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Musangsa Templestay, Day #2, South Korea.
The wooden moktak is struck and it’s barely audible. Fortunately, someone had set their alarm. Monks must be light sleepers. We get dressed and go to the meditation room.
Morning prostrations… 180 of them
Emerging from my crusted vision, I recognize my cushion just a few centimeters before my feet. The room is toasty and tinged with a faint incense. A two foot tall golden Buddha sitting in lotus position in the center of the room, mediates the sexes- men on one side, women on the other. The monks file in.
Our teacher, the foreboding but jolly Lithuanian stands by, keeping an eagle eye on us. The wooden moktak is struck again. Some sticks are clacked and in unison, we begin… 108 prostrations in silence. Standing prayer position, down, prostrated bow on floor, stand up again, standing prayer position, down…
Somewhere between the sweat and your legs turning to rubber, you lose count. You go with the flow, thinking, “Tomorrow I’m going to hurt like hell…”
‘Working’ out your Karma
Many spiritual retreats have karma yoga duty (aka ‘house chores’) which is performed with love and without question or reward. This is similar to staying at ashrams. It’s said that you’re paying off your karmic debt. Wiping down tables, helping do dishes, light dusting or sweeping the staircase… my mom used to pay me 25 cents each for these when I was a little girl.
At templestay, the chores are similar to that of a child’s. Nothing too strenuous or laborious.
… Or at least, they’re not supposed to be.
One of the lay people in charge of directing me to my duties, Agapta, assigned me to clean the laundry room. Something seemed very wrong. I’ve been to meditation retreats before and done my share of karma duty and this chore required hand and knees on the floor, moving things around and scrubbing away dust and grime with a bucket and a rag. Very Cinderella.
Basically, it felt like I was getting some lazy layperson’s shit work!
All that Zen was quickly flying out the window…
What if the toilets were next?! Ugh.
When I looked up, I saw a kind temple man looking at me.
Are you staying for a long time?
No, got here yesterday and leave today.
I answered with false smile, quickly trying to erase the thoughts I’d been thinking.
That’s odd, because the laundry room duty is only given to those who are staying for a long time. Don’t worry, you’re not required to do that.
I was working out karma alright. I wasn’t working it out well.
After cleaning off my rags, I joined the house meeting. All the guests and monks gather so that we can introduce ourselves and where we’re from.
A meditative temple grounds stroll
Afterwards, we took a group hike along the backwoods of the temple. It was a mystic morning– a light Fall chill clung to the air and the morning fog hadn’t yet lifted. It left the woods with a faint mood of decay. It was a perfect time to honor things past, like this weekend. With the sun, I’d be back on the train headed back to Daegu… going back to my Korean life.
What is provided at a Korean templestay
• Blankets & pillows
• You get a monks robe but you will need to wear something underneath
• There is no temple store so bring what you need or buy it before you get there.
• Food (Vegetarian)
What to bring to Musangsa Templestay
• Your towel and wash cloth
• Clothes to wear underneath your temple robes
• Extra winter clothes (depending the season you’re going in)
What are the templestay retreat rules?
Before arriving you must complete the Musangsa templestay application requesting the dates you would like to attend. Cost is 25,000KRW/night
There are rules and temple etiquette to know before attending. Read here (there are 30 rules!)
How to get to Musangsa Temple
From Daegu Dongdaegu Station, go to Daejeon station (40 min by KTX), approximately 10,000 KRW. Once at Daejeon, you’ll need to either take a bus to Kye-Ryong and then take a taxi to Mu Sang Sa or just take a taxi directly to Mu-Sang-Sa (the latter will cost you around 30,000 KRW and a 40+ min ride). The bus ride will take you 1 hour (1,200 KRW) and when you’re dropped off, you wil need to take a 5 minute taxi ride (approx. 3,000 KRW) to the temple itself. (click here for general instructions):
Where can you do a templestay in Korea ?
KTO- Visit Korea website (easiest format)
Templestay website (more informative)
Mu Sang Sa Temple, International Zen Buddhist Temple (website info)
(*Classes and dharma talks conducted in English)
452-13 Hyanghan-ri, Chungnam Province, Email: [email protected]