An Interview with a Thai Monk

by T Newfields

Ahn Bat Sarang has been a Buddhist monk for about thirty years and is currently serving at the Tar Brulan Temple in Rayong province in Thailand. This interview was conducted in August 2004 at that temple.  

Q:   How does Thai Buddhism differ from Buddhism in other countries?
A:   Basically there is no difference since Buddhism is not concerned with issues such as nationality, race, or caste. It is only concerned with the noble truths taught by Lord Gautama. Surface differences may appear from place to place, but fundamental truths do not change.
Q:   In Japan, mostly just old people seem interested in Buddhism. How about in Thailand?
A:   Most temples are living parts of the community and people of all ages come here regularly for spiritual guidance, solace, and prayer.
Q:   What prompted you to become a monk?
A:   My mother encouraged me and I am thankful for her guidance.
Q:   What do you like most about this profession?
A:   Being a monk makes it easier to be one-pointed. All actions are part of an ongoing meditation and there is a clear focus on spiritual growth.
Q:   What's the hardest thing about being a monk?
A:   There are 224 different rules to follow. Young monks in particular find it difficult to uphold every one. And even experienced monks generally find it hard to completely overcome all traces of attachment and greed. It requires constant vigilance.
Q:   Why do some priests have tattoos?
A:   The tatoos you see came before entering the priesthood. Many young Thais think tattoos are signs of bravery. However, now I understand real bravery has nothing to do with the flesh. Young people are often more concerned with outward appearance than inner awareness. Over time, however, all people progress and learn.