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Note: We're pinning this existing thread to the top of the Buddhism subforum so that anyone with experience in obtaining Thai visas for the purpose of ordaining as a monk in Thailand can find the information more easily.

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Hello!

I am 18 years old, from Bulgaria (Europe). I want to ordain in Thailand as a Buddhist monk in the coming months.

Today I called the Thai Consulate in Bulgaria for information on my visa and they told me that I need to get a letter from the monastery I want to ordain at, and an invitation from a Thai "Institution".

So there is the problem. I want to travel around Thailand first and choose a monastery that I like, not choose one just from looking at their web site for example - you know what I mean. But then I wouldn't have the "letter" to show to the Embassy. And also, I don't know a single Tai person, let alone an "Institution". How am I to get an invitation from one?

Is it possible to get around this? For example, can I apply not for a "Non-Immigrant" Buddhist Visa, but for a "Tourist" visa? And when I'm there, go to a neighbouring country like Malaysia and get a NI visa. Is this possible? What will they want me to have? Would I need an invitation again? Do I have to show money? If so, how much?

Thank you very much for any info you can provide me with!

Kop koon krap! :o

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Hello!

I am 18 years old, from Bulgaria (Europe). I want to ordain in Thailand as a Buddhist monk in the coming months.

Today I called the Thai Consulate in Bulgaria for information on my visa and they told me that I need to get a letter from the monastery I want to ordain at, and an invitation from a Thai "Institution".

So there is the problem. I want to travel around Thailand first and choose a monastery that I like, not choose one just from looking at their web site for example - you know what I mean. But then I wouldn't have the "letter" to show to the Embassy. And also, I don't know a single Tai person, let alone an "Institution". How am I to get an invitation from one?

Is it possible to get around this? For example, can I apply not for a "Non-Immigrant" Buddhist Visa, but for a "Tourist" visa? And when I'm there, go to a neighbouring country like Malaysia and get a NI visa. Is this possible? What will they want me to have? Would I need an invitation again? Do I have to show money? If so, how much?

Thank you very much for any info you can provide me with!

Kop koon krap! :o

I am going to make a suggestion.

Are you allowed to come to Thailand as a tourist on a visa on arrival at the airport - or do Bulgarians have to get visa before they leave for Thailand?

If you are entitled to a 30 or 15 day visa on arrival then that is what you should do.

Then, as soon as you are ordained (which shouldn't take long - because I used to be a Thai Budhist Monk myself) ask your Ajarn (your Buddhist monk Superior to issue you with your Monk ID bokk - known as "Yellow Pages" because it is a little yellow book), and with this and a supporting letter from him, go and get a visa extension.

You will not be exempt from visas as a monk, but you will get your visa extended as long as you stay a monk, although I think you may still have to leave and do a few return trips (I am not sure about that - visa rules are changing alot at the moment).

The point I am making is you should get on the visa ladder in Thailand if you can, and not try and complete all this in your own country - alot easier if you are here in Thailand.

I wish you all the best in monkhood.

Tim

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I am going to make a suggestion.

Are you allowed to come to Thailand as a tourist on a visa on arrival at the airport - or do Bulgarians have to get visa before they leave for Thailand?

If you are entitled to a 30 or 15 day visa on arrival then that is what you should do.

Then, as soon as you are ordained (which shouldn't take long - because I used to be a Thai Budhist Monk myself) ask your Ajarn (your Buddhist monk Superior to issue you with your Monk ID bokk - known as "Yellow Pages" because it is a little yellow book), and with this and a supporting letter from him, go and get a visa extension.

You will not be exempt from visas as a monk, but you will get your visa extended as long as you stay a monk, although I think you may still have to leave and do a few return trips (I am not sure about that - visa rules are changing alot at the moment).

The point I am making is you should get on the visa ladder in Thailand if you can, and not try and complete all this in your own country - alot easier if you are here in Thailand.

I wish you all the best in monkhood.

Tim

Thanks for your reply!

Yes, Bulgarians have to get visa before leaving for Thailand, not at the airport.

Thanks for the suggestion - I will certainly do what you say - get the Tourist visa, and then extend it. You were most helpful to me!

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A problem again. It seems like they want a return ticket to issue a Tourist visa. This ticket costs more than I can afford.

So, I have to stick with the Non-Immigrant visa (which allows One-Way Tickets). Which means that I have to obtain a letter from a Monastery and an Invitation from a Thai Institution...

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Then get a tourist visa - choose the right one - loads of advice on this forum about how to go about it so dont worry - you'll get it one way or the other, and get 1 year open return ticket.

