Clarity & Disillusionment with Monk Chats & Meditation in Chiang Mai, Thailand
One of the “things to do” in Chiang Mai is to engage in monk chats or go on meditation retreats.
Having had enough difficulty with 1-hour of sitting meditation (actually, no, 10 minutes alone is hard enough), I thought it would be better for me to look for one-hour meditation sessions around the city instead of doing on 2-, 3- or even 10-day meditation retreats, and engage in 1 to 2-hour monk chats.
Fortunately, after my mishap morning on July 23rd, it was uphill from there. I was able to find a nice guesthouse for the duration of my stay in Chiang Mai, be on time for something that day, be in a calmer state of mind, and be clearer on some things in my life, thanks to my first meditation with a monk, which I write a bit about here.
At Wat Sri Gerd [Mondays at 3pm]
So as not to be redundant with my post that glosses over my first encounter with Tiko, the monk who leads meditation at Wat Sri Gerd along Rachadamnoen Rd. every Monday at 3pm, read this post first.
I think Tiko is the first monk I have ever really spoken to. When I see monks, I always feel like I shouldn’t talk to them (whether I am female or not, but more so because I am female), but we do have a lot of unfounded assumptions about these things, so it seems.
Tiko can seem a lot like how one might expect a monk to be, calm, gentle, at peace. I feel he guided the group through meditation because he is a calming presence himself. At the same time, he broke down a lot of other preconceptions I had of monks. When telling stories or sharing scenarios, he would use the expression “what the hell” or “shut up”, but never in an offensive way, just in a “hahaha I can’t believe a monk said that” way. Prior to being a monk, he was also into advertising and traveled around the world, yet somehow, he finally found his place as a monk back in his country Thailand.
[With Tiko, who oddly brings to mind a less kinesthetic version of Jackie Chan]
At Wat Suan Dok [M-W-F, 5-7pm]
A couple of days after meeting Tiko, I decided to check out another monk chat at Wat Suan Dok along Suthep Rd. Having experienced the meditation and chat with Tiko, I thought that this chat would somehow be conducted in a similar manner.
When I got there, I was surprised to find three tables with several monks (or novices) each. The monks outnumbered the visitors there, and I found myself in a table with 3-6 monks (some came later, some got up and left) and only 1 other visitor.
I was a bit flustered and pressured to come up with my questions because I initially planned to come and listen to the monks (or novices) and hear whatever questions the other visitors had, and well, my fellow visitor didn’t ask them very much, and instead, he asked ME more questions (where I was from, how long I’ve been in Thailand, and other regular fare of questions people ask fellow tourists/travelers).
So anyway, I go and ask my questions, and I find an ego battle going on between 2 of the monks in my table, am horrified by the experience and can’t wait ‘til it’s over. Luckily, one of the supervising monks brings another monk to the table for me to talk more sensibly with, and he keeps the peace.
While it had a relatively pleasant ending, I was still disturbed by the whole ordeal and sought to visit Tiko for some elucidation at Wat Sri Gerd the next day. At least I got some photos of Wat Suan Dok (which is prettier than Wat Sri Gerd).
Getting rid of junk mail
Being the modern-day monk that he is, Tiko has a calling card with his mobile number and email address, where he makes himself available for questions regarding meditation. I sent him an email and a text message about meeting him the following day. I opted not to call for fear of disturbing him while meditating or whatnot.
I get no reply.
So I just decide to go to Wat Sri Gerd and see if he’s around.
He’s nowhere to be found.
I decide to stay there and meditate for 10-20 minutes, in hopes of understanding why some monks were the way they were, and if they couldn’t find peace, what hope did normal people have?
I don’t meditate very well at all, but I tried. And when I gave up on encountering Tiko in the wat, I defeatedly decided to go home to Mint House.
When I get out, I find Tiko. Maybe meditation helps after all, not in the way I had intended, but still.
He humored me for some Q&A, but when I started talking about these other monks (or novices), he reminded me about his spiel about junk mail, how there’s too much of it in our lives and how we still choose to ingest all this garbage anyway.
It doesn’t matter that that monk (or novice) had a disturbing approach to buddhism, or that two monks (or novices) were dissing each other, all that matters is that I weed out what helps me in my life, cultivate a personal practice for myself, or even better, that my life itself be an entire exercise in meditation, and that I be in the here and now without having to close my eyes or be in a quiet place.