THREE DAYS AT A TEMPLE – a visit to Yuongpyeongsa

 [The first in a series of three postings]

I have days that I’d put on  a pedestal.  Years on they shine in my head.  Among such days I have the three that I spent at the temple of Yuongpyongsa in South Korea.

The arrangement is called “Temple-Stay” which takes places throughout South Korea.  You don’t have to be Buddhist to do it.  In fact, they are surprised if you are.

                               Far from all things

                                    The temple

Yuongpyeongsa (yes, say it: yoo-ong-pee-ong sah where “sa” indicates temple) is even further from anything than is the Magoksa temple and for the same reason:  the Confucian authorities persecuted Buddhists in the Middle Ages.  The inheritance is the silence in the verdant green hills, so characteristic of Korea.

                            In a post-chant state

On arrival I received a monk’s robe which I wore for three days.  There were six of us, amongst whom a mother and her teenage daughter, Catholic and living in Minnesota, stayed at a temple once a year to honour their ancestors.

                            The cell

The cell where I slept was more of a passage, though the futon I slept on was remarkably comfortable.

At four o’clock in the morning I was called and we made our way through darkness in the warm glow of lamps to the main temple.  Here I experienced two hours of chanting, an unusual experience.  Language-wise, I couldn’t participate and my initial reaction was resistance.  Gradually the resistance eroded until I couldn’t hear the chanting anymore;  I became it.

Glass sphere reflecting the temple

As the sun came over the hills it was time for purifying exercises – stand; down on the knee; forehead on the ground; sit back on knee; stand.  Do this one hundred and eight times.  I cracked at  thirty.

Then I limped to breakfast.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2017

 

My photographs  

 

 

 

 

 

THREE DAYS AT A TEMPLE – a visit to Yuongpyeongsa

 [The second in a series of three postings]

To get used to Korean cuisine is to risk addiction.  It is the subtle herbal taste that they achieve with the traditional use of fermentation pots.  This is especially true for ghimchi, cabbage, which may be prepared in literally hundreds of ways.  As cabbage was my least favourite vegetable this was a small revolution in my dietary history.  Pork is popular but in the monastery where I was, the food was vegetarian, and not less tasty.  Years later when I ate Korean food in Cape Town again, I was catapulted into the aromas and the tastes of that remarkable food.

Canteen verandah

Fermentation pots

In the course of the day we met a nun, a sinewy woman with a natural radiance.  She took us for a walk in the forests, pointing out the small wild flowers by the path.  These, she told us, are not indigenous to the Korean peninsula.  They were sown by the hands of American soldiers during the civil war of the early 1950s.  Would that that had been all they left behind.

I took the opportunity to photograph the extensive paintings on the walls of the temple.  I was especially charmed by the series portraying Buddha and the cow.  There was one of a dragon which, I discovered to my surprise, is much loved in the East as a symbol of just kingship.

Temple art

Temple art: the dragon as just king

Buddha and the cow

The Buddhism of South Korea is mainly Zen and this would take much to explain.  The ideal, as I understand it, is to diminish resistance within oneself and to contemplate the Great Nothing.  I can’t expect a non-Buddhist to grasp this.  On the wall was the Zen symbol.

The Great Nothingness

On Sunday morning we were invited to the head monk for tea, far more than a social event.  He spoke to us through a translator about the ritual of tea drinking, which I found fascinating, but, I confess, that for me the green tea they drink is tasteless.  In turn, they hate Western tea.  He also spoke about the lotus flower, also a revelation for me.  The lotus is a symbol throughout Asia, for Hindus, Buddhists and some Muslims.

L O T U S

He himself, a thick-set man, winked at us:  on scattered occasions he takes a slice of pork and even a tot of whisky.  On a shelf in his study there was a figure of the Emaciated Buddha before the revelation he had under the Bo-Tree:  there needs to be balance between flesh and soul; you are not more spiritual if you disregard the body.  Yet, the Emaciated Buddha, he said, has a message for humankind.  Something to ponder.

Emaciated Buddha under the Bo-Tree

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2017

 

My photographs

 

 

 

 

THREE DAYS AT A TEMPLE – a visit to Yuongpyeongsa

[The third in a series of three postings]

The last morning I photographed the gardens, the temple, the main figure of the Buddha.

Buddha in leaves

The nun came to chat again and pointed out an old monk engrossed in a meditation on the periphery of the temple grounds.  He’s over ninety, she said.  I watched him and felt the centuries of Buddhism in the course of his meditation, a history from 300 a.d. when Buddhism was initially brought from India.

Meditation course for an old monk

Walking centuries

I came upon a Tao rock which belongs to a spiritual belief far older than Buddhism or Confucianism.  This kind of rock is a symbol of Chaos Becoming and is central to Taoism practised in China, probably from prehistoric times.

Chaos Becomes

My visit to Yuongpyeongsa was a kind of farewell to my stay and teaching in South Korea.  This visit was in May when spring is rising and nature is at its most beautiful.  For Buddhists, nature is at the heart of their spirituality, the reconciliation of Earth and Spirit, of soul and body.  They see the world in a grain of sand and the universe in a drop of dew.  For this reason everything is sacred and part of the spirit, of healing and growth.

