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The Life of a Buddhist Monk—Discipline in Pursuit of Enlightenment

Khurram is an experienced cross-cultural and inter-religious commentator and analyst.

Monks either live alone as hermits or in organized communities in order to devote themselves to religious life.

Monks either live alone as hermits or in organized communities in order to devote themselves to religious life.

Who Is Andy Liu?

There he was, sitting cross-legged with his arms stretched to his knees in some quiet corner of this hectic world. His eyes were closed shut, and his exhales were deep and relaxed.

This is Andy Liu. Andy was born to a large family of Buddhists—he was one of eight children. After completing high school in Mainland China, he came to the United States of America to pursue Buddhist studies. He obtained his Master's in Buddhist Classics from Dharma Realm Buddhist University and his Ph.D. in Buddhist Chaplaincy from Graduate Theology Union. Now, he is working with his Buddhist team in Los Angeles to spread Buddhist teachings and in the country.

Andy was standing there smiling at me cladded in orange robes with his head and eyebrows shaved. Yes, he actually prefers to wear these orange and yellowish robes. He tells me that his ancestral Buddhists used to dye their robes with the roots of plants or spices, which gave them the desired yellow or orange results. The basic rationale behind shaving his head is that it is the symbolic representation of his detachment from worldly affairs.

"No, that's not the way little monk!" An elder monk said while passing a paternal smile. "Let me help you wrap your robes." Andy stood still while staring at the old monk with glittering eyes. "Ah . . . wrap one end of the robe under your armpits, and the other goes above your shoulders. Then, it is done here." The old monk pointed towards the skillfully wrapped robes with certain feelings of triumph. Andy touched his robes with both hands in a curious examination of his look.

"Wow! Behold, the little monk! Are your fellow monks looking this good, young monk? Ah, you are away from sins now!" The old monk exclaimed. "Why are you looking at me with empty eyes? Hmm . . . You're thinking why the robes in white and not those in saffron color? Don't worry. You'll get those after your big ordination ceremony."

Andy nodded as if to show his satisfaction with this initiating ritual. He can still recall the moments when he entered the order of Buddha. Apart from those early initiation days, Andy wears the white robes in the full moon days in compliance with Buddhism dress code.

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

A Routine of Sacrifice and Studies

Andy's daily routine as a monk was an impressive one. After waking up early at the crack of dawn, he walked barefoot around the village collecting alms—an offering of food items. Basically, he formed a long queue with his fellow monks and then walked around the local neighborhood where townspeople presented their alms one at a time in the bowls that they held in their hands. Then there was a communal meal in a big dining hall. The rest of the day was fairly relaxing for Andy, as he would usually spend his time learning the scriptures and sweeping the monastery. A little before dusk, he, along with his fellows, would convene in the big temple for prayers, which would last for nearly two hours. This had been a really tough, indeed.

"Be kind to others, be tolerant, be compassionate and be simple," instructed the elder monk. Whereas, listening to all this, Andy used to question himself silently, "Why? Why choose a road less traveled? Whey isolate and seclude yourself from society? And why to give up the delights and pleasures of the worldly life?"

The flip-flop of the monk's barefooted gait on the floor would interrupt his thoughts. The elder monk continued, "Your sacrifice will lead you to the ultimate truth one day, my children!" Andy can vividly recall the flashbacks of his days in the monastery even today while he is busy with his team in Los Angeles to advocate for Buddhism to a mainstream audience.

These orange monk robes are instantly recognizable.

These orange monk robes are instantly recognizable.

Andy's daily routine as a monk was an impressive one. After waking up early at the crack of dawn, he walked barefoot around the village collecting alms, which were essentially an offering of food items. Basically, he formed a long queue with his fellow monks and then walked around the local neighborhood where townspeople presented their alms one at a time in the bowls that they held in their hands. Then there was a communal meal in a big dining hall. The rest of the day was fairly relaxing for Andy, as he would usually spend his time learning the scriptures and sweeping the monastery. A little before dusk, he, along with his fellows, would convene in the big temple for prayers, which would last for nearly two hours. This had been a really tough, indeed.

"Be kind to others, be tolerant, be compassionate and be simple," instructed the old monk. Whereas, listening to all this, Andy used to question himself silently, "Why? Why choose a road less traveled by? Whey isolate and seclude yourself from society? And why to give up the delights and pleasures of the worldly life?" The flip-flop of the monk's barefooted gait on the floor would interrupt his thoughts. The old monk continued, "Your sacrifice will lead you to the ultimate truth one day, my children!" Andy can vividly recall the flashbacks of his days in the monastery even today while he is busy with his team in Los Angeles to advocate for Buddhism to a mainstream audience.

