The word monk alone conjures up vivid mental images of chanting, mountaintop buddhist monasteries, and ancient rituals. It’s the sort of stirring visions that make us want to explore the most remote parts of the world. Those places exist. I’ve been there and they as inspiring as you may imagine. But not all monks are the same. For many parents, offering one of their children to be raised in a monastery is the only way they can give their child an education and food on their plate.
In many parts of the world, monasteries are a refuge and salvation from poverty. The modern monk is often a teenage boy figuring out the world like the rest of us. They have mobile phones. They use Facebook, and Twitter to connect with their friends.
And, just like the rest of us, they visit tourist sites, especially those with religious significance.
There is something about this last picture, taken on the causeway leading into Ankor Wat in Cambodia that, despite the monk using his phone to take a picture, makes me think of the old photos of India under imperial rule, or Gandhi preparing for a speech.
Some how, modern monks just don’t fit the mental picture we all have for them. Maybe that is something we can reflect on.