Wednesday, December 19, 2012

5 Interesting Books by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most fascinating and compelling people alive - a real living spiritual treasure. I first came upon his work when I was a very young man, and I was delighted by the simplicty, clarity and lack of pretension in his message. I wanted to find out more about Buddhism, and he was the first writer to really bring it alive for me. It is because of Thich Nhat Hanh that I have spent the last 20 years exploring Buddhism and exploring Vietnam. It is no wonder, then, that my book Destination Saigon carries a thank-you note to him in the acknowledgements.
As well as being a meditation master and the second most famous Buddhist monk in the world (the Dalai Lama beats him), he is also a scholar and linguist, with a great love for literature and a real gift for expression. He has been a prolfic writer over the years, so I thought I would humbly present my own list of his books that have helped and inspired me over the years:

Savor - This is his newest book, and is co-authored with Dr. Lilian Cheung. It is a fascinating exercise - a kind combination Buddhist manual and diet book. Thich Nhat Hanh has always talked a lot about food in his writings: the need to eat mindfully, the need to be thankful for our meals, how to eat ethically etc. So I guess devoting a whole book to it is a natural progression. Interestingly, this is also the book that finally got him noticed by Oprah - so he at last carries the imprimatur of the queen of popular culture!

The Energy of Prayer - This little book is probably the one I turn to most. My copy is battered and dog-eared, filled with highlighting and comments. I have used it a lot in my meditation teaching, because I find it uses language that is quite familiar to Western, non-Buddhist minds. Master Nhat Hanh has been interested in the meeting of Eastern and Western spiritualities since he was a young man, and this book is the best melding of those traditions. Its final section is a series of prayers and meditations that would be helpful to anyone's spiritual life.

The Miracle of Mindfulness - Probably his best-known book, The Miracle of Mindfulness was something of a Bible for me in the 90s. I read it over and over as I traveled through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, and my filthy copy was perused at some of the most beautiful and amazing locations! It is a beautifully written and belletristic exploration of meditation and mindfulness, and I promise it will be a constant inspiration.

Master Tang Hoi - One for the history buffs. Master Tang Hoi was the first Zen teacher in Vietnam, and this is the most intriguing book about him and his teachings. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Vietnamese history and culture, and for Zen enthusiasts it represents a meditation teaching that pre-dates Bodhidharma by 300 years!

Joyfully Together - If you are interested in building community and making the world a nicer place to be, this is a really wonderful place to start. It is one of Thich Nhat Hanh's more obscure titles, but I have found it to be tremendously useful and inspiring, and have drawn on its wisdom and advice many times. Master Nhat Hanh has himself established a global community of gigantic proportions, so why not learn from a master?

Top 5 Day-Glo Lotuses in Vietnam

I have a thing for the popular Buddhist art of Vietnam.
I am a fan of the school of maximilism that informs most of the temple decoration that you see in Vietnam. Indeed, the working title for my book Destination Saigon was 'Day-Glo Lotus and Neon Halo', which I thought captured perfectly the kind of Vietnamese groove I wanted to describe. Sadly, my publishers didn't agree.
So I wanted to present you with a less-than-comprehensive overview of some of Vietnam's finest day-glo lotuses.

  1. An Long Temple, near Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh Province: This is the classic in contemporaray day-glo lotus sculpture. Supporting a colourful statue of Di Lac, the fat, laughing Buddha of the future, this lotus is the hottest of pinks, with the acidest of green contrasts. These kinds of statues are still produced by hand at little workshops all over Vietnam. Made of plaster, they are quite fragile but still remarkably heavy. They are also quite cheap.

2. Hien Nam Temple, Quy Nhon City, Binh Dinh Province: Right near Quy Nhon's massive supermarket sits this more subtle example of an outdoor lotus. Rendered in a faded orange, these outdoor lotuses have to be touched up yearly, and so can undergo quite radical changes in colour from one year to the next. This one is supporting Quan The Am, the Bodhisattva of Mercy.

