I finally accomplished something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I stayed at a Buddhist temple and learned how to adapt my book knowledge of Buddhism into real practice. This dream was made a reality while I have been temporarily living in Busan, South Korea. At Beomeosa Temple here in Busan, you can stay for two days and one night to gain a better understanding of the religion and the Temple.
Although excited, I was a bit weary on whether this was going to be a tourist ploy or an actual learning experience that I can take from. After my two days, I can assure you it was the later. From the moment I arrived, to the time I left, I felt that I was learning from the monks and truly immersing myself into something enlightening.
The fee to participate is a nominal 70,000 won, which equals to roughly $65. They ask when you sign up to wire transfer it to the Temple, but if (like me) you don’t have a Korean bank account, you can simply opt to pay cash once you arrive.
Here’s what to expect from the moment you get there:
I arrived at the temple just before 2:00 PM on the Saturday of my signup date. To get to the temple, I took subway line 1 and got off at Beomeosa stop, exit 5 or 7. From there I took a 4,000 won ($4) taxi to the temple. There is also a bus stop nearby, you can grab bus 90, which will drop you off at the front gates.
Once there, I walked up the paved side road that follows the temple on the left. I entered through the gate (labeled Templestay) to the far left of the temple, above a parking lot. From there, I was promptly greeted by two women who operate the Templestay. They checked my name off, gave me a name tag with my Korean name and gave me temple clothes to change into. I wore leggings and a tight workout shirt underneath the clothes for more comfort. I was able to put my overnight things in a locker and then await for other temple stay goers to arrive.
Once everyone was checked in and changed, we participated in an opening ceremony, where we introduced ourselves and explained why we wanted to be at Templestay. We learned Temple etiquette and proper ways to greet the monks. A senior monk then lead us on a tour of the Temple.
Our group was small, about 10 people, mostly Korean women. Our monk only spoke Korean, however, one of the ladies who runs the program also serves as an English translator. She was very knowledgable and kind, even sometimes going into further detail about something, if the questions were asked.
After we wandered through the grounds, we then were lead to the main dining hall to have a traditional monk meal.
We all sat around the monk, while he explained the proper way to eat a meal with the four bowls.
Each bowl was given to us inside one another. The biggest one for rice, next soup, third is for hot water and utensils and the small one for sides. We were asked to only serve what we could eat, because every last grain of rice must be consumed. There is no waste. Once we finished our meal, we used the hot water to clean each bowl with the yellow radish, before finally drinking the water and eating the radish.
Although this is the proper way to clean, our English translator explained that we will also wash the bowls with soap after, because we are guests and not the only ones who use the bowls, unlike the monks with their specific set of cutlery.
After dinner, we made it just in time to listen to the student monks drum on the big drum in the court yard as they do every night.
It was beautiful to watch the perfected technique that went in to each sound and rhythm. This lasted about 30 minutes, and then we moved on to the nightly prayer in the main temple.
Inside the main temple, we laid out the mats and proceeded to participate in the nightly prayer sessions. The monk chanted 3 prayers while we bowed and prayed.
Finishing up nightly prayers, we had a small break to wander the grounds at sunset.
To finish off the evening, we learned the meaning of prayer beads and strung a set for ourselves by doing 108 bows, one for each bead we strung. The bows were a little hard, as my body and knees weren’t used to the movements. A lot of up and downs to the floor, really knocked the wind out of me.
Around 9 PM we cleaned up and went to bed. Women were in one building and men in another. We slept on pads on the floor, which wouldn’t have been so terrible, except the floors are heated and I felt a bit like I was melting through the night. So, not the best sleep by any means.
We awoke at 5 AM, drank some green tea while the sun rose and then meditated in silence for 30 minutes. Even though it was early, I felt a calming and relaxing sensation wash over me.
After morning meditation, we ate breakfast in the dining hall. Cafeteria style, not the traditional way. Then a student monk led the way up the mountain for a morning hike to the high temple. Wear proper shoes, this hike was no picnic. The crisp mountain air, and surrounding views were phenomenal.
To end the Templestay, we sat down for tea with the senior monk and got to ask him any and all questions we liked.
For two hours we sat and chatted. We asked serious questions and real questions, like what he misses most about life outside the temple. (His answer was swimming). We munched on snacks and drank copious amounts of tea.
The two days couldn’t have been a better experience. Every question I had about prayer, incenses, etiquette, foods, even reasons why, were answered and discussed. I recommend this Templestay to anyone looking for a new and enlightening experience.
For more information on templestay go to:
This is also where you sign up to participate. Please comment if you have any questions or want to know more about my experience! Also comment if you went on Templestay and would like to talk about your experience!