being a monk is a good gig

Song Zan Lin Temple, Shangri-La, Yunnan province, May 2008

I’m not exactly what you would call a romantic – I don’t mean in the love, flowers and candlelight sense – but in the idealizing reality, grandiose sense. And this photo reminds me of that.

I showed this photo to an American friend, and he was surprised by the monk’s use of a cell phone.

Someone else mentioned reading about monks living high-flying lifestyles.

I recalled more than one guide in the region telling me some of the kids at the temples were from very poor families, and that being a monk meant a fairly steady gig at a trusted institution. It’s not a bad place to put a kid if you can’t feed another one, especially if you are devotee – and even if you aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all monks are there for a steady gig or even more. But there are always different facets to something and this is one of the facets that I think sometimes gets overlooked with the romanticism of temples. I’m looking at you, very nice and very young 19-year-old American dude who dreamily told me years ago in NYC about yearning to go to Asia “because it’s all so mystical.”


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