At the Kalau monastery, 2

Four monks lived in the hilltop monastery. It was too remote to do a morning alms round, so the villagers brought dry goods up weekly and the monks kept chickens and grew vegetables. Early in the morning they cooked vegetable soup and rice for the day (monks don’t eat after midday). Then they swept, tended the chickens, and carried out various other chores.

The sweet-faced abbot complained that one of the monks, an elderly man, shirked his duties. I wondered if he found them a distraction from sitting meditation or studying Pali scriptures. The abbot snorted. He didn’t meditate either. He was just an old man looking for a more comfortable retirement than his children could provide. All he did was eat and sleep.

This played nicely into Daniel’s low opinion of the Burmese sangha. He was Catholic, and resented the subtle discrimination against non-Buddhist faiths imposed by the regime. He taught me how to pay respect to Buddha figures and monks when we entered a monastery; a complete prostration, three times.
   ’Do you bow like this to every monk?’
   ’No,’ he sniffed ‘Only to good monks who do not drink and smoke and keep women.’

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