Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Special Buddha's Birthday

While there was so much going on in Seoul this Tuesday, the forecast of rain made it very easy for the boyfriend to persuade me in to going to Halmoni's house and bringing her to temple for Buddha's Birthday. Halmoni has been very weak in the past year and she hasn't been out much at all, but this month she seems to have taken on new vigor at her age of 93. She even went on one of those sightseeing bus tours for halmoni and haraboji last week. So, she was determined to get up to her temple for the holiday and see some old friends and donate money to the temple.

We brought her up to the temple and we sat with her through the temple ceremony. It is always so surreal to me to be surrounded by the chanting that I can't understand. The bowing and the singing. Actually, when it boils down to it, it isn't so different from a Catholic mass that I'm accustomed to from my youth. Just the surroundings are a bit different. The monk gave a sermon-like talk. I was happy that I understood a fair bit of it, but I didn't understand enough to get "the point" if you know what I mean.

I wanted so badly to take a photo inside the temple so my readers could know what it was like in there, but I figured that was probably the epitome of bad manners, and so I resisted pulling out the camera until after the service. When the service was finished, the attendees followed the monk, walking in a circle around the worshiping hall.

Then many people lined up to pour water over Buddha's head. Then it was time to eat!

As my boyfriend says, the best part about going to temple is the food. Food is seemingly always available at the temple for those who come by on any given day, but as it was a very special day they prepared a big meal for all who came. Keeping with Buddhist tradition of killing no living souls, we of course ate a meal of Bibimbap!

Here is my meal, plus there was lots of ddok (rice cakes) and dwengjangguk to go around too!

As we were leaving, we saw one little activity set up at this small temple. Archery. Somehow in my school years I always missed the lesson on archery and so this was my first time to try it in earnest. I think I did fairly well for my first try, though a little practice would serve me well. You never know when you'll be stranded in the woods with only a bow and arrow for survival.

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