- and when you get here drop me message - I'll put you in touch with one of Thailands most revered foreign Forest hermit monks - a man who has lived the last 20plus years in a cave in the bush and has a very committed Thai following.

He'll be able to give you a load of very good advise

........... and dont worry about the return portion - if you're still a monk after one year the chances are you'll stay a monk allot longer and then "material tings" like money and planes tickets are no longer important!

Good luck

Tim

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If you can not afford a round trip ticket I suggest that you reconsider if you have enough resources in the event that things don't go as smoothly as planned. As a monk you may have to buy soap and toothpaste etc. but I'm not sure. I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm only suggesting considering what the possible eventualities might be.

Chownah

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Depends what temple you ordain with. Some temples organise everything for you (the farang temples), with other temples it is 100% your responsibility. So, if this is the case (a 'real' Thai temple) I highly recommend getting a letter of sponsorship & visa beforehand. This small investment in time could save hours and days and months of running around in bkk getting signatures from high level monks, going to other various places for signatures and other expensive and gumption depleting activities.

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If you can not afford a round trip ticket I suggest that you reconsider if you have enough resources in the event that things don't go as smoothly as planned. As a monk you may have to buy soap and toothpaste etc. but I'm not sure. I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm only suggesting considering what the possible eventualities might be.

Chownah

He's right - if your coming without extra money up your sleeve (carry a card, dont carry cash!), it may not go smoothly. When you get ordained its going to cost you, your temple, or your lay sponser quite a bit of money for the ceremony. If your temple wont pay (normally they dont) and you dont have a lay sponser (thai parents normally are the sponser) then you may have to pay. What about your visa costs? Just some ideas to think about.

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If there were a Thai temple in Bulgaria, I'd suggest getting a letter from them. Otherwise without money for a return ticket I don't see how you're going to be able to come to Thailand.

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Hi

I started down this road a couple of years ago and received a lot of help from the World Buddhist University in Bangkok. They supplied me with all the documentation I needed to obtain an educational visa and they found me a place at a Wat where there was some English spoken. Try emailing [email protected] and/or [email protected] Khun Pinayo Prommuang was particularly helpful.

Without wishing to be flamed (I don't normally read the Buddhism forum here), I'd recommend you find out as much about Thai Buddhism as possible before coming here.

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Hi

I started down this road a couple of years ago and received a lot of help from the World Buddhist University in Bangkok. They supplied me with all the documentation I needed to obtain an educational visa and they found me a place at a Wat where there was some English spoken. Try emailing [email protected] and/or [email protected] Khun Pinayo Prommuang was particularly helpful.

Without wishing to be flamed (I don't normally read the Buddhism forum here), I'd recommend you find out as much about Thai Buddhism as possible before coming here.

Excellent suggestions, MarkBKK.

If that email doesn't work (the wb-university.org doesn't appear to) then you could try emailing [email protected] as the WBU is affiliated with the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Bangkok. Come to think of it, the WFB might also be helpful. I also have an older email address for Aj Pinayo: [email protected]

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Thank you all for the replies!

Currently I have 990 Euro in my bank account. My family may hopefully support me with more. The visa costs 50 Euro, the plane ticket: between 600 and 1600 Euro. I may have to work to earn more money, if all this proves costly...

sabaijai and MarkBKK, thanks for providing me with the contact links. I will check them out.

How much money will I need for the ordination and the whole stay at the monastery? I thought it was all free?

I have to list all the things and work according to this plan.

1. Visa:

- letter from monastery or 500 Euro or invitation from a Thai Instittution/Company

- the visa costs 25 or 50 Euro depending on whether it's Non-Immigrant or Tourist Visa

2. Airplane Ticket:

- One Way: 600 Euro

- Round Trip: 1100-1600 Euro

3. Thailand expenses:

- Ordination Ceremony: ??? Euro

- Monastery expenses: ??? Euro

- Travel in thailand: ??? Euro

4. Second visa: from Malaysia or Cambodia.

- price: ??? Euro

I think that's all that's needed.

There are no Thai temples in Bulgaria. Also, I don't have a Credit Card. I have read enough about Thai Buddhism, or so I think. I am a Tharavadin, of course.

So far, I know of two monasteries that converse in English ( I don't speak Thai): Wat Prathat Doi Suthep and Wat Pah Nanachat. Are there any others?

Thanks again for your so very helpful responses and advice!

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There are monks in many places that speak some English.

The ordination ceremonies etc are all pretty much extremely low expense. It really is worth finding a place you like FIRST before ordaining. <worth reading the book Pra Farang too!>

I am fond of Nakhon Si Thammarat as there is a Buddhist University there. There is an awesome 'meditation' temple there <Wat Chai Na> that is used to dealing with farang.

