Thursday, 20 January 2011

Guinsa Temple Part 3

After short rest we headed on the routine. This was the time when I felt the power of writing a book about a country and it's people. Hyondok Sunim had brought us off the typical routine of bows and meditation but instead decided to show the space of work, whatever possible in that freezing cold Christmas Day. The sky was so blue on that day.

We were brought into the ladies work space. Like in CatholicChurch or any other traditional patriarchal system women take care for guys stuff, they make cloths, sew them, iron, wash, cook, whatever to deliver ready for the monks.

I was shown their work space where they prepare buddhist religious outfit. Several ladies where sitting in rather small room with the entrance straight from the cold. One of them was cutting pieces. Another one was steam ironing them so it would be easier to sew them. One of them was making trousers only, another one tops. It was visible that they like it. Their way of life, daily work routine. Among giggles and laughs they kept asking questions about our countries, religion, opinions. Every now and then they bursted with laugh after Sunim told stories on our difficult adjustment to the rythm of life in the temple.

An important holiday was approaching. For the celebration purposes, the entire Temple site had been decorated with lanterns which looked like chickens but supposed to be dragons. Temple itself is quite new and very nicely decorated in the mixture of patterns and fresquos with green, gold and red as dominant colors. People headed around us on their routine. Pilgrims arrived and departured. For them it is an equivalent of Lourdes or Fatima, or even Częstochowa. A pilgrimage place where quantities of people head for a moment of refreshment and try just to stop in their haste of life. Maybe pray for their children's successes, their lost love, maybe for better health?

What is strikingly common to see is the fact that Buddism as a religion is a female issue in Korea. There have been quantities of ajummas in a scope of age starting from 40 and up, crowded on narrow spaces and hardly any men present. Maybe 5 of them among hundreds of women? Common phenomenon for the whole world.

It reminds me of, what I thought was a nasty antifeministic comment at the time, words spoken by the local parish priest in Warsaw: "When a woman prays it's normal. A matter of fact. Her soul is emotional, tempts to mysticism. But when cold logic driven male brain prays it is precious. More valued than female prayer." I still remember how angry I was, but when I look at it, I must admit that it is so true. Men are stronger in driving for their goals, never blaim extra factors for their failures or successes and are hardly ever emotional. But this is what makes them successful, after all.

At the lunch time there was time for the  truth. Sleeping routine at the Temple was not for me. I cannot go to sleep at 8 pm for 2 hrs and later at 4:30 am for 2 hours. I was grey on my face and very very tired.

I will be back to Guinsa, Hyondok Sunim. Maybe I will be more tough?

The last part of the day was tea ceremony with a monk. He could not speak english, but I think he understood. He had driven our attention to the fact that Avatar movie had a lot of buddhist elements in it. My journalist self overcame a diplomat inside me when I asked:

- How is buddism related to Korean mindset and modern development? You said that everything is interconnected and hence we should be responsible for nature. But in this case why are Korean people so detached from it? Temple Sites are protected because it is cultural heritage, but if there is no cultural heritage but there is a mount which is home to rare species, it would be blown up with no hesitation? Centuries of buddhist belief did not leave a trace in Korean mindset?

Sunim, an ex journalist, responded:

- I am not smart enough to speak about politics.

Hmm. Indead. That was not a political question I think...

- But maybe he is? - and I show our host. The response from the monk in translation was:

- There are challenges in modern world, but you need to practise. If you practise it will be allright.
 If you practise it will be allright...

Perfect solution which every religion makes for a believer. But maybe there is something in it?

I must admit that the meditation in the small Dharma Hall brought me peace of mind which I had not experienced in more than a month before Christmas. Despite on the faith and religion, or lack of it, if you stop and ask yourself: Quo Vadis? Quo Vadis Humanae? Where do you go? Who are you? What are your dreams? What are your sins? What makes the sense of your life? it is more than beneficial. Guinsa Temple had given me that.

On the icy cold evening with snow crunching under our feet and millions of stars on the sky we headed home. There are no stars in Seoul. Lights of civilization had taken over too long ago.

Hyondok Sunim, I will be back one day.

Guinsa Temple, Christmas 2010

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