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Since we’ve been in Thailand, the kids have been very curious about all of the monks we see around town. They are full of great questions, questions for which we really didn’t know the answers. Of course we would often refer to our friend Google for many of them, but they wanted more. I knew of a few Monk Chats in town, so I decided to find one that would fit our schedule. Read all about our chat and how it gave us a thirst for more learning.
What is a Monk Chat?
A monk chat can last 5 minutes or a couple of hours. It is a time when the monks are available for anyone to ask them anything. The chat we attended was very informal and we could ask whatever we liked.
What did Wagoners Abroad ask at the Monk Chat?
Once we decided to attend a monk chat, we began jotting down our questions as we thought of them. After a couple of weeks, we had our list ready and it was time to go and get them answered. Fair warning, we were full of questions and we had a very engaging conversations, for well over an hour. Many of the monks we chatted with were from Myanmar, formerly Burma. They were full of information and happy to practice English with us. They asked us questions about our lives as well. Here are just a few questions we asked.
- Why do you shave heads?
Prevention of vanity. So we are all looked at as equals. Both men and women can become monks and they all need to shave their heads and women must shave their eyebrows.
- What are alms? And what is almsgiving?
Alms are food, money, toiletries or gifts provided those in need. The community provides for the monks and merits are earned. Think of it as good Karma, you do a good deed and it will come back to you.
- What are different color robes mean?
There are about six different colors for robes and they can wear their preference.
- The “triple robe” (tricivara) comprises an inner garment or waistcloth (antaravasaka), an upper robe (uttarsanga) and outer robe (sanghati). According to the Pali tradition, six kinds of cloth are allowed for making the upper and outer robes: plant fibres, cotton, silk, animal hair (e.g. wool, but not human), hemp, and a mixture of some or all of them. The Buddha recommended that the robe design should be cut in the pattern of the Magadha padi-fields.
- The color of the robes depends on the dye used. Until very recently, this would have been natural vegetable dye found in the jungle from roots or trees. The robe dye is allowed to be obtained from six kinds of substances: roots and tubers, plants, bark, leaves, flowers and fruits. They should be boiled in water for a long time. Today, chemical dyes are more used more often and give that more vivid mustard/orange color.
- What age do you become a monk?
You can become a monk at any age. One of the monks we were chatting with decided he would become a monk at age 10. To become ordained, you need to be at least 21. This is an honor to have a monk in the family, even if it is for a short period. It is rumored that men make better husbands, if they were first a monk.
- How long are you a monk?
You can be a monk for as long or short a period as you like. It can be months, years or a lifetime.
- What do you do all day?
They are up early before dawn and shared a bit of how their day goes. Mediation, Almsgiving, breakfast, university, mediation, lunch, university, mediation, and then bed by 9 or 10 pm.
- What do you eat?
They eat twice a day, breakfast and lunch. Usually simple foods, such as rice, vegetable dishes, and soups.
- When can you speak and when do you need to be silent?
It is best to be silent at meals and during meditation.
- Why do you meditate?
Meditation helps you focus and clear your mind. It is good for your health and well-being.
- When is your bed time?
This group of monks is usually in bed by 10 pm
- Do you go to school?
Yes, they all attended university to learn English and have a choice of Humanities, Buddhist Studies, Education, and others.
- Why do you have so many rules to live by?
There are basic rules to live by, be a good person, don’t lie, don’t steal. It is very similar to any other religion. You just need to be a good person and you need to experience suffering. There are more rules for women than there are for men. This is mainly due to cleanliness and hygiene during their monthly cycle.
- Why are there different poses and hand positions for Buddha?
Each traditional pose has a significance related to an important event in the life of the Buddha.
We found there are different types of Buddhism and it not only varies by country, but also by region. We did get more into Buddhism and the teachings of Buddha, but it was so much information to keep straight. I am sure you can learn all you like on BuddhaNet.
Where to find a Monk Chat in Chiang Mai
The Monk Chat we attended was located at Wat Suan Dok.
When we first arrived, we thought the monk chat was at the temple, but is wasn’t. We did enjoy the walk around the beautiful temple, but then continued down the road a bit. We then found the small room with a big sign that read Monk Chat.
- Wat Suan Dok
- Free – Monday, Wednesday, Friday 5-7pm
- MCU Buddhist University Chiang Mai Campus, Suthep Road (opposite Chiang Mai Neurological Hospital)
- Tel: 053-278-967, ext. 210; 084-609-1357
- Website: http://www.monkchat.net/
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are several other Monk Chats around Chiang Mai and are free.
Coming soon…The Wagoner men attend the 2 day Meditation Retreat with the monks.
Feel free to also check out our Family Friendly Guide to Chiang Mai