The “osities” of strangers…

1 11 2010

Yesterday at the Biennial Exhibition there was a film about a pair of Zen Buddhist monks discussing what Zen Buddhist monks talk about….Zen things.

It was interesting if not rather convoluted. They were discussing the impermanence of everything, and the interdependent relationships of all things. They used smoke and fire as an example. Most of it went clean over my head to be honest, but it was nevertheless interesting. Cue later on, and there is a Swedish (I think) Buddhist Monk on the telebox. It was intriguing, and I can certainly align to a great deal of their principles.

Spurred on by the inter dependence of fire and smoke, and the impersistance of everything, I decided to do something meaningful with my day. What did I do, naturally I visited a Buddhist Temple. No ordinary temple, the oldest in Korea (1500 years old). From the “Life in Korea” blurb :-

“Bemoesa Temple, located on the eastern slope of Geumjeong-san in Busan, is said to have been built by the Great Priest Uisang during the reign of King Munmu of the Silla Kingdom. The temple is one of the three largest temples in the southeastern part of the Korea, along with Haein-sa and Tongdo-sa. It is also one of the ten most famous temples of Korea’s Hwaeom Sect of Buddhism (which preaches the doctrine of all encompassing harmony). Daeung-jeon (the main building) and the three-storied stone pagoda are some of the many cultural properties found here.”

It seemed like a little bit of a chore to get there via public transport, so I opted for the cheaters choice…taxi ! To be honest the taxi wasn’t pricey from BEXCO (W15000), and got me there easily within about 25 minutes. I was quite happy as I expected heaving crowds of visitors. In total there was probably around 30.

It was an awe-inspiring sight. The craftmanship that has gone into making the temples was nothing short of amazing. As I walked up the main path towards the biggest temple, I could hear the chanting. I got close to the temple, but not inside as I considered it invasive. People and monks were chanting and praying. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This was a sobering experience. I am not a spiritual person, but this is probably the closest I have ever come to a spiritual experience. I recorded the sounds, hopefully they have come out well.

I took some more pictures around the temple area. One shot which has hopefully come out well is shoes of worshippers on racks. There is a Korean sign next to them, I surmise that it says “Be sure to take your own shoes”. I did suppress a chuckle when a monk came out of the temple, and put his New Balance silver trainers on. Buddhist Bling…love it !

I could see a troop of walkers coming down the side of the temple. They looked suitably kitted up. I looked down at my meagre kit, 500ml water bottle and all terrain Timberland’s. I did a quick risk assessment and thought..ahh screw it let’s do it.

The first few hundred metres of the climb (note not walk) were quite easy. Just as my heart started racing, I was approaching a group having a picnic on a rock. They spotted me, and asked where I was from (in pretty good English). Then, to my amazement they started to share their picnic with me. It always makes me throw a big wobbly one when you come across people like this. Complete strangers, who are warm and open…and willing to break bread with you. Turns out they were a cosmetic surgery company who were on their corporate day out. Did they drop a hint 🙂 ? Either way, they were truly lovely people.

I pushed on, through several moments when I thought that I harbouring an alien in my chest…it seemed to want to break free ! It kind of slammed it home how unfit I actually am. The “path” was actually just a series of rocks which you had to hop between somewhat akin to a mountain goat. This arduous path continued for around 2.5km in a not so gentle upwards motion.

I can’t complain, the weather was fantastic, around 17c and clear blue skies. Just this relentless upwards rock strewn path that was determined to ruin my otherwise perfect day. Whilst traversing the North Face (that’s what it felt like), I would again come across various Korean’s who wanted to talk to me. You know it’s easy to put on the “Stiff Upper Lip”, and shy away from such contact but for me this IS the experience. Although the contacts between the others and myself are somewhat brief, they still remain poignant and re-enforce why I like to travel so much.

Anyways, back to the yarn…

I can see it, I can see the top. I can see people up there, and it makes me even more determined to get up there.

YES ! I managed it. Climbed the 801.5 “the .5 is important” metres to the top. Was it worth it, you’d better believe it. I’ve never really been into climbing or hill walking, but it’s easy to see the rush that people get when they’ve scaled one. A complete 360 degree view greets me. From the sea and Busan city to the east, to the rice paddies of the west. Truly stunning.

The walk down was quickly interrupted by a Korean Air pilot who said hello. He’d just flown into Busan 2 hours previously, and wanted to go up the mountain “for health” !

Mt.Geumjeongsan was an invigorating experience. Not only “for health” but also “for soul”. It’s kind of restored my faith in people. Not the usual BS of “kindness of strangers” and all of that jarg, rather that some people are open books and simply want to converse and interact with others. So the “osties” of strangers…have you guessed yet ?

Curiosity & Generosity !

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2 responses

2 11 2010

Oh but you are a spiritual person, we all are, you just haven’t fully opened to it! I think there’s a good analogy in your blog – the spiritual path is no less easy than the physical path up the mountain. And you are so right about the generosity of strangers abroad, it’s something I struggle with here in the UK, people are so closed, so reserved. Nice writing & reflection, thanks!

4 11 2010

Thanks for the lovely comments. I’ve wrestled with myself as to whether I should actually write a blog. As many people have pointed out to me (including yourself) it’s an excellent way of reflecting upon my experiences whilst sharing them.

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