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Talk about irony Buddhist monks those shaven-headed figures in gray robes choose to leave this earthly world that is mundane society in favor of an ascetic existence based on prayer and self-denial But now their unworldly lifestyle is becoming a tourist product with the monastics approval Monastic life as a tourist attraction Its part of a global craze for monasticism From the Himalayas to the Hudson River monks are in Japanese salarymen are chucking their jobs and fleeing to monasteries In Taiwan last year monasticism become big news Hundreds of families were shocked when their promising sons and daughters opted for Buddhist monastic life instead of comfy careers in business Meanwhile in the United States at least one monastery finds it necessary to turn away would-be novices we are not soliciting vocations the monastery says gently The worldwide renewal of interest in monasticism has reached out to Korean Buddhists too People are interested in Buddhist monks and how they live Many people whether seeking enlightenment or just fed up with the noise and glitz of consumer society would like to try the monastic way of living So why not give them a taste of it That is precisely what monasteries in Korea are doing They offer tourists a brief but revealing look inside Buddhist Monasticism Western usually think of Buddhism as a religion of vegetarians who expect to be reincarnated after leaving this world at death Buddhists aim to correct this oversimplified image Buddhism has a long and complex history It originated in India some 2600 years ago and was introduced to Korea in about the fourth century AD Since then Buddhism has exercised a tremendous influence on Korean culture and produced many widely admired works of art Pulguksa Temple are Sokkuram Grotto built in the eight century are two of the most famous examples of Buddhist art and architecture
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