Last week, I was taking my usual breakfast at a coffee shop in Simpang Bedok. I walked from my office at Tanah Merah MRT station to Simpang Bedok. It’s only a 10 minute stroll.
On few occasions I witnessed this unusual scene. Usually I’m quite engrossed with my own activities either reading the morning papers or checking my mail on my mobile. This time I decided to observe this phenomenon.
Two monks standing along the road-side just outside the coffee shop holding begging bowls. They were Thai monks from the nearby Thai temple just across Bedok Marketplace at Simpang Bedok.
As I sat at the table in the coffee shop waiting for my mee rebus, I observed the two simple humble monks with heads bowed. They did not solicit any donation nor speak a word. They just stood there patiently as if time stood still. They were in full monk attire graceful and simple oblivious to all the bustling activities around. I was curious.
I saw someone about to give $2 to them by placing in the begging bowl. The monk gently turned away and smiled. It was declined.
Notice that the monks don’t wear slippers. There is a trolley beside them to carry the donated food.
An Indian man from the roti prata stall in the coffee shop brought some rice and vegetables for the monks. The monks bowed deeply and accepted.
Next the Malay lady of the Malay food stall where I ordered my mee rebus came out with a bag of rice with some potatoes and more vegetables for the monks. They accepted from the Malay lady. She was so busy running the stall cuz she got no helper. Her husband was not around yet she stopped her work and took the trouble to deliver those items to the monks. My mee rebus was put on hold.
Myself and few onlookers witnessed this moving touching scene. It was a beautiful sunny morning with two serene monks accepting so many raw uncooked food items from the stall holders of the coffeeshop. The best part is that all the contributors are not Buddhists. The Indian stall and the Malay stall holders are definitely not Buddhists. They are Muslims. Charity transcends across all religious faiths. The act of giving is an universal virtue so much neglected in our materialistic society.
All the hype on the main stream media about ‘religious harmony and inter-religious and racial tolerance’ do not factor here. It’s of no relevance when one witnesses this poignant scene.
No words nor other forms of communication. When they saw the monks waiting outside their stalls patiently, they just volunteered to donate with whatever they could to give to them. No asking and no pestering. They give and the monks just accept. No words exchanged between the giver and recipient. No need for that.
I was touched and moved beyond words. Many past stories of syndicated begging monks were exposed in the mass media. They came and dressed up as monks to beg for alms treating it as a profession only to return with easy money solicited from well wishers. Not in this case.
I used to visit this Thai temple on Vesak Day by tagging along with my neighbors when I was a little boy. I’m now in my middle age and the temple still stood there with much more extensions and improvements. Needless to say it was very ulu in those days. Now it’s changed so drastically.
The temple set amongst those private residential houses. Almost any time in the temple there will be stream of visitors seeking blessings and paying homage. It supports a large community of resident monks there. Every now and then those monks would just walk around the neighbourhood seeking food donations. They don’t take cash. Just cashless donations in kind.
All kinds of people in the surrounding neighbourhood irrespective of their religious beliefs volunteered to donate all kinds of food stuff to them.
Will it die off with the passing of the older generation?
I hope not.
Will our children witness this touching scene in future?
I hope so.
I really don’t know.