They’re like monkeys carrying coconuts

Before I start, these are the paper cups we were given to drink coffee out of at the workshop last week.  I thought they were hilarious.

Now, onwards and upwards to business! This is SM, they guy I talked about very briefly in the previous post who acted as my translator during the workshop that KYA hosted last week.  He’s not just a translator, oh no.  He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met–and I only knew him for three days!

I knew him as my translator, who enjoys Lionel Richie and Celine Dion periodically and is easily distracted from his translating duties.  In fact, the way he talks reminds me very much of Rafiki from The Lion King.

I don’t know his whole life story, just snippets of facts and incredibly quotable quotes (that I really hope I remember).  At first glance, he’s a pretty run-of-the-mill kind of guy: he lives in Kampong Chnang (sort of a suburb of Phnom Penh) with his wife and daughter, he works mainly as a translator but also as general staff member at KYA.  Then I learned that he used to be a monk for 14 years of his life.  His reason for entering monk-hood?  He’s always wanted to go to Sri Lanka.  After a number of years and realizing he wouldn’t be getting to Sri Lanka anytime soon, he decided to quit.

Although he’s a monk no longer, he comes across as a spiritual presence and he’s got the knowledge to go with it.  He speaks Khmer and English but also Sanskrit and Nepalese.  He’s full of all kinds of knowledge and philosophy that he was required to learn as a monk, plus he told me the names of some of the tasty Cambodian desserts we ate at the workshop! 

Here are some of the things he said during those three days.  They stand on their own and I hope you all enjoy these quotes as much as I did.

“You don’t need to do meditation everyday or for long.  Just when you have time.  It’s about focusing, focusing on your breath.  You don’t need to sit and ‘om’ to meditate!  You meditate when you are walking, when you are working and you focus, focus, focus!”

“There is a strategy to deal with people.  If they get angry, start yelling at you, people usually start yelling back.  No, no.  If they get angry and start yelling at you, you wait until they’re done and you calmly reply.”

“Buddha doesn’t differentiate between race, sexes, genders–no.  He refers only to Humans.  He says we should love each other.  The only time this rule is broken is when he says that we should respect women because we all came from a woman.”

“My wife and I, we don’t get angry with each other.  You see, I am not perfect.  My wife is not perfect.  We know this.  Sometimes, I’m about to get anger (sic–love the way he talks!) and then, right before I start to say something, I turn and say “No!” because I know that she’s not perfect.  I cannot expect that.”

“There are five pillars of Buddhism: do not steal, do not lie, do not kill, do not commit adultery and do not drink wine (editor’s note: so tequila is all good, right?!?).  Most people do not follow these, yet they call themselves Buddhist.  Oh I’m Buddhist, you’re Buddhist.  But how could Cambodians steal from one another, kill one another during the Khmer Rouge?  How can they rape women and commit adultery and still call themselves Buddhist?  What they are, they are like monkeys carrying coconuts–the monkey carries the coconut and it wants desperately to eat it…but it cannot crack the coconut open.”


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