Silence in the Streets

Michael is a biochemist, digital artist, practicing Buddhist and an entrepeneur.  A long-time devotee of Adi Da Samraj and current resident of Bang Saray, Chonduri (Thailand).


Siriluck was at a crisis point in her young life. At 14 she was alone on the streets of Bangkok. She left her family home in the Klong Toey slums because her mother was indifferent to her and drank too much and her father had recently tried to rape her. Partially deaf and completely mute she now slept under a bridge at night, wandering around the city to beg during the day. Despite her disabilities she was a clever girl and within a few days had learned how to avoid the “handlers” and pimps who were always on the lookout for a new source of easy money. She changed the areas where she begged for money and food regularly, was careful to hide her few possessions and kept her appearance bland and unremarkable. Soon she settled upon washing the windows of passing cars and it seemed to be working well, but over time the exhaust fumes and grinding heat moved her to look for a different way to live.

Rising early one morning, Siri trudged across the bridge which served as her roof and which was always choked with traffic, crossed into a narrow alley and explored a new route that took her to an unfamiliar neighborhood. It had leafy trees and clean sidewalks. She began to relax. Soon she passed a line of monks begging for food. She bowed respectfully, and as she did so, her eye caught the attention of the eldest monk who happened to glance upward for the very briefest of moments. Passing on to take up her own task of begging, she felt a tangible sense of happiness well up in her that she had not experienced for many years.

That afternoon Luang Por Lu asked Kiang, his temple boy, if he had noticed anything noteworthy during their morning alms round. The rather lackadaisical boy, selected by the venerable monk for some spiritual promise unseen by anyone else including his parents, replied that he had not. Luang Por Lu immediately gave him a sharp whack on the back of his head and shouted, “tang jai”. He explained that a monk must always pay attention to everything and in all circumstances through the mechanism of feeling. This was the essence of mindfulness, he explained. Though Kiang had little understanding of what his master meant, the boy bowed accordingly and thanked his master for instruction.

It so happened that because Siri had done quite well in that pleasant neighborhood, she decided to return a week later, again arriving early in the morning. She soon noticed the line of orange robed monks carrying their black lacquer bowls. Housewives and people from the neighborhood stood patiently waiting for the procession to pass so that they could place offerings from their kitchens in the monk’s bowls, thereby making merit. Seeing this time-honored practice gave her a sense of peaceful wellbeing. That evening, under the bridge which was her only shelter, she would try to recall the sense of peacefulness which so impressed her heart before falling asleep.

Again, that afternoon Luang Por Lu asked Kiang if, during the morning, he had seen anything he thought to be important. Kiang raised his head sheepishly, thinking the answer would probably earn him another blow, and hesitantly whispered, “a girl”. Luang Por Lu shouted “what girl?” Knowing he was certainly in deep trouble, Kiang could only stare at the floor. His master again shouted, “what girl, Kiang?” Still hanging his head, he replied, “The one with the blue plastic bucket in her hand and rags stuffed in her pockets, revered teacher”. There was a long silence at the end of which Kiang looked up into the beaming face of the man who was more than a father to him. Luang Por Lu told Kiang that after tomorrow’s alms round, he was to find the girl with the blue bucket and bring her back to the wat.

The next afternoon, when he had finished his duties, Kiang set out to fulfill his master’s request. He asked everyone in the area if they knew the girl or where she might be found, but to no avail. He returned to the wat knowing that he would displease his master. That was never good.

Luang Por Lu told him to continue to look every afternoon until he found the girl. A week went by and Kiang had no success. Ten days more passed and still he was no closer than the day he started looking. No one he spoke to knew anything about the girl. A few had seen her but could provide no additional information. Then two weeks later, during the morning alms procession, Kiang spotted the girl. He looked at his master, who, in accordance with the strict rules governing monk’s behavior, did not look up, but simply gave the slightest nod of his shaven head. Kiang carefully set down the bulging alms bag he was carrying for his master and rushed off to speak with the girl. But she could not speak nor understand him well and shyly stepped away from the boy, trying to remain unnoticed, a strategy which she regularly turned to in order to survive. Kiang ran back to serve Luang Por Lu and while they walked further Kiang tried to explain what had happened. Luang Por Lu told the boy to follow her until he found out where she lived and only then return to the wat.

