I just got back from the monastery. It was definitely an experience I wont forget any time soon. I was supposed to train this afternoon when I got back but being at a monastery in the Thai jungle when you are not used to the monastic schedule is actually pretty taxing on your body. Anyone staying at the monastery has to live by the monks schedule and that means eating once a day (no seconds) waking up at 3 am and sitting for long periods of time. So I am back at my friend’s house in Ubon Ratchathani and pretty worn out. Legacy gym will have to wait for tomorrow.
The temple I was staying at is called Wat Pah Nanachat. They have a website (watpahnanachat.org) the link doesn’t seem to be working but you can read an article about the place on wikipedia.
Although I want to keep the focus of the blog on MMA Pakistan and my training, I will tell you a little more about the place because it is definitely a very unique experience.
The monastery is a forest monastery so unlike most temples in Thailand which are in the heart of the village these monk live in the forest in secluded huts so they can concentrate on their practice and meditate in peaceful surroundings. The temple grounds are beautiful and it is filled with very old trees. There are a large number of walking paths throughout the grounds which is about a mile on each side. Walking meditation is a big part of the forest tradition. They have two “sala’s” which are where people come to hear the monks speak or to gather and chant. It’s basically the community center. At the second “sala” deeper in the forest the monks also gather to have tea every afternoon at 4:30. There is also a “bot” which is a marble structure smaller then the “sala” which seemed a lot more formal and wasn’t a place for lots of guests to come and gather like the “sala’s” were.
Because I was there mainly to visit my friend Niran whom I had known in high school when I lived in Malaysia (he’s originally Thai but is really an international guy, went to international schools like where we met in Malaysia). A lot of my time was spent sitting outside his hut talking and laughing about what jack asses we were when we were young. I think all that laughing also has played a part in how beat I am today. I must have spent a solid 5 hours in absolute hysterics.
I however did take part in the daily monastic activity. I wore the white pajamas that laypeople (people who are not in the process of being monks but at the same time are not guests) who are staying at the monastery overnight wear. I was awake by 3 am (actually for some reason I woke up even earlier, 1 am and 2 am for some reason). I would lay in my bed and listen to the chanting that started at a little past three which was quite something listening to young monks chant in ancient Pali in the middle of a dark forest. After washing up I would begin sweeping leaves along with the other laypeople until it was time at around 6 am for the monks to go asking people for alms.
Monks (in the forest tradition at least) are not allowed to touch money or buy anything and so rely on the public to be fed. They cannot store food and so every morning they go out, begging bowl in hand to collect alms. They never ask but walk along the road where the faithful wait for them to place food (ranging from sticky rice and bananas (if they are poor) to Oreo’s and other packaged food (if they are more well off). I went along with my friend Niran on both mornings, along with some very adorable novice monks of elementary school age to collect alms. He would be barefoot with begging bowl and I would be in my sandals with an extra bag if the bowl got too small. This was probably the most interesting part of the experience. I had seen monks go on their alms run many times, most often when I am up doing my morning run for training but to be on the walk with them was quite something else.
We would get back at 7 whereupon all the food would be collected together and at 8 was the only meal of the day. I would line up with a big metal bowl at the end of the line (monks go first with their more proper eating bowls) dump what I wanted in the bowl and go sit down with other lay people to eat in silence. Once that was done, it was mostly cleaning up and doing chores and then doing your own thing, be it meditate, read etc. At 4:30 there was tea and then at 7 pm chanting and group meditation before bed. I don’t know when most of the other people went to sleep but i would read until about 10-11. I didn’t get too much sleep at night although I did doze off during the hottest part of the day.
That’s my trip in a nutshell. I will probably visit again a couple times (although for shorter periods, maybe ONE night or just for the day or an afternoon) before leaving Ubon. Tomorrow will be back into training at Legacy Gym. Some of their guys fought at Art of War an MMA promotion in China. Check it out at MMACHINA.COM.
Also, on the Pakistan front I am having an official Mixed Martial Arts Pakistan web page made. I will still have this blog here but in the future I may move it to the website. I will let you all know when that is completed. Now off to eat and sleep and wake up bright and early for training :).