This morning was pretty uneventful. I was looking for information on a home-grown form of Korean Buddhism called Won Buddhism. I visited a centre not far from my Airbnb, and a nun gave me a book of the Scriptures of Won Buddhism, but neither she nor the other lady there spoke English. I had seen on their website that there was a foreigner centre in Seoul so I took a train there (a more suburban area), but no-one there spoke any English either.
I caught a bus back into Jongno and then visited the Cheondogyo, the head temple of the Cheondo religion, a mix of Confucianism, Korean shamanism, Buddhism and Daoism.
Inside the temple there was a sign in front of the main doors saying ‘off limits’. Eventually two other men came to have a look at the temple, and a lady opened a side door so I could have a look inside.
After having butter chicken for lunch at an Indian restaurant, I set off for Bongwonsa Temple. On the way, I received a call from a man at the head temple of Won Buddhism, which is in the city of Iksan, south of Pyeongtaek. He said if I visited the head temple at Iksan, there would be monks or nuns there who spoke English and could assist me.
Bongwonsa is thethe head temple of the Taego Order of Korean Buddhism, one of the two main Seon (Zen) lineages, the other being Jogye, whose temple (Jogyesa) I visited on my first full day in Seoul.
On the way back down from Bongwonsa, I got a call from a guy at the Won Buddhist temple in Gangnam, Seoul. He said that this was the main temple in Seoul. After texting back and forward, we agreed to meet up later that evening.
I got some chicken fried rice for dinner in Dongdaemun, and then got a train to Isu station, south of the Han river that divides Seoul. I met the guy, at the station exit and we went to a bar that he knew. I tried the classic Korean drink soju, that I had read about. It had very little taste and just tasted like alcohol. Later, my friend got a bottle of beer and I tried the famous somac (soju mixed with beer, which is maekju in Korean). It just tasted like beer, but apparently the soju takes the edge off the beer, which I noticed slightly while finishing the last of the beer. We had a good chat about Won Buddhism, and he’s going to show me round the temple in Gangnam on Sunday.
I made my way back to my Airbnb with the alcohol affecting my balance a bit. I had a rest and then packed up most of my stuff to head to Pyeongtaek tomorrow.