That evening Kiang entered the monk’s quarters and reported that the girl slept under a nearby bridge. Luang Por Lu said that the next day they would awaken one hour earlier than usual and go to briefly see the girl.

The next morning, in the city’s dank darkness, they found Siri curled up under an overpass. Luang Por Lu approached and told Kiang to gently awaken her. By Luang Por Lu’s skillful yet benign gestures Siri was made to understand that Kiang would meet her and accompany her to the wat that afternoon to visit the senior monk. Siri looked into the eyes of Kiang’s master and, sensing that she would be safe with him, agreed.

When Siri was ushered into Luang Por Lu’s presence, the master explained using gestures and words that he would teach her for an hour at one o’clock in the afternoon each day, and that at the end of her lesson she would receive enough food for her needs. Kiang was instructed to take her blue bucket and clean it. Siri made signs as if to ask what she would be learning and what she would be required to do in return. Luang Por Lu simply repeated her gestures back to her exactly as she had made them. Confused, she repeated the signs and mouthed what words she knew silently, trying to find out what the monk meant. He again duplicated her signs, but omitted copying her lip movements. Confused further, she sat on the floor in exasperation and again signed her query. The monk copied her, movement for movement, with precision and elegance. Siri looked up in wonderment and comprehension. As this marked the end of her first day’s lesson, Kiang brought her blue bucket, which he had cleaned and filled with a delicious and abundant assortment of the excess alms from his preceptor’s daily begging round.

Siri returned to her space under the bridge and reclined into deep thought about the day’s events. She fell asleep that night with a sense of wonder and anticipation.

The lessons progressed rapidly. Luang Por Lu was possessed of a certain genius born of long spiritual practice and many meritorious lifetimes. He knew his pupil’s abilities and matched his teaching methods to their needs perfectly. For her part Siriluck applied herself with great energy and determination. She gave her teacher undivided attention and obeyed his instructions with a young girl’s full faith and sincerity. At the end of a three-month period Luang Por Lu had taught her enough to practice her art with confidence on the streets of Bangkok. He bid her farewell and blessed her to succeed.

Siri had been taught well. Every day she practiced tirelessly and refined her skills. Soon she started working the entertainment districts and other areas of the city where rich foreign tourists congregated. She made more money in one day than she had made from begging in three months. On weekends sometimes crowds of more than a hundred watched her perform. She gradually became known as the most entertaining mime to be found in Bangkok and perhaps in all Thailand. On numerous occasions upon returning to the wat in order to thank Luang Por Lu for all he had done, she found he never seemed pleased to see her. With the passage of time and growing success in worldly endeavors, she stopped visiting.

Siri was careful to save money and soon moved into an apartment. As the years passed, she continued to prosper and found a boyfriend. He signed to her his undying love. They married. She loved Aidon with her whole being and felt she could not be happier.

Then, after a time, she discovered her husband was having an affair with a woman who could speak and hear. Siri was absolutely devastated. She wanted to kill herself. She lived in despair day and night, totally inconsolable.

Finally, she thought of Luang Por Lu and went to see him. The great master was now very aged in countenance but his kind eyes had not changed. She fell on the floor before him, crying and thrashing about, trying to sign what had happened and the depths of her unhappiness. She looked up at her master and saw the most beautiful smile appear on his face. She gestured “what can I do master?” He pointed to a mat where she was to be seated. Then Luang Por Lu sat cross-legged opposite her on the floor, closed his eyes and did not move. She copied his posture. Together they sat for an hour. When Luang Por Lu arose from his seat he gazed at his pupil with love in his eyes and, looking up in to his, she understood. Siri returned every morning to the wat to meditate and could feel her master’s presence there as if she were in his direct company. She kept to this routine unremittingly and due to her success as a mime she could afford to stay alone and perform only once or twice a week.

After practicing as a Mae Chii (Buddhist nun, or female renunciate practitioner), for many years, Siri realized true happiness. Her gratitude to Luang Por Lu was as limitless as her joy, for she had been truly blessed in this life.

Read a transcript from Adi Samraj discussing the Guru devotee relationship in dark times.