Tuesday, September 12, 2006

wat luan pang, chaing mai

i thought i should make the effort to go to a temple today and sit in on a service. everytime i do - i get so much out of it and i have resolved to become more focussed in my buddhist practice. i have no excuses either because every town/city in thailand has at least one wat or shrine. the major barrier to studying buddhism here is the language. very few thai monks speak english.

i am lucky enough to have a wat opposite where i'm staying - when i arrived yesterday morning at this guest house i saw several monks making their morning alms round. i have to try and get up early to donate food. but it's not easy for me to wake up at 5am.. also i have to buy food the night before and i haven't found any supermarkets here yet.

anyway back to the temple.. i went through the gates at about 5pm and i think the temple attendant, an old thai man with one tooth, seemed anxious to lock everything up. i tried to ask if i could attend the evening service. he thought i wanted to take pictures and said 'now closed'. i didn't leave right away but walked round the stupa and read the plaque about the temple. it was built in the 12th century! an elderly monk came over and wanted me to help him with the english pronunciation. the bell rang for the call to prayers.. so i asked again if i could go and so i was ushered into the gompa. there were only 4 monks in attendance and 2 stray dogs that came and lay down outside the doorway as if they were keeping gaurd. this service only lasted about an hour with a lot of chanting in pali - a couple of times (the monks all elderly apart from one who chanted in a very high pitched voice) they lost their place and had to ask their neighbour .. it was really very sweet. then followed a period of meditation. after the service - they asked me where i came from. the younger monk (23 years old) spoke slightly better english asked me questions like 'where was i staying', 'how long i was staying in chiang mai', 'whether that was a tattoo on my arm'. i tried to explain that i believed in buddhism - the elderly monk gave me the thumbs up sign. he smiled and laughed alot. i showed them the forest monastery tiger book which has some both thai and english in it and pointed out some of the paragraphs. they seemed happy!

by the time we had finished talking, the temple was well and truly locked and nobody seemed to have the key to let me out. i tried to make jokes about climbing the walls and pointed to the lizards running up and down the walls! they said 'don't worry..' and then came a torrential down pour of rain. we sheltered under the temple awning and the elderly monk disappeared and returned with a pointy hat on his head and an umbrella which he kindly gave me.

by this time a young boy appeared with a piece of string with loads of keys attached and said 'you.. come with me'.. i said goodbye and he let me out through the side gate.

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