Korean Buddhism, a Day of Meditation, and the First Batch of Pesto

Here are a few of the photos I took while on retreat at Dae Yen Sa Korean Buddhist Temple and Meditation Center this weekend

My homemade basil-walnut pesto

This Monday morning, I woke up wanting to go back to sleep and keep dreaming about the weekend. The retreat at Dae Yen Sa was great. It was a pretty grueling day, though. Six hours of silent meditation (sitting, walking, sitting, walking, etc.) is a challenge both mentally and physically. 

I wasn’t much of a walking meditator before, but now I see its great benefits. Sitting in lotus for hours can get painful - legs fall asleep, hips get sore, back starts to ache. Part of meditation is to acknowledge the pain as simply pain, and keep going with your practice. But it’s better when there’s no pain.

The temple is gorgeous: such a holy, happy place. Korean Buddhism is colorful and elaborate: a far cry from the Zen of my practice. Many brass food offering bowls and incense urns, riots of flowers around shrines, small shrines within larger shrines, dark and pale pink paper lanterns, bowls of orchids, and green celadon statues everywhere.

Walking into the temple is having your senses overcome, but in the best way. The rich colors, the shine of giant brass Buddhas, and the rich incense – and then there’s the soothing silence that goes with it. The meditation center grounds feature many outdoor shrines everywhere – deep in the woods, on the perimeter, near the temple, near the monks’ and nuns’ home, behind the kitchen, in the nooks of trees.

There are a few small buildings that house shrines of their own, including the Future Buddha (‘Miruk Bul’ in Korean). Miruk Bul will be reborn in order to renew Buddhism during a time of need. This time is unknown. Miruk Bul is a Bodhisattva, refusing entry into Nirvana until all beings are free from Samsara. Miruk Bul is also called Maitreya. Korean language is music.

I got the chance to speak with the resident Eomeoni about how a Buddhist should die. Not a grim talk at all. She is such a happy person, living simply, dressed in the plain gray Korean robes, head shaved, barefoot, always smiling. As simple as she lives, she loves to talk, though, and we had lively discussion. I love her laugh. And I was given a gift for my home shrine – a beautiful pink and purple paper lantern made by the nuns there. I placed it, lit by a battery-operated candle, on the shrine last night. It glows.

There’s lots more to tell about the retreat, but only so much time. So…

Last night, I made our first large batch of basil-walnut pesto. It’s what’s for lunch today. I also made a jar for a friend who loves it. We pulled lots of summer squash and cucumbers from the garden too. I have the same problem every year, though – not enough green beans. I keep picking the plants and eating them standing there in the garden, and the plants are not making more fast enough. 

Next year, I’m just going to plant an insane amount of green beans. We could do with fewer squash to make room for green beans.

I’ll write more about the amazing benefits of walking meditation next time.

Sanrang Eun.

Popular Posts