“International Summer Campus Goes to Yongjusa Temple!”
240+ International Students Participate in the Buddhist Temple Life Program
Experiencing the Buddhist Culture . . . Learning How Monks Greet and Making Traditional Lotus Lanterns
Over 240 students of the Korea University International Summer Campus (henceforth ISC) and its faculty members visited Yongjusa Temple located in Gyeonggi Province . Yonjusa has been designated to run tourist programs where foreigners can learn about the Buddhist culture. ISC students and faculty members participated in the Temple Life program for a day.
The Temple Life program allows tourists to experience the Buddhist culture without necessarily staying at the temple for multiple days. Most other Temple Stay programs in Korea also provide opportunities to learn about the Buddhist culture but the participants are required to spend a night at the temple. The Temple Life program distinguishes itself by arranging key activities in a one-day schedule.
Participants first learned the proper greeting in Buddhist temples before they were granted an audience with the Chief Monk of Yongjusa. “Each country has its own way of greeting,” Monk Jinhong said, “Let us learn about two basic ways of greeting in Buddhist Temples: Banbae and Chasuh.”
Banbae is used when one encounters another: one joins both of his bands as to make his body and mind in harmony. Chasuh shall be conducted at all times while in a Buddhist temple: one keeps their hands still in order to keep one’s mind still and peaceful as well. Monk Jinhong who taught the Buddhist greetings to ISC participants told them to stay in the posture when wandering in the temple. A translator at the temple helped the students understand the instructions of Jinhong.
Having learned how Buddhists greet, students then met the Chief Monk, who gave a short introduction to Buddhism. “I understand that you are exchange students to Korea,” he welcomed the students, “I hope you to enjoy learning about the history and culture of Korean Buddhism.”
Students were then divided into groups and started to enjoy various activities: dining in a temple, making traditional lotus lanterns, and learning about the temple. Students were able to try the vegetarian food served in Buddhist temples in the dining program. They could eat as much as they wanted, but were not allowed to leave any leftover according to the Buddhist teaching. They could experience the life of temple where one shall take just as much as they need.
The next program was making lotus lanterns with used paper cups. The lanterns were then hung on the ceiling of the temple. Students also learned about the meaning of lotus flowers and its significance in the Buddhist tradition. “Do you know where they grow? They grow in muddy water. But they themselves never get muddy and purify the water. Buddhist ideal is reflected in how lotus flowers grow: It starts from emptying one’s own mind, cleansing it of egoistic greed in order to fill it with self-reflection and compassion.”
“The lanterns symbolize the wisdom of the Buddha that enlightens the darkness of the world – that’s what you are going to make today.” Though most of the students had difficulty in using glue to attach hanji (Korean traditional paper), they all finished their lanterns with beautiful hanji leaves in 30 minutes. One of the students from the United States, Maddox Palmer, said, “I’ve never had an experience like this before. It was very amazing and impressive. I think I will be more interested in Korean Buddhism from now on.”
In the final session, students learned about the temple, seeing the various cultural heritages in it, such as the Daeungjeon Hall. Students explored every corner of the temple despite the unusually hot weather. Many of them uploaded pictures of the decorations and buildings in the temple to Social Networking Services (SNS).
“I’ve visited Buddhist temples several times with Korea University students,” said Professor Marc Mehlman who teaches courses on mathematics for business. “Temples in Korea are so beautiful that they give me new feelings and impressions every time I visit them. I would like to thank the ISC for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to experience Korean Buddhist culture like this as well as to teach great students.”