Buddhist monks offer stark contrast to Sunday's violence

Friday , October 06, 2017 - 1:12 PM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — On the same day a gunman killed 59 people in Las Vegas, I experienced  a gathering of people who promote peace.

A gathering of Thai Buddhist monks held an open house for the Thai Wat Chaimongkolvararam temple, 402 Wall Ave. People attended from all over the world.

When Temple Abbot and President Venerable Phramaha Suphat Sukyai appeared next to me, I held out my hand for a handshake.

Venerable Phra Jerry Chinkathuk, a monk from Los Angeles who helped the Ogden temple monks with the celebration, told me Sukyai was not allowed to shake hands on that day and gestured to me a wai greeting where a person puts his or her hands together in prayer-like fashion at the chest while bowing.

I had no place to quickly stash my notebook and phone so I happily gave Sukyai an awkward greeting as demonstrated by Chinkathuk with those items between my hands. Sukyai seemed happy with that and I continued on my way, excited by the pageantry all around me.

Moments later, when I asked members of Sukyai’s congregation why Oct. 1 was such a holy day that Sukyai could not be touched, I learned that in Thai culture, women are not permitted to touch a monk at any time.

I felt some embarrassment for the three times I had shaken Sukyai’s hand when I visited him asking for information about the open house. For a moment, I questioned my sensitivity to Thai culture.

Upon reflection, my feelings quickly turned to gratitude for the incredible politeness displayed by Sukyai and Chinkathuk as they had not once pointed out my blunder, nor my cultural assumptions.

• RELATED: Open house for Buddhist temple draws hundreds from Ogden, around the world

They had extended respect to me even in my ignorance. I hope to be able to do the same should I ever find myself in a reverse situation.

Their example has displayed for me a great lesson.

Buddhism is not alone in teaching politeness. I believe such actions are taught in all faiths of which I am aware, and even in non-faiths.

I have learned much about the high degree to which serious atheists favor manners.

Those who believe simply in the law of attraction argue that what one extends to the world, the same is returned.

Story continues below photo.

The idea of politeness is expressed in many scriptures and books studied by spiritual enthusiasts.

One of my favorite is found in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the New Living Translation, Proverbs 11:22 reads: “A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig's snout.”

No one wants to be that. I guess we all would benefit from making discretion our goal.

When asked about Buddhist traditions, Chinkathuk told me he believed there were three secrets for always being polite. They are:

• Do not be mad.

• Do not be jealous.

• And keep yourself in peace and calm.

“For some people, it’s hard because of anger management,” Chinkathuk said. “You have to worry about your own self.”

Writings about the Buddha I have found said that he always was “welcoming, friendly, polite, genial, and engaging” toward all who went to see him.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis. 

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