As probably many other tourists, I was always charmed by Buddhism in philosophical-religious elements than the more folkloric ones related to the bright colors of robes, the ceremonial, and temples.
During my first trip to Asia, I took part in a brief seminar on Buddhist meditation at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok, and I was conquered. I continued with some classes in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and then again once back in Italy.
During the second trip, with destination Cambodia, I had a stopover in Bangkok. I took the opportunity to buy some books that I struggled to find back home, and while browsing the shelves, I noticed “Phra Farang.” The point of view of a western monk was an essential piece of the puzzle that my agnostic but fascinated mind was rebuilding. Before boarding, I was already “sunk” in reading 🙂
It is an autobiographical book and not a text on Buddhism. The story of Peter Robinson, a London-based businessman who at 45 years old visited for the first time a Buddhist temple in Wimbledon, began to attend it regularly till he decided to turn the page and leave for Thailand to start the process be ordered monk, Phra Peter Pannapadipo.
I loved the simple language and the naturalness of the story, passing from clarifying the spontaneity of his step, the rituals and protocols to be followed to be ordained, the many gaffes he made, and the stories of monastic life.
Reading this book, I found out that not all monks in Thailand are alike: some take orders only for the duration of the rainy season, the Pansa, and some only for a few months. Many of them do not know the basics of Buddhism and are therefore mistaken in its interpretation. Others simply follow the popular belief that – especially in rural areas – often intersect and absorb the philosophical and religious ones. A little disappointing in some ways …
A book I recommend to anyone deciding to visit Thailand, to understand an essential element of this country and its culture.
About Phra Peter Pannapadipo, the author
In 1994 Phra Peter Pannapadipo gave birth to the Students’ Education Trust. In 2003, after ten years of monastic life, Phra Farang left the Thai Sangha to devote himself to his charity foundation, known as SET.
* Sorry the pictures with ©, but the original has been lost because of a computer crash, and I have only these marked by a watermark …