How would I ever end up living with monks? I never intended to study Buddhism and meditation always appeared me to be boring, lazy and a bit intimidating. But I love Couchsurfing and sometimes you just meet a monk online. I had plans to leave but when you meet a monk online and he invites you to stay you don’t leave. You start living with the monks. In the temple. Like a monk.
It’s nearly as special for them to have a white guest as it is for me to live with monks. And it was super special to me. The monks did so many fun things for me. They made their driver bring us to waterfalls, beaches, caves and amazing rainforests. We went swimming and took selfies. I was surprised how much time they were able to give me. And how much fun they are willing to have. You haven’t seen it all until you saw a big monk jumping from a tree into a dwell.
Every morning we got up at 6AM to go and collect food. The Buddhist monk in Thailand walks slowly through the streets and is approached to be given. He doesn’t beg, ask or make I contact. Sometimes he walks a little slower. In India the holy men bless to ask for money and get chased away like the holy cows. I never had as much food as in that temple. Everything from lizard curry to fired ray fish. The monks themselves don’t eat after noon. “In Thailand we believe you can’t think of women when you are hungry,” I was told. “It’s only a believe,” he added. Sometimes Thais become monks as young as 12 years old. It is although common to leave the monastery again. Sometimes somebody becomes a monk when he is a child and leaves the temple as an adult. And then somebody gets pregnant because one didn’t know how it works.
Joy is one of the Thai monks’ servants
Joy lives with the monks. She is a man. It was kind of obvious but the monks still asked me to guess. I tried to let her have it her way but the monks laughed out loud as I did not say immediately that she is a male. At that moment she looked silently to the floor. She never tried to hide it. And she is no beauty. For the monks it is great, since they are not allowed to touch woman.
It is all very normal to them. Joy is a man. And Joy is a she. Because she wants to. Nobody asks her why she does wear a skirt or which bathroom she uses. She will never be in a reality TV show or campaign in a high school. During the day she cleans and helps in the monastery and in the evening she would come and cut jackfruit for me. Does it matter for any of this that she is a man? That a man is a she? If a man is a woman? Does it ever matter? The monks now and appreciate her for her help and her humbleness. She was shy with the white guy but must be an excited talker normally. She is just the Joy that lives with the monk and happens to be a man and a she.
It is Buddhist monks and a Christian in a Thai temple
We although talked about religious things. The monks are very kind and respectful people that didn’t want to convince me of anything. I still mentioned my bible casually. Just in case. Much of Buddhism is mindfulness. To be aware, focused, calm and kind. When the original Buddha taught he meant to educate. Then somehow education turned into a religion. How did that happen? Practising mindfulness can obviously support all areas of our lives and Buddhist communities have done great good in countries like Vietnam, Thailand and other. Can we learn from religious practices without being religious? Let us try to understand each other and realize what benefits and what damages. So much good has happened out of faith and it was misused countless times. Alongside all the child abuse scandals and suicide bombers are books and generations filled with love and compassion. Let us not forget that Religion is not only practiced in war zones and headlines but mostly in hearts, families and charity communities.
Soundtrack of my life: Birdy – People help the People