3. Khanh Hoa Temple, Pham Van Hai St., Tan Binh Dist., Ho Chi Minh City: This is vintage lotus, pre-1975. Much more beautifully and carefully rendered, I'd say constructed on the spot from reinforced cement. This is the largest of the lotuses featured. It is an indoor setting, and the colours are slightly more muted.

4. Giac Vien Temple, Dist. 11, Ho Chi Minh City: This temple is filled with antique wooden statues of great beauty, but these are a couple of the newer additions. The statue in green is quite a unique rendering - I've never seen a deity dressed in quite that shade in any other Vietnamese temple. Her position next to Amitabha makes me think it is a statue of Dai The Chi (Mahasthamaprapta) but I can't be sure, because the iconography is stangely noncommittal.

5. Huong Mai Temple, Hoai Nhon village, Binh Dinh: This is a detail from quite an amazing outdoor statue of Quan The Am at a remote fishing village. The red lotus column emerges from the belly of a dragon painted a quite distinct shade of aqua. This colour is new in temple statues, but I noticed it being used a lot in Central Vietnam last time I was there. I love how even these things are influenced by fashion!

Christian-Zen, Zen-Christian

Pic from Randy Dellosa

Just briefly, I wanted to alert you to this fascinating podcast from Unity FM's World Spirituality podcast on Christian-Zen practice.

Zen Buddhism is the form that Vietnamese Master Thich Nhat Hanh has exported to the world in its uniquely Vietnamese guise. And, as you will hear on this podcast, there has been a great deal of merging Zen and Christian practice in the West.
Such interfaith activity is almost unknown in Vietnam, however, where Catholics and Buddhists remain quite separate, and each side views any attempt to incorporate the other with abhorrence. I would actually be really interested in taking these ideas to Vietnam, but I fear that in the present political climate it would be impossible.
Anyway, please listen to this quite moving podcast and let me know what you think. Would particularly like to hear from people who are engaged in both traditions.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Van Mieu - The Temple of Literature - Hanoi

My favourite place in all of Hanoi is Van Mieu, the medieval Confucian University.

Yes, I know it is something of a tourist hell-hole these days (in fact, I write about it in Destination Saigon), but despite the crowds of tourists and the ever more obnoxious guides, I still love just slouching about the grounds of this exquisite building.

The first time I ever went there, back in 1994, Hanoi was still largely unvisited, and the Temple of Literature was absolutely decrepit. Even then, though, it had incredible charm. The morning we first visited there was no-one else at all in the place, apart from a few sad-faced souvenir sales-girls and a man cleaning the toilets. It seems hard to believe now, when hundreds must stream through every day.

Still, I think there's no better place to go on a grey, rainy Hanoi morning. The last time I went the gardens were filled with schoolgirls reading Chicken Soup for the Soul in Vietnamese. Which is exactly what I'd be doing if I was in their shoes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Next Big Thing - Destination Cambodia

My pal P.M. Newton, the acclaimed Australian crime novelist, has tagged me with the Next Big Thing Meme. In the true spirit of procrastination, I have embraced the opportunity. So here goes:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Destination Cambodia 

Washing the Buddha in Battambang, Cambodia

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

It is really the continuation of a lifelong journey that produced my first book, Destination Saigon. I have been visiting Cambodia for sixteen years, and my publisher at the time, Maggie Hamilton, said she wanted to hear about my experiences in that amazing country.

Walter Mason reads his first book, Destination Saigon

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Travel memoir.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Who could play me? As an ex-thespian, I am afraid I would have to cast myself in the role. 

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An affectionate, insightful and intimate glimpse of modern Cambodia.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This is a very American question. I don't have an agent, but am published by Allen & Unwin, one of the oldest and most prestigious publishing houses in the world. 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Oh dear. Not yet finished! To date, ten months.

8)8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmmm...this is a trick question to make me sound like a self-deluded egotist. Bill Bryson, William Dalrymple, Pico Iyer...

Inspiration: Pico Iyer

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have to say that it was Paul Theroux who made me want to be a travel writer. But ultimately Cambodia is inspiration enough - there are a billion stories there.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

There's quite a bit of magic - I mean, real magic, not the literary kind. 

Cambodian magical tattoos

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Minh Dang Quang

One of the most mysterious and fascinating figures in Vietnamese Buddhist history is the Patriarch Minh Dang Quang.

