At the feet of the Buddha

The monks at Beopjusa get up at 3am to read the Heart Sutra. We get up to see them, walk down the path from the hotel to the temple at a quarter to three by the light of my iPod. And for fifteen minutes a lone monk will traipse the temple grounds with his moktak, beating a hollow beat that reverberates most strongly off of the mountains when he is at the feet of the Buddha. He chant-sing-songs whatever it is that monks wake up to in the morning and because I can’t understand it, I can imagine that it is more profound than ‘wake up ye sleepy monks.’

The monks will come out of their homes in short lines, walking in perfect unison, silently, because their robes make no noise. They play a bell for us, the humans, a drum for the animals, and a gong for the winged creatures which is struck by a log shaped like a fish for those of maritime dispositions. And these instruments, the monks semi-melodic chanting are echoing, are made by these enormous instruments, are by far the loudest sounds being made in the morning, but our footsteps in our sneakers on the gravel sounds so disruptive, so out of harmony with them. I admire the monks’ simple slippers. And when I can’t help but fart, I am sure that everyone must have heard.

Even though I sit off by myself doing pranayama, which I learned from Shubho beside the Hooghly in Kolkata. I do it even though I have never liked breathing yogas but it seemed like a right thing to do; a reason to sit with my eyes closed and listen. When the ritual is over, the monks leave, out of step with each other and talking casually, heading off somewhere with tea kettles.

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