by Sarah Müller from Germany
I had the chance to do a temple stay experience at Geumsansa Temple in Gimje and it was one of the most interesting and fascinating experiences I have ever done.
After we arrived at Geumsansa, I walked around and visited the temple area. The different buildings and especially their decoration and intense colors were impressive.
Geumsansa lies in between forests so it is really quiet there. The moment I stepped into that temple area I already felt the relaxing atmosphere… I never thought it would be like that so I was really surprised by this influence of the temple after such a short time.
After my little tour, we went to a nearby restaurant and ate bibimbap and Dakdoritang. After that I went to my place for the night, which was interesting: I got a thick duvet as a mattress which I should spread out on the floor. Luckily I can sleep anywhere and at any time, but surprisingly it was really comfortable! I had a good sleep on the ground there.
And good sleep was necessary because we had a full schedule the next day. After our breakfast at 7 am we went to the temple, where a monk was already waiting for us inside of the temple in front of a big buddha statue.
She was really nice and showed me how to do a FULL bow. First, do a 45° bow, then you have to go on your knees, lie your forehead on the ground, place your hands next to your head, move them up, turn them around, and move them down again. Then you can stand up again. And that is just ONE bow. Additionally, I had a little extra when I was sitting on the ground: I shall thread beads every time before I stand up again. So for every bow one pearl. In front of me and my pillow was the bowl with all the pearls inside – 108 in total… yes, 108 pearls mean 108 bows for me. I started a bit scared, but motivated and tried my best to keep up with the monk next to me. Of course, she was faster than me but that gave me the strength to do the 108 bows. And honestly, after around 50 bows I didn’t feel the upcoming pain in my muscles anymore. The whole bow was just an automatic process now and I had a free mind. In the beginning, I never thought I would get into this state while doing bows but it was relaxing for me. I felt balanced and peaceful. And then I suddenly had a whole necklace with 108 pearls in my hands.
After getting out of that state again my legs really hurt, but I felt relieved.
After that, I had the chance to talk with the monk and ask her some questions while having a traditional tea ceremony. She told me that she does the 108 bows every single day! Not every monk does that but it is her way of avoiding aching muscles.
The last step on the schedule was the preparation of a traditional temple food meal. For that, another monk came to show us how they prepare their typical meal. In Korea, buddhist monks eat completely vegan-vegetarian and avoid artificial flavors and ingredients. They try to use everything of the ingredients they have. We did zucchini rolls filled with vegetables, roasted lotus roots, and small potato dumplings. The potato dumplings reminded me of the ones we have in Germany. But this was the first time that I have completely done them out of the basic ingredient: starch. We had to squeeze the water out of the potatoes and then roll the starch into a ball. The preparation of the whole food was filmed, so if you want you can watch it here:
It was really delicious and so interesting to see how good cooking with only natural ingredients and completely vegan works (and tastes). I can only recommend doing a temple stay and trying the temple food. Nowadays you can also find some restaurants which serve temple food if you don’t have the time to do a whole temple stay experience.
The temple stay experience was quite interesting. I never thought that this short time could have such an impact on my inner feelings: I felt a complete mixture between exhausted because of the bows, but also happy, relieved and totally chill and relaxed. I really recommend doing it when you have enough time! The Geumsansa Temple is beautiful, but there are also some other temples who offer a temple stay which are closer to the big cities.