Sunday, September 29, 2013

30 minutes' meditation, 40 minutes' slaughter

After some internal debate (me versus my laziness), I went to Hyangrim-sa today and meditated for thirty minutes. It wasn't the full two-hour meditation I had originally intended to do, mainly because I left for the temple rather late in the day: after 2PM. Had I started out at 12:30PM, as originally planned, I'd have meditated a full two hours at Hyangrim-sa per the cham-seon (zazen) schedule I had first experienced at Hanguk-sa in Germantown, Maryland. At that temple, cham-seon went like this:

1. 40 minutes' seated cham-seon
2. 2-3 minutes' brisk walking meditation
3. 40 minutes' cham-seon
4. 2-3 minutes' walking meditation
5. 40 minutes' cham-seon

That totals two hours of seated meditation and 4-6 minutes of walking meditation. Instead, today, I arrived close to 2:15PM. No nuns greeted me at all; the day was rainy and the temple was absolutely still. Even the big dog was curled up, sleeping or thinking canine thoughts. I went up to the dharma hall's side entrance and stopped, enjoying standing under the temple eaves, paradoxically exposed to the weather yet protected from the rain. I took off my shoes and noticed, in the distance, a layperson pushing her cart and staring openly at me. I should have bowed or something. Perhaps she thought I was a thief, come to steal some golden statues. Or perhaps she was merely curious as to who I was. Ignoring the woman, I turned toward the door, carefully pried it open, and entered the empty dharma hall.

Silence. Stillness. Dark. I had no company except the statues and paintings and the sound of the pattering rain. I crossed the hall to the far corner, where a four- or five-foot-high stack of rectangular cushions stood. I plucked a cushion off the top of the stack, aligned it roughly toward the image of Jijang-bosal, bodhisattva of transition and guide for the dead, set down the pillow I had brought from home as a makeshift zafu (is this called a "방석," bang-seok, in Korean?), brought out my alarm clock (also from home), sat myself down, and dropped into meditation. The quiet ambiance made it easy to achieve more or less the right state of mind; I stopped taking ownership of my thoughts, and the noisy torrent of words and images began to settle into a more tranquil, quiet flow—not disappearing, but no longer in wasteful, unproductive chaos.

Half an hour passed fairly quickly; I clapped my hands in imitation of the wooden chukpi that normally signals the end of a meditation session, got up, did three circumambulations of the dharma hall's interior, then went back out into the world. Still no one. I shrugged and walked out of the temple, ready to eat.

The Palace of Infinite Meat was near the bottom of the hill, close to the main drag. I went in and piled my plate high with dead-animal flesh, gathered some other plates of vegetables, got myself a bowl of rice and some sesame oil/salt dipping sauce, then sat down and started grilling. As before, I ended up eating two plates of meat. This time around, I also grabbed two bottles of soda (for an extra W1000 each). The whole meatfest took perhaps forty minutes to complete; my fellow diners were, once again, Southeast Asian blue-collar workers happily jabbering in their own tongue. One guy at the table next to mine would rattle on in his native language, then punctuate his utterances with the Korean, "Ai, jinjja!" Another table was a mixture of Koreans and Southeast Asians; it was interesting to hear Korean spoken hesitantly, and with a Southeast Asian accent.

Thoroughly stuffed and a bit sleepy, I rolled my large self home. Today, I'm re-watching "Doubt," starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (my brief review of the film is here)—a fitting continuation for a religiously themed day.

Next time I visit the temple, I'll endeavor to do the full two hours of meditation.



Rhesus said...

If you'd meditated on meat, would you have been more or less likely to enjoy dinner?

Kevin Kim said...

Is this some sort of kong-an?

Rhesus said...

if you have to ask...

Kevin Kim said...

Exactly. Back to the seon-weon with you, O Unenlightened Monk!

Kevin Kim said...

(I'm referring to myself, of course...)