May 18, 2015

Field Trip to Catsklls for Buddha's Birthday Celebration

On Sunday, May 17 the Ven. Myong-Ahn, Duhk-Song, Mooh-Sans Sunim,  and members of Soshima Zen Center traveled from New Jersey to the Buddha Birthday Celebration at Baek Lim Sa (White Forest Zen Monastery) in Summitville, New York. Baek Lim Sa was founded by Zen Master and Abbot Ven. Gae San Hye-Seon Sunim in 1979 and is intimately associated with Soshimsa Zen Center. Ven. Inl-Cho Dosanim (Shim Hyok-Kun) was instrumental in the development of Baek Lim Sa and all three SZC Sunims trained there, to varying degrees.

Traveling north, the dense suburban sprawl of central New Jersey gradually changes to the lush, green hills and rural townships and villages of upstate New York. Nearing our destination, we left behind the world of the mundane and everyday, ascending a road to the summit of an unnamed mountain to reach the 180-acre monastery. A bright sun in a clear blue sky illuminated magnificent statues of Buddha in meditation and sleeping lion's posture, and the mountain air was crisp and clean. We then walked up the sloping, paved path to the ornate, hand-painted temple constructed in traditional Korean architectural style. Lanterns celebrating the Buddha swayed gently in a light breeze.

The interior of the temple is beautifully appointed with statues of Buddha, Kwanseum Bosal, and Jijang Bosal, and there are many other artifacts too numerous to mention. Roughly one hundred parishioners were in attendance for the services. Two short orations in English were also included, followed by a Dharma talk by Abbot Ven. Hye-Seon Sunim. Following services, a stately procession of sunims and worshippers walked slowly in front of the temple, passing a statue of Baby Buddha, which one could bathe ceremonially.

A repast consisting of miso soup, rice, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, spicy bean paste, kim chi, rice cake, watermelon, and tea was served to guests. A few then tackled the hiking trail through the peaceful woods, passing gazebos, sculpture, and rock pagodas, ascending to the stupa enshrining the relics of the Buddha, and finally returning to the temple area. 

Soshimsa Zen Center offered to aid Baek Lim Sa in development of English language programs. The offer was greeted with warm enthusiasm from Ven. Hye-Seon Sunim. English Sunday programs are soon to begin headed by our very own Abbot who will be traveling to Baek Lim Sa a few Sundays per month. More details will follow.