I never thought I would get to participate in a discussion about life with Buddhist monks. But hey, Thailand’s bringing a boatload of surprises with it every single day. And I’m digging it.
The “monk chat” I attended was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on the campus of Chiang Mai University. The monks who participated in the forum are a group who live on the grounds of Wat Suan Dok, a beautiful temple right next to the campus.
Outside & inside of Wat Suan Dok
The monk chats are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5-7pm. They’re an opportunity for students and tourists to gather and ask the monks anything they want, about their practice, Buddhism, life advice, you name it. It’s also an excellent chance for the monks to practice their English.
I wrote about my experience for my latest article on Montco Happening, the online Pennsylvania magazine I freelance for. But I forgot to include a crucial lesson in there that I learned from the monks.
At one point during the session, the monk leading the forum put his hand up, pointing at us. His pointer finger was aimed at us, like this:
“One finger points at you,” the monk said to all of us. “But the other three, point right back at me.”
I loved this teaching. When we judge people harshly, it reflects on who we are rather than the other person. We must check ourselves and our reasonings when we judge someone, because judging points back at us much, much more than who we are criticizing.
I want to make it a goal to always remember that gesture whenever I jump to conclusions about someone. Because I have, as we all have, and I’m sure I will again. We’ve all judged, and been judged. We’ve held grudges and harbored resentment. Because we’re human. But it helps, I think, to stay aware of it. To try really hard to stay open and not be critical. To just listen to others when they vent, rather than critique or immediately start giving advice (this is something I definitely could improve on). To include and accept.
Thank you to Chiang Mai University and the inspiring monks at Wat Suan Dok for teaching me this lesson, among so many other important things. I’ll always remember this night.