Monday, August 08, 2005

Reflection on Mt. Gatbawi

Monday. It's hard getting back to reality. I like vacations, but if they're too long, it's even more difficult getting back to work. I have to say that the most interesting time I had was hiking up Mt. Gatbawi on Sunday, July 31st..

I remember my enthusiasm when I finally reached the top, nearly 8:20 pm and already dark, yet there were so many people there---it almost felt as if it were daytime.

"Yak-Sah-Yourae-Buh" (Medicine Buddha) was stuck in my head for the last 20 minutes of the uphill stair climb, as a prerecorded monk singing to Buddha played in the background as indication that the louder the song, the closer you were to the top.

I was the only white girl there, and yet I was like everyone else; some inspired, some curious, others faithful followers making their weekly---or sometimes daily trek--up to see the great Buddha carved out of rock.

And it was amazing to watch the people bowing incessantly on a mat; some holding a string of wooden beads, others a book or a special cloth. The Buddha statue had been carved out of this mammoth rock thousands of years ago. It's especially hard to imagine carving such a formation when there weren't that many tools available at the time.

I know very little about Buddhism, but the very sight of seeing people bow, lighting yet more candles after already a zillion had been lit, made me, well, want to research this religion. Even when I visited one of the temples while going up (before the real stair climbing part). I was fascinated to see a Buddhist monk singing and hitting his drum. The prayer was so mournful, yet it was calm and uplifting in the same sense. It was the first time I had seen a monk in the flesh.

The only time I had ever seen a Buddhist monk was on National Geographic, years and years ago, watching probably some documentary on the Buddhist religion and how it was practiced by millions of people around the world, and how it differenciated from other religions.

I didn't see the monk's face, but his presence seemed calm and collected. For 20 minutes, I sat there and listened to him, singing over and over again, beating his drum. People came, people bowed, and people left. It was awe inspiring. And it was uplifting, and a gentle reminder to acknowledge the little, simple things in life. No wonder Buddhist monks are known for having excellent health. They spend long hours humming, singing and praising to focus the mind. Like Yi Hwang--the gentleman on the front of the 1,000W bill--the famous neo-Confucian scholar/philosopher who spent hours a day throwing bamboo darts into vases to focus his mind. Incredible discipline these people have.

It was quite a sight to see. More details to come on my adventures on vacation!

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