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Pilgrimage Group to Visit 108 Korean Temples (Revised)
Doseonsa Temple has organized a pilgrimage group to visit 108 Korean temples. Since October of 2006, the pilgrimage group of thousands of Korean faithful is visiting one Korean temple per month. The group is made of more than 6000 Buddhist faithful and the number continues to grow. Since it is difficult for such a large number to visit one temple all at once, the group is divided into three groups. The first group visits on Friday, the second on Saturday and the third on Sunday. When they visit, the local farmers set up a market for the pilgrimage group. The farmers can sell directly to the buyer so the profit is better, and the buyer can buy fresh vegetables at a good price. The customer can also continue to buy from the farmers using the postal system. This exchange was developed to help the struggling local farmers.
When the pilgrimage group visits a temple, they hold a Dharma Service led by Doseonsa Temple Abbot, Ven. Sunmook Hyeja. They chant, pray, do 108 bows, copy dharanis, and make aspirational prayers. They also receive an official stamp in their pilgrimage book to make their visit official. In addition, they receive a bead with the name of the temple that they visit. The idea is to collect 108 beads to make a full 108-bead mala (prayer beads).
The pilgrimage group participates in various social service programs like helping international brides acclimate better to Korean society with ‘making a connection’ program. Members of the group will befriend foreign women married to Koreans. These women are invited to the temple for the visit of the pilgrimage group. Once a year, a few women will be sent back to their homeland for visits thanks to the Doseonsa Pilgrage Group. They also collect coins from the pilgrimage group to send milk to North Korean children in ‘sending the milk of hope’ program. In addition, most participants will take one bag of rice to donate to the visiting temple. This is an offering from their own home. Each member of the pilgrimage group has a bag to fill for the rice offering each month. This adds up to a large quantity of rice, which is used to feed monks and nuns of the temple.
Before the official pilgrimage, a few people will visit the temple beforehand. They take pictures of the main points of interest. They make a monthly pamphlet called “Light of one mind” to explain all about the temple to be visited. Then, this pamphlet is passed out on the way to the temple so that the group will know about the temple. After the dharma service, members of the group can visit on their own all the interesting sights that they read about.
In the past, members of DoseonsaTemple made pilgrimages together to several temples per month. However, the idea to visit a single temple, and get to know that temple very well, replaced the former pilgrimages. Now more than 20 temples have copied this idea to have their own 108-temple pilgrimage program.