The Monk's Visit

In*Sync Revisited!
(Please Note: This text has been copied from my original article, which written in 'In*Sync' - Issue no: 15 - Spring 1999 - when I was living in France.)

The Monk's Visit

As some of you may know, in December I spent a wonderful weekend - with a Buddhist monk who came to visit me. He is from a monastery in California, although he originates from Laos, but lived in Australia from the age of about 7 (he is now 30). He became a monk 3 years ago. I thought you might like to hear about the visit...

Phra Mangkone arrived on Saturday afternoon with 2 of his brothers - who live just outside of Paris. When you meet Phra Mangkone you know immediately "what all the fuss is about" - he is truly a wonderful soul...

I felt as though I had known him forever after just a few moments! His brothers, Maurice and Vath were lovely people too - I was so glad that they had come with him, as they were able to explain things to me and to help me with all the 'monk etiquette'! I had to speak French with them, although Maurice did understand a little English... so sometimes I was repeating what I was saying in English and in French, so everyone could understand!

I introduced them all to Aimee, Tom and Lucy (Ian was out at work and Katie was out too, as she was a cadet with the fire-brigade and had to go every Saturday afternoon). The latest craze over here in Europe at the time was, of course, yo-yos and so, my son gifted Phra Mangkone with a gold coloured yo-yo and pretty soon they were both comparing tricks with each other, 'walking the dog' etc. etc. (Phra Mangkone is very good at it, Tom was quite surprised!)

We all had drinks and a chat, during which I explained to them about the "TIME FOR PEACE DAY" and Maurice and Vath asked me to send them the amended French version leaflets (we had to take the word 'prayer' out of the French posters and leaflets - otherwise they would not display them in French schools - because the information is deemed 'religious' and therefore not allowed to be shown to school children!! Bizarre or what!) they kindly volunteered to try to get the people in their area involved as they thought it is a wonderful idea.

We talked about many things, including Ley lines - which non of them had ever heard of. In the end I got out my dowsing rods and they all had a go. Maurice was unable to get a reaction at all - but Vath was able to dowse the Ley lines very quickly - and Phra Mangkone was able to do it immediately (none of them knew much about dowsing beforehand). On the whole we kept the chatting fairly 'general' as we wanted to include his brothers in the conversations... I knew that I would have my time alone with Phra Mangkone the next day...

As I'd had very little notice about having 3 visitors, instead of one, I had had a little panic about sleeping arrangements, but in the end we decided that we would have to put them all in the guestroom - which Ian is in the process of constructing. We were able to come up with 3 mattresses to put on the floor and I after a search for spare bedding and putting the kids in sleeping bags, I managed to find 3 quilts/duvets and pillows etc. I showed my guests to their unfinished room - full of apologies, but they didn't mind a bit - in fact Phra Mangkone said it was more comfortable than what they had at the monastery... and his brother Vath is renovating an old house too and is used to being in these conditions! (Phra Mangkone chose the bed with the 'Batman' bedding!) Ian came home from work and was introduced to everyone - he was a little shy with Phra Mangkone, but chatted with his brothers in French - as best he could!

At around 6:30pm they all departed - heading for Cognac, where they were going to visit friends of Maurice - a lady from their home country, married to a Japanese man, but living in France for about 15 years now. They have a Japanese restaurant in Cognac. It was a good opportunity for them to meet up and also the lady wanted to 'meet the monk' too! So I didn't need to prepare a meal for them Saturday evening.

They returned after an enjoyable evening (apart from getting lost on the way back to our house!) and there was good news too - the lady had volunteered to drive Phra Mangkone to his next destination, after his weekend with us. We had thought that I would have to put him on a train, as it was too far for me to drive him to Bergerac (at least a 6 hour round trip), especially as I had so many other 'commitments' that week... so I was very happy and grateful to hear this. They'd also returned with gifts of fruit from the lady, for us to give to Phra Mangkone in the ceremony to be held the next day... We said our 'goodnight's and got to bed around 1:30am.

