Religious Studies teacher Nicola Van Leeuven explains:
“The monastery follows the Theravadan Thai Forest Tradition. The monks aim to live their lives simply and in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. Our guide was Ajahn Ariyasilo, a Theravada monk, who explained the daily routine of the monastery.
“We arrived for lunch, eaten early at 11am, as the monks are not allowed to eat after midday. This is so that they can be mindful in the afternoons when they meditate. Students took part in ‘Dana’, food offerings that would traditionally be made to the monastic Sangha to gain positive karma/merit. This is partly symbolic to reflect that in Thailand and other Theravada Buddhist countries the monastic and lay Sangha support one another: the monks provide religious guidance to the people in return for the laity providing for their material needs when the monks go on their alms round. As the Hemel Hempstead monks are also not allowed to handle money, they are also reliant on the community to bring them food daily.
“We watched them chanting blessings and saw how they took time to talk to and teach the members of the local community who had also come to give Dana and visit the monks. We visited the main temple with the golden statue of the Buddha, and the Bodhinyana Hall, and were given the opportunity to take part in a session of guided meditation led by our monk guide.”
“Meeting the monks and nuns was really interesting and inspirational. I’ve learned a lot about their way of life, and have enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the monks about their experiences and reasons for choosing this way of life.”
“The trip was very informative. It was really interesting to meet a real life monk and hear his life story, and also see how they actually live this lifestyle”.
“It was very enjoyable and helped to confirm what I’ve learnt about Buddhism from real people who have made the choice to become monks and nuns.”
“The monks and nuns were very welcoming, and the temple was so calming and beautiful. I really enjoyed the meditation and the sense of peace it gives you.”