Experiences at the Temple
/ Sung Paul & Sung Celine
My journey at the temple began before I actually arrived. When my mother first presented me the opportunity to stay in a temple for the summer I had many mixed feelings. I could mentally envision what my experiences there would be like. I immediately understood that the stay was not going to be as relaxing as a standard summer vacation. I would like to think that I have been through much worse. When I first arrived in Suncheon my cousins, who were also going to be staying at the temple, and I were filled with excitement. We had arrived a few days earlier than expected because of improper scheduling. We were known by the rest of the monks as the children whose mother had left them to go back to America. The first few days I was bored out of my mind I had no one to speak to because my Korean skills were not up to par and I had no one my age to speak to. Also my cousins and I were separated because men and women had to sleep in different dormitories. The closest person I had to a friend was a 13 year-old boy that I had nothing in common with. By the end of the first day I began to understand that this trip was not to make friends or meet new people, but to get in touch with myself and my personal thoughts so for most of the day kept to myself and remained silent to maximize my experience. Near the end of the trip I truly understood the struggle of becoming a monk. I left refreshed and grateful for the experience and looking more forward to enjoying life.
I grew up with a supportive mom that encouraged me to experience as much as I possibly can, so at a young age I traveled to several different countries. This past year was when I realized that I never To Me Aug 18 at 3:28 PM I grew up with a supportive mom that encouraged me to experience as much as I possibly can, so at a young age I traveled to several different countries. This past year was when I realized that I never went to Korea, a country that my parents immigrated from. My experience began in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. While there, I was able to improve my language skill as well as experience the different culture. After staying in Seoul for a week, I traveled to more of the undeveloped part of Korea where I stayed about a week at a temple in Suncheon. Transitioning from the bustling city life of Seoul to the modest lifestyle of a monk was definitely a difficult part of the trip, but it was that week that was the most memorable. My family members and I actually stayed longer at the temple than expected because of poor planning, but that mistake made the experience even better. During the week, a group of fifty people ranging from the ages 13 to 70 woke up at 3 AM, learned how to meditate for 3 hours a day, and lived without luxuries. I truly felt myself reflect on how I lived back in the United States and mature from the experience. What truly surprised me was how even though I could not fluently speak Korean everyone who participated in the temple stay treated us like family. What I found the most interesting were the lectures the older monks would give, even though I could not understand half of it. Historically, Buddhism originated from ancient India before it spread throughout China, Southeast Asia, and eventually Korea. Before coming to Korea, I spent my summers traveling around parts of Southeast Asia; specifically Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. The difference between how each country expressed identical religion was fascinating. In Southeast Asia, monks live more strictly to the point where they do not own absolutely anything. I was actually shocked that I could touch a monk while I was in Korea because in other countries the monk that was touched by any female must go through a cleansing process. While we may seem like kids who came from the United States, our goals were similar to everyone there. We all wanted to appreciate what we have, learn more about Buddhism, and reflect on our lives. While some people might have thought that the experience was grueling and may never want to go again, I am honestly planning on going next year maybe as a volunteer.
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