Interview with a South London Buddhist Monk
In a nutshell what is the Buddhist philosophy?
Buddhism teaches that all beings have the potential to be enlightened, this means everyone should try their best to develop their intellectual capacity to the fullest, so that they can understand life and things around us clearly.
Is Buddhism a religion or can anyone follow the way?
It depends on how you define the term ‘religion’ as Buddhism has no bond between God and human beings, therefore Buddhism is not regarded as religion in this sense, if we define religion as faith system, then Buddhism is a religion. The western scholars prefer to call Buddhism as a way of life rather than religion and everyone can follow the Buddhist way with no need to convert to Buddhism.
How and why did you become a Buddhist monk?
I became a novice monk at the age of 13 after finishing the primary school, it is a part of our culture that the boys can become novice monks to receive training and education. At the age of 20, I’m happy with the monastic life therefore I applied to receive a higher ordination as a Buddhist monk because I would like to sacrifice my life for the sake of the community.
Whats it like to be a Buddhist monk, what is a typical day like for you?
As a Buddhist monk, we have to observe the monastic rules for example not having sexual activity, living a simple life. We wake up at 6, breakfast at 7, morning chanting at 8 followed by meditation, lunch at 11 and evening chanting at 6 pm. We are often invited to perform blessing services the people’s house or business. We also have a lot of school visits during the weekdays, monks will give talks to school children.
What is enlightenment, have you personally attained this and what did it take to achieve it?
The enlightenment is the highest level of spiritual achievement, sometimes we use the term ‘liberation or emancipation. This means the enlightened person is able to liberated themselves from defilement such as greed, hatred and delusion. Their mind is pure like clean and clear water. I’m still training myself to attain the enlightenment. In order to attain it, a person needs to put the middle eightfold path (right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) into their practice, the more you practise, the nearest you come to achieve an enlightenment.
What does your daily diet consist of and why do you eat that way?
As the monks, we eat one meal a day before midday, the food is donated by lay people. We are not vegetarian as the monks have to rely on the lay people, the monks should make themselves easy to be supported, demanding is not the monks’ way.
Are all Buddhist monks kung fu experts like in the movies or what do you do to maintain fitness?
Only some groups of monks in Chinese Buddhism practise martial arts, but not all of them. They follow Mahayana Buddhism, the monks of Theravada Buddhism like in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos do not learn martial arts, we simply do some exercise like walking, sweeping the grounds to maintain fitness.
Do you think if people focused more on Inner peace there would be world peace?
According to the Buddhist tenet, we believe that mind is the source of happiness, unhappiness, peace and war, thus if the people can develop inter peace within themselves, world peace is achievable. But because the major of people are overwhelmed with greed, hatred and delusion, thus peace will occur for temporary time when the majority appreciate the value of peace.
How did a Buddhist temple come to be in South London and can anyone visit?
The Buddhapadipa Temple was firstly established in east Sheen in 1966 under the support of Buddhist community with the purpose to be the centre of Buddhist education and culture. We moved to Wimbledon in 1975 and ever since serve the community as the centre of meditation, Buddhist education and Thai culture. The temple is open to everyone daily between 9.30-18.00.
Address of the temple if you want to visit is:
14 Calonne Rd, London SW19 5HJ