This Is Not About Getting Poked By the Pope

I went from Japan all the way to India searching for spiritual enlightenment, till it hit me… I could just Google it. So, I Googled spiritual enlightenment and do you know you can be Facebook friends with the Pope? Yeah, he’s got over two million friends, but I’m feeling pretty special, cause today, the Pope poked me.  And checking out his relationship status: It’s complicated. I guess he’s having a four-way with the Holy Trinity.

    Sorry, here I am on my journey to spiritual enlightenment and I’m making dirty jokes about the Pope. I guess dirty jokes about the Pope are part of it, cause I learned how the river is always moving and is always the same. But, this is not about getting poked by the Pope.

I was just three days into my Asian backpacking adventure, finding myself standing in front of a giant golden Buddha in Thailand, when a quiet monk, who spoke only in grunts, lead me into the temple. Unfamiliar with proper temple protocol, I removed my sun-hat and sat crosslegged in my sandals in front of another statue of Buddha. If there’s one thing the Thais aren’t short of, it’s Buddha statues. They’re even in gas stations, all lit up like Saturday Night Fever Buddha, with strobe lights and mirror balls and everything. The people of Thailand love their Buddha statues, cause, here’s another one, though, I found the naked fluorescent lights on the ceiling and the cardboard box of detergent written in English incongruous with the atmosphere. Also, when the monk offered me a Sprite, which I should’ve accepted, cause now I see how Sprite is just another word for, ‘spirit’. I turned down the spirit offered me by the monk.

 The monk rolled two cigarettes which he didn’t offer and tossed one butt on the floor and the other in the incense bin.

I sat and looked at the monk to give me guidance and all he could offer was a small steel amulet with his face on it. I took it and said, ‘thank you’ in the only language I know.

Then the monk did something awe-inspiring; he wrote what looked to be a full paragraph written in Thai that must contain the meaning of everything. I think, this is it. This is what I came to Asia for: this piece of paper, this paragraph, this mantra. It must have deep meaning, because, these are the only words he has given me. They must, at least, contain a koan to unlock my mind to discover new truths.

Then it got weird. The monk started miming what looked like: ‘nice shirt, don’t shoot me,’ which of course I responded with, “Thanks, I won’t.” But, he did it again with such zeal I knew I was missing his holy message. So, I shrugged. He produced a bhat coin and pointed.

Ah… of course, it’s about money. I hand him all the money I had on me, about 300 bhat, trusting he’d take the right amount. I’d pay anything, are you kidding? Ten bucks for spiritual enlightenment? What a steal!

The monk simply looked at the money, making no attempt to take it. Does he not want money? But, then he wrote 100 on a piece of paper. I thought, good thing numbers are written in a universal language, cause, that’s the first thing I’ve understood since sitting down on this temple floor. So, I handed him 100 bhat bill, he nodded and folded it away into his bright orange toga.

Later, wandering back to the beach, I was called to from a pool table by Tanadet, who asked me where I was going. I asked if he understood English. He laughed and told me, of course, because he was Leonardo DiCaprio’s uncle.

I gave Tanadet the paper the monk had given me, holding my breath in anticipation of getting at least one inch closer to the meaning of life.

Finally, Tanadet had finished the translation and handed back the monk’s verse with this translation:

    IT WAS REALLY NICE MEETING YOU TODAY. COME BACK TOMORROW. NEXT TIME, BRING SOME FRIENDS.

The meaning of life: next time, bring some friends.

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