These days burgeon in me.  Years later.

The universe in a drop of dew

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2017

 

My photographs

 

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE BAY AND THE BAY OF ANGELS

Table Bay, etching 1683

For me Table Bay is a Cape Malay bredie* of images and thoughts.  Table Bay and, of course, the Table Rock, were what magnetized me from the rural landscape to become a Capetonian.  And this bredie … Table Bay calls up for me the desire for a bigger world, a refusal to settle for suburban answers.  These Westerners … was the bad they brought in equal measure to the good?  In the shimmer on Table Bay history clashes swords with the sun … Wolraad Woltemade and his horse in the curve of a wave; the postal stones; ships sinking, ships arriving; the noon cannon;  bearded sailors staring at the Table Rock; Adamastor that you hear in storms if you listen; the Castle, the Amsterdam battery, the Chavonnes battery; the pain and anger of the Flying Dutchman …

The Flying Dutchman, ghost ship

… the murmur of the beach-combers; gulls; Robben Island, smear on the ocean;  musicians on the deck of a ship full of freed slaves dancing and playing the banjo, bringing the blues back to Africa …

Then the second bay, the Bay of Angels.  This Bay, the Côte d’Azur in France, stretches from Menton, near the Italian border and ends near Cannes.  They tell me there were human beings here four-hundred thousand years ago.  I smile.  Where I come from, South Africa, we start at two million years.  Still, history hums in the Maritime Alps that guard the Bay.  Here the Celt-Ligurians, a civilization of thousands of years, erected their forts and grunted under monoliths.  In Antibes (then Antipolis), where I find myself, their remains from 600 b.c. have been brushed open from under the Cathedral with its proto-Christian history.

Nomade sculpture ponders the Bay of Angels

Then came colonial masters, the Phonecians.  For them, the Bay of Angels was a lesser part of the larger establishment of Massala (today Marseille).  The Greeks arrive with an It’s our turn.  Monaco, Nice and Antibes all had Greek names originally.  Whether there were epic battles after some hundreds of years when the Romans marched in is uncertain.  Another handful of centuries.

In this time Roman soldiers regarded the mists of Scottish mountains and the rivers of Northern Europe.  After the assassination of Julius Caesar the coastal town along the Bay, Fréjus (the Forum of Julius), was honoured with his name.  His descendant Augustus had La Trophée built, today a sad, proud ruin, above Monaco. He instituted a census in the Empire, even to the far-flung town of Bethlehem in the Middle East.

Trophée of Augustus at La Turbie

Antibes has a legend that Paul came to the city.  Not unlikely when one thinks that Rome is but two or three days by boat.  Somewhere in the hills here there is a cave, its entrance collapsed and hidden.  In that cave is the Letter to the People of Antipolis written by Paul.  How would that be, if it were true?

At Juan-Les-Pins, the coastal town adjoining Antibes, there are few waves.  Here the Bay of Angels, or the Mediterranean Sea, often feels like a lake.  Over the shimmer on the water you see two islands, Ste Marguerite and St Honoré.  These islands, closer to Cannes, were occupied by the Romans and four hundred years after Christ, St Honoré and his following landed here, to establish one of Europe’s first Christian cloisters.

The islands of St Honoré and Ste Marguerite

These whispers across the water, music from distant times; strange instruments, lyrics unknown … they move over the creased sea … Table Bay and the Bay of Angels, two worlds, people who went before me, some of whose genes I carry … they saw what I now see and, perhaps, felt what I now feel.

 

© Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017

 *bredie – A Cape Malay dish of spiced curry, dangerously addictive

 

 Sources

Pierre Tosan (ed.) : Dictionnaire D’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins (Hepta, Antibes. 1998)

 Images

Flying Dutchman – paulthomasonwriter.com

Table Bay – etching by Allain Mallet in 1683, from “Hoerikwaggo”

Nomade, sculpture on the ramparts of St Jaumes, Antibes –  my photo

Trophée d’August – Côte d’Azur Tourism 

View of islands – my photo

 

 

 

 

 

LA VIE EN ROSE – the vulnerable romantic

This song was composed by Edith Piaf in the final years of World War 2 and is far more than a hit.  It is honoured by some as the unofficial national anthem of the French.  And it is a single line in this love chanson that sets the tone in the lyric –the beloved is compared with an unretouched portrait, an affectionate ambiguity.

                     “the smile lost on his lips”

The title in relation to the lyric suggests a vulnerable romanticism – life in a rosy hue, or even, life in pink.  “Moonlight and roses” comes to mind as well as the ease with which life fractures it.

                            The orphan sparrow

La Vie en Rose cannot of course be seen apart from Edith Piaf.  As a child she was called la môme, the orphan sparrow, probably as a result of crippling poverty and the unpredictability of bohemian life once her talent had been discovered.  It is this pathos that we hear in Piaf’s voice, something which still touches people.  And she had endeared herself to the French public when accusations of collaboration with the German occupiers, calling her a collabo, were launched against her.  A close friend in the French Resistance set things straight.

