Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monk in Mis-Matched Robes

Here is a photograph of a young monk in Quy Nhon. The monk's robe is mismatched. If you know anything about Buddhism in Vietnam, his outfit is a bit of an enigma, and I wrote about him in Destination Saigon:

"At this point a very short young novice shuffled past the Abbott’s office. He was wearing the usual brown pyjamas that represent the everyday uniform of monks everywhere in Vietnam. But across his shoulders he’d thrown a saffron robe of the type and colour usually associated with Theravadin monks. He was wearing it in the manner of a shawl or scarf, and seemed quite confident in this sartorially peculiar combination. Thay Quang, the new arrival, nearly choked on his sweet green tea, and called out for the young monk to come back to the office this second. Thay Chau, the Abbott in charge, merely beamed happily at his young charge.

“What on earth do you have on, monk?” Thay Quang demanded. “You look like a Theravadin! You’re not meant to have that on! Take it off right now.”

The young monk, not at all concerned, tossed one of the ends of the robe across his throat and marched off, completely disregarding his senior. Thay Quang’s eyes bugged out, and he turned to the Abbott. “What in God’s name is he wearing that for?”

Thay Chau chuckled and said, “Oh, he’s back from a holiday in Thailand and it’s just a little thing he’s picked up.”

“But a monk just can’t wear whatever he likes! What will the lay people say?”

“Oh, they like it – they say it looks handsome.”

“Handsome!” snorted Thay Quang. “What a disobedient child he is. You really should try to control these young monks more.”

“Oh, no harm done. He’s quite charming, really. It doesn’t matter if he wants to dress his habit up a little.”"

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