Section 5 at Wat Mahathat near the grand palace in BKK may be able to point you along the way to finding a place to ordain. <Last time I was there in June there were 2 farang monks>

Good luck!

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How much money will I need for the ordination and the whole stay at the monastery? I thought it was all free?

When Thais become monks the parents or another lay sponser usually has to pay for the ordination. A well known temple can cost between 10000-20000 baht for ordination. Smaller, quieter temples should cost less.

As for the stay, food and accomodation is free. You may have to pay your own electricity costs... All this depends on the temple. The info I have given really is based on my own observations, different temples do things differently.

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Eu.stefan,

I haven't priced a plane ticket for a couple of years so I'm not current on the prices but I think that you might be able to find a round trip ticket for nearly the same price as the one way ticket. My experience has been that the one way tickets would never save me much compared to the round trip.....maybe things have changed or it is different in Bulgaria. Maybe shop around on the internet or shift your plans to a time of year when travel is cheaper....don't know.

Chownah

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Thanks again for the invaluable information you are all giving me.

A well known temple can cost between 10000-20000 baht for ordination.

Could the price be higher? It seems like a lot of money to me - 20 000 baht = 420 Euro

Where can I find a list of English-speaking monasteries?

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Thanks again for the invaluable information you are all giving me.

A well known temple can cost between 10000-20000 baht for ordination.

Could the price be higher? It seems like a lot of money to me - 20 000 baht = 420 Euro

Where can I find a list of English-speaking monasteries?

It is not actually a price, it is a donation. And if you are special, famous, a farang, etc, they may expect a little more. And yes, it is a considerable amount. Nevertheless it is not you usually pays, it is a lay supporter. The lay supporter is supposed to gain lots of merit from supporting your ordination. Actually, you should not have to pay anything - its best if you or the temple can arrange a lay supporter to make the donation. I'm not 100% sure, but a farang-thai temple should take care of all this. An option could be to hang around the temple in white clothes, learning your ordination chants etc, making your good intentions know, etc, until a rich sponser sees you and decides to get some merit by sponsering you... this way is best for all concerned in terms of 'karmic merit'. If you can get your parents to pay, this would be another excellent option, because it is what the Thais do.

By the way, do you have permission from your parents? You might need a letter from them giving their permission.

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What a relief knowing I won't have to pay it. Well, what if no one decides to sponsor me? What if I don't have the money to make a donation?

My parents have been divorced since I was two. I have no contact with my father. My mother has given me her permission. But she won't give me money. I am currently making a web site (I'm a web designer) so I hope I will earn enough to pay everything that's needed. I calculated 1300 Euro all in all. I currently have 990 Euro.

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What a relief knowing I won't have to pay it. Well, what if no one decides to sponsor me? What if I don't have the money to make a donation?

My parents have been divorced since I was two. I have no contact with my father. My mother has given me her permission. But she won't give me money. I am currently making a web site (I'm a web designer) so I hope I will earn enough to pay everything that's needed. I calculated 1300 Euro all in all. I currently have 990 Euro.

If your parents are divorced you should just need a letter from one of them, the 'legal guardian'.

About the money situation, I caution against turning up to the temple with nothing in your pockets. Sounds adventurous but can lead to sticky situations. Its nice to make some donations as a lay person before becoming a monk, you'll need some money for the visa if the temple doesn't organise it. (there is no merit for paying for visas as far as I know).

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Then, as soon as you are ordained (which shouldn't take long - because I used to be a Thai Budhist Monk myself) ask your Ajarn ...

Wow. how cool is that? How was it being a monk? Can you describe it for us? I have always wanted to do this but lacked the appropriate conditions. I guess following the Vinaya day in and day out has got to be really tough. Major kudos no matter what!

E.

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Stefan,

A couple of people here have commented on the book " Phra farang ", the story of Phra Peter Pannapadipo (aka Peter Robinson). It's an excellent book and think it would be of value to you, and I recommend it.

http://www.geocities.com/prapant.geo/Phra_Farang.htm

A few years ago Phra Peter left the monkhood to establish the Students Education Trust (which he directs). He is a very nice man, and I think if you were to contact him here:

http://www.akelius.com/set/contact_us.html

he might be able to suggest a course of action (or direct you to those who could) that would bring you closer to your goal of becoming a Buddhist monk. Best of luck to you Stefan.

Edited by lannarebirth
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Hi

I ordained in a Thai temple earlier this year. I can confirm it cost me a fortune. Much more than I expected. approximately $1000 US.

