My mother came to South Korea last month. I must admit that I wasn’t exactly excited when I received word of her visit. I love my mother (I swear) but it was hard to be enthusiastic about all the chauffeuring I would soon be responsible for. I discovered the reason for her trip was not to see family but to set out on a series of pilgrimages to some of South Korea’s holiest Buddhist sites.
I tagged along with my mother for a day trip to Naesosa Temple situated deep in the mountains of Jeollabuk-do province. My mother knew the head monk of this particular temple. Because of this relationship, we were given a rare tour of the monastery.
The sleeping rooms were bare and spartan. Their meals were fair and adequate. The temple had the solemnity and sobriety one would only find in a house of faith. It was a hermitage in obvious ways.
But the setting was anything but plain. The forests draped the surrounding mountains in a verdant green. Soft persimmons gently hung on trees, waiting to be picked. The ordinary garbs worn by the monks quietly contrasted with the brilliant lotus flowers being cultivated near their meditation quarters. Wooden chrysanthemums were carved in the doors, offering a sylvan shield for the spirituality within.
Here, Buddha was being honored but nature was being celebrated.