeosa Ticket Office bus stop.

Other Korea Temple Stay Programs

Here is more information for South Korea’s Temple Stay program. These glorious events are happening all over the country and I’ve heard some wonderful stories from people who’ve attended them elsewhere.

Have you ever been a part of this wonderful experience? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below:) 

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About the author

Carl Hedinger

I’m a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family’s travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

16 Comments

  • I think I’m with Rafiqua that I might not particularly enjoy it, but who knows. I know lots of people who have really enjoyed their temple stays, so maybe I might surprise myself. I’m definitely not in very good shape though!

  • I so badly want to to a temple stay while I am in Korea. The profuse sweating (of which I am certain I will do as well), and so much bowing makes it a tad less enticing, but still an experience I would like to have! Love how you compared your rainy day to a memory…good idea!

    • It’s crazy that I’m honestly doing another post evoked by rain. Though I’m trying to set them apart at times, it gets hard to repeat. Thanks for your comment!

  • I would have loved to do this, but the templestay in Seoul are just within a compound. I would prefer a temple in the countryside or like your Beomeosa, where there’s a lot of nature around. Thanks for sharing this story…

  • Great retelling of a unique experience. We still haven’t done a Temple Stay, so this was really interesting to read. I’ve heard mixed accounts of the stay, but this is probably the most informative and well written. Either this winter or the next spring will probably be when we look to have a temple experience. Although I don’t know how well I will handle the early morning I am endlessly excited. The only problem may be finding monk’s clothes that will fit my 6’6″ frame!

  • A wonderful account. This is one experience that I’m really disappointed I haven’t done yet! I have a question, do you HAVE to do all the bows? Beomosa seems like a great choice to do this at.

    • Lol, that’s a great question. I really don’t know. I mean, I guess you could “bow out,” as they say. Not sure if the monk would say anything to you. I was quite out of shape at the time of the Temple Stay. It hurt but well worth the burn in my opinion. Give it a try, I say. See if you can do it and if not, it’s no biggie.

  • I’ve never done anything like that. It’s amazing how one of the main images that has stuck with you are the monk’s pearly white teeth. What a great visual for the reader to connect to. Even reading about his smile makes me want to smile…

    • I love this comment. It’s making me smile right now! I promise that if you came face to face with the monk, he’d bring it out of you as well. Even after waking up at 3am and bowing 108 times, I still wanted to smile when seeing him go about his day. Truly inspirational guy.

  • What a coincidence, I just did the temple stay at Beomeosa this past weekend! And we were guided by that same monk! It was a really incredible experience. My favorite part was the drum performance at night at the chanting monks. Those bows definitely made my legs sore though–monks must have thighs of steel! haha

    • Ah, wow. I loved that guy. There was so much that happened in that 24 hours, it was hard for me to explain. I am looking forward to reading yours today, btw. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Thanks for the insight into a Temple Stay- I’ve always been curious to do one, but have never got round to it. It sounds like a memorable experience for sure! Sounds very peaceful and close to nature with the hiking, not sure how much I’d enjoy all the bowing haha. The tea at the end sounds great!

    • It was great times! I kinda want to go back or do one elsewhere, to be honest. It’s a great break from the excitement and hecticness of everyday life, no matter where one lives. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • What a unique and memorable experience! I had read about the possibility of doing a temple stay before coming to Korea, but it wasn’t until recently that I happened upon the actual website and was totally surprised as to the number of temples around the country that offered this sort of programming. Makes it a little easier to do when there isn’t an insanely long commute to consider…but then, how to choose?! After reading your post, it reminded me that spending a weekend meditating with monks was something that I really want to do while I am here. Thanks for this!

    • Thank you Lara. I hope you consider doing a templestay. My friends seemed to rave about one in Daejeon that had more of an International Buddhist Focus but I don’t think it’s totally important which temple you choose. Beomeosa was a popular choice for foreigners and Koreans alike. Where are you based?