Local residents flocked to greet and be blessed by Luang Ta Bun Chuen yesterday, as the revered Buddhist monk neared the end of a 1,500-kilometer walking pilgrimage (Pali: dhammayatra) across Thailand.
The 72-year-old monk, whose barefoot pilgrimage will take him from the resort island of Phuket off the coast of southern Thailand to his home province of Nakhon Phanom on Thailand’s northeast border with Laos, was greeted by respectful rows of well-wishers, who knelt by the roadside and offered the traditional Thai wai, a gesture of greeting and respect, along with offerings of floral garlands and bottles of drinking water, as Luang Ta Bun Chuen passed through Bua Yai District of Nakhon Ratchasima Province early Tuesday morning.
The monk, now on the final leg of his sacred journey, gently tapped the heads of the assembled Buddhist faithful with the cylindrical baton of grass stems he carries, bestowing merit and good fortune. He was reported to have arrived in Waeng Noi District of neighboring Khon Kaen Province later on Tuesday.
Those waiting to pay homage to Luang Ta Bun Chuen described him to local media as a devout monk who had renounced all material possessions and had dedicated his life to performing good deeds. He accepted only offerings of drinking water, most of which he donates to local schools and hospitals, local media reported.
Dhammayatras have become an annual tradition for Luang Ta Bun Chuen, who was ordained as a monk in 2009 after he decided to devote his life to studying the Buddhist teaching. Before taking his monastic vows, Luang Ta Bun Chuen was a householder with a wife and four children, and military veteran, having served in the Vietnam War in 1969.
Each year, he steps away from life in the monastery to go on the road. In doing so, Luang Ta Bun Chuen has become a role model, sharing his experiences, spiritual practice, and blessings with the people and communities he encounters en route in exchange for the simple items he requires to continue his pilgrimage. In accordance with the Theravada teachings, Luang Ta Bun Chuen’s practice also helps those he meets to acquire merit that will contribute to their own path to liberation.
Thailand is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, with 93.5 per cent of the nation’s population of almost 70 million people identifying as Buddhists, according to government census data for 2018. The Southeast Asian kingdom has some 40,000 Buddhist temples and almost 300,000 monks (Pali: bhikkhus). While communities of female renunciants also exist, the monastic authorities in Thailand have never officially recognized the full ordination of women, and bhikkhunis do not generally enjoy the same level of societal acceptance as their male counterparts.
Revered monk on 1,500km barefoot trek (Bangkok Post)
Buddhist monk walks 1,500 kilometers, revives interest in pilgrimage (PIME AsiaNews)
Monk’s Pilgramage of 1,500 KM Completed (Royal Coast Review)
Monk, 72, trekking barefoot to complete 1,500km pilgrimage (YouTube)
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