Asia South Korea Travel Destinations

Korea Temple Stay at Beomeosa

Written by Duke Stewart

The rain may be falling hard outside, But your smile makes it all alright. – Robert Alan Silverstein

Korea Temple Stay at Beomeosa

Green tea is bliss, especially when going outside seems impossible. Of course that cup tastes even better when inside a fish freshly escaped from a golden well. But rainy days are always better spent indoors with a sweatshirt and a book somewhere nearby. That ordinary cup of green tea is steeping and within arm’s reach while thoughts of leaving that comfort zone never enter one’s mind. Sometimes that cup is a possibility even when one’s comfort zone has been stretched.

Walking down to eat, Beomeosa Temple Stay in Busan

Visiting a temple and staying overnight for a September weekend seemed a perfect idea a few years back but as we approached the front gate, clouds and precipitation seemed likely. Though the weather did not improve and even worsened during our 24 hours at Busan’s Beomeosa, the day-night-morning left a mark in so many ways. A young lady was assigned to translate throughout our time there. It still seems like a flash, even years later. I’m still trying to figure out how we did everything. I remember intense exhaustion setting in as we headed home after finishing.

2 Friends Staring at the Mountain, Beomeosa Temple Stay in Busan

Rain came mid-afternoon and drizzled throughout the remaining 24 hours. Though situated in Korea’s 2nd city, Beomeosa couldn’t seem more isolated. It’s tucked away in the mountains like so many other temples here. For those choosing to do so, escaping from normal life is possible here. The dreariness didn’t dampen our spirits.

Temperature-wise, the weather seemed perfect but those in charge of the heat disagreed. Our sleeping quarters and the main hall seemed more than warm-enough, as the floor heaters seemed to hover around 80 degrees. After the introductory round of bows, sweat formed around one of the two shirts I’d brought in a fit of unpreparedness. For my wardrobe, it was going to be a long day.

Beads, Pre 108 Bows. Beomeosa Temple Stay in Busan

Bowing and giving thanks to Buddha prevailed as the theme during our activities. Silence was also advised, because the minimal food we ate needed to fuel us and would’ve been wasted on thoughtless chatter anyway. I wasn’t always aware of how many times to bow down except for two occasions.

It’s hard to explain those two separate sessions where I performed a full prostration bow over 100 times. Thoughts surround it. I remember each time taking roughly 15 minutes, nobody speaking, exhaustion, and profuse sweat thanks to the heat. Those are brief reflections. We bowed to the tune of our monk clapping a stick to keep time.

The first round of 108 involved threading a necklace with one bead and a prayer each time our bodies met the floor, while trying to keep up with the rest of the group who seemed to know this procedure better than I did. The floor heat’s relentless energy helped my grey uniform turn to a darker shade and the Monk heartily asked me how I felt after we finished.

Beaded Necklace after 108 Bows, Beomeosa Temple Stay in Busan

He always smiled. His beautiful personality was my gift on that day. Having a laugh whenever he could always loosened up a somewhat tense atmosphere. Everyone seemed on edge because after all, we were in a sacred place. Beomeosa means “fish from heaven” and many believe that the well from which it came was filled with gold.

Maybe that’s why he smiled. Living at the foot of a golden well – Mt. Geumjeong – I’d be happy too. Even after a brief sleep between 10 and 3 A.M. was interrupted for us to wake the rest of the world through a rainy drum ceremony, he smiled.

Smiling Monk at Beomeosa Temple Stay, Busan

Another round of 108 and some breakfast meant not much time was left. A hike to a nearby hermitage for some meditation left me pondering the possibilities of a few minutes sleep but we started moving back down by the time those thoughts had settled. Staring at the morning fog that blanketed the mountains around us, the moment seemed too perfect to move away from.

One round remained and it was something more familiar than the rest. A tea ceremony finished the temple stay off and after participating in the formalities; our gracious host offered a huge variety of teas green and black for us all to sample.

Making Tea during Beomeosa Temple Stay, Busan

We had some time to just walk around the main hall and stared out into Beomeosa’s courtyard as the rain slowed. We’d visited various buildings throughout the temple site and even hiked to a beautiful hermitage yet this room always seemed like home. 

