26 July 2008

Fine Dining for Monks

I had dinner at Li Bai earlier this evening. At the next table, my sister observed two monks, one in saffron and one in grey eating with some people. We observed that the one of the monks was wearing rimless glasses while another had a stylish frame. The monk in saffron also had a sliding mobile phone with a metallic casing and he was flipping through a mooncake brochure. The Li Bai chocolate truffle mooncakes! The monk in grey was also wearing a large watch with leather straps and after his dinner, he swaggered out. I had thought that these people had sworn off lives of earthly pleasures and when I saw them at the 2007 Restaurant of the Year, I was somewhat astounded. Yes, they could claim that this dinner was a treat given by their devotees and friends but had they not vowed to live a life which foresworn luxuries? And they had all the trappings of modern life, late model mobile phone, stylish glasses and what else? I really don't know, perhaps someone can enlighten me. Is this right for monks?


Tim said...

Thus is the way it has always been...

Any religion has it's privliged hierachy, look at the "Whore of Babylon" the Catholic Church.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

But these are monks and they are sworn to a life without earthly pleasures, somewhat different from the common clergy.

Tim said...

Maybe so. There are some Monks up in the northern part of Michigan that live a cloistered life and do nothing but play classical music and produce jams, jellies, and baked goods to support their monastary. They are very gentle people and totally unlike the man you describe. I am unfarmiliar with eastern religion, I must confess that my knowledge of it is very superficial.

Ole' Wolvie said...

Depends on their denominations I guess.

But, I would not classify those 2 that you see as monks. Monks don't swagger. Not even shaolin monks :D

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Well ole' wolvie, the one in grey was walking bow-legged and staggering. Heheheh.

You mean some Buddhist monks are not sworn to a life that is opposed to materialism? Like monks from the Order of Mercedes Benz or the Order of Rolex Watches? Some people told me that they spotted monks of that order. Heh.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

I don't know either, Tim, people have spotted a number of the monks here who drive Mercedes Benzes, wear Rolex watches and dine in expensive restaurants. I guess they are of an unknown sect that I have not heard of with principles opposed to a life of anti-materialism. Maybe, it's the Sect of the Mercedes Benz...

Anonymous said...

Monks that follow the Mahayana Buddhist tradition conduct themselves differently, i.e. Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, from that of the Theravada Buddhism from Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Mahayana monks can eat at anytime they like and anyway they like I guess. They tend to be vegetarian or even vegan too.

All Theravada monks only eat one meal per day and are not permitted to eat from 12 noon to the next day probably around 6pm (I think it is 6pm). Theravada monks are allowed to eat meat but not animal/meat that is specifically slaughtered for them or prepare for them to eat. e.g. you can buy meat from the supermarket or the market that is already dead or being sold for general public consumption, but not when the a household slaughters the chicken,lamb, cow etc waiting for the arrival of the monks to consume.

This is the general meal time for Theravada monks.

"One or more meals from dawn to noon on the day and then nothing until the following dawn is the traditional observance. After noon it is permissible to take fruit juice, honey, or sugar to maintain one's blood sugar levels." (Bhikkhu Pesala)

So for those who claim to be Theravada monks and eat after noon are actually breaking the strict monastic codes. They are NOT proper monks.

Therefore, the monks you saw might be of different tradition (Mahayana) and NOT Theravada (the oldest tradition)

Also Theravada Buddhism monastic codes are very strict and anyone straying from the strict codes can be disrobed.


P/s: watch out for the con artists by the way as many may have disguised themselves as monks or claiming to be one.