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At the Wat Chedi Luang temple, the monks make an effort to interact with the public by scheduling a weekly “Monk Chat” evening. I was excited for this opportunity, since some of my most vivid memories of Thailand were the daily sightings of monks wandering the streets. James said his typical day was to get up before dawn, walk the streets to collect alms before breakfast, participate in morning prayer or meditation, spend the bulk of his day in classes or studying and then take part in an evening prayer session. Later, a group of novice monks came into the sanctuary with an instructor and took a seat on the floor.
Would any of these young men, I wondered, devote their lives to monasticism and Buddhist study? This reinforced to me the incredible influence that Buddhism has over the lives of the Thai people. Does Buddhist monks in the Thailand have different rituals and traditions than other countries. Temple stays in South Korea are experienced by thousands of tourists and students annually, eager to learn more about the history of Korean Buddhism, which spans more than 1600 years. From early morning chanting to the dignified tea ceremony, the reverential approach to eating and the humble evening meal, a monk’s life is far more than robes and meditation. There are around 800 monasteries, with histories dating back centuries, which combined represent a treasure trove of sweeping, tile-roofed temples, halls, shrines, classic oriental gardens, paintings, literature, music, myth, food and tea, all celebrating the life of Buddha.
On a nearby hill, the benevolent eyes of a 16m-high stone Buddha, the largest of its kind in the orient, stare pensively out to sea. A flock of ducks, black against the rising light, flew across the red bruise of the sunrise as the grey wisps of cloud on the horizon glowed golden, then blood red, as the sun rose over the Sea of Japan. The sunrise was a fitting reward for the strict 9pm curfew of the night before, following a welcome to temple life by our host, the Buddhist nun BupGwang. The brightly coloured wooden fish represents water creatures and the cloud-shaped gong, airborne creatures.
A monk beat the drum and then visitors took turns at gonging the bell, its heavy reverberations setting eardrums humming as it vibrated the air around us. Clouds of incense and candle smoke wafted in the humid air, blending with the monks’ monotonous chanting as they made their 108 prostrations to the divine one. The next morning, while being instructed by the nun BupGwang in the basics of Zen meditation, it became even more painfully obvious that Buddhism is physically demanding.
After fifteen minutes of focused meditation sitting in an attempted lotus position that looked something like a snapped pretzel, the leg joints were creaking and the muscles aching. Buddhist clergy live a life of humble devotion, following a demanding and sometimes lonely discipline epitomized by the formalities of the meal ceremony.


The food ritual, Balwoo Gongyang, means eating only that which is required, wasting nothing, not even the water used to clean the bowls, or Balwoo. A simple meal of rice, kimchi (pickled vegetable), a thin soup and seaweed, becomes a study in the appreciation of the fundamentals of life as each is served into three bowls, with a fourth bowl filled with a measure of water. Sitting cross-legged and straight-backed, there is no talking, a piece of kimchi or radish is kept at the side of the rice bowl to use to wipe out the bowls at the end of the meal.
The water, which should remain clean throughout the meal, is used to clean the bowls, and then drunk. During the tea ceremony, the nun BupGwang relaxed from her duties to smile and laugh as the foreigners juggled cups, lids and teapot in an attempt to serve the brew just right. Vincent RossVincent Ross has been a journalist for more than 34 years, working in newspapers and public relations, and over the past fourteen years as a freelance travel writer and photojournalist. It was in Chang Mai that we had one of our more memorable travel experiences during a morning chat with a Buddhist monk.
This gives visitors a chance to learn about Buddhism and the monastic life and allows novice monks to practice their English. But as we wandered the grounds of this temple one morning, a young monk strolled over to us.
They are so omnipresent that public buses and boat ferries even have special seats reserved for monks. Because of the “different feelings” that arise from touching a woman, he said, it would “distract the mind” from focusing on spiritual activities.
A majority of them, of course, would re-enter what they call “common life.” Most Thai men become a monk for a period of time, but it is voluntary.
Some have likened it to a Thai version of a sabbatical, giving young males the opportunity to remove themselves from their normal routine for a period of time in order to reflect on their lives before they take on the full role and responsibilities of being an adult. Everywhere in the country are men who have spent from a few months to a few years as a Buddhist monk. This may be a genuine of the handy sites We have ever show up over in this pituacrlar subject. It is a definite that is handy blnoiggg We’ve arrive all over with this area of interest.
The air was warm and resin-scented, the still pines and gardens the epitome of peace on the 5am sunrise walk down the mountainside from the temple to the pavilion. Before bed there was a visit to the bell pavilion, set amid carefully tended temple gardens alive with the buzz of cicadas. The Dharma drum, covered on opposite sides with the hide of a bull and a cow to symbolise the harmony of Yin and Yang, represents earth-bound beings.
The massive bronze bell, rung 28 times every morning and 33 times in the evening, is said to sound like the voice of Buddha, with its deep-throated boom giving relief to tormented beings in hell.


Greed is abhorrent – food is looked upon as merely the fuel to drive the body to support the discipline of faith. While the meal ceremony honours simple food, the Korean Da-do, or tea ceremony, is about enjoying life’s subtleties. Tea is one of the six offerings to Buddha, along with incense, flowers, lanterns, fruit and rice. You can also subscribe without commenting.Yes, please add me to your mailing list for your weekly digest! In Chang Mai, due to the presence of the Buddhist university, these saffron- and orange-robed young men were especially plentiful. After doing this every day for five years, could his mind now slip more easily into a state of emptiness? As the teacher spoke, the young monks took notes and occasionally goofed around with each other.
They usually serve for a period of three months, although some enter a monastery for as little as a few weeks and others remain for several years.
In its own way, it’s comparable to the ritual transition that Masai tribesmen undergo on their way to becoming adult warriors, or the Australian Aboriginal tradition of the walkabout.
A stroll through the grounds before bed revealed a shrine where monks prayed before a golden Buddha.
It is brewed and drunk three times, with the ritual designed to bring out five distinct flavours – the tongue first tastes bitterness, followed by astringence, sourness, saltiness and sweetness. He appeared hesitant and nervous at first over the prospect of conversing in English, but his language skills were better than he realized.
They didn’t look very different from any other group of teenage boys in a classroom elsewhere in the world, save for their shaved heads and saffron robes. I recalled a conversation with Pravat, a local guide who had spent 11 years in a Buddhist monastery, six years as a novice and an additional five years as a full-fledged monk, before leaving to get a paying job. How different would my life be, or the life of my friends, if we’d spent our teenage and early adult years focusing on spiritual growth in a monastery?
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