Looking back on that day, I still remember the bowing and remaining silent. Obvious takeaways of course, but the head monk’s pearly whites will never leave my memory. Somewhere, he’s probably still smiling and never going to stop, either.


More information for Korea’s Temple Stay program can be found here. For a more linear perspective on the day, check here.

Want to read more about Korea? Click here.

About the author

Duke Stewart

As a recovering Expat, I write about Life through Travel and want you there with me through captivating stories followed by guides on how to do the same. My work has been featured in various magazines throughout Korea and in online publications including the awesome Hipmunk.com. I am also a nerd and love to point out a situation's similarities to any of my favorite movies, books, or tv shows. You've been warned:) Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates.

16 Comments

  • I think I’m with Rafiqua that I might not particularly enjoy it, but who knows. I know lots of people who have really enjoyed their temple stays, so maybe I might surprise myself. I’m definitely not in very good shape though!

  • I so badly want to to a temple stay while I am in Korea. The profuse sweating (of which I am certain I will do as well), and so much bowing makes it a tad less enticing, but still an experience I would like to have! Love how you compared your rainy day to a memory…good idea!

    • It’s crazy that I’m honestly doing another post evoked by rain. Though I’m trying to set them apart at times, it gets hard to repeat. Thanks for your comment!

  • I would have loved to do this, but the templestay in Seoul are just within a compound. I would prefer a temple in the countryside or like your Beomeosa, where there’s a lot of nature around. Thanks for sharing this story…

  • Great retelling of a unique experience. We still haven’t done a Temple Stay, so this was really interesting to read. I’ve heard mixed accounts of the stay, but this is probably the most informative and well written. Either this winter or the next spring will probably be when we look to have a temple experience. Although I don’t know how well I will handle the early morning I am endlessly excited. The only problem may be finding monk’s clothes that will fit my 6’6″ frame!

  • A wonderful account. This is one experience that I’m really disappointed I haven’t done yet! I have a question, do you HAVE to do all the bows? Beomosa seems like a great choice to do this at.

    • Lol, that’s a great question. I really don’t know. I mean, I guess you could “bow out,” as they say. Not sure if the monk would say anything to you. I was quite out of shape at the time of the Temple Stay. It hurt but well worth the burn in my opinion. Give it a try, I say. See if you can do it and if not, it’s no biggie.

  • I’ve never done anything like that. It’s amazing how one of the main images that has stuck with you are the monk’s pearly white teeth. What a great visual for the reader to connect to. Even reading about his smile makes me want to smile…

    • I love this comment. It’s making me smile right now! I promise that if you came face to face with the monk, he’d bring it out of you as well. Even after waking up at 3am and bowing 108 times, I still wanted to smile when seeing him go about his day. Truly inspirational guy.

  • What a coincidence, I just did the temple stay at Beomeosa this past weekend! And we were guided by that same monk! It was a really incredible experience. My favorite part was the drum performance at night at the chanting monks. Those bows definitely made my legs sore though–monks must have thighs of steel! haha

    • Ah, wow. I loved that guy. There was so much that happened in that 24 hours, it was hard for me to explain. I am looking forward to reading yours today, btw. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Thanks for the insight into a Temple Stay- I’ve always been curious to do one, but have never got round to it. It sounds like a memorable experience for sure! Sounds very peaceful and close to nature with the hiking, not sure how much I’d enjoy all the bowing haha. The tea at the end sounds great!

    • It was great times! I kinda want to go back or do one elsewhere, to be honest. It’s a great break from the excitement and hecticness of everyday life, no matter where one lives. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • What a unique and memorable experience! I had read about the possibility of doing a temple stay before coming to Korea, but it wasn’t until recently that I happened upon the actual website and was totally surprised as to the number of temples around the country that offered this sort of programming. Makes it a little easier to do when there isn’t an insanely long commute to consider…but then, how to choose?! After reading your post, it reminded me that spending a weekend meditating with monks was something that I really want to do while I am here. Thanks for this!

    • Thank you Lara. I hope you consider doing a templestay. My friends seemed to rave about one in Daejeon that had more of an International Buddhist Focus but I don’t think it’s totally important which temple you choose. Beomeosa was a popular choice for foreigners and Koreans alike. Where are you based?

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