I find myself enthralled as I read about author Tim Ward’s experience living in the International Forest Monastery. The book offers a candid look at life in Thai monastery told from Tim Ward’s own point of view and experiences. He also shares some of the experiences of those he met along the way on his journey. I cannot help but wonder how some of the other monks would feel about it should they know what he wrote about them.
Tim and an American named Jim arrive at the Monastery at basically the same time and the two of them basically become the main characters of the book. The rest of the monks basically made them in to twins at the start of the book by not being able to tell them apart and often referring to them as the one. While not something they desired originally lead to the two of them bonding over the course of the book and leads a number of interesting conversations.
Am about half way through the book at this point and only have one thing that I dislike about the book is that as the reader we have no real sense of time. At first we know a few days passed because he took his oath and had his head shaved. Slowly however over the course of the book both Tim and Jim begin to notice things that they have moral and ethical problems with. For example they as novices are often indirectly asked to do things against the percepts by the older monks who can’t do something for themselves because it is against the rules. Of course they also can’t ask directly because that to is against the rules. As they see more and more of this and other behaviours they find themselves questioning if the monks are truly enlightened or if they are just lazy people who have found there perfect place in life. Sadly because the book doesn’t offer any time frames we are left with no idea of how long this took.
I want to end on a positive note because over the entire book has been very good so far. So to close at least for now I’m going to mention the rest of the cast, Tim has gone to great lengths to reveal little bits about each of the different characters at the monastery. So many of them are interesting and offer little bits of there own secrets out through the story.