Jason Chan’s only companions during his three-year adventure along the east coast of Australia have been his alms bowl and a blanket. Barefoot and wearing robes, Chan, or Jinasiri, is a Theravada Buddhist monk, and set out on his wanderings down under in August 2011.
Chan is a Chinese native, and said to be in his 30s. In 2011, the Whitsunday Times reported that he had been a law student in Sydney, but left his former life to train as a monk at a monastery in Canberra. Through the kindness of strangers who gave him food or offered temporary accommodation, Chan’s long walk began successfully. The article quotes him as saying that the reason behind his journey was to “rid his life of greed and hatred and inspire others to do the same.” At the time the article was published, Chan was in the region of the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland.
The latest tab on Chan’s whereabouts was chronicled by ABC’s Kerry Stewart in October this year. When Stewart was tipped that Chan was in Sydney and not far from her office, she gathered information on where he might be from various “sightings,” and went out to find the elusive walker. How does one spot a monk amid hundreds of people? Stewart looked for someone wearing orange, and discovered an abundance of the color—“pretty polka-dot dresses, slippery dips and workmen’s vests.” The tenacious writer went from Victoria Park to the Broadway Shopping Centre, to Central Station, Chinatown, and finally a Buddhist library, where she received the long-awaited news that Chan would be giving a Dharma talk at the center of the Association of Engaged Buddhists the following Sunday.
Stewart’s meeting with Chan revealed a lot about the wandering monk. Chan is grateful to receive food of any sort from a kind passerby, and “has no preferences regarding flavours, but thinks it’s more compassionate to not eat meat.” When offered shelter, he prefers to stay in a garage or shed rather than inside a house. Chan reveals that he is trying to live in a similar way to the Buddha, who wandered as a mendicant before passing into parinirvana at the age of 80.
Chan tells Stewart that a wise life has three important characteristics: curiosity, kindness, and generosity. Preferring not to be recorded on video or an audio device, Chan simply tells Stewart that he sees himself as a Yoda (a fictional character from Star Wars), minus the publicity. “Yoda is a mysterious yet equanimous character who doesn’t speak much, but nonetheless points the way for those who are faltering in life,” writes Stewart. Humble, and aware that fame is “poison to wisdom,” Chan does not want people to see him as some kind of guru or to disrupt his spiritual path.
A Facebook page pinpointing Chan’s whereabouts posted a status which reported that the monk had been seen in Branxton, NSW, on 2 November.