new service: ask a monk

Friday evening, I received the following note from a reader in the DC metro area, a Mr. Smallwood:

Im meeting with a Zen Buddhist monk Saturday to interview him. Im certainly no expert, but for all I know hes enlightened and has all the answers. Or else hes just going to speak in riddles that I wont understand. At any rate, if you have any questions (serious or otherwise) youd like me to ask him, let me know.

He didnt give me much time, but I tried to throw together a few questions that I thought might be of interest to all of you in the family. Heres a bit of my note back to David.

Is this a western person who has converted to Buddhism, or is this a person from Asia who was brought up in the culture? I would have different questions for a Richard Gere type than I would a person from Tibet. (He wrote back and said that the guy was the real deal.)

I suppose that I would be most interested to know his (is it a him, or do they have female monks as well) views on world politics and popular culture.

Internet, television, film, the way this young generation is dressing. The detrimental effects of western culture on the people of Bhutan, Tibet, etc. These are all things I’d be interested in knowing.

How he believes the world will end.

If he could convert three people in the world today to Buddhism, who would they be. (Linette tells me that this isnt an appropriate question as Buddhists dont proselytize. She says the question should be, Which three people in the world today do you think could best benefit from the teachings of Buddhism. I think shes right about that, but, then again, she cried during the last episode of American Idol.)

These are all real questions. Did you want for me to have jokier ones, like “Is your underwear orange too?” I can do that too, but I am interested in this other stuff.

I guess I would also ask about the Matrix and its religious overtones. I haven’t seen the new film, but, as I recall, the first one have some Buddhist currents running through it. I guess I would ask how it feels to have your religion co-opted by mass media.

I would ask what size TV they have in the monastery, if they have one at all. I would ask the last movie he and the guys rented as a group.

How many different ways could he kill a man. (That belongs with the jokier ones.)

I would ask about junk food.

I would ask, if you had to become a spokesperson for one popular, American corporate chain or product, what would it be.

These are just some of the things that come to mind.

If he believes that George Bush is evil. If he believes in evil at all. What he thinks of Americans.

How loud he can clap with one hand.

I sent these to David, along with a note asking him if hed also be willing to take the questions of other readers. He got back to me immediately saying that hed be afraid what you all might ask. I reminded him that at least one of our regular readers is a professor of religion. That didnt seem to help much.

So, the answers to my questions should be coming shortly. I will post them as soon as they arrive. If you can think of any more questions in the meantime, please send them to me. My hope is that if things went well with Mr. Smallwoods interview, he might be willing to go back and ask additional questions for us. He could be our official conduit to an enlightened being.

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