Sep 24, 2012

The Blue Look and Buddha's Lost Children

Since the weather has changed dramatically here in Prague - to levels of 1 degree Celsius - and even less at night, it seemed a fitting time to change the look of this blog. The photo is very similar to the view from my beach house in Phuket, Thailand - including the rocky pebbles on the beach. 

I lived in Thailand for thirty years and found the experience spiritually and aesthetically uplifting and inspiring. It was a blessing for me on many levels to live in such a deeply devout Buddhist country, because it not only gave me insight and respect into another religion, it also helped to purify my own attachment to a narrow, sectarian Christian/Catholic point of view. The view from a completely different culture relativizes one's own perspective of country and religion. Things look much 'smaller" from the other shore. 

Just to give one example, Thai Buddhism's Bangkok based Sangha is just as conservative and rigid as the RCC Vatican and just as suspicious of charismatic monks living in the countryside who are too close to the poor. They are equally suspicious of holy Buddhist monks who practice and teach the methods of Buddhist meditation and who give evidence of having ascended the many ladders of Buddhist enlightenment. Thai Buddhism is also replete with stories of sexual abuse of boy monks in it's temples, both city and country. So the pattern of distorted religion repeats itself. However, the stories of inspiration are manifold and here is one of them.

Winner Best Spiritual Film and Best Spiritual Documentary at the 2009 European Film Festival in Paris

"Living is an art to be learned."  -- Phra Khru Bah, Buddhist monk

This is a breathtaking true story of compassion in action, as an extraordinary Thai monk helps transform neglected village boys into self-confident novices. With its stunning cinematography and powerful story-telling, this film has won many awards at film festivals around the world. Be prepared to have your heart opened.

BUDDHA’S LOST CHILDREN covers a year in the life of a small, roving monastic community, and it captures the struggle of forgotten young souls at the edge of Thai society. In the borderlands of Thailand's Golden Triangle, a rugged region known for its drug smuggling and impoverished hill tribes, one man devotes himself to the welfare of the region's children. 

A former Thai boxer turned Buddhist monk, Phra Khru Bah travels widely on horseback, fearlessly dispensing prayers and tough-love. For many boys, this is the first time that they have been given the freedom to simply be children. Paradoxically, by being allowed to be children, the boys discover the key to maturing as individuals, and they do so in the care of this fierce and compassionate monk who dedicates himself to giving them the basic skills needed for a decent start in life.

Director Mark Verkerk explains: “The film also explores the nature of compassion, and what it means to actually live by it. I wanted to find out how it worked, record the mechanics of it in action. In the West, compassion is often seen as a weakness, as something passive and debilitating. But to Khru Bah — a Rambo in robes who shattered for me the stereotype of the navel-gazing monk — it has become the basis for action.”

This story has the potential to change the way many people think about Buddhism in the West, where it is still often seen as promoting a purely passive, contemplative attitude towards life. This view of Buddhism is sometimes mistakenly thought to lead to detachment, and even indifference, to the problems of the material world.

Yet Khru Bah’s example clearly shows otherwise. He has translated the Buddhist ideals of infinite compassion and unconditional love into action, illustrating the principle of engaged Buddhism -- which is now flowering in the West and around the world.

This is a story of courage, love and sacrifice. It explores a powerful example of the struggle between ancient spiritual wisdom and the materialism of the modern world.

And here's another stunning view of Thailand's scenic beauty:


William D. Lindsey said...

A powerful line, Jayden:

"Things look much 'smaller' from the other shore."

Jayden Cameron said...

Nice to know there are other shores, Bill, similiar to our own, struggling with the same issues - though Thai Buddhism is anything but hostile to gays, quite tolerant actually.