Day 14: Prelude to the Cave
Post 14, Dec. 17, 2011
“One who realizes that he is in delusion is not greatly deluded, and one who realizes that he is in darkness is not in total darkness.” From Wonhyo’s work. What does it mean?
Sangmin sunim woke up the three of us in our cosy little room in Magok-sa temple about 5.45 am. Breakfast was at 6.15 am. It was nice to have Sangmin sunim back with us. He always kept us organized and on schedule.
David had arrived late at Magok-sa the previous night. He had to satisfy the demands of his university teaching job and joined us whenever he could. The three of us – me, Chris and David – had slept in the same room and it was hot, but as I left to urinate I realized it was three or four degrees below zero outside. A thin layer of snow covered the beautiful temple grounds. A curved bridge over a frozen river caught my eye.
The temple cafeteria had a spacious modern feel to it with light brown wooden table tops with round seats that folded under the table. One man dressed in brown sat alone. He looked like a monk and yet not quite. Sangmin explained that he was training to be a monk, a kind of novice. After six months he would be allowed to wear grey monks’ clothing but with a brown stripe around the neck, indicating he was still in training. He would hold that status for four years before he would become a fully fledged monk.
Sangmin sunim, who had visited the temple earlier, took us on a walk around the grounds pointing out the main meditation hall Magoksa Daegwangbojeon, a wooden structure full of colourful designs and figures. He also guided us across a bridge, revealing a beautiful, river-wide waterfall.
We changed our plans again and decided to hold the closing ceremony on Sunday rather than Monday. We thought that would enable people from Seoul to attend if they wanted to. That meant that I spent much of the morning phoning people in Seoul to find out if they could attend. The ceremony involves drinking water from skull-like vessels in memory of Wonhyo, who reached enlightenment after drinking water from a skull.
Our plan for the day was for me – suffering from tendonitis in my heel – to drive the car with the backpacks to our next temple, Sudeok-sa, while Chris, David and Sangmin sunim walked. I had never driven in Korea before and never used a Global Positioning System (GPS) before. David gave me a short training session, and I was off.
I found it remarkably easy until I arrived at the town just below Sudeok-sa. When I drove through the gates of what I thought was the temple I found myself in an upscale little town of restaurants and shops, but I found I couldn’t get through the town to the temple. Roads leading to the temple were blocked by posts in the road.
I finally gave up, parked the car and walked up to the temple, stopping only to buy a Buddha meditation necklace for my girlfriend. One the last series of steps to the temple, a woman came down to meet me. It was Ailsun . Her name means entering Nirvanah. She asked me if I was there for the temple stay and I said yes. She was the woman that Sangmin sunim had been speaking to and she had been expecting me. She drove me down to where I had parked David’s car and as I was following her I realized that if I had followed the GPS after I had passed through the town gate, I would have driven directly to the temple.
She showed me two rooms with a large adjoining common room, protected from the outside cold with a long corridor. I rested and wrote the daily blog and then had dinner with her while we waited for my companions to arrive. She was surprised and happy about the pilgrimage in honor of Wonhyo. We learned from her that Wonhyo’s cave was not easy to find and she agreed to help us find a guide.
About 6.30 pm David, Chris and Sangmin sunim walked into the cafeteria after a 25 kilometre hike. They looked tired but happy. All of them love walking.
“We walked for miles and miles on a beautiful stone gravel path between a river and fields,” said Chris. “It was uplifting.”
Chris’s navigation device had died so they had to rely on their own resources to get to the temple. David was proud of that. “Technology can only take you so far,” he said.
Later in the evening Ailsun arranged tea for us in the common area and we planned the ceremony for the following day. Ailsun arranged for us to have lunch at the guide’s house and then proceed to the cave and the closing ceremony.
In the evening before sleeping I thought about Wonhyo’s quote. “One who realizes that he is in delusion is not greatly deluded, and one who realizes that he is in darkness is not in total darkness.”
It rang a bell with me because it parallels thoughts during meditation. One who is aware of his thoughts, is conscious that he is thinking. Being aware that one is unaware is the beginning of the journey to awakening.