Chanting Monks in Bangkok

Bangkok Monks Wat

I took this photo on one of the best days of my life.

I had dreamed of visiting Thailand for years. At university, for one of my degrees, I specialized in Buddhism. I wrote paper after paper on Southeast Asian Buddhism (Theravadan) and spent countless hours at the library, peering through books and searching online. One of my biggest research papers was about rainy season ordination of monks as a ritual in Thai culture.

Yet, until the day of this photo, I had really seen Thai Buddhism.

My papers were based on research.

And my dreams were based on photos and imagination.

Until I went to the wats to see the Buddhist monks in Bangkok.

One of my best friends took me to this temple, with his girlfriend. They instructed me on the important principles of temple visiting – covered shoulders, covered knees, no flipflops, no cleavage. Take your shoes off before entering. Don’t step on the door frame.

The experience of Buddhism in person taught me the limitations of research.

Nothing prepared me for the deep emotions and the beauty. Watching real people practicing, learning the intricacies of tradition and culture, cannot be taught in a book. Some things need to be experienced, and felt, and can’t be replicated.

The last temple I went to on that life changing day, the monks came in to chant. It was breathtaking.

And again, I’m sorry, but my words on a web page, the same as those in a book, can’t begin to encompass all of the sounds, smells, sights, feelings. The energy of the people in the room, the devotion, the reverence, as people of different cultures and ages and earnings tuck their feet behind them, press their palms in a “prayer” and touch their foreheads to the ground. As thousands of people have done before them and thousands will after.

I loved it.

And a few short days later, I canceled my ticket back to the US and started the journey that would become my life.

(For more info on Bangkok, check out the Nomadic Notes guide here)

4 Comments

  1. Moshe Weintraub MDPhD
    February 10, 2017 / 7:24 pm

    good. find home anywhere, where people have respect. Have you been to India ?
    greetings, Namaste!
    Moshe Weintraub MDPhD, cardiologist ret.

    • February 14, 2017 / 11:07 am

      I have not been to India… unfortunately I didn’t make it there while living in Bangkok, and now I’m concentrating on Latin America since I’m living in Mexico. I hope to move back to Asia one day though, and then India will definitely be on the top of my list 🙂

  2. February 20, 2017 / 11:59 am

    Very cool. I’m looking for some temples in Bangkok, I would really like to experience hanging with monks for a month or so, do you know any temples?

    • February 21, 2017 / 10:08 am

      I haven’t lived in Bangkok for a few years (just a visit back in January), so I don’t know of any temples that would work for this, but if you’re a practicing Buddhist you can usually enter as a monk for a time-limited period (not sure if a month is long enough for a foreigner? In Thailand every Buddhist man enters the monastery for at least the rainy season once in his life), or offer volunteer English teaching (but again this might require longer than a month dedication, not sure).

      Maybe a place to get started: http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/play/7-best-bangkok-temples-697446/

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