Though he was an enormously influential character whose legacy still thrives today in Vietnam, there is almost nothing about him in English. If there is something substantial I'd be most grateful if anyone could alert me to it. I have discovered an excellent scholarly article by Mark W. Mcleod called 'The Way of the Mendicants' which provides some excellent insights into life at Tinh Xa Trung Tam, the central monastic institution for the sect.

Minh Dang Quang was the founder of the Tang Gia Khat Si (The Mendicant Buddhist Order) - this is one of the largest Buddhist sects in Vietnam, and the Khat Si temples (known as Tinh Xa) are to be found all over Southern Vietnam (including many in Ho Chi Minh City). He was half Viet half Khmer, from Vinh Long province, and his bi-racial upbringing exposed him to both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. At a young age he was driven by the idea of combining the two traditions in Vietnam, the only country that could boast of sizeable numbers in each camp.

So he established the Mendicant Order, and it quickly gained in popularity, particularly in the villages and towns of the Mekong Delta. Minh Dang Quang was impressed by the strictness of the Theravadin monastic orders, and so created similar rules for his own monastics - banning the consumption of food after midday, banning the use of shoes or sandals, not allowing monks to cook or prepare their own food, encouraging them to go on begging rounds in the morning etc. He also added the additional burden of vegetarianism, which is not normally observed by Theravadin monks. He opened up the monastic vocation to women, another tradition also absent in the Theravada.

Adopting the theological structure of Mahayana almost holus bolus, he encouraged both the recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name and the worship of Kwan Yin, both of which are anathema to the Theravadin establishment.

What really popularised his movement however - aside from the great respect the people formed for the monks and nuns willing to observe such hardship - was his translation of the Buddhist sutras from the difficult (and sometimes even nonsensical) sino-vietnamese language into an easily understood and even rhyming form of the common language. The largely uneducated parishioners found it infinitely easier to remember these sutras, and to glean some meaning from them. This, naturally, made him extremely unpopular with the Mahayana Buddhist hierarchy, who accused him of corrupting the Dharma by tampering with the texts they had known since antiquity.

Sometime in the 1950s Minh Dang Quang 'disappeared' and was never seen again. There were rumours that he was assasinated by the anti-Buddhist government forces who saw him as a trouble-maker, or by agents of a rival Buddhist sect who saw his growing movement as a threat to their own power base in the Mekong Delta. His followers, however, refuse to acknowledge his death and still celebrate his 'disappearance' day each year.

An intriguing character with an intriguing story - one day I think I will write a book about him.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tan Dinh Church, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

News about Vietnam rarely includes mention of the numerous sleepy, crumbling French Colonial churches that are to be found in every city and large town. Tourists mostly just drive by them, and to the local Vietnamese (unless they are parishioners) they are exotic remnants of a largely unknown past. I took my friend Kien - a Saigon native -  with me when I visited Tan Dinh church, and it was the first time he'd ever been inside a Catholic church.

In Ho Chi Minh City there are only a couple of these French Colonial beauties left - most of the really big Catholic churches were built in the 60s and 70s, and have a distinctive and quite groovy architecture all of their own.

Tan Dinh Church in District 3 is probably my favourite of the French churches.
It is always painted a vibrant and unexpected colour - salmon pink, orange, a kind of biscuit-colour, baby blue and mint green. The aesthetic eye overseeing this church's exterior is distinctly camp.

Inside it is largely untouched. Lots of faux-baroque statuary, a shrine to Saint Therese of Lisieux (the only one I know of in Vietnam), a shrine to St. Martin de Porres (there is one of these in every second church) and one to the Vietnamese martyrs (also reasonably common).

