May 25, 2015 was Buddha’s Birthday and also a national holiday in Korea. May is a month that is full of holidays – Labor Day, Children’s Day, Buddha’s Birthday.. and not to mention other special days like Parents’ Day, Teachers’ Day and Coming-of-Age Day when the schools and offices may remain open but excitement surely is in the air. Looking back at how it was in Canada where we did not have as many national holidays I am definitely not complaining. Just simply amazed at how all these special days were made that ended up followed by entire nation.
My friend and I headed to a Buddhist temple in Gyeryong city. It is about 30-minute drive to Musangsa from Daejeon. Having been to this temple a few times now, I was surprised to find rows of vehicles parked on both sides of a small, winding road that leads up to the hill where the temple resides. The way to Musangsa has always been empty and quiet as it is located on the edge of a rather small town. But unlike any other day, the temple ground is filled with visitors who have come to celebrate the birthday of Buddha.
We arrived in time for lunch and the place was just packed. People lined up to get their bowl of temple-style vegetarian meal. Luckily both my friend and I were not hungry and we ended up washing dishes after browsing the temple ground for awhile.
A staff told me that there seem to be more visitors compare to last year, although they have less number of volunteers this year. They were grateful that foreign students were thoughtful enough to offer help in the kitchen. Oh, did I mention that most monks here at Musangsa are non-Koreans? This is an international Zen center and people who practice here include many foreigners.
Afternoon was scheduled with traditional Korean performances. It was kind of fresh to see so many people of different background intermingle at a Buddhist temple – a place what I believed until recently was a place of isolation with a great distance from society.