While walking around the mountain top temple of Kao Kree Ree, we came upon a small wooden monk hut, perched rather precariously atop a huge boulder. John, Day the Thai brother of John's counterpart, and I had just finished our lunch and were about to leave the temple.
The Buddhist monk, Phra Tan, a 31 year old former law student in Bangkok, took the robes of monk hood five years ago at Kao Kree Ree Temple.
Slightly wider than his body and just barely longer than his height, this tiny rustic and extremely spartan hut has been Phra Tan's home for the last three years. No running water, no electricity, no net to fend off the hordes of biting mosquitoes that swarm every morning and night in search of food, Phra Tan chose to build his hut on this boulder, far away from the excitement of Bangkok, even some distance from the temple's main complex...... he built his hut here to spend time in near solitude... studying his mind..... all the while searching for enlightenment.
For several hours, Phra Tan broke his solitude to spend the afternoon talking with us about Buddhism. With his limited English, Phra Tan was able to tell us about his life, before becoming a monk as well as his life at the temple. We also talked about some of the basic principals of Buddhism and how they are applied in Thailand.
For hours we talked, while looking out at the scenic, lush green valley below. The horizon seemed to stretch to the furthest ends of the earth .. so expansive was our view. We sat there and watched dark clouds move across the landscape, dropping rain to the freshly planted rice paddies far below. When I asked Phra Tan why he'd become a monk, John, the Peace Corps Volunteer who had brought me to the temple looked a me and said.....
"The better question is.... why are you not living here?" I did not have an immediate answer to John's question.... but deep in my heart... his question reverberated with an intensity I've rarely felt.