This paper is devoted to one remarkable documentary made by director Mark Verkerk in 2006 called Buddha’s Lost Children (Buddha Elveszett Gyermekei). Buddha’s Lost Children is about one remarkable Buddhist monk called Abbot Khru Bah Neua Chai Kositto, who has devoted himself to the orphaned and abandoned children came from poor and problematic families of remote villages in Northern Thailand. Khru Bah used to be a Thai boxer, later he became a Buddhist monk.
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I would like to talk about this film because it has showed me the Buddhism and compassion in action. Before watching it, I expected totally different content and story by asking completely different questions. However, as long as I continued watching, I started to look at Buddhism and compassion from other perspectives. Instead of somewhat passive practices and actions like: disowning the materialistic world, contemplating abstract things, being calm, peaceful or even ignoring the world’s real problems and dreaming about the Buddha-nature, I jumped in other Buddhist world, which is enough active, practical, and deals with real life challenges and issues. Khru Bah converted the Buddhist ideal for infinite compassion and unconditional love into action. From safe and peaceful monastery he goes out into the places, which is enough risky for his health or even life, and he confronts the problems that region’s people face in their everyday life.
The film shows harsh life in border regions of Myanmar and Thailand, the Golden Triangle which has long drug trafficking history and which became isolated and impoverished because of such issues. Khru Bah with the nun called Khun Ead they take young children from the problematic families of the nearby villages into The Golden Horse Monastery, save them from impoverished life or drug abuse. People send their children to this monastery, because in some cases they do not have any food to feed them.
Along with taking care of such children, Khru Bah tries to give these children the basic skills needed for a decent start in life. Khru Bah says: “I want to teach people the basic skills of living – teach them that life isn’t just a matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice. I see myself as a distributor of knowledge,” can be a wonderful example for this. Typically the children, he takes to his monastery, do not even have the basic understanding of proper hygiene, such as brushing their teeth or washing their head. With Khun Ead’s help, Khru Bah teaches them how to keep clean themselves, how to practice Buddhism, how to respect and support each other, how to be strong (boxing), how to be responsible for themselves and their own life by not being a slave of body or mind. Through work, travel, and play he teaches essential life lessons, hard work, and dignity. For instance, in 38.40 min we can watch the scene, when a horse fell and hurt itself, Khru Bah postponed their travel and made sure that everyone had daily works to help the sick horse. With the sick horse these children learn how to do their best in hard times, and they see the link between humans and animals.
Of course, such traveling in and out of the Golden Triangle is extremely difficult and dangerous not just for small children, but even for monks. These small children have to wake up at 2:00 AM, do exercising till 3:30 AM, and do their practices and other things whole day. Even adults will find these schedule to be enough tough and difficult. During their trekking Khru Bah and his small novices have to overcome a great deal of harsh and challenging situations. In 31:30 sec. we can watch a novice crying, because of tough conditions and being far from his home and parents. Here the first thought came to my mind was: “OMG! How these small babies can be monk? How can they live in such difficult, uncomfortable, dangerous and harsh conditions far from their parents?” These children at ages, when they have to play, eat sweets, be naughty and enjoy childhood near their parents. However, at such young ages they have to confront real world with its real and serious problems and requirements. After watching such scenes we can face the conflict of values and norms of behavior among Westerners and Asians. Westerners might find a lot of styles of behavior and teaching in this film is not appropriate to civil society values, Human Right norms and beliefs. However, Asians and Buddhists have their own values and norms, especially in Theravada Budhhism division. In addition, usually we know better than others own issues, and we how better how to deal with them. Despite this scene made me very sad, I realized how people suffer from various parts of the world. Sometimes we forget that the majority of the world is poverty stricken and documentaries such as Buddha’s Lost Children remind us about such problems.
From the first sight the conditions in which these small novices live and Khru Bah’s way of teaching them might seem to be severe, inappropriate and even cruel. However, they prepare these abandoned children for real life with real requirements. In the end of film we can see clear that staying at a monastery under Khru Bah’s care is better than staying at their own homes. According to Khun Ead in 47:00 min if these children stay in village, they will not have any chance to get any education and proper nurture. I agree with this nun and think that living and growing up inside drug addicted community cannot teach these children the right things and make good individuals.
Besides taking care of the village’s children, Khru Bah travels a lot on horseback with his young novices between the regions, teaching their adults on right things, supporting health care, education and giving his love to people far from the government support and protection. In his teaching the adults suffer from drug addiction, he often uses some ideas of Buddhism.
In addition, the Buddha’s Lost Children shows the life story of three Khru Bah’s novices: Suk, Pan Saen and Boontam, who were taken by him to the monastery. The film demonstrations these children’s journey throughout a year: their transformation from abandoned boys to self-confident and mature novices.
In the beginning of the film we will see a boy named Suk the orphaned boy who used to only speak with pets. Khun Ead tells that when Suk first arrived, he would just sit without talking. Khru Bah in turn would just keep on talking to him, trying to open him up with his love and care. Under Khru Bah’s loving care by the end of year he totally was transformed and became smiling young boy, who became by the end of year good in conversation, meditation, reading, horseback riding and boxing. For Suk, the monastery has become his permanent home and he plans to become a monk.
The second boy named Pae Saen was taken by Khru Bah, when he was travelling to the most distant village to rebuild one old and ruined temple. Pae Saen had speaking and learning problems because of falling down from a tree when he was little. The film shows his slow transformation to a confidence young novice.
The third boy called Boontam is a kid with weak health and legs, because of poor nutrition. His parents do not own any land and work as field workers for a little money. Khru Bah wanted to take him and make him healthy again. After staying at a monastery under Khru Bah’s care Boontam through proper nutrition and medication began to regain strength in his legs.
Buddha’s Lost Children is an interesting and enough inspirational documentary about a Buddhist monk called Khru Bah, who takes orphaned and abandoned children into his Golden Horse Monastery and teaches them respect, wisdom, boxing and life’s lessons. Khru Ba gives his love and compassion to the children in his monastery and this we can realize while watching the film. I have watched the Buddha’s Lost Children twice and really love it. Because it was totally different from, what I expected to be. Here I saw the teachings and ideas of the Buddha from different angle; I could see the main teachings of Buddhism in action facing real problems and challenges, as well as successfully being implemented in solving them. Moreover, I will let myself to state that this documentary is not about Buddhism, it is more about creating a better life for the people around by taking responsibility and giving them a sense of dignity, confidence and awareness of their role in creating own destiny and chance. Khru Bah gives everyone a chance to make their lives better, irrespective of their past. We can see the importance of what he is doing when a mother Pae Saen decides that he has to join the monastery because she does not have enough food to feed him, and the only hope for an education and positive life is Khru Bah’s help. In the end of the film from the example of Suk, Pae Saen and Boontam we can see how lives can be transformed in a year with big love and compassion, and these things can be harsh. One of the main slogans of film can be: man does not flourish under weak love which allows him total freedom. He flourishes when he is treated as man, given the responsibilities of man, and expected to behave like man.
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