Sunday began in the most embarrassing way!! Nobby, our boxer dog, managed to 'break in' to the guest room - during the monk's meditations!! Tom, whose bedroom is next to the guestroom, heard their door being opened and then Maurice saying "Oh Nobby!" Tom had gone running in to rescue them from our over friendly mutt, and had seen that they were all sitting on the floor meditating. Phra Mangkone did not move and acted as if nothing had happened, while Tom and Maurice chased the dog around the room! Later, when I was apologising for Nobby's bad manners, we all had a laugh about it - I think Phra Mangkone found it quite amusing ... I was mortified!!

I was very pleased that Maurice and Vath felt relaxed and 'at home' in our house. I urged them to help themselves to anything they wanted and Maurice was pleased to be able to make himself coffee etc when he felt like it - he soon found his way around the kitchen! When Phra Mangkone came down for breakfast Tom served him (he had toast and marmalade and a cup of coffee - just in case you wanted to know!). After breakfast I got him set up on the computer - so that he could check his email - he had several messages... While he was busy at the computer I was able to find out, from his brothers, what to do for 'the ceremony' to be held later that morning. Katie arrived home about 9:30 am - as she had stayed with a friend the night before - as was introduced to the monk... being my resident 'computer expert' she was soon helping him with the computer...

Phra Mangkone has only one proper meal a day, which starts at about 11 - 11:30 am. We were going to do the special ceremony at 11:30 and so began preparing the meal - I made a delicious courgette and cumin soup and, with Ian's help, we made a huge 'buffet style' salad and served lots of different French cheeses and French bread etc... this was all laid out on the table in the kitchen.

Next Maurice explained what we were to do... we all took a dish and chose 3 or 4 things from the array of fruit, which the lady from the Japanese restaurant had sent for us, to offer to the monk. We had to take off our shoes and stand in a line. As Phra Mangkone passed each of us we placed our offerings into the special 'bowl/basket' he carries (I don't know it's proper name) as there were 9 of us the basket soon filled up and had to be emptied half way down the line!

After we had each, in turn, gifted him some fruit and received his blessing, his basket was emptied once again, then we went to the table and each of us offered him a bowl of something from the table, until everything had been offered... then he was able to serve himself and take whatever food he wanted. When he finished serving himself everyone else was allowed to take what they wanted to eat. So, we all sat down to a big feast!! Maurice and Vath enjoyed a couple of glasses of red wine with us... but it was just water for Phra Mangkone! For dessert there was delicious caramel and nougat ice creams - which Phra Mangkone seemed to enjoy!

The wonderful ceremony and delicious lunch were soon over, and it was time to say goodbye to Phra Mangkone's brothers - they had to drive back to Paris, as they had work early the next morning. We were given their addresses and phone numbers and open invitations to visit them whenever we go to Paris. I was so pleased to have been able to meet them... Phra Mangkone has a wonderful family - he is one of 12 children! 6 brothers and 6 sisters! The rest of the family live in Australia - apart from one sister, I think, who lives in Canada...

After a clearing away the lunch things and having a little rest, Phra Mangkone, my daughters, my husband and I had a very interesting talk and discussion - the children were asking all sorts of questions and we were all sharing our thoughts, beliefs and ideas. I was very pleased that Ian joined in - as he is not really interested in this sort of thing - in fact he'd been rather reluctant to have a monk come and stay with us! The girls asked some very good questions - especially Lucy... she always has many questions! A little later Lucy had to go out for a couple of hours, and Ian had to go and do some work, but Tom, Aimee, Katie and myself carried on with our talk. We told Phra Mangkone that Tom can see auras and so he asked what colours Tom could see in his... usually he is reluctant to comply, but wasn't at all with the monk. This was an interesting chat too - but soon it was time for Beverley Hills 90210!! This is a favourite programme in our house and Phra Mangkone said that he would like to watch it too, as he used to watch it before he became a monk... he kept asking where 'Brenda' was and we explained that she hasn't been in it for years!

Next was play time with Nobby - Phra Mangkone asked if we had any 'doggy treats' as he wanted to try to teach Nobby some tricks... there was only limited success as Nobby is a big dog with only a little brain, hehehe!