When you ordain, you need robes and bowl. Most temples have heaps of spares lying around, so you should be able to get some of these. But as you are a foreigner, they will expect you to be rich. It is customary to give donations to the monks at the ceremony - approx 200B each, and then approx 2000B for the preceptor and 1000B for the other 2 monks who act as your teacher.

After that there is the customary lunch, which you will be expect to provide. Then another donation to the monks at the lunch - 200B each.

You may also need a white sabong, and shirt for the initial phase of the ordination and gift packs for the monks - and maybe your self. umbrella, pillows, blankets, etc.

You may not need to hire the band, or microphones, chairs etc if you have no family coming.

Buddhism in Thailand is a a big business. But don't worry too much, you will get donations that will give you back some of your investment.

I would suggest you arrive on a tourist visa and find a good temple, ordain there and then worry about the visa. I ordained on a tourist visa.

Bankei

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I have never checked into what is minimally required in Thailand to ordain as a Buddhist monk but I do know that according to the Buddha's teachings you really only need a few things like a bowl and some robes. It may be that in Thailand the custom is to spend alot of money but I think if you make it clear that you want a minimal ordination you will be able to find a temple that will do it very cheaply......but you won't gain very much status for doing it this way.....since the OP is a foreigner coming to Thailand, my guess is that he is not interested in the status of being or having been a monk.

Chownah

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$1000 to ordain is too much for me. Are you sure about this? I figured out that I will have enough for my airplane ticket, visa, and travel in Thailand. I will keep asking around, including monks, but I hope the price for being ordained is as low as possible - actually, I thought it was free! :o

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You can reasonably expect to 'pay' anything up to $1000 for ordination. There is one temple in BKK that ordains movie stars, high government officials, other important people, & they would most probably be donating much more than $1000. A 'rich' & prestigous temple might expect 25000 baht or more. Some 'farang' temples might be 'free' but they will expect a 5 year hardcore commitment.

Without a sum of money to donate, ordination options become more and more limited.

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$1000 to ordain is too much for me. Are you sure about this? I figured out that I will have enough for my airplane ticket, visa, and travel in Thailand. I will keep asking around, including monks, but I hope the price for being ordained is as low as possible - actually, I thought it was free! :o

Actually, I think you only really have to have one preceptor monk and something like 7 other full fledged monks, a certain number of robes, a bowl, and a few other miscellaneous items I think. You don't even need a temple. This is from the Buddha's teachings....the Thai gov't might have some requirements but I'm pretty sure they will be minimal...maybe you will have to pay for a special visa...I don't know. Keep looking and I think you will be able to find it for very cheap. No big ceremony is required at least by the teachings of the Buddha.

Chownah

P.S. I'll go ask around and see what I can find out.

Chownah

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I went to a Buddhist forum which I frequent and asked where was the cheapest place in Thailand to ordain as a monk and so far I got one response from a monk who recommends Wat Pah Nanachat (WPN) in northeast Thailand. This is a monastary in the Thai forest tradition. They tend to stay with the original teachings of the Buddha which is probably why you can have the simple ordination as originally taught by the Buddha...I think. Anyway I found that at a Buddhist forum called E-Sangha...you might google for them and if you go there the Theravada Forum is probably the one you would want to look at and make further inqueries......also....here is the link for Wat Pah Nanachat:

http://www.watpahnanachat.org/

If you are interested you should contact them as soon as possible as there are arrangements that must be made to stay there and they can also probably give you good personal advice about your wishes to ordain......they speak English there (and Thai too!!).

Chownah

Edited by chownah
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Some more good information from E-Sangha...this is from thier general Buddhism forum:

Hello all,

I have lately been getting quite a few PM's enquiring about the practical details of ordaining as a bhikkhu in Thailand. Rather than replying to each separately I will just post to this thread and henceforth direct enquirers to it.

It used to be the case that foreigners could get ordained in Thailand very easily, indeed almost at the drop of a hat, but owing to abuse of the system (e.g., hippies getting ordained just so that they could get a long-term visa) new regulations were introduced that made bhikkhu ordination somewhat more difficult.

A non-Thai who wishes to ordain in Thailand and stay here long-term now needs to enter the country with a special "monk-to-be" visa. Strictly speaking, abbots are prohibited to ordain a foreigner who does not have one of these visas. In practice a lot of abbots outside Bangkok and the larger cities are ignorant of this rule (or else they know about it, but don't give a ######!) and will ordain foreigners who don't have it. However, if you ordain in this way it's likely that you'll run into problems when you apply for a visa extension. Therefore it's best to do things by the book.

