Waning Alms and the Chat With the “Normal” Monk

Today is Wednesday, day 12. I’m up at 11:45, again, and when I get to the shed there are three people already there, joined shortly by my favorite Ajahn… the guy with the glasses. Now we’re in different stage of the process. Before we were adding chips and creating the dye and now we’re just boiling and reducing the liquid down to concentrate the mixture. I leave 30 minutes before my shift ends at the invitation of the Ajahn to get more sleep before the days activities.

Today on alms there are only two monks and I figure that they did that because they must have known that there would be even less lay people out giving alms food today. I suppose these lay people are just like what seems like the majority of people in other religions who only practice on holidays or when it’s necessary in their life. I suppose the Buddha was smart to make two spiritual holidays per month. I’ve never thought of Buddhism and business as being related, but the Buddha clearly created these holidays right after he finished his marketing class. I’m not sure why the other main religions have their holidays only a few times a year. I find out later that there were less monks only because there were so many of them fasting that day. When the monks fast, they usually won’t go out on alms round or participate in any of the meal processions.

After the meal I run into the monk who I mentioned earlier in my stories is someone I wanted to meet and discuss spirituality. I overheard him talking about traveling and practicing in a few different places around the world and found out that he’s been here for 2 years as a monk. I think what also caught my eye was the fact that he doesn’t seem to fit in with the others here. He’s not as caught up in the culture of this monastery and generally does his own thing. We walk around and I get his background a bit before we go to sit down at one of he kutis. He tells me that he ordained at another monastery and then moved over here to this one. He said that he requested to move to one in San Diego because he had been following the teaching of an Ajahn out there for a while. He was denied his request by the Ajahn in San Diego due to lack of room and then through all that managed to stay here for two years. I have to say I do love how honest all the monks are when I ask them about things. It doesn’t seem like anyone is trying to hide anything, even if it doesn’t look to good for them. He told me that he’s probably going to disrobe soon an go back to the US. Even though he’s one of the most normal guys here, he tells me about a lot of messed up stuff that happened in his life. Come to think of it, I think that’s a similar case for a lot of the monks here. One of them is covered in tattoos and has some gold teeth, another looks always angry and so red that he just had stopped drinking the day before he got here, a few are very strange and socially ackward, and the rest seem basically normal, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they’re hiding demons like this monk I’m talking to now. I guess, at least for this monastery, most of the people here are trying to get away from the world enough so they can heal their gaping wounds. I suppose then the new crazy sounding names fits in a bit better then I had thought before. I don’t think this is the case though for the Thai monks at the other monasteries around Thailand, but I haven’t stayed there, so I can’t be sure. Just what I get from everything I’ve learned about the Lao and Thai culture so far, it doesn’t seem like they have big damaged physiques like we do in the West. Still though, I don’t have anything in my life I’m trying to run away from or any big things I’m trying to heal. I’ve had a wonderful life and always had great support from my family and friends. I’m just trying this experience to directly know my self, to connect with something deeper within, and to catch at least a glimpse of the connectedness of everything. This place is how I feel about all institutional religions I’ve studied so far; it’s great for the people involved, but it just doesn’t fit me. Religion is a beautiful thing, but my time hasn’t come yet where I have decided to take one as part of my identity. Instead, I am much more attracted to taking bits and pieces from them all that speak to me and putting them together to form my own personal spirituality. Near the end of the talk he tells me that I shouldn’t ordain here because of all the reasons that I’ve been talking about so far. He gives me a bit more detail, but it wasn’t hard to see the glaring facts of how things operate here. One thing he does though, is resparks my interest in Qigong. I started to study this in school and ordered a big scholarly textbook to read more. Unfortunately that wasn’t too long before I went to Ghana and it was too heavy to bring with me. I read enough to keep a latent interest that I think now has been reignited.

The talk with that monk really was the nail in the coffin of me staying at this monastery. I was heavily leaning towards not staying, but now I’m 100% sure, it’s not going to happen. I think also what I took from the conversation was that I don’t want to stay at any monastery at all. Maybe for a short time, but not to ordain. I think I’m meant to get a more diverse set of experiences from different teachers and traditions. That sounds like more of an adventure anyway. I can already feel a deep building of a lot of processing that will need to happen when I leave this place. It will certainly be interesting to see how it will be getting back into the everyday work life and what I will decide on as the next adventure. At least for now I want to concentrate on keeping as much of myself in this experience as I can until it’s time for me to leave.

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