When visiting Korea, travelers may participate in Templestay, a program initiated by Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism, to experience the living in a Buddhist temple, where nature and human life coexist.
The temples are places where Buddhist monks practice their asceticism, continuing the history and tradition of 1,700 years of Korean Buddhism. The public access to the temples had been restricted before Templestay was opened to international visitors in a bid to promote traditional cultural activities in 2002 World Cup. Now, there are around 130 temples providing Templestay programs, among which 26 temples offer it in English so that non-Koreans can participate Templestay without any difficulties.
As 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 much attention from around the world. Templestay is the only way to gain hands-on experiences on traditional cultures of the monks’ practice of ascetics and natural environment as well as history-long cultural assets.
Participants in Templestay may experience 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). They provide participants with an opportunity to think about the origin of all beings.
Templestay also provides a chance for the participants to try Temple food. Temple food refers to the healthy diet without using any animal products or specific ingredients such as five pungent spices (garlic, scallions, chives, onions and leeks), and instead includes natural food ingredients in season. It has been globally recognized after it was featured on the Netflix documentary ‘Chef’s Table’. Temple food means another 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’ from Nov. 5-30 in 2018. During the event, 39 temples across Korea offer Templestay programs at a discounted price. (A one-day program costs 10,000won / An overnight stay program costs 20,000won)