Thai Buddhist monk takes inspiration from 1,500-kilometer barefoot pilgrimage

Luang Ta Bun Chuen lightly pats a sympathizer on the head, granting him merit and good fortune Tuesday morning. Photo by Prasit Tangprasert. From bangkokpost.com

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 pilgrimage on foot (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 side of the road and offered the traditional Thai wai, a gesture of greeting and respect, accompanied by offerings of floral garlands and bottles of drinking water, as Luang Ta Bun Chuen passed through the Bua Yai district of Nakhon Ratchasima province early Tuesday morning.

The monk, now on the last leg of his sacred journey, gently patted the heads of the assembled Buddhist devotees with the cylindrical staff of grass stems he is carrying, conferring merit and good fortune. He reportedly arrived in the Waeng Noi district of neighboring Khon Kaen province on Tuesday.

Luang Ta Bun Chuen. From royalcoastreview.com

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 devoted his life to doing good deeds. He only accepted offerings of clean 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 a monk in 2009 after deciding to devote his life to the study of Buddhist teaching. Before taking his monastic vows, Luang Ta Bun Chuen was the head of a family with a wife and four children, and an army veteran, having served in the Vietnam War in 1969.

Each year, he leaves the life of the monastery to take to the road again. 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 meets along the way in exchange for the simple items he needs to continue his pilgrimage. In line with the teachings of Theravada, the practice of Luang Ta Bun Chuen also helps those he meets to gain merits that will aid their own path to liberation.

Thailand is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, with 93.5% of the national population of nearly 70 million people identifying as Buddhists, according to government census data for 2018. The Kingdom of Southeast Asia East has some 40,000 Buddhist temples and nearly 300,000 monks (Pali: bhikkhu). Although renunciation communities also exist, monastic authorities in Thailand have never officially recognized the full ordination of women, and bhikkhunis do not generally enjoy the same level of social acceptance as their male counterparts.

See more

Revered monk on 1,500 km barefoot hike (Bangkok Post)
Buddhist monk travels 1,500 kilometers, rekindles interest in pilgrimage (PIME AsiaNews)
Monks’ pilgrimage of 1,500 km completed (Royal Coast Review)
Monk, 72, walking barefoot on a 1,500 km pilgrimage (YouTube)

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