|AHYMSIN newsletter, issue - July 2011|
Highlights from Korea
Korean hosts and hospitality
At the first door beyond Incheon Airport’s baggage claim we were welcomed into the waiting arms of our Korean hosts for 14 days of superb hospitality. Without a doubt, their loving and generous concern for our enjoyment and comfort was one of the most outstanding features of our visit. Like clockwork our food, accommodations, places to go, things to see, people to meet, cars and drivers, all graciously appeared or we were delivered at precisely the right moment. Yet like other Korean art that we learned about while there, subtlety was its style. The artist in this case was none other than Helen Chu whose skill made it all unfold so seamlessly.
A truly special feature of the hospitality was that one or more former gurukulam students-- Borim, Doi Lee, Hee Jung, Mi Ryang and Hueng Min—were always nearby to help us get around and to share our experiences. Also Mi Kyoung as well as Dr. Chu and family and even Yeahee’s Mom were regularly part of the action.
Everywhere we went in Korea we were welcomed with great warmth and genuine interest in what we had to share. We were clearly respected as honored guests. Rather humbling on our side …
Helen is a vital link
Whether it was in a mall, a restaurant or walking down the street, wherever we went, we repeatedly happened on a chance encounter with one of Helen’s students or former students. The loving response and memories shared by those we met at those times began to make clear the impact this devoted and energetic teacher has made on the entire Korean Yoga community.
As seen in other modern countries popular Yoga in Korea is showing itself in similar ways, with fitness and flexibility being the core expression. Thanks to Helen’s one pointed concentration on service to the Himalayan Tradition, she is ensuring that the pure and complete teachings make their way to the hearts and minds of the Korean people. She has served as a catalyst, as a sponsor and leader for Himalayan Tradition programs, in Korea for 22 years, coming to collaborate with teachers of different schools in order to share the universal reach of the teachings.
Helen Choe is also an initiator and a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti, or Spiritual Committee.
Teachers training retreat in the mountains
The main purpose of our Korea visit was the teachers training retreat. This year it was held in Pureunsol Pension, a retreat center in a beautiful mountainous area some distance from Wonju. Swami Ritavan and Ashu have participated in the Korean retreats many times before, and now Swami Ritavan has come to have the special role of presiding over the retreats along with Helen.
The theme of the retreat was “Opening the Heart with Yoga”. On this theme, Swami Ritavan lead heart centered meditations and Swami Ma Radha gave lectures on love as taught by Swami Rama. Each day Silvia taught joints and glands while Ashu, of course, modeled HYT hatha yoga. The classes given by Korean teachers were in Korean, so we were unable to participate.
It seemed to us that the students in attendance were very serious and many are already teaching. Six were initiated at the retreat. Unlike the retreats that we are familiar with at SRSG, most of these students already knew each other. Over the course of the 3 days, up to 130 persons participated in the retreat.
Something new for the retreat was that a retreat for children was going on while the parents were in class. Swamis Ritavan and Radha each had a turn at spending an afternoon with the kids. Ma Radha discovered that playing “Tarzan” with kids has new meaning these days.
Quality time with yoga groups and leaders
Dr. Won’s Institute
One of our days was spent at Dr. Won’s new retreat center, located a couple hours out of the city in quiet countryside. Dr. Won, a well-known yoga teacher in Korea, with regular television and radio appearances, has been serving the Yoga community for many years. With the total support of her loving family, she has been able to expand her capacity as a teacher and provider of yoga services by establishing this exquisite new retreat facility.
Respect for the Tradition and its teachers — which we continually felt throughout our Korean visit — was expressed artfully during this visit in the form of an elegant table setting (and partaking) of Korean tea delicacies. Their gratitude for the blessing given for their center (at their request) by Swami Ritavan was expressed in a full Korean bow by Dr Won and her students.
Dr. Won has learned from and been inspired by Swami Veda and the Himalayan tradition, for a number of years and regularly brings groups to Sadhaka Grama in Rishikesh for further study.
Mr Jeong’s Yoga Studio
As another messenger for the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition in Korea and a devoted practitioner, Mr. Jeong has, for several years, been bringing groups of students to SRSG and Sadhana Mandir. Now was our chance to join him at his well-established studio in An Guk Dong of Seoul. We offered a guided meditation, a lecture and joints and glands exercises for the full capacity room of his students. Most special that day was a graduation ceremony for students of the center. Swamis Ritavan and Radha were happy to serve by signing copies of the newly released Korean translation of Swami Veda’s book “God”, gifted to the graduates.
The event ended with a beautiful “Yoga Dance” presentation performed by a number of the flexible and agile yoga students.
Our visit to the secret garden at Changdeok palace with Mr. Jeong and some of his students after the programme was a truly eye opening cultural education of Korea’s majestic royal past.
The palace grounds provided many shady places for us to rest and enjoy each other’s company.
Young Gi’s Center: Joy Yoga
Practice was the focus of our yoga-meditation programme at the compact Joy Yoga studio, also in Seoul. With Swami Ritavan’s guided meditation, Silvia’s joints and glands exercises and Ma Radha’s contemplative walking, participants left with a mini package of Himalayan style highlights. Young Gi, the director of Joy Yoga has taken up the “Joy” of teaching Yoga from her father who has been teaching Yoga in Korea for 45 years. Now she is guiding and inspiring her own students.
The communication and cooperation we witnessed amongst these leading Korean teachers who put the programme together from the beginning to the end of our stay was impressive. We also saw how the students of these different teachers actively participated in each other’s programmes, not only as students but as collaborative caretakers of the called upon representatives of the Himalayan Tradition.
One surprise led to another as we (the four of us) found ourselves seated with the President of the Korean Young Men’s Buddhist Association for a very special meal that had been prepared at the temple for the mayor and dignitaries of Wonju. Such an honor is evidence of respect between the Buddhist and yoga communities.
Next day the birthday celebration continued with an invitation to Buddhist Achariya’s Temple, Hak Su Jung Sa, a mud and log structure that was built in the countryside by one of Swami Veda’s Buddhist initiates. Most noteworthy was the attentiveness of the people as they participated in brief yoga practices with us and a Q and A session. We should mention that, again, we were invited to share a wonderful meal with the community there.
Out and about in Korea
For Silvia and Swami Ma Radha--fresh from yet another harrowing India road experience--it was especially noted that Korea’s highways were well-marked, wide and clear. Hence it seemed paradoxical that none of our drivers went anywhere without first setting their GPS.
Korea is a beautiful place. Sixty percent of it is mountain and the countryside is unspoiled by billboards, gas stations and strip malls.
The view from our window in Wonju included an ordinary small lake. But still we had to blink many times in order to understand what we saw. There on each long dock was a row of big easy chairs for the fishermen to lounge while fishing. One of the docks along the shore was covered with an awning.
Downtown Seoul has a mix of new and old plus a small river diverted through it to create a special ambiance.
There seems to be no end to unique places where one can go to enjoy food or a favorite tea.
Last but not least: FOOD, food, food !
Every meal was beautiful, abundant, fresh and oohhhh so good!