18 April 2011


I stumbled on a great post the other day while doing some link-hopping. With Robes and Bowl on the Cotswold Way: My First English Tudong is a piece by Ajahn Manapo, an English Buddhist monk, recounting his tudong in the English countryside.
I could go tudong – that’s what I could do. But where would I go? Would I get fed? Where would I sleep? How would I be treated? These are precisely the questions that are meant to remain unanswered as a tudong monk hauls his alms-bowl and robes onto his shoulders, and – carrying neither food nor money – steps out of his monastery and into uncertainty.

I really like the very reflective but also very present account of the journey - how the obstacles and frustrations he encounters serve as seeds from which his reflections on his mind, body and spirituality grow and bloom. (I also like that he's the same age as me!)
The second reason [to go tudong] concerns a particular characteristic which pervades the tudong experience: uncertainty. I didn’t know if I would eat, where I would sleep, what dangers I might encounter on the journey. Living in this way not only sharpens your faculties, it brings you face to face with a reality that is ever-present but towards which we are usually blind when living a settled life. That reality is uncertainty. Although we presume things will continue as they always have: that we will eat tomorrow, that we will work tomorrow, and even that we will wake up tomorrow, there is no guarantee that these things will happen. Ensnared by the delusion of certainty we live at odds with the true nature of things, whereby we form attachments – creating a constant source of tension – and set ourselves up just to fall. To open up to uncertainty; to confront it; to live it, is another reason why I went tudong.

Anyway, I thought I would share the link in case anyone else was interested.


  1. I want to know if this would work so well, tudong in England, if he weren't white (I think he's white?).

  2. yeah, i also thought about how different the response he got was than potentially homeless/poor people doing the same.

  3. (i probably should have noted that all the issues/questions i have about the whole thing are probably partially why i found it so compelling!)

  4. Thanks for that, it's an extremely interesting link!

    That part of the world isn't too far from where I grew up. It used to hold an agricultural population, now it is dominated by wealthy middle-class incomers.

    Taking a view that is simultaneously that of an insider yet also an outsider my guess is that while being white would not have hindered him in that landscape his race would not have made a huge difference because there is enough awareness among wealthy middle-class incomers that this is what Buddhist monks do. Far more likely to have made a difference would have been his perceived social class, if he had not been well-spoken he might have elicited some suspicion. Sad but all too likely.

    It would be very interesting to see how he would have progressed had he chosen a less "nice" part of the country. I hope he would still have been successful.

  5. that's really interesting to hear about the class aspects of the region, jenny. thanks!

    changing the topic a bit, i found his fear of entering the city very familiar - it's something i feel when db and i have been out walking in the bush/country and are suddenly thrust back among the crowds. i'm suddenly hyper-aware of being queer again! and it's odd, because most of the time i feel more at home in the city than in rural areas for exactly that reason!