The rain is heading my way.
Mae Hong Son, 7am. A cold start to the day.
Its looking very Autumn.
Just waiting for grandma to climb aboard. A normal truck on the road.
A Monk wanders through the countryside. There are many forest Monks in Thailand and many lead a life of solitude.
The forest monk was to use discarded cloth to make his robes, only secondarily accepting cloth deposited at his dwelling or along his daily path. Overall, the monk was to make and maintain three robes.
The monk does not store or cook food but daily enters the nearby village (which could be several miles distant) and begs. This entails visiting each house in succession; he is not to go to the wealthiest house or the most generous household first but to each in order. The monk presents his bowl in silence; Sri Lankan monks held a fan to their faces, like Japanese Zen monks whose large headgear effectively covered their faces. The food was to be from householders' excess, not specially prepared for the monk's coming or prepared for them upon being sighted. These latter precriptions correspond to the practice of Hindu and Jain sadhus.
The monks' routine was to set off for alms at midmorning, giving them time to return to their dwelling places by about midday. If they formed an organized hermitage, the forest monks would assemble in a separate edifice or dining hall (sala), redistribute the food as need, and eat from their bowl in silence, without utensils and without taking a second helping. If they food was in excess it was to be given away. The typical Thai fare was rice, often with a sauce of chilies, and some vegetable, and occasionally fruit -- whatever a typical household happened to have, which was often only rice. The monks normally had a well or stream as a source of water. The midday meal was the only meal, but an afternoon tea from gathered herbs was acceptable.
Fear accompanied many wilderness newcomers, due in part to the insecurity of daily life and survival but especially fear of wild animals, sickness and injury, and -- given the accretions of cultural lore -- ghosts.
Many forest monks record their encounters with wild animals, namely tigers, elephants, and snakes. Tigers often lurked around hermits in their open air klots at night, and the monks learned to face fear directly. While with a master, the monk learned to listen and observe not only rituals and discipline but what to do and not do around tigers, thereby conquering fear. Some masters deliberately traveled at dusk or slept on trails in order to train their mind against the fear of animals, especially since they wanted their disciples to experience eremitism, to wander alone, and to live in mountains, caves and under trees.
Where tigers and elephants were typical of Thailand forests, snakes were common in Sri Lanka as well. In one anecdote, a preaching monk sat speaking for half an hour while a poisonous snake came up and lay unmoving at his side. The snake left only teaching was finished, convincing listeners of the powerful truth of the dhamma.
In such settings the training of the mind was invaluable. As one master, Ajan Man, put it:
From such a mind an attacker will draw back, be it a tiger, a snake, or an elephant. The aspirant may even be able to walk right up to it. His attitude towards animals is based on metta [loving-kindness], which has a mysterious but real and profound influence ...
A second fear that masters bade their disciples overcome was fear of corpses and spirits. The Visuddhimagga teaches the corpse meditation as a way of inculcating a spirit of impermanence but also as a practical way of conquering sexual temptation, and fear of illness and disease. But spending the night in a cemetery, whether in the open air or in a klot, could be the source of great fear.
The cemeteries of southeast Asia were not the tombstones and spacious lawns of the Western world. Corpses were brought and deposited in shrouds on the ground, make-shift cremations incomplete or left unfinished with nightfall. One monk records being in a cemetery at dusk when villagers brought a shrouded body and left the smoldering corpse on the ground where the monk could see it from his klot. As in any such case, the odor was overwhelming and the monk's imagination stirred. The monk was taught to recognize and observe fear, to control it with mindfulness, and ultimately to transcend it. But that seldom happened without considerable experience.
The third fear was fear of bodily suffering. The widespread contraction of malaria by forest-dwellers called for perseverance, especially when palliative drugs were unavalable in isolated locales. Despite suffering malarial fever, some monks did not deviate from their discipline, walking in pain or sitting stolidly in the open air during rain storms. The conviction that pain is rooted in the mind was a strong motivation to discipline.
An older lady walks back to her village.
The sun tries to rise through the smoke haze from the farmers slash & burn.
Wat Mani Phrai Son in Mae Sot. This delicate Buddhist temple reflects the general designs of the Burmese pagodas. There are 233 smaller pagodas around the central chedhi with Buddha images. The art here is very beautiful with the path of the Buddha painted high on the walls. One pagoda protects a large reclining Buddha with the Burmese influence. A very peaceful place to visit.
Wat Mani Phrai Son.
Young girls selling flowers on the road.
More flowers sellers, the girls were funny and were happy to pose for a photo. And I did buy some flowers from both groups, which I gave back to them to sell again.
What the young girls are selling.
Two ladies on the road, when you travel in the remote areas people are friendly and like to stop and see the "farang".
Early morning collection. This Monk has two young helpers.
Hill Tribe ladies, they don't want to smile & show their teeth.
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