To be eligible for a monk-to-be visa you will need to obtain a letter from an abbot in Thailand certifying that he is willing to ordain you. You will also need a letter of sponsorship from a Thai layman. (At some embassies it is sufficient to give the layman's name and address). This person will be making quite a big commitment, for he will be responsible for your behaviour and for repatriating you if you go insane, commit a crime or whatever.

So, given these new regulations, there are two ways that one can proceed. The better course, imo, is to come out to Thailand on a normal visa and spend a few months travelling about, visiting temples, going on retreats, questioning ajahns, making acquaintances etc., until you find some place or teacher that clicks with you. Then notify the abbot of your wish to ordain and follow whatever procedures are in place there. These will vary a lot; some abbots may write you a letter and find a lay sponsor for you straight away; if that happens then you just need to go to Laos or Malaysia, get the special visa, re-enter Thailand and you might be a bhikkhu by the end of the week. Other abbots will expect you to go through some kind of program, e.g., spending so many months as an 8-precept layman, then so many months as a samanera, before being eligible for bhikkhu ordination. If that's the case then you might need to enter and leave the country several times during your training, as the normal visas only last for 2-3 months.

Another way to proceed is to start attending a Thai temple in your home country and befriending the monks there. If they like you and trust that you're sincere they may be willing to arrange for an abbot in Thailand to issue a letter and find you a sponsor. I wouldn't myself recommend this procedure, however, for it has the drawback that you'll be committing yourself in advance to ordaining at a temple and with an abbot that you know nothing about. (Bear in mind that once ordained, your preceptor can insist that you stay with him for five years, so you really ought to select the man with some care). On the other hand, if you are only planning for a temporary ordination this might be the better way to go.

Once you have been ordained as a bhikkhu you will be eligible to apply for a one-year visa. This can be extended every year without needing to leave the country.

Regarding the best place to ordain for foreigners, this is a matter on which opinions will differ (and sometimes heatedly!). Obviously if you already have some faith in one or another of the Theravada sub-traditions (e.g., Mahasi-style vipassana, the forest tradition of Ajahn Mun or its off-shoot, the Ajahn Chah tradition, or Ajahn Buddhadasa, or Ajahn Naeb or whatever) then the choice will be dictated by that. For example, to train with Ajahn Maha Boowa you'll need to be ordained in the Dhammayuttika Nikaya; to be a monk in the Ajahn Chah tradition you'll probably need to start at Wat Pa Nanachat, etc. On the other hand, if you don't have any such prior commitment, then my own suggestion is that you start off at some place where you'll be trained properly in Vinaya. As far as I know this really cuts down the choices to three:

1) A Dhammayuttika Nikaya temple. In general the Vinaya observance is stricter in this Nikaya than in the Mahanikaya. The drawbacks, however, are that as a Dhammayutt monk you'll miss out on much of the richness of Thai Buddhism, you'll only be able to stay at about 5% of the temples in Thailand, Dhammayutt Abhidhamma scholarship is poor, and the one and only practice tradition is that of Ajahn Mun, with its eternalist doctrine of the "citta that lives for ever." Also the Vinaya observance tends in some respects to be pharisaical rather than virtuous; e.g., the Dhammayutts take pride in not using money, but in fact most of them do have bank accounts, even including some of the Ajahn Mun forest monks. They differ from money-using Mahanikaya monks only in that they don't physically handle the money.

2) Wat Pa Nanchat. This is Ajahn Cha's branch wat for training western monks. The Vinaya training in this wat is quite thorough and not so prone to Dhammayutt-style hypocrisy. The drawback is that you're not likely to learn very much Dhamma or to get competent guidance in meditation. Also, I don't think it's very healthy to be living with other western monks during one's formative years of training; too much time gets wasted on gossiping and squabbling.

3) Wat Tha Ma O; this is the Burmese monastery in Lampang of my own Pali teacher Sayadaw Dhammananda. Though the wat is primarily a Pali and Abhidhamma study centre, the sayadaw is also a meditation master and he gives his monks at least as good a Vinaya training as they'd get at Wat Pa Nanachat, but with much else besides. This is nowadays the only place in Thailand that I can wholeheartedly recommend for a western would-be bhikkhu.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. If you have any questions on this matter I'd prefer that they were posted here rather than sent by PM, unless they concern a matter that really needs to be kept private.

Best wishes,

Dhammanando Bhikkhu

***link deleted; links to other forums not permitted; quotes added; :o sabaijai***

What I have pasted here is from post #6 and was written by a monk presently in Thailand as indicated.

Chownah

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