Unlike the infuriatingly chained-up Nha Tho Duc Ba in central Saigon, Tan Dinh church is always open, and is well worth checking out.
It is also situated right near Tan Dinh market, which is THE place to buy fabrics in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are searching for linens and cottons (reasonably rare at other markets), then this is the place to go (heads up - I always go to ABC Fabric).
There is also a doughnut shop just before the church called The Gioi Donut, and I have been known to drop by there ;-)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cong Binh, the lost fighters of Vietnam

At a book launch recently I met a fascinating woman who was the descendant of Vietnamese workers who had been sent to France as forced labourers. Joel Pham has contacted me to explain:

 "The reason for these twenty thousand Vietnamese coming to France during the war of 1939/1945 is primarily to work in the munitions factories and thus support the war effort. Work for rice is one of the many jobs they were then assigned but concerned only about 5% of the workforce."

Until then I had never heard of such a project, and was fascinated to discover that a documentary is being made about it all.

Here is the trailer for the film, called Cong Binh:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Countrytown Temple

This photo was taken at a little temple in Song Be back in 1996. I was taken there on an agonisingly long trip on the back of a motorcycle, but when we arrived the temple was closed and there was no-one around.
Seeing a foreigner poking about, one of the neighbours came out, and someone was sent to fetch the monk, who was nearby.
He came back beaming, a frail, thin and elderly man. He unlocked the temple and showed me around. The whole place was dusty and uncared for, and the nighbours swept the shrine room so that we could bow to the Buddha without blackening our foreheads.
When I came to offer incense at this side shrine, where the statues were all very old and covered in years of grime, I was suddenly overcome with a kind of elation. It was one of those rare moments of transition, of self-discovery, and is impossible to put down in words. For me it was a memory, a feeling, a strange sense of belonging. I had been in this place before.
You could my response mystical, romantic, even hormonal. It may have been a practical emotional response to being accepted as family amongst all of this exotica.
But when I look at this photo it describes for me a change in lifestyle, and the beginning of an obsession.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thang Ngo: Banh Mi Expert

One of the more interesting and unexpected culinary phenomena I have observed over the past couple of years has been the growth of popularity in the West of the humble Vietnamese sandwich, now referred to almost universally as banh mi or, in the States, the banh mi sandwich.

It has been quietly popular for a decade or more in the humble South-Western suburbs of Sydney where it was given the terrifically prosaic name of "pork roll." I think that hipster foodies are gradually shifting to the banh mi appellation, though where I live it will probably always remain a "pork roll."

My other half, Thang Ngo, webmaster at, has always been a banh mi expert, and introduced me to the joys of Vietnam's favourite processed-meat sandwich soon after we met, 20+ years ago.

He also conducted the great, and controversial, search for Sydney's best banh mi earlier this year, thereby cementing his reputation as the go-to man for all matters banh mi. And, being a purist, he still rankles at the usage of "banh mi." In Vietnamese, you see, "Banh mi" simply means bread, and the object everyone is currently enjoying is in fact called a "banh mi thit" - a meat sandwich.
Anyway, I knew that banh mi had well and truly entered the lexicon when This American Life did a story on it.
And it is still one of the cheapest, most delicious snacks you could hope for.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Blogcrawl

Vietnamese access to Facebook remains a mystery to me. Occasionally I will receive a flood of likes and comments from friends in Vietnam, and then nothing. Someone tells me Facebook is blocked, someone tells me it isn't. Anyway, this week I had a heap of posts from my VN friends, including lots of pics which made me so happy and so  homesick. Here are some stories about Vietnam that I stumbled upon over the past week:

The temple on Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, from Buried in Cliches blog.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Blogcrawl

Yesterday we celebrated the Moon Festival in Cabramatta. Sure, it was a little early, but it was lots of fun, and was just about the closest I was going to get to Vietnam without getting on a plane. Here are some items from the net that will help bring you that one step closer:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Blogcrawl

Always yearning for Vietnam, with half my heart constantly there. Here are some things that caught my eye over the past week:

Vietnamese fishermen arrested for illegally fishing Thai waters

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rosamund Burton's CASTLES, FOLLIES & FOUR-LEAF CLOVERS released in the UK

Just a brief note to tell you that my dear friend and wonderful publishing stablemate Rosamund Burton has had her book Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers released in the United Kingdom and Ireland this month.

It is available through Atlantic Books, and if you're in that part of the world, do go out and treat yourself with a copy.

Castles... is Rosamund's account of her journey along St. Declan's Way, a little-known pilgrim's path in Ireland.

