A monk’s life

A monk's lifeA week teaching English to novices in a monastery offers a glimpse of a much simpler life says Istvan Hernadi to The Guardian in his letter. The article gives a glimpse of how the monks in monastery live a peaceful and a simpler life.

The narrow trail winds above a tangled forest, as ancient temple buildings emerge from the mist. As I round the corner, a Lama appears and welcomes me to the monastery, then introduces dozens of eager monks who are to be my students over the next week.

A monk's lifeWe live in cramped quarters, eat rice and vegetables, study English, attend prayers and participate in debates. The life of a monk is difficult; food and housing are simple, study hours are long, the daily work is hard and wake-up time is 4.30am.

Breakfast is prepared in a makeshift kitchen with a metal roof and no walls, with a large pot of water boiling over a smoky wood fire. A cobweb hangs from the corner of the roof, holding raindrops and tiny flies.

A monk's life

The cook’s wife sweeps the broken concrete stairs with a twig broom, baby securely strapped to her back with a colourful cloth, while her three-year-old son plays football in the rain with a punctured plastic ball. A well-fed black dog chases pigeons that peck away at the leftover rice spread by monks on the concrete slabs.

Lhobey Tindu tends his garden, planting cucumber seeds near a crumbling chorten. Suddenly the silence is broken by the ringing of a temple bell, followed by three dogs howling. The afternoon prayer begins, with the beating of drums and the booming sound of Tibetan horns, punctuated by the blowing of conch shells.

In the evening we hold English class for the novices. They sit on the temple floor, attentively taking notes from the board. Afterwards we practise some simple songs.

A monk's life

Next morning I hear some excited voices. Some of the novices are running towards the toilet; I follow them. A monk is holding a snake on a stick. A boy takes the poisonous snake with caution and drops it into the ravine.

After a week at the monastery, I became transformed by the peaceful existence on this mountain. The young monks bid me farewell, urging me to return soon. I hug them and promise to return next year, as I will greatly miss their kindness and smiles.

For a while I linger among the chortens and prayer flags, I listen to the soft wind breathing through the grass, watch the mist lift, revealing distant peaks with soft clouds hugging the hillsides, and wonder how anyone could ever imagine a more peaceful spot on this troubled earth.