I have a very good friend named Kiwi who is a Thai Buddhist monk. We traveled together in India, Nepal and a little in Thailand. Unlike many Thai monks, who become monks for a short time then go back to their lives, Kiwi has been a monk for over 30 years. He is strictly committed and has traveled extensively for over 14 years learning many forms of Buddhism, several of the healing arts, and a large variety of languages.
He is a joy to travel with. He is always happy and at the same time there are moments when he is human and you forget he is a monk. For instance negotiating a price for purchasing or when he asks questions about women. He is very intuitive and can offer a lot of insight on the matter which dumbfounds me at times. Remember Thai monks aren’t allowed to touch women. Not even hug their mothers. Yet within their wisdom still lies a place for curiosity.
I was in Bodhgaya India for the Dali Lama teachings in 1999. They last 10 days. I was staying in a tent in the Thai monastery. Bodhgaya was full of Buddhist monks from every nationality. Tibetan, Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Bangladesh, Laotian, Cambodian amongst many others. Tibetan deep red robes predominated the teachings. I would have guessed there were around 30 000 monks visiting. Among them there were probably only 500 westerners; I was fortunate to be living and eating amongst monks and spending time with these little smiling happy faced guys from all over the world.
Everyday prior to the teachings there would be chanting by monks of different nations in their own language. Not every nation had a lot of monks who chanted. Kiwi in his travels had learned all the chants. He would be up there, in his gold robes noticeably different than the monks of other nations, helping them out.
For 5 days Kiwi was up chanting with different monks before the Dali Lama would come out. On day 6 the Dali Lama came out with his smiling face, hands together bowing. Thousands in the audience were prostrating and bowing in return. He sat down and got comfortable while the audience followed him. The chanting continued while the Dali Lama looked back and noticed Kiwi; again out of place in his golden robes with monks clad in dark brown. I am told it is unheard of for the Dali Lama to get up at this point but as the chanting ends he stood up and walked over to Kiwi. The crowd wasn’t sure what to do so they all stood up again looking around in a half unsure bowing position, some prostrating once more. Kiwi and the Dali Lama conversed for a moment and then they both smiled and laughed. The Dali Lama returned to his seat with a huge smile on his face and began his lesson for the day with a chuckle in his voice.
Afterwards my curiosity peaked and I asked Kiwi, “What did the Dali Lama say to you?”
Kiwi replied, “He asked me how many languages I spoke and if I knew all the chants in all these languages.”
“What did you say?” I asked.
Kiwis brow lowers and a look of concern crosses his face “I can’t lie to the Dali Lama. I said yes sometimes that happens, His holiness then smiled at me and we both laughed and he sat down very happy I think.”
I laughed hysterically, “Wow Kiwi you got busted by the Dali Lama.”
“Yes I think so” he claimed with a big Thai smile."