람보3

람보3

나: 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

철봉: 새해 복 많이 받아라! 어젯밤에 TV를 보면서 필립 생각 났어.

나: 그래?

철봉: 응. 뭐더라? 람본가?

나: 람보라구?

철봉: 응. 필림 씨는 우리 반 람보다!

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晩秋에

The weekend of my graduation, November 13-16.

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번짐

번짐,
목련꽃은 번져 사라지고
여름이 되고
너는 내게로
번져 어느덧 내가 되고
나는 다시 네게로 번진다
번짐,
번져야 살지
꽃은 번져 열매가 되고
여름은 번져 가을이 된다
번짐,
음악은 번져 그림이 되고
삶은 번져 죽음이 된다
죽음은 그러므로 번져서
이 삶을 다 환히 밝힌다
또 한 번 저녁은 번져 밤이 된다
번짐,
번져야 사랑이지
산기슭의 오두막 한 채 번져서
봄 나비 한 마리 날아온다

[수묵정원9-번짐, 장석남]

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하늘공원

 

억새

억새

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여원 손

내가 잠든 뒤에도
빨래는
어둠을 지킨다.

늘어진 운명의 줄을
붙잡는 여윈 손.

그는 스스로
절대의 허무 앞에 던져지기 위하여
체온을 버린다.

밤의 적막은
바람들의 세상이지만
깨어 있는 우주의 창밖에서

빨래는
어둠의 공간에
하나의 밧줄을 던진다.

스스로 육신을 포기하는 자의
저 완벽한 연기.

[여원 손, 오세영]

 

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百潭寺

달밤의 백담사

달밤의 백담사

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어둠의 공간에 하나의 밧줄을 던진다

My friend at the Korea Tourism Organization invited me to apply for a temple stay trip to Seoraksan‘s Baekdamsa (백담사百潭寺). Our group — diplomats from Nepal, scientists from Spain and Mexico, photographers and teachers from Canada, and the assortment of officials and journalists that coordinate these trips — met up on a chilly Saturday morning in front of the KTO office near Cheonggyecheon.

Our first stop was Baekdamsa’s Manhae Village. Manhae Han Young-un (만해 한용운 萬海 韓龍雲) is most famous for his “The Silence of Love” (님의 침묵), and the Manhae Foundation constucted a center for research and writing on Manhae’s poetry and philosophy, as well as an annual festival, poetry performances, and youth education. The architecture is stunning, and the Seoweonbojeon (서원보전誓願寶殿) is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

We got to know eat other a little better over lunch and tea in the Village cafeteria, then headed to Baekdamsa to start the temple stay program. Baekdamsa is located in inner Seoraksan, and while we were slightly early for the change in the maple leaves that makes these mountains so beautiful in October, the mountain behind the temple had a stream of maple fire beginning to trickle down its slope and along the forests to the riverbed. The stream bed, filled with small stone towers, wound into the foggy distance. The trip was billed as “Discover Yourself”, which I had assumed was a bit of an overstatement marketing our temple stay. I’ve been on a few temple stays already, and the last time, at Jikjisa, my peers even talked our guide into letting them out of the morning meditation.

But this was something else. Our first day was pretty relaxed, with a short tour of the grounds, the usual bumbling and fumbling over eating temple food on time and washing the dishes outside, and this remarkable green tea meditation (차 훈증 명상) — a spa treatment by any other name. We made tea in large specially-made bowls, placed our chin and foreheads on the rims, covered our heads with towels, and meditated. It might have been difficult to concentrate on the meditation, but perhaps the clearest surprise was popping up to see everyone’s slightly disheveled hair and fresh, dewy faces.

Baekdamsa is also famous for the moon as seen under its pines and for being home to the disgraced dictator Chun Doo Hwan (전두환全斗煥) from 1988.11.23-1990.12.30. So after our meditation, we sat out under the eaves, ate ddeok, and watched the moon slip in and out of the clouds.

[While I was looking for these dates, I stumbled across this article about the irony of ‘Ilhae’ (일해日海) Chun Doo Hwan moving to Manhae Han Yong-un’s temple.]

The weather cleared up before morning, and we woke up long before dawn for the morning yebul (예불禮佛). I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that exhilaration at swimming through the night sounds of the samul (사물四物) or of slipping into the gold and pink light of the beobdang (법당法堂), but I hope I don’t.

[사물(四物)은 법고·운판·목어(木魚)·대종(大鐘)의 네 가지 법구의 뜻하다. At Baekdamsa, samul means the four temple treasures: dharma drum, cloud-shaped gong, wooden fish, and temple bell.]

We then assembled for meditation, which is a different experience at each temple. The temple stay system is a great way to get introduced to Korean Buddhist temple culture and a ton of fun for group tours. At participating temples, kind monks spend the weekend with tour groups, explaining the architecture, history, and culture of their unique temples, joking around about the differences in monastic and secular life that arise, and introducing Buddhist philosophy and practice in the context of their own lives. Devotees usually make their own arrangements to stay at temples and meditate or meet with monks and have their own schedules, so it’s not as if participants are completely thrown in to fend for themselves, but it does require participants to keep their eyes and hearts open for a few days in order to learn and experience that temple’s way of life. It is not boring or patronizing, and it is not severe or obscure. It’s just a really well-designed system.

But I did think that “Discover Yourself” was going a little far on KTO’s part. Until 9 or 10 am. Temple stay meditations are usually a short and fun experience probably designed to be fun and educational for participants and funny for monks. At Daeheungsa (대흥사大興寺), we took a walk through the woods with the monk who ran the temple’s famous green tea plantation. At Jikjisa (직지사直指寺), we did stretches, a chain-massage, and then went out to chicken-fight with the monks. But on Sunday morning at Baekdamsa, the green tea steam meditations were over. We had a seated meditation (좌선坐禪), then a 108 bows meditation (108배), then more seated meditation, then a walking meditation (행선行禪), then a blind-folded hiking mediation (자비명성慈悲瞑想), then went out to the stream bed and built small stone towers (돌탑돌塔) while meditating on our singular wish. The whole process lasted something like 5 hours. “Discover Yourself” might be a big claim, but most people learned something during that time. I myself was left with a thought passed on by a monk stopping by during our tower construction. She pointed out that the towers were antennas channeling our wish from the firmament, and invited me to translate that to the group.

 

 

[Some notes. Our trip was covered by Cho Seong-ha (조성하), a great travel writer from Dong-A Ilbo, and appeared in the paper on 2008.10.10. I have linked the article and the pictures. For the record, while the paper states that I am an art history major, I’m not. I’ve also linked another article about temple stay at Baekdamsa. And the title of this post comes from one of my favorite poems by Oh Sae-young  (오세영吳世榮), ‘여원 손‘. The poem is translated in English as ‘Withered Hands’ in this collection.]

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