Chilli Banana – a morning with the novice Buddhist monks

10 Aug 2018

You would be forgiven for stopping and doing a double take if you were passing through Bramhall village on the morning of Monday 6th August. Once again, the wonderful Chilli Banana was playing host to the novice Buddhist monks of Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in Stockport.

The young monks were undertaking their annual two week retreat to the temple, during which they (and we!) learn more about the principles of Buddhism, and what it truly means to become a monk. Increasingly familiar with this concept was Scottish born mother Lisa, whose son Patrick decided that he wanted to become a monk himself, having seen a picture of the temple in a friends home.

Chilli Banana

Like most parents, Lisa initially deemed Patrick’s interest and enthusiasm simply youthful exuberance – doesn’t everybody want to be an *insert as applicable* prince/princess/astronaut/explorer/spy? Why not add a Buddhist monk to that list? However, Patrick was determined to follow through and joined the program the following year.

Chilli Banana - Novice Monks

Fast forward to today, and it is clear to see Patrick thoroughly enjoys the sense of purpose and discipline that being part of the temple gives him. So much so that after some persuasion Lisa herself has decided to become a vegetarian, and now Patrick’s father has decided that he too, will join the temple. Of course, as we at I Love Bramhall quickly learned, there are certain rules and requirements that come with being part of the temple. One of which is the fact that the monks are forbidden from female contact or relationships, meaning not only that Lisa was unable to give her son a big hug to tell him how proud of him she was, but is also now unsure of the official status of her marriage!

Chilli Banana - Novice Monks

Despite this, it is clear to see the positive impact that becoming Buddhist and joining the temple has had on the family’s life. Perhaps being the definition of unorthodox, the family all the way from the Isle of Skye have taken to Buddhism as if they were Thai locals themselves.

Admittedly, Bramhall is not quite the same as Thailand, yet for that morning in Chilli Banana it was about as close as you can get. The day started with several hours chanting in the Parvi language. Although I could not understand a word that was being said, as the monks began to chant in unison the feeling in the room seemed to change, as if what was happening transcended the rigours and stresses of modern day life.

Chilli Banana - Novice Monks

After the chanting, it was time to offer the novice monks their food. As we knelt on the street with baskets of snacks and treats for the novices to take it made an image quite foreign to the typical shopfront in Bramhall. However, the offering was a necessity due to the fact that the monks are forbidden from taking any food or drink for themselves. Rather, it must always be offered or willingly given to them. In Buddhist countries, this would be the norm, a symbiotic relationship between religion and the general population which fosters a sense of community and togetherness; the idea being that if you look after the monk’s physical wellbeing, they will look after your spiritual wellbeing.

Chilli Banana - Novice Monks

Once the food had been offered it was time to eat – and as always, Stephen and Nok (the owners of Chilli Banana) did not disappoint. Plate after plate of authentic Thai street food (and a bowl of chips!) flew from the kitchen and straight to our waistlines. Not that I was complaining, but initially, the sheer quantity of food appeared excessive… However, I was soon informed that it was simply because the novices are forbidden from eating past midday, meaning almost everything was quickly devoured!

Chilli Banana - Novice Monks

As the morning drew to a close I was able to reflect on the experience and the fundamentals of Buddhism. Regardless of your religious beliefs, their approach towards mindfulness and being at ease with oneself is definitely something which we are starting to see and implement in our own culture. Things like meditation are becoming increasingly popular – albeit a couple of thousand years late… Indeed, I was particularly enamoured by the five fundamentals of Buddhism, which are that one must not lie, steal, harm living things, or commit sexual misconduct. And finally, the most important of the bunch: take excessive intoxicating substances – given when this rule is broken the other four usually follow!

Chilli Banana - Novice Monks

                       Ed from Ed’s Hair

Once again, it was a fantastic morning at Chilli Banana and definitely something different from the usual village life! Many thanks to Mercato for offering pizza to the novices and Ed from Ed’s hair for showing his support and attending!

We even ended up on Thai News! Click here to watch

Overall, apart from some leftover Pad Thai, the takeaway from the day was ultimately we can all take some more time to become more mindful not only externally to others, but also internally within ourselves. Whether it be taking some time to meditate or simply just showing respect for others, we thank the monks of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Chilli Banana for showing us this!


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