Photography & travel tips from an award-winning photographer, educator & wanderlust

Magoksa Retreat

Last weekend (4/25-4/26,2015), I did a two day, one night temple stay in the beautiful Magoksa, among Gongju mountains, under the clear starry night sky, while overhearing a peaceful stream nearby. I’ve been wanting to do a Temple Stay even before I moved to Korea, so six years later and with a camera (of course!) in hand, I finally did it!

Magoksa is one of the major temples in Chungcheongnamdo province, with “Ma” meaning “hemp” and “Gok” meaning “valley.” This temple is a perfect getaway from the busy, noisy cities, but still a close enough drive, taking about 30 minutes from Daejeon Station.

Our schedule looked like this:

Day 1:
2pm-2:30pm Arrival and Registration

2:30-3pm Orientation

3-4pm Temple tour

4-5:30pm Making 108 beads

5:30-6:30 Dinner

6:30-7pm Ringing the Dharma bell and evening Yebul (Chanting)

7-8:30pm Tea with Sunims (monks)

10pm Bed time


Day 2:

3-3:30am Wake up

3:30-4am Dawn Yebul (Chanting)(optional as we later found out)

4-5am Individual practice or rest

5-6am Seon meditation

6-8am Breakfast

8-9am Guided walking meditation

9-10:30am Feedback and group photo

10:30-11am Cleaning and packing

11:30am – Lunch

There were a number of main programs or experiences that we all got to partake in:

Yebul (Chanting) – Chating and bowing to Buddha at 3:30am was not the most anticipated experience of this trip, but it was optional. Either way, I figured, you only live once, so after some energetic Yoga on my floor mat (with a rice pillow nonetheless), I was off on a brisk morning to do the chanting. Half an hour later, I was back for a nap, as this trip gave as plenty of free time to relax and do our own thing (sleeping in my case)

Seon (meditation) – we learned four different types of meditation (walking, standing, sitting and laying). Which one do you think was everyone’s favorite at 5am ?

Baroo-gong-yang (traditional temple meal) – we got to eat 3 times and each one was very fresh and delicious. With no meat allowed, we enjoyed white sticky rice, lots of veggy side dishes and an occasional tofu or pumpkin. Our trip organizers also gave us some evening chips to snack on, but Baroo-gong-yang was always satisfying, because we were instructed not to waste our food.

Making 108 beads – a completion of 108 prostrations (or is it frustrations) was the most challenging part of the stay. We were required to bow from standing position to child’s pose, put a bead on a string, get up and do it all over again for 107 more times. After about 50 minutes, we were all huffing and puffing, but happy to have made a souvenir necklace. I was sore for the next few days, but am still impressed with how encouraged I was finish with the help of our group’s presence.

Sol-ba-ram-gil meditation (walking meditation in the forest) – we walked, talked, snapped lots of pictures and did some standing meditation among the serenity of the trees, the moving wind and occasional bird chirps. The monks told us that hiking that path is a common activity for them and it made me wonder how many monks over the past 1000 years (Magoksa’s history) walked in my foot steps.

Tea with Sunims (monks) – probably the biggest highlight of the trip, where we were able to converse and ask questions with a Korean-American monk. He was incredibly truthful, inspiring and even shocking (they sometimes watch “Breaking Bad”) with some of his answers, which gave us a much better insight as to what it takes to become and be a monk. I won’t go into much detail, but if you really want to know, then do a Temple Stay at Magoksa, it’s really worth it!

To visit or stay there, go to:   http://eng.magoksa.org
e-mail:magoksa@templestay.com
tel: 041-841-6226
966 Magoksa-ro, Sagok-myeon, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do, Korea

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