For my site visit I decided to go to Wat Buddharangsi; a Buddhist temple. Before even going to the temple I looked at the website to see if it would be open entry, to my surprise getting into the temple was very simple, they were very open to having outsiders enter. When we arrived we searched around out of curiosity to see what the temple was like, after about a half hour of taking pictures and speaking very softly to not disrupt the monks we stood in front of the main temple doors to see how we can proceed in our journey.
I realized that they had shelves to place your shoes before stepping into the temple and so we took off our shoes before entering. A fellow classmate arrived at the temple shortly after I did and brought the monk an offering, and called the monk that she had already spoken to on the phone to let him know we were already in front of the temple. One of the things that I found extremely interesting that I didn’t know up until I went there was that monks are only permitted to have very limited contact with women, so when we tried to give him the offering he had us first place it onto a dish and then he was able to grab it. The monk explained to us that if a woman touches him then he has to undergo a number of cleansing rituals.
The monk had us sitting in a circle and told us the story of Buddha and his origin, what it takes to become a monk, and explained the 5 precepts, which is their code to living a happy life. As he was explaining to us his story of how he became a monk, I grew more and more curious as to whether or not women can join Buddhism considering that they weren’t allowed to have too much contact with the monks, he then explained that yes there are female monks but they are more like “nuns” in his words. I did in fact feel that being a woman was a kind of obstacle, the monk had to keep his distance and be cautious when walking near us just because of our gender.
The monk showed us around and every time we asked if we can approach a particular part of the temple he said “yes, we cannot say no” which I found pretty fascinating that because of his beliefs this man is never allowed to say the word ‘no’. Another thing we were given access to was performing a kind of praying ritual they do in front of a Buddha statue. The monk had us take off our shoes, step onto the mat, and light some incense and place them in front of Buddha. We had to make sure that our feet did not face in Buddha’s direction when doing this praying ritual for it is extremely offensive if you do so. As we were saying our goodbyes to the monk he thanked us for coming and reassured us that we can come back at any time.
This was a very eye opening experience, it showed us firsthand the dedication and devotion some people have for their religion and beliefs. I saw how this man along with six others abandoned all worldly possessions and devote themselves to Buddhism, and even in doing so they still believe that following the teachings of Buddha and the five precepts they hold the key to a truly happy life.