Last Saturday evening, Andy arranged a grand feast in honor of an intimate friend who was visiting him. The buffet consisted of both Chinese and American dishes. The appetizing odor of the meal was appealing to us both.

"Pass that over to me," his friend said pointing towards a plate of mix-veggies. Andy stretched his hand for fried beef. At the very sight of this, his friend winked at him and said, "So here is a guy who vows not to eat meat." A fit of laughter exploded between the two. Andy tried to explain that not all the Buddhists limit themselves to vegetables, but his friend just nodded in amusement. Afterwards, there was a good among of laughter, gossip, and clanking of spoons between the two.

"Let me show you people the correct method of bowing down before a monk," Andy would say to the newly converted Buddhists of Los Angeles during a preaching trip. Andy would emphasis that bowing down before a monk is not a form of worship, but a sign of respect. It shows the promptness of the disciples to receive teachings from the monk.

A beautiful temple where monks spend a great deal of time practicing their studies.

A beautiful temple where monks spend a great deal of time practicing their studies.

The Spread and Influence of Buddhism

Andy seemed very optimistic about the fact that his personal and team efforts helped raise awareness of the life-changing benefits of Buddhism in the USA. Buddhism has a set of values that are aligned to modern science and rationality, and as a result, people are willing to show their interest in the culture in large numbers. American book shops and stores are full of books written about Buddhism. The best universities in the country have inaugurated diplomas and certifications in Buddhist studies. Many Hollywood stars are advocating for Buddhist culture. Buddhism has come a long way from when it was only recognized as a marginalized religion in eastern countries like China and Japan.

Andy Liu underwent six different forms of yoga in pursuit of his chief objective—enlightenment. The aforementioned practices helped him keep his mind at peace while he concentrated his focus on areas of his studies that were still under consideration. After a long day of exercise, it is time for his bedtime rituals, or "Dream Yoga."

A reflection of Buddhist culture stirs my imagination about this particular belief system. At times, I'm driven to become a monk. It's really fascinating to wear Buddhist traditional costumes and perform heart touching rituals. However, to me, the most striking aspect of Buddhism is that it correlates with modern science hence it is widely welcomed and acclaimed across the Western world and beyond.

Works Cited

Berzin, Dr. Alexander. "Study Buddhism." n.d. <https://studybuddhism.com/en/tibetan-buddhism/about-buddhism/the-world-of-buddhism/why-people-are-attracted-to-buddhism>.

"Buddhism: Red Zambia." n.d. <http://buddhism.redzambala.com/buddhism-overview/buddhism-dress-code-10.html>.

"Religion and Ethics." 6 July 2001. Religion and Ethics. <https://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2001/07/06/july-6-2001-comments-on-tensions-in-american-buddhism/15941/>.

"The Rubin." 16 August 2016. The Rubin. <https://rubinmuseum.org/blog/in-your-dreams-buddhisms-practices-during-sleep>.

© 2019 Khurram Shehzad

Comments

Hertha David from Windhoek, Namibia on July 16, 2020:

How old is Andy?

Khurram Shehzad (author) from 10-H/1043, Wah Cantt, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. on November 17, 2019:

Hmmm...it really seems so

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on November 17, 2019:

The temple looks amazing.

Shakeel on November 15, 2019:

Interesting and informative.about a Monk's daily life routine,his mission and commitment towards his religion.

Khurram Shehzad (author) from 10-H/1043, Wah Cantt, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. on November 15, 2019:

Thanks, thank u all guys

Bashar malik on November 15, 2019:

A really great poece of work ...v informative

Zain sajjad on November 15, 2019:

Excellent Writing.

Rehan Ayub on November 15, 2019:

Nice article

Ali on November 15, 2019:

Good one buddy. Keep up the good work ❤️

Rana Husnain on November 15, 2019:

Interesting and detailed article

Muhammad Usman Khan on November 15, 2019:

Thumbs up.

Noor Sehar on November 15, 2019:

Excellent Writing... Nice vocabulary and excellent work...

Israr Ahmad on November 15, 2019:

Use of good typical English style to write this great creative article

Naimat Ullah on November 15, 2019:

Excellent research about such particular religion,interesting facts and most worthy thing is that article is presented in well organised and beautifull way.

Intizar on November 15, 2019:

Interest Encouraging

Bilal Ashraf on November 14, 2019:

Beautiful Presentation of the Character and superb work.