Stay overnight in a Korean Buddhist temple
The cloistered life of a Buddhist monk is one that few outsiders ever experience. The heightened awareness, serenity and composure that the monks achieve by following their chosen path is evident, but much about their daily routine remains a mystery. Staying overnight in a Buddhist temple, waking with the monks before dawn and taking meals together, gives you an immersive taste of monastic life and a chance to begin learning about the distinct traditions of Korean Buddhism.
What to expect during your stay in the temple...
The hundreds of temples scattered throughout South Korea demonstrate the importance of Buddhist philosophy and teachings within the state. Those which open their doors to overnight visitors range from traditional mountain retreats to modern sanctuaries in the centre of the city. Select the best location for your needs and your experience will reflect the individuality of the temple you choose.
As you enter the temple complex, tranquillity descends like a bubble, gently shutting out the noise and stress of the world. Your guide will take time to explain the customs and rules, as well as the temple’s history and current practices, on your orientation tour. Practical activities are used as meditations in Korean Buddhism, and you may be invited to join in with preparing food or creating art and crafts.
The Da-Seon ceremony engages all five senses in the brewing and drinking of tea. From the warmth of the cup against your skin to the eventual bitter taste, this ancient method of achieving mindfulness forms an essential element of the monastic day. Following a simple, communal meal, your guides will lead you in another form of meditation, Korean Cham-Seon, and in the 108 Prostrations where the monks perform repeated bowing to show reverence to Buddha’s humble life.
Having gone to bed with a peaceful mind, you’ll wake before dawn to greet the morning. Yebool, the first ceremony of the day, when the monks gather together to chant and pay their respects to Buddha, is held as the sun rises. Listening to the chanting wash over you is both uplifting and reviving, leaving you ready to assist with the communal work of the monastery before heading out for a meditation in the fresh air. Surrounded by woodland or mountainous landscape, your guide will lead you in a meditation to help you reconnect with the natural world and give you a final insight into this extraordinary way of life.
Location: Buddhist temples throughout South Korea
Duration: 2 days and 1 night
Accommodation: Within the temple complex
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Staying with the monks is a chance to learn about fascinating Buddhist traditions as well as resetting your own mind to a clearer, calmer state. Pure bliss.
As the temples are working religious sites, there are strict rules and customs regarding clothing, noise and other aspects which must be respected during your stay. Many overnight experiences are only available for over-18s, so if there are children in your party then check with your destination guide as there may be the option of participating in a day visit instead.