Beomeosa Temple, one of the largest temples in South Korea, offers an introduction to the wisdom of Korean Buddhism.
Founded in 678, Beomeosa Temple perches near the top of a mountain near the southern port city of Busan. About 150 monks live in the main temple complex and in smaller temples and hermitages scattered throughout the surrounding forest.
Beomeosa is one of the largest temples in South Korea, with most of its present buildings dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its monks practice a form of Buddhism called Seon in Korean (better known as Zen in the west).
Along with nearly fifty other Buddhist temples in South Korea, Beomeosa offers a temple stay program that allows visitors to experience the lifestyle of a monk. The experience is one I would recommend to any traveler, though it was not without difficulties.
Even on a twenty-four-hour visit, it is possible to get a sense for the rigorous demands of this spiritual path. By its end I felt a sense of genuine awe for the monks who live at Beomeosa. If one uses the metaphor of athletic competition in relation to religious life, these men are at the level of Olympic athletes, honed mentally, physically, and spiritually by a lifestyle that demands total dedication and commitment.
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.