Tuesday, August 30, 2011

life in a Buddhist monastery - part 3

Coming back to the forest monastery felt good. Despite the constant rain and the lack of sunshine I was happy to be back. From the smiles in their faces, I could tell that the monks were happy to see me too. 

the waterfall view from the guesthouse veranda
Life in the monastery starts with a 4am gong. Around 4:30, while it's still completely dark we gather in the main hall for 45 minutes of chanting followed by another 45 minutes of meditation. Around 6, some monks walk into the village barefoot to collect the almsfood. While the monks are in the village, the residents of the monastery are in the kitchen cooking. That part of Thailand is mostly populated by Burmese refugees and it's very poor. The villagers do not have enough food to regularly share with the monks so the monastery has a kitchen to prepare a wider variety of food.  Around 7:30, the monks come back with a lot of rice (and occasionally with some other food). Then gong rings once again and  everyone gathers in the kitchen. The residents of the monastery take a bowl of rice and offer a spoon to each monk first. It's a small offering ceremony that takes place every morning. Then the monks take their food get back to the main hall first to pray for the food and then eat. Whatever is left is shared by the residents. The food was always very delicious and had a lot of variety.

8:30 onwards, monks do whatever they need to do. Some work in building houses for each other, some go out to the forest to pick up fruits, some study Buddhist scripts. Some mornings, I would give CranioSacral sessions, other days I would take forest hikes or read. Around 11, another bell is rung. This is the time for the monks to take some snacks – nothing that requires preparation or cooking but some fruits, milk, crackers etc. This is their final meal until the next morning, as Buddhist monks do not consume food after mid-day. I am amazed how fit, strong and healthy the monks are on just a single meal.

Until the 5pm gong, the monks again do whatever they need to do. At 5:30, we gather in the main hall once more for for 45 minutes of chanting followed by 45 minutes of meditation. Afterwards, some monks stay in the main hall to talk, to study with more senior monks or occasionally to play games on the computer.

There are no strict rules or musts in a monastery. Nobody has to wake up at 4 or join group chantings. Everything is completely up to your free will and this works well. Within this freedom, everybody seems to take full responsibility, offer their best, therefore everything runs very smoothly. I was especially told that I do not need to wake up at 4am and join, yet I wanted to. Except for 2 very cold and rainy mornings, I was always there.

Within this emptiness, I felt quite satisfied. Very little is set and the rest is fully up to you to fill it or not. I thought my life in Bali was slow, however it took me a few days to get used to this new level of slowness. And once I started flowing with that pace, it felt good. Once in a while, it is good to surrender  the content and the pace of the day to a few gongs.


  1. Dear Esin, thank you so much for sharing your trip to Buddhist monastery in Thailand! I am always happy to read your blog; your thoughts and experiencies - so wonderful that you are writing again!
    Kindest regards,

  2. Kiitos Mia!
    So great to hear from you. Lots of love!