The Countryside of Chithurst

Reflections of Buddhist monastic life in England

Temple Fair

Posted by phrajew บน มิถุนายน 18, 2006

Today I went to Wat Buddhaprateep, a Thai temple, in London. There were celebrations to commemorate our beloved king’s 60th anniversary to the throne. I went there with another two senior monks to participate and have a look at this event.

Being a western Buddhist community which was originated by Loung Por Cha, the sangha at Chithurst have to find balance in many respects. There are various kinds of people around with different backgrounds and expectations. The community cannot totally focus on Dhamma practicing, which is its main interest, and neglect the good relationship with Thai sangha. So it is proper that we spend some time dealing with these connections in a cooperative way.

As we all know, Thai temple abroad usually has one of its functions as a cultural center and a Thai gathering. This means one can expect many kinds of ‘Thainess’ in this event. To be frank, the merit making ceremony seemed to be only one small part when we compare it with a royal visit of princess Somsawali, a concert and a market fair. There were so many activities around, shopping booths, exhibitions, performances (Thai dancing and may be Thai boxing!), and, certainly, crowded people.

It was quite an interesting experience for me. Believe it or not, this has been my first time of going to a temple fair since I became a monk. While I was in Thailand, it is unlikely that the forest monk will accept an invitation to such fairs, let alone allowing it to happen in the monastic area. So it was like going back to visit my old house that I have left for more than 10 years.

When I was a student, there was an annually fair on Loy Krathong festival in my university. It usually took place on the full moon night in the middle of November. In our faculty, we tended to make it very close to temple fair in which people enjoyed strolling around to see performances, do shopping, eat and drink. It was a big event on that day and everybody seemed to have fun with it. We were eager to prepare things in advance for such event (and it definitely took a lot of our time for studying!).

So when I was at Wat Buddhaprateep, I could not help comparing it with my past experiences. Reflecting on these, I realized that I have changed a lot since then. I do not have fun with this kind of things anymore. If all of them were like arts, they were seemingly in very bright colors that somehow cause irritations to your eyes. It might be fun for having a glance at but not for long.

According to the forest sangha tradition, things should be done with bearing the goal of practice in mind. The environment is, thus, a very important factor to bring our mind clear and calm. When one finds that the forest monastery and its members look very ‘nice and neat’ (rieb-roi), it does not means that those practices were just for someone to appreciate its beauty. In the profound sense, setting a good environment, in which we can live in harmony with, aim to support us in cultivating the fruit of peacefulness and mindfulness.

When I was back to the monastery, one of my friends asked if the fair make me feel like homesick. It was certainly not. I would never long for the feeling of being in the crowd with loud noises at all.

For me, coming back to a quiet life at any forest monastery seems like coming back home. I even feel it that way with Chithurst now.

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