In the U.S., we have Mother's Day and Father's Day, but in Korea, they combine the two and call it "Parent's Day." Three days before Parent's Day is Children's Day, a holiday that gives Korean children lots of candy, money, and computer games. It's a big week for families. Children's Day fell on a Wednesday and I'm neither a parent nor child, so all I got was the day off. Woo hoo hoo!
The weather here in Daegu went from mild spring-like to summer seemingly overnight, so I thought an outdoor adventure would be fun. I asked one of my coworkers, Kyoung Mi if she wanted to join my adventure on our day of freedom. She suggested we visit one of the largest Buddhist temples in Korea, Hae-in-sa Temple (if you've been paying attention, that's He-in temple Temple). It's pronounced "hey-een-sah."
The gate leading in.
I was relieved to see that I was in an approved "photo zone," one that even allows silly bears dressed as people to partake in photography. Wonderful. I was singing my own version of none other than Kenny Loggins "Danger Zone" while I took this.
Heyyyy-eeeen-saaa's a photo zone! photo zone!
Suave...note the UMass tee. I'm also wearing Australian flag sandals I bought for 3,000won in Busan. Boosh.
Kyoung Mi and I. At least I'm considered tall somewhere in the world.
This was my third temple visit in Korea, and what stood out about this one was the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of 81,258 wooden printing blocks that together, form the world's oldest and most intact Buddhist canon in Chinese script. The blocks are over 1,200 years old. Holy guacamole.
The "TK" earned Hae-in-sa recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site, something Bulgoksa also received and an honor they're very proud of here in Korea.
Unfortunately, the "TK" storage area lies outside of the photo zone! photo zone! Luckily, the guard was totally snoozing so I managed to snap pictures. He woke up eventually and yelled at me, but they can't really get angry with naive foreigners.
Find enlightenment, drink mountain water from ladles, walk through mazes, man temples are where it's at. You are supposed to walk through the maze while praying to Buddha and making wishes. If done properly, the wishes will come true.Beautiful.
The level of detail is amazing. I really love the vibrant colors, and here, I'm a total sucker for Asian landscape paintings.
Another holiday is coming up on May 21st, Buddha's Birthday, so the temple was specially decorated in preparation. Some decorative flower lanterns. I bet they look cool at night...
We set up here for lunch. After walking all those hills and steps, it was a welcome rest. Kyoung Mi packed an awesome picnic!
My lunch. If you look closely, it is meant to look like Bart Simpson. Very cute Kyoung Mi.
Afterward, we went to a creek to make Zen rock statues. I thank Buddha for allowing my rock statue to stand.
Kyoung Mi puts my rock skills to shame. Her wish is totally going to come true.
In visiting Buddhist temples and being amongst monks and devoted pilgrims of the faith, I've felt out of place. It's an unfamiliar environment, adding a deep and spiritual element to the peculiarities I experience every day. I want to give Buddha props. I find Buddhism to be an extremely peaceful and tolerant religion, but I worry about doing it wrong.
This would actually be against the very nature of Buddhist teaching I learned about through Mr. Lee. He bought me "Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake," the Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn.
Seung Sahn was a well known Korean monk that moved to the U.S. and taught at the Cambridge Zen Center in Massachusetts. This brings up an odd connection, because I've been there before, not seeking Enlightenment, but on a bed bug job. In one of the more ironic experiences of my exterminating career, I went three times, called to service by Buddhists, even though the Buddha taught that no living thing should be killed. This goes for the smallest of the earth's creatures, for as a venerable monk once asked: "don't they value their lives just as dearly as you and I do?"
The reality is that bedbugs are awful, maybe the worst pest you can have. I remember having to play pest control professional and psychologist calming people down that had them or thought they did, so I'm not judging, Cambridge Zen Center.
Anyway, Seung Sahn taught that there is no correct manner of practice, it is all about the state of mind you keep. He dismissed the need to have any correct manner, so long as you keep a clean and clear mind. An anecdote about a monk that performed the wrong chants for a particular Buddhist service ends with the moral that the content and tradition isn't important, it is the feeling behind the action. He admitted you can be chanting "Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola," and so long as you do this with respect, conviction, and Zen concentration, you are practicing properly.
You won't find me chanting "Coca-Cola" in a temple anytime soon, but I think Seung Sahn's teaching should ease the self-consciousness I feel visiting these sites.