| Dear Friend:|
I am writing to you from Thailand where I have been staying for about 12 days. I have been staying in a small town called Nakhon Pathom. It is a very beautiful and friendly place. Thai people are very kind and down to earth. The food, music and weather are very nice as well. Since I have been here, I have been going on walking excursions to wherever my feet can take me.
In Nakhon Pathom, there is located the largest stupa in the world. I have walked to it several times and have taken some mini movies of it. Due to the size of the files, I am unable to send you the footage I took of it.
Two days ago I went to a Theravadan temple and spent two days with the monks just to see how they live and to see what it is like being a monk (at this temple). I will elaborate on what I experienced. The temple I stayed at was found withing an area where there are several army bases. Living at the temple was one soldier. He was there as a friendly exchange between the two intitutions. The temple was quite big and was comprised of about 10 buildings. There are about 14 monks who live there. The residents of the temple are mostly monks, though there were three others who were there because they had lost their jobs and were working as volunteers for food and shelter. One of the volunteers shaved his head and became a monk on ther second day of my visit. It therefore seems very easy to become a monk in this country. Just if you are wondering, I am not interested in becomming a monk. Most of the monks who live at this temple only do so for a somewhat short period of time, maybe 6 months to 1 year. People do this for different reasons. Sometimes it is personal - people get into some sort of crisis and have to take shelter from it. Others have financial difficulties and they walk away from the world for a while and take refuge. Others have girlfriends with whome they talk every day while they are there. I take it that they become monks to think over their relationships and the direction of their lives before they make any new decisions. The temple serves various purposes within the local society for the monks who reside there. I have the feeling that the junior monks were somewhat fearful of the abbot, an 82 year old monk who went to that same temple over 60 years ago when he was 20 years of age.
The monks do not spend a lot of time meditating, as I thought they would be doing. In fact, they didn’t meditate once during the whole time I was there. At night, some of the monks were even smoking cigarettes. I guess that it isn’t illegal for them to smoke. That’s good. Some of the monks told me that they used to smoke and drink alcohol before becomming monks. They said that they regretted the way they had been living their lives before they had become monks. The people who reside at the temple treat it like university students do a dormitory. Some of them even have computers, play computer games and they listen to music. But there is no alcohol and no drugs. The closest that they got to meditation was the morning and evening prayers - 45 minutes each.
The temple had really delicious food. We obtained the food from begging. Yes, I went begging with two monks - well not exactly. When people gave food to the monks, I carried it in the two bags that they gave me. When the bags got too full, we met up with a volunteer who rode a motorcycle. He had a big bag into which I put the contents of the bags.
One day, while I was at the temple, I was briefly wandering along the river. To my great surprise a huge Comodo dragon can swimming along the shoreline. It was about 10 feet long and had lime green splotches along its back. When it saw me, it went splashing away up the shoreline. A woman today told me that the Thai people revere these dragons and view them as spiritual creatures - much like the Chinese and Koreans view the dragon as a mystical creature of good fortune. The dragon I saw gave me a very special feeling - that was clear. Maybe the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and others in Asia obtained their cultural knowledge of dragons from this part of the world - maybe Thailand itself.
Thailand is a kingdom. It has a king, but also a president and a parlaiment. Not too long ago the previous president was taken out of power by a soft military coup ‘d etat. It is not good to talk about politics here. Thais are very sensitive about it. They support the king and view him as a godlike person (perhaps a re-incarnation of the Buddha or something along those lines). When someone told me of the coup ‘d etat of the previous president, I mentioned in public that I thought that maybe the royal family had something to do with it. The people I was with said that I should never talk about that again while I am in Thailand. I believe that the royal family and the “elected” government have a special balance of power, one which the Thais support. This is their country and they have the supreme right to do as they wish within their own national borders. Thai politics is not my business.
Today, I spent the day at a Buddhist elementary school located in a rural area outside of the small city of RaChuBuRi. A Nepali, a Ugandan and myself taught about 120 young children in a one day mini English camp. It was a lot of fun. After the camp, they asked me if I was interested in staying on as a permanent teacher at the school. I told them that I would think about it. Right now, I am leaning toward going back to Korea for 6 more months and then heading to Poland for more work as an English teacher. I am not altogetrher certain about what I exactly want to do, but something is telling me that I need to be with my own sort of people. I am thjinking about trying to find work somewhere near the Polish-Ukrane border which is where some of my ancestors came from.
I hope that you are well.