So if you’re a dedicated reader of the blog and I don’t expect anyone to be dedicated, really. This is more for me to document and retain all that I see and experience. So for those of you who log on for the Seoul Baby D experience I thank you. But like I said if you’re a dedicated reader then you saw some images and videos of me and a mountain. That mountain was Pukhansan a famous mountain, now turned into a recreational site, where armies built fortresses to fight the enemy. Anyway Pukhansan is also the place where the Temple of Moonzu is located. Moonzu is one of the 80,000 Buddha’s and her temple is where Jen and her family worship.
We awake before the crack of dawn (4AM) to prepare for a two hour hike, up hill – no up a mountain to pray and meditate before Moonzu, and it was easy. At the first fifty years on a steep incline, I got altitude sickness and had to take a rest. Altitude sickness is when your body adjusts to the high altitude and thin air, as we started out on high on a mountain from where the taxi dropped us off. Anyway, once I sat down and took a couple of deep breaths I was ready to go up the rough-side of the mountain and rough it was. Have you ever climbed up an unpaved mountain, over rocks and boulders, in the dark? It is no easy feat. Between trying to see where I was going in the pitch black; keeping my balance and not falling, and swatting biting bugs – that do bite through clothing, I have the itches to prove it, I’m surprise I’m not still on that mountain somewhere slumped over. Fortunately, we were led by one of Jen’s Ahgishis (uncles) who knew the paths on the mountain very well. I was told that some worshippers make this hike at least once a week and even race up the mountain as if it were a competition.
We stopped along the way a couple of time to rest and drink North Korean sparkling water, which is very good and refreshing. We even stopped at a real authentic mountain spring to splash real authentic mountain water on our faces. Deer Park that was good water!
I thought I was in pretty good shape, you know, I had gone to the gym for a year and a half and I walk all the time, but nothing could have possibly prepared me for this. There were steep stairs, and I mean steep stairs of approximately 100 steps, at an incline. Sometimes there wasn’t even a path we just hugged the mountain and prayed the mountain liked us enough to hug us back. I guess it did, because I’m writing about it with no broken limbs. It was truly a work out and just when I thought we made it to the top of the mountain there were another 500 kilometers to go. I did get to see some stunning views of the valley (Seoul below). I think I told you Seoul sits in a valley that is completely covered by mountains. Where ever you turn there is a mountain or two in the distance. So just imagine, actually you won’t have to if you look at the pictures, what Seoul looks like from way up high. Since us starting climbing so early we were able to see the sun rise over the mountains and the clouds descend from the mountain tops. For those of you who don’t believe God exists, go to the top of a mountain at dawn and I promise you God will be there waiting to say good morning, as only God can.
This wondrous site was just the tip of the ice berg because when we finally reached the temple, I had the most amazing feeling, no I wasn’t altitude sick. A feeling of accomplishment, not just for climbing a mountain, but this was a feeling of awakening of sorts. I know this doesn’t make any sense, but for those of you who have heard about my search for purpose and for peace of mind, you’ll understand when I say that this feeling lead me to believe – to know that I’m on my way to finding my purpose and the peace of mind I seek, whatever that is.
Before going into the Temple of Moonzu, we went in to the temple where three other Buddha’s are housed. I don’t know who they were but it was quite beautiful. Before I forget, we went to the temple on a very lucky day of the year – the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Traditionally, it’s a day when most Buddhist pay a visit to there temples and food offerings are made to the Buddha’s. I don’t think luck had anything to do with my visit on that day, I think it was all in the Divine. Anyway, I digress, after leaving the first temple, which I mistakenly thought was the Moonzu’s temple Jen called me out to go to Moonzu’s temple. It’s a small temple built into the mountain. You walk in and there she stands or sits a stone image of Moonzu, smiling with her left hand up and giving you the sign of peace. (It looks like the ok sign but with the index as opposed to the pointer finger being held by the thumb.)
Tradition dictates that you do three full bows before Buddha and then begin to pray and meditate. As I understand MoonZu the figure, is very intimidating that most people sit to her left or to her right to pray, but if you sit in front of her and ask for what you seek, she’ll reward your request. I wasn’t going to be intimidated by her, so I sat right in front and I prayed to God. It was a very spiritual and divine experience and I do feel at peace.
After prayer we went down to the dining room for breakfast and to meet with the Monk. Now you realize it took us two hours to go up this mountain. There are no roads for cars, no landing pad for a helicopter, no paths for horses and mules, so how in the heck is there a modernize kitchen and dining room under the temple. I had a hard enough time carrying my own body weight let alone imagining carrying some lumber and tools. Well anything is possible when you’re doing the work of God.
Once the monk joined us, I asked about the Buddha’s and what they mean to people and he essentially said that because there are 80,000 Buddha’s there is no one meaning or no one practice. The journey of a Buddhist is to find his or her own Buddha and chosen path that will prepare you for the next life. Life is about the journey not the rules and laws that man puts in place and everyone has there own journey. This conversation, although translated, was confirmation that this is the experience that I was meant to have at this exact time. I’m so happy right now. All of my doubts and fears about the future have vanished and I look at life through brand new eyes.
After break fast, we went back up to the temple and took pictures with the Monk and then we headed back down the mountain.
Jen said going down was harder than coming up and she was right. It was harder because you’re going down an incline, with gravity pulling you down and you’re trying to maintain your grip. My legs were like rubber the entire way down. Not fun but definitely worth it.
Would I do it again, I think so, just to say that I did it twice. But all in all I think I got what I need from the climb up, to the temple and from the climb down. It was definitely a stop on my journey.
An-yong for now.