After this Phra Mangkone wanted to teach the kids some yoga!! We cleared a space in the living room and began with the warming up exercises... then I chickened out and decided to video the proceedings instead! We did have a laugh!! There was much moaning and groaning and toppling over! I have some amazing footage of Phra Mangkone balancing on his hands in a sort of upside down lotus position.. as well as standing on his head... with the children strewn about on the floor - collapsed in heaps!! We finished the yoga session with a self massage and relaxation meditation. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Phra Mangkone did a wonderful house blessing ceremony with the children and me (unfortunately Ian was unable to join in as he was in the middle of trying to put an engine in our car!) We had to get a bowl of water, 2 candles, some string and a little Buddha statue, then we all sat around the table in the living room. Phra Mangkone said "don't ask what I'm doing and why - as I don't know!" this was a ceremony which he had seen done, but had not performed himself before. He tied the string to the Buddha and then wound it around the bowl of water 3 times (I think). Into the bowl of water he put some drops of a gorgeous oil which had been made for him by a friend of ours in America, called Bonnie (she makes the most wonderful special blend oils, each bottle contains a specially charged crystal). He lit the 2 candles and held them over the bowl (the wax dropped into the water).

We all sat around the table with our hands in a praying position, eyes closed and thought 'good thoughts' - wishing for peace and prosperity within the home, good health and happiness... all good things for our home and for us. Then Phra Mangkone did some chanting, several different chants for prosperity etc. It was beautiful to listen to. (During this Lucy later told me that she had seen a vision of monks sitting around a fire all chanting...) This went on for a little while and then Phra Mangkone finished with a final prayer and a brief group meditation. After that he gave the children each a little blessed Buddha statue to keep (he had already given one to me in a 'medicine pouch').

To end the house blessing I cut a little piece from the branch of a fir tree in the garden and Phra Mangkone used this the 'flick' the blessed water all over us and all around the house. We walked from room to room, following him as he blessed each room. The water that was left has been put into bottles for us to keep and use again later... (later that night, when everyone else had gone to bed Ian asked me to 'flick' some of the blessed water on him too, as he'd missed out earlier!) This was a wonderful ceremony and the children seemed to really enjoy being a part of it all.

On the final day of his visit, Phra Mangkone was up early meditating again (with no interruptions thank dog - I mean god!! hehehe) and he came down to breakfast early, so he could say his goodbyes to Tom, Katie, and Ian (having already said goodbye to Aimee and Lucy the day before as they had gone back to Lycee). Tom was allowed a hug, (women are not allowed to touch the monks) but was quite shy and embarrassed as 11 year old boys can be!

The kids went off to school, Ian went to work and then, while I cleared away the breakfast things Phra Mangkone checked his email again - as this was to be the last time he has access to the internet for quite some time! He was able to send of a few quick messages before it was time to leave for Cognac. I had been invited to have lunch at the Japanese restaurant with him too. So we gathered up all his bits and pieces and set off.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 11:15. The lady there is so wonderful, she is very special - with a huge heart and such love pouring from her. Neither Phra Mangkone nor myself had eaten Japanese food before - so it was a new experience we shared. The lady's husband did the cooking, he brought in trays with little dishes of different foods. It was all absolutely delicious!!

After we had finished eating, 2 French people arrived for a meal at the restaurant. They were quite amazed to see a monk sitting there! They were even more amazed when the lady said to them "I'm sorry, but I hope you don't mind joining in with a brief blessing which the monk is about to give..." They looked slightly astonished as they were told to put their hands together in prayer while Phra Mangkone did some chanting for prosperity. After it was finished the lady apologised and hoped they hadn't minded, but that it was not often that a monk came to their restaurant and honoured them with a blessing!

All too soon it was time for me to say goodbye to Phra Mangkone - he said that he'd had a wonderful time with us and I thanked him for everything too. One day he hopes to return - and we also hope to be able to visit him in California in the future. His visit left me with a lasting impression and I truly miss his presence, even though he was with us for such a short time…