Rosamund grew up in Ireland, and this book is an affectionate and fascinating look at the mystical and magical worlds that lie just underneath the surface normality of Ireland. You will read about fairy's shoes and leprechaun's hats, as well as the miraculous springs dedicated to St. Declan and to the Virgin Mary. It is a gentle, affectionate and illuminating book, and left me aching to visit Ireland.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Two Days In Hanoi

Vietnam blues in an East-West fusion

Dom Turner is a legendary Australian blues guitarist most famous for his work with the Backsliders.
In one of those wonderfully fortuitous accidents of history, he made the acquaintance of a master blind Vietnamese guitarist called Kim Sinh, and together they have produced Two Days in Hanoi, a wonderfully quirky and utterly original amalgamation of what can truly be called Delta Blues, with a heavy emphasis on the Mekong Delta, in this case.

For me it is probably Kim Sinh's sound that is the most immediately familiar. I have never been much of a follower of the Blues, but I have spent much of my life listening to the delicate, sliding and mournful guitar sounds of traditional Vietnamese music, and sometimes from the very first pluck the listener can be transported to a state of wistful nostalgia and sadness about the bad times. And that, I suppose, is what the Blues is about, no matter where it might come from.
The songs and sounds on this amazing CD alternate between Turner's solid folksy blues, traditional Vietnamese sounds and Kim Sinh's own fusions between traditional cai luong and the more Western forms that have influenced Vietnamese music for more than a century. It makes for wonderful listening, and has been on high rotation here ever since I received my copy. Interestingly, while it had played almost all  he way through, including the songs with English lyrics, my Vietnamese partner, who had only been half-listening, said: "Where did you get this nice Viet CD from?" A true vote for the authenticity of the sounds, but, if you are listening more closely, there is plenty of innovation here as well, and it is an album that will intrigue afficionados from both sides of the musicological fence.
I was won over most by Dom Turner's song, Vietnam People, on the album, a real love-letter that I recognised almost instantly, a folk song from someone who has been seduced by Vietnam and its people.

You can get Two Days in Hanoi on iTunes, or purchase a copy of the CD here.
Two Days in Hnaoi is produced by the Fuse Group.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Liao Fan's Four Lessons

When I was in Vietnam last time I made the acquaintance of a really lovely (and impossibly handsome) young monk from Hanoi called Thay Nguyen. He had come to Saigon to study at the Buddhist University, and I would go to visit him in his suburban temple, hidden down an incredible maze of back streets and alleys. It was a busy temple, a real community hub, as such temples tend to be. In the afternoons we would sit out on the monks' terrace garden and discuss some of the finer points of Buddhist philosophy, in a wonderfully effective mix of English and Vietnamese.
He always had gifts for me - CDs of Kwan Yin chants, colourful plastic prayer beads and, once, a book by the Dalai Lama in Vietnamese. That was rather too ambitious a gift, I'm afraid.
One of the texts that Thay Nguyen enthusisatically endorsed was Liao Fan's Four Lessons, a book which I had in fact read several times before.

In recent days I have been listening to a very old series of cassettes on which the book is read - something I picked up at a temple in Sydney 10 or more years ago - and I am struck by what a good guide to life it really is.
It is a kind of Chinese self-help book, advocating that wholesome mix of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism that has sustained the spiritual life of the Chinese for a thousand years, and has in turn had such a great influence on Vietnamese culture. It tells the story of a Mr. Liao Fan, a man who set great store by the predictions of psychics and soothsayers. After a chance meeting with a Zen master, he learnes that in fact destiny can change at any point, and that all people should be involved in re-shaping their destiny for the better. Then follows a long list of different methods for acquiring good karma, all illustrated with stories from Chinese mythology and antiquity.
In terms of Vietnamese culture it is probably quite a salient text. The people living in 21st Century Vietnam still set great store on the teachings of psychics, mediums and feng-shui masters, though all occupations are officially banned by the Communist government. Thay Nguyen was constantly coming up against parishioners who were distraught because of some bad forecast for the future, or overly-casual about spiritual cultivation because they were completely convinced that their destiny was pre-ordained.
As a popular cultural text, Liao Fan's Four Lessons is absolutely intriguing. Indeed, it is so much admired by people of all religious stripes that in Hong Kong and Taiwan there are societies established specifically to distribute the book and propagate its teachings.
The Vietnamese translation is becoming more readily available too, though the ones I saw in Vietnam were always donated by a Buddhist group in Taiwan, or were printed for commercial sale and distribution.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Love You, Man

