On the plane home I sat across from a Theravadan Buddhist Monk in full monk regalia. For ages I was trying to think of how to spark up a conversation. Eventually I just asked him what his outfit meant (he was wearing a yellow robe and had a shaved head) and we had a chat. I did an A-level in Buddhism so I was pretty interested. Although this other old man sat near us monopolised most of the conversation so I didn’t get to ask much!
He was British and had been a monk for 12 years. He told me he had become a monk because god told him too. He saw my puzzled expression, god doesnt exist (in the traditional sense) in Buddhism. Then he explained, he didn’t mean god in the limited way we think of god as something that lives above the sky and is human like. He just meant he felt he was being called by some sort of universal pull. He also said he’d come from a Jewish family, and that he ran retreats for Jewish Buddhists (who he affectionately called Jew-Bews whilst laughing!)
He was very interesting and told me that life is about training the mind and chanelling mental energy into more positive forms. For example I told him I was impatient. He said “If you have the energy to be impatient, you have the energy to be patient, it’s all about training the mind to channel energy differently”. Inspiring stuff.
He was very friendly, chatty and patient. He was also really normal and down to earth despite looking really different from anyone else on the plane. He told me a meditiation course to take in Vietnam which I am definitely going to do!
This is what Theravada Buddhists wear. As opposed to Mahayana Buddhists who wear the red robes
Then, strangely, on the train home that evening, I sat opposite a catholic priest in full priesty gear, big black robes, dog collar, the works! I didn’t like his outfit as much and he didn’t talk to me. Also, he was playing on an iphone which didn’t seem very modest or priest like!