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Has Jesse Buddha-Nature? Part 2: Hellz yea!!

November 5, 2009

So following our arrival at Hwagyesa Temple, as I have related three posts ago, we spent a little while just hanging out and exploring the temple grounds (see pictures in next post), basking in the simultaneous beauty and lack of ostentation in the buildings, the ground, and the throaty hum of the sutra chants being performed on the second floor of the main temple building. We hung out a lot nearby this tall gray pillar in our slinky brown slacks and vest and basically just shot the shit until it came time for the real deal.

The schedule was as follows:

10 AM: Our arrival. We were oriented by some temple stay participants who were staying on the temple grounds for over a month versus our 24 hours.

11:30 AM: Lunch. Stuff mixed together with other stuff.

2:00 PM: Orientation with Powah Sengnim, the head monk (see last post). Introduction to bowing and the focus of meditation

3:00 PM: Meditation. The real deal. We sat in cross-legged silence, some Indian-style, some half-lotus, and some with their face planted on the ground in that ultimate meditative state — sleep.

4:00 PM: Break for about 45 minutes

4:45 PM: Dinner. See lunch.

6:00 PM: Chanting. We all went into a huge hall with several massive golden Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and mouthed our lips along with the chant of the 8 or 9 monks in attendance.

6:30-8:30 PM: Meditation — one sitting period of 45 minutes, then walking meditation for 15 minutes, then repeat. This was intense.

9:20 PM: Bedtime on heated floors and flimsy mats. It was so early because:

3:00 AM the next morning: Wake up. We had plans for a morning hike up the mountain, and breakfast, chanting, and several sets of meditation were in order before going.

3:20 AM: Meditation round 1

4:00 AM: 108 bows. Just as it sounds. We bowed 108 times. Knees ached on this one a bit.

4:30 AM: Chanting in the golden Buddha room. This was very moving in the dark gray light of the early morning, the daybreak silence being delicately broken by the reverberations of the heavy prayer drum outside and the mellifluous unity of the sung sutra voiced by two lines of contemplative monks and the dozen or so devout lay folk that had come to the temple to pray in the early morning. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before, and I cannot so easily say, with both the agnostic skeptic and the philosophical spiritualist contemplating the scene from out of my eyes, where tired ritual ended and true spirituality began, or vice versa. Perhaps the lesson best remembered from this temple stay is that it hardly really matters — or rather, one already stacks the deck as soon as one begins looking at religion in this binary way.

5:00 AM: Meditation, round 2. I proudly stayed awake through all of these sessions

5:50 AM: Breakfast. See ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner’

6:20 AM: Work period. We swept outside with brooms, clearing leaves and dirt off of the pavement in front of the temple.

7:30-9:30 AM: Outdoor meditation. Bukansan Mountain, the tallest peak in Seoul, was right next to the temple. Luckily we didn’t have to hike the whole mountain — we got about 15-20 minutes up then camped on some accommodating rocks, pulled out small mats we were carrying, and proceeded to sit for an hour, meditating or appreciating the wonderful view as was our fancy. Amidst this, I started to have some good ideas about the koan that we were given before going up the mountain (which I am unfortunately prevented from telling you — the head monk said to tell another would be to disrupt their ideas and their own chance of coming to enlightenment, a concept at the core of Zen ontology). So upon completing the meditation and meandering down the mountain paths with a clear mind, I resolved to tell the head monk of what I was thinking, thinking that maybe more thoughts would flower out of such a conversation.

Of course, approaching him and telling him my thoughts was less a moment of spiritual awakening and attainment of Buddha-nature as much as me nervously dropping a bunch of disorganized philosophical thoughts on him, and he all but told me that I talk too much before suggesting I find a simpler answer and giving me his e-mail address for whenever I do. I rather expected that, of course, and I appreciated the irony of being asked to send him the confirmation of my spiritual awakening via the internet. I thanked him and scurried away, and then resolved, as soon as I met up with my friends in the group again, to get the greasiest, most satisfying brunch we could find in Seoul, and at 10 AM we continued along our way in that world outside the Zen temple but, I think, all the more peaceful for it.

  1. Jude_the_Obscure permalink
    November 7, 2009 4:52 am

    Not the wind, not the flag, Mind is moving.


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