Upper School World Religion Class Meets a Buddhist Monk

Mark Wright-Ahern
Upper School students have the opportunity to choose from a number of elective classes to complete their schedule. One elective offered is a World Religion class taught by Mr. Mark Wright-Ahern, who has a bachelor’s degree in religion with a minor in musical performance from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The class is examining the variety of religions around the world.
Now in the chapter about Buddhism, students enjoyed the opportunity to meet a Buddhist Monk. Padhanakamo/Douglas is a monk from the Tam Bao Tu Temple located in Apopka, who visited the class recently and patiently answerd students’ questions. The students were captivated by the speaker and asked thoughtful questions.
Padhanakamo spoke in depth about Buddhist religion and its history, describing the 2,600 years that Buddhism has been around. He explained its origin and the belief that we as human are born, we get old, sick, and die. This cycle repeats itself, and each time, based on the Buddhist faith, we are reincarnated, or in other words, reborn. When we return, it is based on the life we lived before that will determine our new future (Karma). If we lived a pleasing life before, we could become a king and/or queen, having earned a better life. On the other hand if we did not live a life that was honorable, then we could come back poor and/or as a lower life form.
When asked what it takes to become a monk, Padhanakamo explained that there are five things a monk must vow: do not steal, kill, lie, have sex, or use drugs or alcohol. He shared that he had two children before becoming a monk, but now his daughter cannot hug or touch him; upon taking vows as a monk, he is forbidden to touch women.
Students also asked what a day in the life of a monk was like. Padhanakamo described his day and emphasized that much time is spent meditating and studying. His morning starts at 4 a.m. daily and is filled with tasks throughout the day to end at 9 p.m. He shared that monks are allowed to eat meat, but do not kill any living creatures. The catch is that they cannot kill or know of how the food was killed. Students were also interested to know if monks are allowed to use technology, and the answer was yes. Technology can only be used for educational needs and not for fun.
The final question that wa answered was could a monk be “stripped” of the title? To which the answer is no – the Buddhist faith does not shame people nor make them look bad. Taking vows as monk requires self-discipline and the monk would give up the role himself before being removed or stripped of the title. Monks do not see their choice as a title – their lifestyles are shaped to support their spiritual practice.
It was an interesting conversation and we thank Padhanakamo for speaking with our students.