Temple stay at traditional Buddhist sites

The Korea Herald, Nov 30, 2004

Seoul, South Korea -- Does life leave you feeling rushed and stressed? Gangwon-do invites you to an incredible place that will take your breath away, a place that boasts a stunning landscape filled with greenery and natural life. Amid the relaxing scenery, take part in a ?temple stay? and seize the opportunity to learn and experience Korean traditional culture by observing the daily life of a monk.

At Gangwon-do, located northeast of Seoul, experience a very special temple stay, which also offers the opportunity to practice and learn the unique martial arts such as Taekwondo. Also take part in a cultural experience at Buddhist Temples, which is just what people need in the modern world today.

At the Buddhist temples, take a break from the busy, stressful life, and strengthen the body and mind. This experience will help you to enhance your concentration, endurance and determination, as well as restore balance in physical, mental and spiritual strength as you become in harmony with nature.

At temples such as Naksansa temple, Samhwasa Temple and the Manhae memorial, experience Dado (The Tea Ceremony), Balwugongyang (temple meal service), striking of the Buddhist temple bell, 108 bows (mind and body training), practice of Zen meditation, and the morning walk with the sunrise.

Gangwon-do and the Korea National Tourism Organization arranged the unique experience. Originally, Gangwon-do developed the ?Naksansa temple stay program? to give American and European tourists the opportunity to experience Eastern culture.

Last year alone, 990 tourists participated in the program and an upward trend is expected for this year. The temple stay program, which was first presented to foreigners during the World Cup, is now being offered at over 30 different temples, and various program packages are available. In Gangwon-do alone, the temple stay program is available at Naksansa temple, Samhwasa Temple, and at the Baekdamsa Temple Manhae memorial

In the spring, there?s something totally unique and different about spending a warm day in a mountain temple with the scent of pine trees tickling your nose. Waking up at the crack of dawn to the sound of the wooden gong followed by a meditation and balwugongyang will make you feel like you?ve slipped into a different world.

The balwugongyang is more than a meal; it is another form of meditation. As visitors share their meal with others, they become equals and learn to eat the food, not with selfish greed, but as medicine to sustain their bodies.

As the sun begins to set, the temple bells begin to chime. The bells are sounded to signal prayer for the salvation of all humankind. Next come the 108 bows, which is not only good for strengthening the back and for people with arthritis, they are also a great form of exercise.

At 3:00 am, the sound of the wooden gongs wakes the visitors from their slumber to greet the sunrise.

The brisk morning walk towards the Uisangdae Pavilion, past the Wontongbojeon and HaesuGwaneumsang Statue, is truly an invigorating experience. And so, a new day in the mountain temple begins.

For more information, call Korea I Tour, Co. Ltd. 82-33-654-3088.

Cost per person for 2 days (including 3 meals) is ?50,000 (?80,000 for foreigners). Guests can choose between temple stay and a family package, which includes a tour of Mt. Seoraksan (groups of two or more). Reservations can be made through Web Tour (www.webtour.com: 82-2-2122-2714) or Punggyeongsori.

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