Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lotus Lantern Festival: Year 2

In 1975, economist Milton Friedman wrote, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." And last night, we learned that there's also no such thing as a free lantern.

After I missed most of the Lotus Lantern Parade celebrating Buddha's birthday last year due to work, I was excited to go again this year and see it from the beginning. Since it was nice out, we walked the 2.5-mile journey from our apartment to Jogyesa Temple in central Seoul, the home base of the evening's festivities. We arrived two hours before sundown and volunteers were handing out paper lanterns with candles. Not ones to pass up free gifts, we naturally got in line to get the lanterns.

As soon as we left the temple we saw dozens of people lining up along the road with their lanterns, and we realized our mistake. The lanterns were meant for people who were going to participate in the parade. So we were faced with a dilemma: Return the lanterns or join the parade.

We decided to join the parade and marched with the rest of the Jogyesa Temple brigade to Dongdaemun, where the parade began. Our group wasn't scheduled to go on until near the end of the parade, so we got to sit back and take in the floats before becoming a part of the festivities.

It was surreal to march down Jongno Road -- one of the oldest east-west thoroughfares in Seoul -- surrounded by thousands of lit up lanterns. Some mistakes you regret, others turn out to be the most memorable nights of your life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Temple Stay

Learning the meaning of the three Buddhas in the main ceremonial hall.

In March, we went to Geumsunsa temple in Bukhansan National Park for a weekend-long Buddhist Temple Stay program. An article I wrote about the experience was published in this month's KOREA magazine. Considering how many temples we've visited since moving to Asia, it was nice to learn more about the religion and its practices.

Learning how to meditate.

Relaxing after doing 108 bows.

A Royal Spring

Some springtime shots of Changgyeonggung Palace, a half hour walk from our house.