While in Japan I had the opportunity to sleep in a traditional Monastery run by Buddhist monks. Although you sleep on a futon on a tatami mat, it is actually extremely comfortable.
What made this experience better was that my stay corresponded with my birthday. As a newly qualified meditation teacher, experiencing a night in the Monastery in Koya-San was special.
Meditation is believed to have originated from Zen Buddhism; or at least transcendal meditation was. The monks learn this high form of meditation from a young age so they are able to place themselves into a state of deep relaxation on command.
And that is what a stay in the Monastery was – relaxing.
Upon arrival at Kumaji temple, the monks welcomed us with a cup of green tea before we were shown to our rooms. The rooms may have seemed bare at first with just a table, quilt and a tatami mat. But underneath the table is a heater to keep warm while you read, write or even watch TV. Yes, even the Monastery has a TV.
All meals are vegetarian, delicious and served in the main dining room. No chairs, you just sit on the ground in front of your small table.
After dinner, you may choose to experience the Japanese public bath known as an Onsen. There is one room for each gender to relax in a hot pool of water. The hot water is welcome after a big day of hiking or walking or exploring the town.
The next morning was early prayer at 6:30am followed by a traditional Buddhist fire ceremony. This was the highlight of my stay. I loved the chanting, drums and striking of the bell.
For a taste of life as Buddhist monk (almost) it is highly recommended to book yourself into one of the Monasteries in Koya-San. Especially if you love meditation. A temple stay is the perfect place to practice your meditation.