Cyber Monk Joke I guess it would be accurate to say that Cyber Monk was a joke when I first coined the term inside my head. My Vietnamese traveling buddy even laughed at the idea (and so did others, but I do get the joke). But it was given substance when I left my last permanent address 4 years ago to live a nomadic life as a renunciate, armed only with my laptop and my web-skills to ensure my survival on the open road. With no money, no property and no address, I had been traveling around the Philippines and Southeast Asia, essentially, as a monk surviving on this laptop.
Wanna be a Monk? With my 10-day Vipassana meditation courses and my current monastic life at Thai Plum Village in Pak Chong (Thailand), my friends ask if I want to be a monk. Somehow, staying real and sincere about my answer, I am compelled in all seriousness to say that I am already a monk...but I make my own monk rules.
A Conventional Monk Thing Initially, it's abstract. Here's how I see it. I do have spiritual pursuits and I am in search of something bigger than myself. I resonate with a monk's aversion to material wealth or ownership, I embrace the notion of detachment and I live a life of nomadic mobility. That's the similarity.
One Size Fits All? Here's where I differ. If I subscribe to any kind of monastic order, I will invariably find a few of its laws, rites or rituals to be inapplicable or even unacceptable. Every person is unique. Unique in his/her genetic predisposition, unique in his intellectual capacity to synthesize information into a workable life equation, unique life experience, unique body anatomy, etc. Unigue everything! So how could one monastic order fit all sizes?
Not my Truth Additionally, even the greatest monastic order was founded by a human being - it is not divine architecture. It was envisioned, developed and propagated by people who are great visionaries, living saintly lives whose way of life served as inspiration for many people. Indeed there are many beneficial lessons that can be learned from these disciplines. I emulate what resonates - after all, why reinvent the wheel? Mindfulness as practised at the Plum Village is profoundly powerful and I will take that with me. The notion that my self-realization resides in me (and not anywhere else) is transformational and that is one of the great legacies of Vipassana to me. But just the same, the founders are of flesh and blood just like you and me. Whatever the doctrine, manifesto or dogma of that order principally is a by-product of the founder's unique truth that was selflessly shared for the benefit of many. But at the end of the day, I still have to find my truth.
My Truth I also have my own unique truth - everyone does. With that truth and my realization of right and wrong as a validating benchmark, I forge my own rules to my private and personal monastic order. I create my own template compliant to my uniqueness. I have no name for my monastic order and it's not even necessary - it's not for public consumption. I allow myself certain liberties most monks are restricted to, and I impose certain restrictions some monks are at liberty to exercise. As I evolve, so will my rules.
Personal Template In yoga, my teacher once said that as you deepen your practice, you will do less and less of other people's yoga and develop more and more, a yoga practice that is uniquely yours in full compliance to your individuality. That has been my tenet for nearly everything else - my own relationship template (platonic, romantic or family), my own monastic order and pretty much my own way of living life giving due consideration to constraints imposed by society, religion and government (e.g. - I still have to get a driver's license to drive a car). I draw the line up to what point I will allow them to make decisions for me (e.g. - I will not be a soldier and be shipped across the globe to kill someone who hasn't wronged me, my family or my country). To the extent I allow them, at least I am mindful of what liberty I am relinquishing.
Ending Thoughts Some people need institutions to make decisions for them - they need it and they look for it. And other people simply want to take ownership of their destiny by exercising that control themselves.
How to Get to Plum Village from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport
You are encouraged to arrive at the Center Friday afternoon between 2-4 pm
Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok proper (Phaya Thai Station) there is already a direct train from the airport that goes all the way to Bangkok with a final stop at Phaya Thai. Upon airport arrival, go down to Basement and take the Airport Link train to Phaya Thai Station35 mins | Baht 45. Get off at Phaya Thai Station (the last stop) and walk (.8km) to the Phaya Thai BTS Station.
Phaya Thai Station (N2) - Mo Chit Station (N8) by BTS TRAIN board the BTS train heading to Mo Chit and get off there.
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Platform 6, public van at #78 this is a short walk. Go to Platform 6 and get on the public van at #78 offering Jamnong Tour.
IMPORTANT ! - make sure you make it clear to the driver that HIS van drops you off at Plum Village. Otherwise, they might finish the tour in Pak Chong proper. If this happens, you're still 45 minutes away from Plum Village which costs 500 Baht by cab! Best to copy/print/take a picture of the image below to show to the driver:
Mo Chit North Eastern Bus Terminal - Plum Village by VAN the trip all the way to Plum Village, Pak Chong costs Baht 500 and takes 3.5 to 4 hours. Take the 11am or 12 noon van to ensure you arrive at the center before 4pm.
How to Get to Pak Chong (Proper) from Bangkok by train
ignore this if you plan to go to Plum Village. Take the direction above instead
If you are arriving Bangkok and would like to proceed directly to Pak Chong without spending a night in Bangkok, best to take a plane that will land in Don Mueang Airport in time for the #71 Train (Bangkok to Si Sa Ket) to stop at the MRT Train Station, Bang Sue, which is only a short walk from the airport. Train schedule at Bang Sue Station: Fri 10:27am, arriving Pak Chong 1:30pm. Express aircon car (Baht 289), non aircon (Baht 198). Duration is 3 hours, stopping right in the heart of Pak Chong. From Pak Chong.
You can also take the train from the main terminal near the center of Bangkok at the MRT Station, Hua Lampong Railway Station. Departure, Friday 10:00am.
Plum Village Cost Index
(US$1 = Thailand Baht 35.77 = Php 47.52 as of Feb 28, 2016)
Baht 500 van from Victory Monument to Plum Village
Baht 289 Express train from Bang Sue MRT Station (Bangkok) to Pak Chong Train Station, aircon (non aircon, Baht 189)
Baht 500 taxi from Pak Chong to Plum Village (call this taxi number, Mr. Khun Paisan: 085 772.4519 for the trip to Plum Village)
Things to bring if staying overnight
not a requirement, but it helps if you bring clothing in the dark brown color in order to blend-in