Saturday, 1 January 2011

Guinsa Temple Part 1

This Christmas happened to be spent at Guinsa Temple, where I decided to go in the very aim to perform perpetual state of motion, hence go. 

When 3 people travel, their personalities differ and they have to compose a society in it's mini scope for a given number of days or hours. It is a perfect school of tolerance and friendship. 3 of us, Polish, German... and not Russian ( like would be in that joke from past) but Lithuanian on the go. Louisa, not the fastest person in the world, but one of the smartest, Svajune, haste on going and punctual, and me, rather quiet on the journey, prepared trekker, and taking a lot of brain shortcuts which can have consequences at times. And it had during our preparations when I didn't tell Svajune beforehand that we are actually supposed to be ready for survival in terms of dressing and equipment. But, nevertheless Svajune is tough and made it in her own outfit. And even made a profit out of it, but let the story go as it goes...

We got off the bus in Korean equivalent of the middle of nowhere. Something simmilar Wild Wild West city in US countryside where both high tech and total bronze age meets in one spot. The bus ticket booth being both the kiosk for whatever needed with the ajoshi inside who looked at us like on the aliens. Prepared to speak my limited Korean I asked: Guinsa odiye isoyo. He looked at me again with bored sight of a man who had seen so many people and faces that I don't matter at all and shown the direction up and right.

Darkness around and reflections of street lights sparkling on the icy pavement up. By that time I got questions if we are at the right place and if we shouldn't go back to the bigger city and remarks that adventures in negative temperatures are not the best solution. Ignored them all: - Go. - said I. And headed upwards in the night full of stars.

I wish it was a longer walk. Surprisingly close I saw the complex of traditional roofs and new we are at the place. Svajune entered the office of the temple to ask... for two nights. Yes. Two nights.

An A4 size modest piece of paper at the door said in printed capitals: "For english speaking service please ask inside". In a moment cheering face of Svajune appeared back and said to us: - Wait 5 minutes
and an english speaking person will come to us.

It was a first time to get off my trekking shoes and not the last one. Inside there was a counter behind which I saw something like a combination of a theater closet and an office, just like a night watch would have his computer for whatever job. We waited on a heated floor.

- Welcome to Guinsa Temple! - a cry of energy greeted us from the right- I am Hyondok Synim and I shall be your guide from now on. Let's do the formalities.

We went through all sorts of questions from where we were and how we got there. Svajune brought her attention to Lithuania... - There was a man here, Justas, helped to make kimchi. He was from Lithuania too. Somehow I could not imagine my decadente friend Justinas making kimchi with ajummas, but an image of him with a cigar between his teeth and a blink above the pot of kimchi persecuted me in my brain and I bursted with laugh. Girls too. Mind reading?

Our nun was 50, fluent english speaker, with a height of mine and dark hair put in a tight not on the neck. Dark grey uniform, dark grey long coat and she would be alike thousand others if not for this amazing energy inside her which was glowing around the person. The way she moved and talked. The way she looked.

- Merry Christmas. Please feel welcome at our Temple and enjoy pace of time with us. There is only one God and only one good. Baby Jesus was born today and I want you to feel the athmosphere of Christmas even
when you are at buddist temple. - that came after asking us about religion. However tensed and complicated is my relation with God I don't deny Him so I admitted to be Roman Catholic. Not  for the first time I was wondering what story does "our" Hyondok Sunim carry on through her life. The  very moment I met her I knew she was not an usual person.

- You are very lucky. You arrived during the preparations for Buddha anniversary. There is also an ongoing month meditation going in our monastery, some of these people I will show you because of your book.
We followed her to the Dharma Hall passing all the impressive buildings. All of them full of concrete and Joson dynasty style assemblies in it's final touch. "Is Korean architecture really that homogenous and it does not differ from the corner to the corner?" again question in my brain. The answer to this question is one of the main purposes of my stay in Korea.

Nun brought us to the cafeteria looking like any other cafeteria. Full of women with children, and only 5 men. Gradually it went empty and we stayed alone. This is when she brought some friends with her. A young
one, and old one and a middle one. She put the cake in the middle and said. - You were brave during the meal (it was adressed to Louisa) so you deserve something sweet now. My young friend here has her
birthday. This is her mother. And this is my other friend - said she indicating at the old small lady with white hair. So silver that she must have been 90 by that time. Peace in her smiling eyes told that she has been through so much that she already aquired this absolute tolerance and acceptance for all phenomena in human beings. We went on chatting and asking questions. Now I think that the old lady was a guide for the young one in spiritual development. Her presence had not been merely of social manner.

To be continued...

Practical information: bus to Guinsa goes from Dong Seoul terminal every hour or so.
Once in temple you aren't supposed to leave any food you are given.

Enjoy :)

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