Kilgsansa Temple-Stay, Seoul, South Korea
Photography: Nayan Sthankiya
Text: Bruno Galindo
"Who am I? Why am I here now? Why am I breathing?" What matters, says the zen master to this week end's group of youngsters, is the constant interrogation. The chosen ones, the participants at Kilsansga's temple-stay program, are a bunch of male and women yet to hit their thirties, indeed part of Korea's future. They are the ones who will deal with the country's economy, social, culture, science, technology and, yes, North-South Reunification. Outside, they wear American denim, sexy outfits, piercing and christian crosses, and have fun at the never-sleeping PC and DVD "bangs" in the 10.5 million populated megacity of Seoul. Here, inside the temple, all of them dress the same grey monk suits and do their best to "feel, not think", under the look of Master and its bamboo stick.
Yet the most significant religion in this country of astonishing recent economical development, Korean Buddhism assume its responsibility to give some kind of enlightenment to those who live in an era of religion conflicts but spiritually poor. During their short weekend, this elite of young monks -high qualified students in some of the twenty universities of Seoul- receive an advanced training consisting of seon -zen- meditation, story of the religion and its temples, intense praying, high exercise, kitchen discipline, collective cleaning work, plus some 3.30 AM wake up call to pay respect to the Boddhisatvas. An interior journey that, as one of the participants defines it, "starts just when it finishes".