My first Visit to a Traditional Korean Buddhist Temple

A hidden gem in upstate New York…

DISCLAIMER: This post is not about religion nor any sort of evangelism regarding religion. It is simply about a place that I visited a few months back that I wanted to share.

My cultural background is Korean and I will admit that I visited a few Korean Buddhist Temples back in the day as a child in the States. However, I never really paid any attention to them (can you blame me – I think I was only about 7 or 8 years old?) and never really got to fully understand and appreciate the atmosphere they provided. It was not until recently when I met my special someone (yes, she’s VERY special to me) that I was able to visit a Korean Buddhist Temple that was nestled in the mountainside of Upstate New York. After a long hiatus from anything regarding really exploring my cultural heritage, I got a chance to rekindle my love to explore my cultural background and visit Baklimsa Temple on the recommendation from my girlfriend and just to be open and transparent, it was more than I expected.

My first visit was back in Summer time, where the weather was hot and humid. Nonetheless, we made the journey via our vehicle and arrived mid morning while going through the mountainsides of Upstate New York. Upon our arrival, I was immediately awestruck at the vast area of land Baklimsa Temple was situated on. The Temple itself sits on over 80+ acres of land and surrounded by a sea of grass, trees, animals and all things mother nature. However, the first thing I noticed beyond all the mesmerizing scenes of nature was the main Temple itself, which was REALLY jaw dropping:

Main Temple at Baklimsa

After we parked our car, we walked up a slight hill to get a better glimpse of the main Temple as well as enjoy some fresh breathable air along with the soothing and calmness of the nature that was surrounding it. As we made the short trek up, we noticed a cute sign that read “Walking Meditation” or “명상의길” (in Korean) and was wondering why it was placed there.

Nonetheless, we continued to walk up the short hill and passed the sign. As we visited and saw the sights of the main temple, we noticed there were a few other traditional Korean Temple artifacts that made us curious to take a further look at. The first was a rather bell (and by large I mean, LARGE). My girlfriend had told me that it was common to see this type of Bell across all Korean Buddhist Temples in South Korea, as they are used to celebrate certain occasions such as ringing in the new year or celebrating Buddha’s birthday. However, I was informed the main reason that the bell is rung is send prayers to all who may be suffering as well (including humans & nature) and wishing all to achieve inner peace and enlightenment. I am a fan of giving back (not that I am anywhere near rich) as well as sending nothing but positive thoughts to everyone as I am a big believer in Karma.

With that in mind, I decided to ring the bell with a “slight” tap (NOTE: Usually you need to get permission from the Head Abbot(Monk).

SORRY FOR RINGING WITHOUT PERMISSION!

After enjoying the inner tranquility and sending our best wishes to everyone, we then decided to take the Meditation Walking Road as mentioned above to see where it would take us. To be honest, I was not sure what to expect but to my surprise, it was a peaceful and calming long walk (it really made me think about Meditation and what the exact meaning is). As we walked through the woods, we were surrounded by nothing but pure nature. From the long stretch of visible trees, various birds making their voices heard to the funny little squirrels trying to insert as many acorns as they could into their mouths, the entire walk was truly soothing and relaxing. It is definitely something I highly recommend anyone to try if they are ever in the Catskills Mountain area in upstate New York. This leads me to my reference about Meditation earlier. I’ve always known about Meditation, but never really paid much attention to it. It has always been one of those things where I have told myself “one day” I’ll make the time to try and practice but with a busy work life, never really took the time to sit down and start. To be honest, the walk really made me think it might be a good time to actually start. More on my attempted start to start meditating more for a later post.

Overall, my visit was amazing and really got to take in the beautiful sights as well as enjoy some peace and tranquility while walking through nature. The temple itself had a fascinating history, as I learned from the Head Abbot (Monk) the Venerable Gye San Hye Song Sunim (Sunim means monk in Korean) that he had immigrated to the US in the late 70s and eventually decided to build the temple and its surrounding grounds in 1983. It truly was an inspirational story to hear, to learn how ONE man, by himself, decided to dedicate his life further to Buddhism as well as create a magnificent place for all walks of life, to enjoy.

Until next time!

1 Comments on “My first Visit to a Traditional Korean Buddhist Temple”

  1. Pingback: My Traditional Korean Temple Stay | geeky_yang

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