After an internationally successful life, the life style and encroaching health problems took their toll and she died at an early age in Grasse, in the south of France, in 1963.  She had still recorded her hit Non, je ne regrette rien in 1960, another chanson that recalls her vulnerable romanticism.  She was laid to rest in Paris.  There were 100,000 people at her funeral.  And, if you listen, you’ll hear her voice in every piano accordion on the Champs Elysées.

                        “… the beat of my heart …”

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017

 

Sources

Wikipedia: biography and “La Vie en Rose »

You Tube, for the song

 

Images

Roses on music sheet – lavieenrose.over-blog.com

La môme  –  francisdonne.qc.ca

Edith Piaf  –  lefigaro.fr

 

 

  

THE FRENCH LANGUAGE: the delights, the quirks

 Outsiders (I believe we are called les etrangers)  will know what I’m talking about – the ups, downs and the sideways.  Take the accents in this language, something seldom used in English.

Le bâtiment (building) has a nice little roof on it.

Célèbre has celebratory firecrackers over it.

La flèche (arrow) is somehow sharper than its English equivalent.

Déteste feels stronger that detest.

                    An angle on Angèle

I take the liberty of mentioning some of the delights of Claudie’s English.  She speaks more formally than I do and adds a touch of the literary, at times.  For her a window gives onto the place.  You push off the light and close the television.  And the baddie in the Policier aggresses someone.  If you’re uncertain then you don’t know what’s expecting you.

French, you soon discover, is an uncharted territory of false friends.  Or do I forgive the English language for evolving borrowed words in unexpected ways?

Je suis blessé does not mean “I am blessed”.  It means “I am wounded”.

Négligé is not black, sexy and made of silk.  It means “neglected”.

A woman (in English) who is petite is not merely short.  So too, in English, petty is not merely dimensionally challenged.

      Painting the Giraffe

Idioms in any language are fascinating, especially when they become a touch surreal.  In Afrikaans, for example, the die is cast is expressed as “the bullet has passed through the church”.

“A kettle of crabs” in French is something like a hornet’s nest and to be avoided.

“To paint the giraffe” is doing something that really does not have to be done.

“The marriage of carp and hare”  means to bring incompatibles together vainly

And the one that applies to me  − “To speak French like a Spanish cow”.  Enough said.

                Marriage of Carp and Hare

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017

 

Sources

Claudie A. L. Mader

P.Desalmand, Y. Stalloni:  200 expressions expliquées (Chen, 2013)

Images

Claudie by Ise La

200 expressions expliquées

 

FOUR SONGS FROM A WAR

As a post-WW2 baby boomer, I was familiar with songs that grew out of the war.  In France, the war is no longer merely stories for me, fragments from books, movies.  Now I’ve stood where Hitler stood, saw what he saw.  In Nice I’ve visited the streets where the heaviest fighting took place at its liberation.  The war, what is left from it, is closer and its agony, for me, is also distilled in four songs.

“…some sunny day …”

We’ll meet again composed by Ross Parker (music) and Hughie Charles (lyrics) and sung by Vera Lynn.

” …. it’s a long long way …”

It’s a long way to Tipperary was composed by Jack Judge in 1912.

” … Underneath the lamplight…”

Lili Marlene was inspired by an earlier poem, composed by Norbert Schulze in 1939 and sung by Marlene Dietrich.

                                   Herm Niel

Erika was composed by Herm Niel in 1939.  It is interesting that each of these songs is a love song.  Is it that men fighting a war are more motivated to hate when they think of their loved one?

In We’ll meet again, the hope is expressed in sadness, a longing for “some sunny day” from under the dark clouds of war.   Tipperary is closer to the battlefront.  I hear boots marching between the lines, with the recurring longing in the words “it’s a long, long way …”  Lili Marlene was popular on both sides of the enemy lines.  I remember 15 years after the war when our family was listening to a long-playing record for the first time, the track came up unexpectedly and my father who seldom, if ever, spoke of his experiences in the war, suddenly left the room, deeply emotional.  With Erika (“Auf der Heide blűht eine kleines Blűmelein”) I have different feelings.  The song was belted out as the German troops marched under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs d’Elysées, jubilant conquerors.  Later it was lovingly translated into Afrikaans and sung by the tenor Gé Korsten in a movie in the 1960s.  As a German marching song, it struck a particular note with people whose parents regretted that the Nazis lost the war.  I feel a cold breeze when I hear it.

Music makes war easier

I can’t hear any of these songs without sensing words from the poet when he speaks of “the still sad music of humanity”.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2017

 

Source

Quotation from William Wordsworth :  “Lines written above Tintern Abbey”

 Wikipedia, for biographical details.  

Images

Vera Lynn – dailymail.co.uk

Jack Judge – History of Oldbury

Marlene Dietrich  –  andBerlin.com

Herm Niel – You Tube

Marschlieder – amazon.com

 

 

 

 

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