Are you interested in doing a temple stay in Korea? First, I suggest that you read my account of a temple stay at Geumsansa Temple. The Geumsansa Temple Stay program is a very popular one and fairly typical of a temple stay (except for our professional photographers all weekend!).
Here are a few factors to consider.
- How long do you have? Most temple stay programs are 2 days, 1 night. However, there are longer programs available. There is also the factor of how far you want to travel. There are several temple stays quite close to Seoul, if you don’t have very long in Korea and are basing your travels there.
- How much can you spend? Temple stays vary in price from 30,000 Won for a one day program to 120,000 Won for a 2 day program at the pricier temples.
- What do you want from your temple stay? There are ‘rest and recuperation’ centered temple stays, ones that focus on Buddhist culture and religion, and ones that are just a very quick view of temple life. For example, at our temple stay, you could ask a monk questions about temple life. Ours also made the 3 AM prayer service optional. Some don’t.
A good resource for choosing a temple stay is this online “Find a Templestay Program” quiz. The website has information about all the different temple stay options in Korea.
Here are some other things you should keep in mind when thinking about your temple stay.
- You will get out of it what you put in. In other words, if you want to really experience Buddhist culture and religious practice, you have to take it seriously. If you want to know what meditation is like you have to really try to meditate.
- The program may be great, but you can’t predict the behavior of the other people in it. Hopefully, everyone will behave well and be respectful. But you might get unlucky and get stuck with people complaining a lot or being really disrespectful.
- The food is vegan. It is also very delicious. But now you can’t say you weren’t warned. If you can’t handle not eating meat for two days, a temple stay is probably not for you. Don’t be that guy complaining that there wasn’t bacon with breakfast.
- There is no alcohol. Yes, you’ll also have to go alcohol free for two days. This seemed difficult for some of the people in my program. Keep it in mind.
Hopefully, everyone on your temple stay program will be great and everything will go well. Remember, if things seem strange, that you are stepping into another culture. Please respect that. Even if you are uncomfortable for some reason (hard floor, waking up too early, you miss meat or drinking, etc), remember that it’s just for a couple of days! Embrace a new way of life, however briefly, and think about the fact that not that many people get a chance to do that.
Have you been on a temple stay? Did you enjoy it?