Shingon Buddhist monks - Mount Kōya, Japan
There are moments in life when it just feels nice to get away from the city and everyday routines. To spend time in a quiet place somewhere far away. To experience life at a much slower pace. While there may be places much closer to your home where you can escape, there is nothing quite like having a taste of how it is to stay in temple accommodations and live like a monk even just for a day or two. Many temples have welcomed pilgrims since the ancient times. But despite the growing awareness around temple stays, it has managed to remain under the radar. Whether you are looking for travel ideas or inspirations, we rounded up some of the top reasons why a temple stay is a must-try experience.
Affordable place to stay with a cultural tone
Guest room in Ekoin temple, Japan by @DocChewbacca
If you are looking for an affordable place with a cultural tone, temple lodgings are among your best bets. Known as shukubo in Japan and Templestays in South Korea, these types of alternative accommodations are becoming a popular option for travelers. Staying in a temple is a unique experience that allows you to explore an ascetic lifestyle even for just a day.
Geumsansa Temple Grounds, Korea
Temples are often located in places that exude tranquility. Many are nestled in the midst of nature and on sacred grounds surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Staying in such a place provides an idyllic setting to get off the grid. A temple stay can be a time to find serenity and immerse yourself into the simple pleasures of life away from the constant noise and rush of city life.
Immerse in culture
Templestay - Magok temple, Korea
A temple accommodation experience is a great opportunity to immerse in the local culture and the practice of Buddhism in the country. It gets you close enough to observe and practice the daily rituals of monastic life. From the morning prayers to eating Buddhist meals and everything in between, you can learn from all the things you see and do while there.
A time for self-reflection
Templestay - Naeso Temple, Korea
Sometimes everyday life gets so busy that you barely have time for self-reflection. The temple grounds and its surroundings offer plenty of serene places for solitude. You can make use of the time to quiet your mind and reflect on life and things you tend to overlook or neglect.
Learn and practice meditation
Chamseon (Zen meditation), Korea
Meditation is an ancient practice that helps calm the mind, body and emotional state. But it is something that is not easy to do for a lot of people. With meditation as one of the activities you will likely experience, you can make the best use of the time to learn how to make it a part of your everyday routine.
Activate your senses
Shingon Buddhist monk in Mount Kōya, Japan
The location, ambiance, rituals, and practices are just some of the things that help you become more in-tuned with the things that happen around you. Your senses are activated and you have a better appreciation of the simple things you miss out on in your daily grind. You find yourself in a much quieter place where you can hear the rustle of leaves or the sound of flowing water in the stream. The food you eat can also introduce you to new tastes and textures. You get to savor plant-based dishes made with the freshest ingredients. Your experiences can be much deeper and meaningful.
Tenryū-ji shojin ryori, Japan
Guests are served the same veg-friendly meals that the monks eat. If you are staying in a shukubo, you can enjoy the Japanese Buddhist cuisine known as shojin ryori. This elegantly prepared dish is made with seasonal produce, tofu, and other plant-based ingredients. Korean Templestays likewise serve vegetarian and vegan-friendly meals. Many temples that house travelers have their own gardens or small farms where they grow their own food. You eat healthily and savor a myriad of flavors made from fresh and in-season fruits and vegetables.
Enjoy the slow, simple, and quiet life
Life can get so hectic sometimes that you hardly have time to slow down. The brief time you spend with monks is a good time to embrace a much slower pace and do things hands-on. You sleep in a spartan room, use communal baths, and take part in a myriad of activities like cleaning the temple grounds, planting in the farm or garden, harvest vegetables and fruits that will be your next meal, and so much more.
Temple lodgings are far from glamorous. They can be extremely basic with sparse rooms and meals that only have the simplest ingredients. But what they lack in comfort and conveniences you can expect from hotels they more than makeup for the depths, uniqueness, and meaningful experiences you get from them.