Matters Queer are popping up again and again in Vietnam lately.
Last year one of the best Queer movies ever to be made in Asia, Hot Boy Noi Loan, was released in Vietnam. Then there was a recent gay pride parade in Hanoi, and then whisperings that the notoriously conservative central government is about to legalise gay marriage.
It comes as a great surprise to many that Vietnam should suddenly become a hotbed of Queer foment. But to me it is no surprise, familiar as I am with the vibrant gay cultures that exist in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (and in other, smaller, cities).
I stumbled upon this very sweet video on Youtube.

I am not at all sure it is real. Some say yes, some say it was staged by film students in order to raise the profile of gay and lesbian issues in Vietnam. I don't really care, because it is a charming piece of ficto-reality, and the actors/participants show incredible bravery. Oh, and balloon boy is an absolute hottie.
Do watch and enjoy:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Monastic Communities

Buddhist monastic communities are still very much alive in Vietnam, though the numbers of young monks have dwindled rapidly from their heyday twenty years ago when Vietnam was desperately poor and entering a monastic institution was seen as a guarantee of a comfortable and predictable life. Now that Vietnam has well and truly entered the consumer age young people are less willing to embrace a life of renunciation, celibacy and physical hardship in exchange for predictable food and quality education. 

The Baby Buddha, Tinh Xa Trung Tam, Ho Chi Minh City

And because the predominant form of Buddhism in Vietnam is Mahayana, there is none of the temporary ordination that you see in neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Laos, which swells the ranks of monks quite deceptively with young men and makes for all those charming pictures of monks that people take back home after their holidays. 

Monk blessing people, Battambang, Cambodia

In the Vietnamese tradition you take the monks’ robes for life, so young men take the decision a good deal more seriously. 

The internet has been abuzz for the past week or so with stories of a gang of Buddhist monks in Korea caught on camera drinking, smoking and gambling. It would be extremely naive to think that such things don’t go on in Vietnam. Of course they do. Drinking is completely verboten, but back in the 90s I knew young monks who consumed beer at parties. When I questioned them about this, they maintained that the ban was on strong forms of liquor like vodka and whiskey. Beer, they maintained, was only a mild intoxicant and so not technically wrong. Absolute nonsense, of course, but it was a common deception. 

In the 80s and 90s I would say that most monks in Vietnam smoked, though I have noticed that in recent years this is increasingly frowned upon, and many of my old monastic companions have given up for the sake of propriety. The disapproval of lay people had simply grown too strong. I can honestly say I have never witnessed monks gambling. I think that gambling is such a real and ever-present social problem in Vietnam, one which regularly destroyed the lives of the people they ministered to, that they were not capable of giving it any kind of saffron-wash. 

One sees now, more and more often, clips of Buddhist monks on Youtube doing inappropriate things, like dancing, staring down women’s blouses or even, in the case of one Thai monk, vouging. Of course, these things are all forbidden by the Vinaya, the enormous code of ethical conduct for monks devised by the Buddha many centuries ago.  This is a fascinating document, going into the detail t hat it does about what monks should or shouldn’t do. The list is exhaustive and seemingly random – most scholars assume it was created in reaction to infringements by monks living in the Buddha’s day, or the complaints of scandalised lay people. 

And so it is that rules exist forbidding monks, for example, to climb trees, or to roll rice up in balls and throw it into their mouths, or to eat with an “mmmph mmmph” sound. So extensive is the list of forbidden activities in the Vinaya that it is almost impossible for any human being to uphold them all, and most monks don’t even try. The Buddha himself knew this, and said that if a monk could abide consistently by every rule established he would be immediately enlightened. Suffice to say that enlightenment among monks is still pretty thin on the ground.
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