Reflections on Lanterns

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

CIEE Seoul

These days I’m reminded by the paper lanterns strung along the streets that Buddha’s Birthday will soon be here. Although I’m not Buddhist, I always enjoy the holiday, which this year falls on May 27.

I like the paper lanterns that seem to be hung everywhere on temple grounds and inside temple buildings. I like the shadows the lanterns make on walls and on the ground. And when I look up, I like the way the sky looks through what seems like waves of color. I also like the sound of monks chanting prayers for the people whose names are written on the lanterns and the smell of the incense people offer to the Buddha.

Of course, I don’t have to wait for Buddha’s Birthday to go to a temple and I don’t. There’s a nice Buddhist temple just a short walk from our CIEE Center. It’s on the slope of a low mountain. It’s so peaceful and quiet there, every time I go there, I find myself saying, “It’s so hard to believe I’m in Seoul.” The temple is one of the places we took visitors to our CIEE Center during the 2022 CIEE Conference we hosted last November, and it’s where we often take students to learn about the important role Buddhism played in the shaping of Korean culture and also about Buddhist architecture and iconography.

I think everyone in Korea, Koreans and foreigners alike, regardless of religious preference, should feel blessed that the Buddhist temples, even the ones that have structures that are centuries old, are open to the public, regardless of faith and nationality, as a place to relax and enjoy the natural scenery around them. I certainly feel blessed that I can visit Korea’s Buddhist temples, be it Buddha’s Birthday or any other time.