Westerners choose a monk's life in Thailand


Thailand might be better known in the west for its beaches but some visitors come here with other plans.

Several hundred have left behind Europe, the US or Australia to be ordained as Thai Buddhist monks.

SOUNDBITE 1 Phra Asoko (man), Swiss Buddhist monk (French, 12 sec):

"You free yourself from a whole pile of difficulties and suffering which are an integral part of a non-religious life. There are difficulties, there are sacrifices to make. But these are things which are a part of the decision."

[French: "On se libère d'un tas de difficultés et de souffrances qui font partie intégrante de la vie d'un laïque. Il y a des difficultés, il y a des sacrifices à faire, mais ce sont des choses qui font partie du choix."]

One of Phra Asoko’s mentors is the American monk Luang Poh Sumedho.

He donned his saffron robe 46 years ago and is one of the most respected foreign monks in Thailand.

Buddhism appeals to him for its pragmatism - and the fact it's not focused on a god.

SOUNDBITE 2 Luong Por Sumedho (man), American Buddhist monk (English, 12 sec):

"There is something very appealing to Western mind about Buddhism, because it isn't, it doesn't demand that you believe in things, it is not a theistic approach."

But making the leap to a disciplined monastic life isn't easy.

There are many rules to follow including sexual abstinence and isolation from the wider world

Phra Ashal, an Australian who entered monkhood 35 years ago, says around half of the foreign monks he's known have given up.

SOUNDBITE 3 Phra Achalo (man), Australian Buddhist monk (English, 21 sec):

"I have never met one who regretted trying. And every single one of them has left with confidence in the Buddhist training and gratitude for the community and feeling happy that they tried and usually they leave because they think like, it's too hard for them."

While most western visitors to Thailand may return home feeling they’ve experienced a slice of paradise, these foreign monks, who’ve stayed the course, hope to experience a whole new level of enlightenment.



-Wide of temple

-Various of Phra Asoko and fellow monks collecting alms


-Various of Phra Asoko walking with Luong Por Sumedho


-Various of interior of temple Wat Pah Nanachat

-Various of mountain views of Khao Kor

-CU of Buddhist statue

-Set up of Phra Achalo


-Monks collecting alms

-Monks chanting

-Monk walking on hillside