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Thread: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

  1. #1

    My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    I figured I would try to give a brief account of my time as a Samanera at Suji Gu temple Korea or as I like to call it Our Lady of Extreme Discipline. My experiences are not meant to be a generalization of Zen or Temple life in Korea. Most Korean Zen focuses on koan practice but as the monks I stayed with couldn't speak english well I ended up just sitting which is good because I lost faith in koan system when the monks offered to give me the answers to koans for cigarets. The abbot at the temple was worse then my Irish Catholic Gran when it came to beatings. He liked to cary a very huge stick to hit the monks whenever a mistake was made. I made many, so I got quite a few bruises. When I first presented myself to the abbot who I met through a teaching friend. I offered him a letter my friend wrote in hangul stating my desire to become a monk. I gave him the letter with one hand which was a big no no. BAM!!! like a ninja from some anime his stick came out of nowhere and hit me on the top of the head. The daily schedule was wake up at 3 meditate until 5 then Chanting or in my case mumbling along because none of the texts had transliteration or translation. This was Done until 6 am after which we had a silent meal. We had a meditation from 7-8 am followed by interviews with the abbot. The translator was a student at my school and was not well versed in english so I don't know how much info got through. Half the answers I received I didn't no if they were koans or random sayings. Like once I was told "an orange taste good after dawn" After 1 month I started hearing all these mystical stories of monks who could float or saw bohdisatvas and heaven. I started to want some mystical experience then after another month of boring painful sitting I realized that zen is boring as all hell but it allowed me to be fully aware of the present moment and I was able to carry all of that out into my daily life. After meditation I was able to sleep because to keep my visa I had to teach from 5pm-1pm. Weekends I helped with chores or we visited other temples. I kept up this schedule until my visa expired and returned my robes and went home. I liked my time at the temple but due to cultural differences I realize I could not make a life commitment there. I tried to keep this as short as possible so I omitted stuff if you are curious about my stay feel free to ask.
    Cheers
    Chris Powers

  2. #2

    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    Hi Chris,

    It sounds like a wholly perfectly imperfect, magical/down to earth time of training.

    I believe that, along this constantly changing Road to Here and Here, we learn as much from the people and experiences that -don't- meet our expectations and standards ... as from those that do measure up to our postcard dreams and images. Each life experience is a jewel in its own way ... flaws and imperfections and misshapen form to our eyes and all (does the jewel see itself as flawed and not up to par, or is that our way of seeing things by our standards of beauty?)

    If we go to a monastery expecting a world of saints living in a Shangri-la utopia ... we will likely be rather disappointed by the very ordinary people with human ways, habits and concerns we sometimes find. On the other hand, if we can come to taste a bit how very extra-ordinary is the ordinary, and the wonderously perfectly imperfect in being human ... then some treasure is found. After years hanging around monks and monasteries, I have learned as much from watching them just drink beer and play cards during their "off hours" as by observing their elegance during ceremonies ... as much from watching the grace with which they bow as how they blush at a fart while doing so ... as much from sitting with "Boring" Zazen or "Can't Settle Down Today" Zazen as from "Go To Buddha Heaven" Zazen or "All is One and Peaceful" Zazen ... all the Road to Here and Here and Here ...

    Kind of like marriage ... first we think it will be one big honeymoon. Then, we realize the road of a true relationship is winding, some ups and downs, happy days and sad, learning to accept and see the "True Worth" of the very perfectly imperfect person we are spending life with ... and that is how the true richness and power of a lasting relationship comes forth. (Heck, it is even a good way of seeing those relationships that end in divorce on that Road to Here and Here and Here :wink: )

    Something like that.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    Hi Chris. Thank you for sharing stories from your experiences. It was a pleasure to read.

    Gassho,
    John

  4. #4
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    Kind of like marriage ... first we think it will be one big honeymoon. Then, we realize the road of a true relationship is winding, some ups and downs, happy days and sad, learning to accept and see the "True Worth" of the very perfectly imperfect person we are spending life with ... and that is how the true richness and power of a lasting relationship comes forth. (Heck, it is even a good way of seeing those relationships that end in divorce on that Road to Here and Here and Here :wink: )
    Isn't this the truth. Now add cultural differences into the mix! Feels impossible somedays. But all worth it!!!

    Gassho,
    John

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    Wow! That's some experience, Chris. Curious . . . how do you feel about it all now, after the fact?

    Gassho

    Jennifer

  6. #6

    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    Chris, That was interesting, thank you for sharing. Koan answers for cigs - those monks were like foxes - their answers were worthless unless maybe for themselves.

  7. #7

    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    I do agree that does sound like an awesome experience!!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Gassho


    Seiryu

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    At first I thought it was a pretty harsh experience, but then I remembered my own experience with my aikido master.

    Yes, we tend to idealize and create powerful awesome realities, but when we face right into the experience itself it tends to be a whole different animal.

    It takes wisdom and patience to understand and live the moment. I think you did pretty well. What I think is important is that the seed for living under the dharma is there.

  9. #9

    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    I am very grateful for the experience Jennifer and I am definitely a better practitioner. One of the interesting things was that before my temple stay I used to need 8 hrs or more of sleep and now I like five but can live off of two. I think if there was a study guide on all of the unique cultural idioms of Korea I would have had a better go at my stay there. I learned through pain though in the long run. The one thing that I still cant do, much to the consternation of my teachers, is sit in full lotus. I destroyed my knees surfing and doing other dangerous stuff as a kid. Oh one other bonus is that I can now eat almost anything with chopsticks my roommate saw me eating cereal with them and was blown away.
    Cheers
    Chris

  10. #10

    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    Quote Originally Posted by ctpowers8
    I can now eat almost anything with chopsticks my roommate saw me eating cereal with them and was blown away.
    Now, who is it that said that one does not develop magical powers and abilities through Zen Practice !? There's an Amazing Power right there! 8)

  11. #11

    Re: My Stay at Suji Gu temple

    A) Brilliant! thank you for sharing your story, many bows!
    2) Awesome superpowers, floating what ever and magical visions BAH!, cornflakes with chop sticks for the win!!
    three - in all seriousness Thank you for the lesson!

    Gassho
    Shohei

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