Day 5: Walking to Dae Jeon Sa Temple
Post 5, Dec. 8, 2011-12-08
Walking to Dae Jeon Sa Temple
Question: Can mental attitude of purity of motive affect the behaviour of those around you?
Just as we were were walking on the last leg of the journey to Dae Jeon Temple, a woman selling apples on the side of the road ran over to us and handed each of us an enormous red apple.
We thanked her – “kamsamnida, kamsamnida, kamsamnida.” She smiled at us as we walked away. And Chris said it’s about time we started documenting these acts of kindness, so we returned and thanked her again and Chris took a photograph of me and her standing behind her apple stall.
We have been overwhelmed with kindness on our journey on foot from Gyeongju to Dangjin as we emulate the journey of Wonhyo and his friend Uisang, who made a similar journey in the 7th Century, which ended in the enlightenment of Wonhyo in a cave.
We had spent the previous night in Sangok-ri after a policeman had driven us there from Gibuk myeong because there were no temples, inns or motels where we could stay in Gibuk myeong.
Mr. Son, his wife, their son and daughter-in-law prepared a tasty and filling evening meal for us and provided us with comfortable bedding. In the morning Mrs. Yoo Jeong Hee (Mr. Son’s wife) prepared a special breakfast of abalone and rice porridge, which she said would give us energy. Then they went over the maps with us for the next leg of the journey and we discovered we couldn’t walk all the way to Dae Jeon Sa temple.
They offered to drive us to within walking distance of the temple and we accepted the offer. Mr. Son said we were driving through tomato and apple country and he was right. There were few rice paddies. They let us off at a town a few miles down the road and carrying a bag of boiled eggs, coffee, apples, oranges and dried fruit Mrs. Yoo had given us, we waved good bye and started walking.
We left the town passing a huge pile of aluminium sheets used in apple orchids as a plume of smoke rose from the chimney of a wood stove. We walked along the highway for a while, which was a little dangerous and unpleasant until Chris found a rough, country track and we turned along it. Our boots scrunched on the rocks and metal walking poles clicked as we walked into the countryside, a river to the right of us and apple orchids to our left.
We stopped for a break about 9 am and sat atop a sluice gate while we ate the boiled eggs and dried fruit and the coffee Mrs. Yoo had prepared for us. A little later we stopped at a roadside café and were served coffee, which the owner refused to charge us for.
Shortly after our stop, on the road, I felt the need for a toilet and we came across a little wooden outhouse by the side of the road. Unfortunately it had an Asian squat toilet. I have never been able to use them the way Asians do, simply lowering their pants to their ankles and squatting over the toilet. Every time I’ve tried it, my pants get in the way. So I had to take off my boots, take off my two pairs of socks, take off my pants and underpants. But I still couldn’t balance in a squatting position. I had to turn around and hang on to a door handle and big green pipe in the toilet to balance myself, then swing my rear end over the hole in the floor. But the position was so uncomfortable and my stomach muscles so stressed that I couldn’t relieve myself, so I put on my pants and socks and toe bandages again and left disappointed.
We arrived at Dae Jeon Temple much earlier than we had anticipated, about 3 pm, and had time to take a quick walk into Juwangsan National Park, which is dominated by a huge mountain that looks like five sugar loaves pushed together vertically.
In the evening Sangmin sunim, the monk who helped so much on the first day, arrived, carrying plasters for my feet and cakes and packets of apple juice for Chris and I, and for our expected new team member, Rhea Metituk, a fellow Canadian and a long-time member of a meditation group in Seoul. Sangmin will stay with us for a few days and Rhea may stay with us much longer, depending on how she finds the pilgrimage.
In the evening Chris and I discussed Wonhyo and our pilgrimage to honor him. We had met such an outpouring of kindness. Can one’s motives and intentions affect the way we are treated. “Yes,” said Chris. “Thoughts have an impact on the environment. At crucial moments in the pilgrimage we were helped. Perhaps it’s something to do with the nature of our journey – the mystery of the open road.”
I told Chris a story about the Buddha found in the Khandha Paritta. In that story monks tell the Buddha that a monk has died of a snake bite. The Buddha said that if that monk was suffused with loving kindness towards snakes, he would not have been bitten and died.
Mental attitude does impact the environment in my view, but the opposite is true too. If one is exposed to loving kindness, it is much easier to loving kindness to others.