This is the sound of chanting inside the Jogyesa Temple, "the largest Buddhist temple in Seoul", according to Lonely Planet
. Although I don't have specific memories of the chanting I heard in the temples in Bangkok, I found that I had a much more visceral attraction to the chanting I heard in Jogyesa. I don't like photography in temples, even when it is permitted. In my eyes it is somewhat degrading. When I walk into a temple I feel lighter and I often spend at least a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere and attempting to live in the moment. Taking pictures, trying to trap a moment in a file, is so counter to my understanding of Buddhism that I can't bring myself to do it. Nonetheless, I was seized with the desire to record what I heard. I used my camera which is why the audio is not ideal and the file is a movie file* - I had the camera pointed at the floor throughout.
In Jogyesa Temple there are three golden statues of the Buddha . In front of the Buddhas were offerings of pears, seasonal squash, and flowers. It was crowded. The day this was recorded there was a high volume of worshippers and tourists. Next week is Buddha's birthday, so there was a parade and much celebratory lantern activity this weekend in the run up to the main event. Most of the floor space in front of the statues was covered by gray pillows and many Koreans, who were quite advanced in years, with prayer books and beads.
I don't just like it, I love it. If I hadn't been with a group of people I would have spent more time meditating. I am personally an atheist but agnostic on a principled basis. The lessons that have filtered to me from Buddhism relate to the important of mindfulness and of letting things go. I feel at peace in Buddhist temples, which seems strange given my absence of religiousness. So this place is not strange because that is an eternally subjective description - but it makes me feel strange. If I am smoke then only in temples, where it is still and windless, can I linger.
*If anyone happens to know how to make a .mov file or even a QT file into only a sound file I welcome your counsel.