Before I even realized, I was a Buddhist. I was not forced to be, but it was natural in my family, from my grand grandmother to my mom now. Though, I did not feel any need to resist this religion. Frankly speaking, it was convenient; all I had to do was just to follow my family, from going to a temple to joining Buddhist events, such as Buddha's birthday. I neither doubted nor questioned the existence of God (Buddha in my case). I was an obedient yet indifferent believer.
In the summer of 2007, my shallow faith encountered its toughest challenge. There was a traditional activity in Korean Buddhism, called Samchunbae. Literally bowing three thousand times, this prayer was considered to be one of the most honorable challenges among Buddhists, because it tested one's both physical and spiritual strength. It was said that one can make his wish come true after completing this mission. More attracted to fulfill my wish, I quickly decided to participate, expecting Samchunbae would be something like a temporary training workout.
When I arrived at the temple, its climate was serene yet serious. The monks there looked more like agents in mission impossible. Their eyes were sparkling and their moves were agile. Once I started bowing, I physically realized that words were extremely easier than actions. First few hours went quite smoothly, but my entire outfit soon got drenched in sweat as I went along. When I finished the half (fifteen hundred times), my legs seemed numb yet painful. Anger, irritation, and tears occupied me. Physical pains were impossible to adjust. I couldn't understand why I was there, voluntarily abusing my body. It was not a school assignment that I must complete. I was not even a faithful servant of Buddha who would gratefully accept this torture for the sake of his God. "Why am I bearing all those pains? What good would it do to me?" Everything just seemed so unfair. I hated myself to agree on this prayer, my parents to suggest this activity, and the God to ultimately bring me this unwelcome mission. During Samchunbae, what I struggled most was to decide whether to keep or to stop. As no one had forced me to continue, the decision was entirely on my hands. I could just quit immediately, but something restrained me to do so. It was not because I suddenly became a devout Buddhist; rather because I could not throw away my previous suffering, and I became intrigued of what the end of this hardship would be. I guess subtle resistance out of spite was also there.
Though, as I went along, I was slowly adjusting to the pain. My mind became speechless with deathly silent environment surrounding me. When I could finally stop any ongoing emotion of rage and grief, there came a moment of a complete blank; my legs were still bent automatically, but I no longer felt anything. In spite of agonies and pains of my body, I found my mind completely untainted. What left after fierce inner and outer struggles was the sole me. The panorama of memories from my past to present went through my head: my family, friends, teachers, schools, and so on. I felt a humble gratitude for everything that had formed me till now. I burst in indefinable tears. It was the time that I finally threw away my arrogant pride and self-esteem and genuinely acknowledged my miniscule existence of the world. Samchunbae gave me an opportunity to look back myself. It confirmed me how blessed I was just because of living this moment. It demonstrated that struggles that made me so reluctant were only hurdles to achieve my ultimate dream.
Thanks for any critiques!!!