The Message From Long Ago

The Message From Long Ago
I was recently interviewed by Skynet television. The monk in charge of foreigners tracked me down for an interview. I originally refused to climb up the Mountain for an interview at the Bodhi Tree. "Too much trouble. Get another monk." I said. Then he arranged for an easy location to be interviewed and he even sent a messenger to my kuti to make sure I would come.

I was originally told three questions, but they had a bunch of questions they wanted me to answer and the interviewer could not speak English. I answered the questions while holding a sheet of paper in front of me and then I said, "You know what to translate now. You can have the translating monk speak and just film my face for a few seconds while he translates." However, they wanted me to speak to the camera and that was just a test run. I was also not allowed to see the questions and had to speak freely answering all of the questions sort of like one would do in a collegiate essay examination. I do not recall ever speaking to a camera with such bright lights before. It was difficult to get used to and I am not sure I ever got used to it either.

I had to remember the questions they wanted me to answer without having the questions in front of me or having an interviewer. This was all new for me. While speaking, I got a wee bit choked up (again) when I was talking about how grateful I was for getting the chance to become a Bhikkhu. I did not cry, but I am not sure how obvious it was that I was trying to secretly submerge the lump in my throat, which was trying to emerge through my eyes.

Getting "choked up" is a literal term that affects your neck or throat and it is difficult to speak when it happens, "as if someone were choking you." Sometimes, you just need to stop talking for a few seconds.

After the take was finished, I was afraid to see the results. I knew they were happy with what I gave them, and if I saw what I looked like, I would have refused them to use it. Normally, if someone takes my picture, I like to see the results right away. This time, I bowed down to the Buddha and the senior monk and quickly left.

I remember when a meditation friend of mine finally quit watching television in the mid 90's. She was very addicted until she one day saw an advertisement for an American television network by the network itself. It showed scenes of a family engaged in all the cool things a family could do together in all the corners of the world, like safaris, white water rafting, etc. Then it showed a scene of the same family on a couch in the living room and said,

"You can experience it all through television."

After she saw this, she realized that she could be doing all of these cool things, but she too was only experiencing it through television. She was disgusted and after that epiphany, she boxed up her television and put it in storage. Today, the same could be said about the Internet.

On my way out from the interview, the offline TV crew chased me down and caught me at the doorway and enthusiastically said in English, "Thank you! Thank you very much!" They were waiting for a reply, blessing, something or anything. They were just standing there waiting and waiting. I am not a professional charmer, so I broke the silence and told them they should ordain as nuns and monks (and practice here), and then I left for the second time.

In the end, the networks were at it again, with the same message my friend saw from long ago.


Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.