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Report : Life at the Monastery For Young Monks



Today is a national holiday here in Korea where people are observing Buddha’s birthday.
And in celebration of this special day temples across the nation are holding various events for the public.

One special program provided the opportunity for children to experience what it’s like to live in a monastery.

For details Hwang Sung-hee joins us now in the studio.

So, Sung-hee you had a chance to meet some of these boy monks this week

[Reporter : ] That’s right guys.

But these children were not officially ordained monks but they were selected to take part in a program organized by a Buddhist temple in Seoul.

Although their life as a monk was temporary, the children entered the temple with shaved heads and were dressed in grey like any other monks during their stay.

Let’s take a look.

Simplicity, meditation and Nirvana are the three key words that shape the life of a Buddhist monk.

The monks choose to give up all worldly pleasures training with vigilance and perseverance in their observation of reality to become the vehicle of Buddha’s word.

And during the month of May there was a rare sight at Jogyesa as young monks dressed in neutral grey with their shaved heads were seen walking around the brightly painted temple nestled at the heart of the capital Seoul.

[Reporter : ] “In celebration of Buddha’s birthday, seven children have entered the temple as apprentices to experience the life of a Buddhist monk and to promote Buddhist values throughout the nation.”

Every year, the temple “ordains” children temporarily shaving their heads and dressing them in monks’ robes as they sample the lifestyle, the mental training and the cultural experience of Korea’s ancient Buddhist tradition.

[Interview : Monk Il-jin Jogyesa] “The young monks participating in the “23 Days of Living as a Monk” program were selected through interviews conducted by the female Buddhists. For these children to become real monks, they have to be high school graduates and be officially ordained according to the Jogye order.”

During their three week stay at the monastery the selected children between the ages of 5 to 7 are subjected to live the humble life of a Buddhist monk serving as ambassadors of Buddhism at the same time.

The parents signed up their children for this opportunity with the belief that it will turn out to be a valuable experience for them.

[Interview : Il-jin, Monk Jogyesa] “The biggest role is to deliver happiness to the public in celebration of Buddha’s birthday. I think the devout parents saw this as a opportunity to let their children experience life at the monastery. And isn’t it an experience of living as a group when their piety is still pure


[Interview : Yoo Bo-ra, Guardian Jogyesa] “The young monks wake up at 4 a.m. in the morning for morning prostrations and take a break before they eat breakfast at 8 a.m. They have another prostration at around 10 a.m. and before that time, they take a short break or study Buddhist literature and move according to their daily schedule. And since they are still young, they take occasional naps and finish their day before 9 p.m.”

For the young monks these exceptionally early wake-up calls are the hardest part about their temporary life at the temple.

[Interview : Hyun-chan, Program participant] “It’s hard to wake up early.”

But beginning their days early is not the only change the children had to make.

During the month of May, the young monks encountered many things that they have not been exposed to before.

A yearning for home and a strict vegetarian diet were some of the hurdles they had to overcome.

[Interview : Yoo Bo-ra, Guardian Jogyesa] “Since they are young, they still miss their homes. In the beginning, they had a hard time with adjusting. They looked for their parents and although they did not have any illnesses, they struggled with adjusting to their new diet. But now they are much better.”

Every day, Il Jin, the monk in charge of the children, visits them to offer his words of wisdom, as well as etiquette lessons and some storytelling time according to the day’s schedule.

And life at the monastery means various activities like lectures on Buddhism and traditional tea ceremonies.

Learning tea manners which are seldom gotten by children in this age is believed to contribute in the shaping of their character.

[Interview : Lee Hyung-gon, Vice president Mu-i] “By experiencing the traditional tea ceremony, I think the monks will become more mature and that it will be beneficial for them as they grow up.”

The guardians who have been with the young monks 24/7 since Day One say the children have matured greatly since the beginning of the program.

[Interview : Hong Yong-soo, Guardian Jogyesa] “In the beginning, the children did not know how to line up and frequently fought to be front in line. Now, they have learned to maintain order and do not fight in line any more. When they eat their meals, they used to be messy eaters and played around with their spoons and forks. During their stay here, they have learned to behave during their meals and they also finish all their food.”

But three weeks of monkhood is not limited to the temple grounds as the young monks travel around the city to spread and promote Buddhist values.

A friendly soccer match at the temple, a visit to Cheongwadae and field trips to various centers and museums in the capital filled up the children’s time during their stay at the monastery.

Although these are nothing like what would fill up a day of an ordinary monk, these times will also become an unforgettable souvenir the children will take back when they return home after their 23 days at the temple comes to a close.


I must say the young monks are very adorable.

But waking up at four in the morning every day sounds a bit hectic for a five-year-old.

[Reporter : ] I know, but actually, the children seemed to have gotten used to beginning their day early.
Although I do think that they will be thrilled to sleep in once they return home on Saturday.

I’m sure the three weeks at the monastery will be a great memory for the children.

Thank you for coming in today, Sung-hee.

[Reporter : ] My pleasure. See you next week.

Source : http://www.arirang.co.kr/

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