Planning a visit to Korea? Why stay in a hotel when you can have a unique experience such as staying at a Buddhist temple?
Dubbed Templestay, a program initiated by Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism, travelers can experience living in a Buddhist temple, which is the home to more than 1,700 years of history and tradition.
Previously, the public access to the temples had been restricted and was opened to international visitors in a bid to promote traditional cultural activities during the 2002 World Cup. Now, there are around 130 temples providing Templestay programs and 26 of them offer it in English.
Since the seven ‘Sansa’, Korea’s Buddhist mountain temples (Daeheungsa, Magoksa, Beopjusa, Bongjeongsa, Buseoksa, Seonamsa and Tongdosa) were listed as UNESCO world heritage sites in 2018, Korean Buddhist culture is receiving more attention from around the world.
Participants in Templestay will receive a hands-on experience such as Yebul (Buddhist ceremony), Chamseon (Seon meditation) and 108 bae (108 prostrations), and can learn how to make lotus lanterns and Buddhist prayer beads and enjoy salt mandala (salt drawing).
Food is also a big part of the Temple experience. A healthy diet without using any animal products or specific ingredients such as the five pungent spices (garlic, scallions, chives, onions and leeks) is what sets Temple food apart. The use of natural food and ingredients that are only in season is a way of practicing one’s asceticism and realizing the importance of all beings.
For foreigners looking for a chance to experience Templestay, there is a special event ‘Templestay Weeks for Foreigners’ for the month of November. During the event, 39 temples across Korea will offer Templestay programs at a discounted price.
For more information, see here.