It was also the first time I saw a monk which, I quickly realized, is a very common sight in this part of the world. During the time I spent in Southeast Asia (particularly in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar) I met and befriended many monks who, in addition to being some of the kindest and most genuine people I've ever come across, were absolutely fascinating to talk to. I often asked them questions and ended up learning quite a bit about how they live.
|Making my offering of Goldfish crackers to a monk in Siem Reap, Cambodia|
Here are a few of the things I learned during my various meetings with monks:*
• They live very simply and do not receive any kind of income; they survive solely off donations and offerings from people who use their 'services', which can include performing blessings, teaching and spiritual counselling
• They take vows of celibacy, and females should never touch male monks (though I'm not sure the same applies to males touching female monks)
• They live communally in temples or pagodas
• They are required to shave their heads and wear robes, usually in orange or red for males and pink for females
• If there is ever a situation where non-monks are eating with monks, the latter eats first
• It's not only for adults, children can also be 'monks in training'
• They are not allowed to drive vehicles, however they can use mobile phones and computers
Learning about and befriending monks was without a doubt one of my favourite parts of traveling in Southeast Asia, and is one of the things that I miss most.
* Just as there are different types of Buddhism, there are different types of monks, so the rules I mentioned may not apply to every single monk. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, this is just some of what I learned while speaking with monks during my travels!