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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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:)