The Monks and the Fire Ants

Posted on April 3, 2007

The BBC reports that some buddhist monks in Malaysia have a fire ant problem. Harming any living creature is forbidden by Buddhism so the monks have had trouble with the fire ants that deliver painful bites to the monks.
So the monks are looking for a creative and non-violent solution to deal with the insects, which are biting worshippers.

The monks at the Ang Hock Si Temple, also known as the Hong Hock See temple, in Georgetown on Penang Island have had to learn to live with nature.

Some years ago they shared their temple compound with a cobra.

The chief monk, the Venerable Boon Keng, told the BBC that they had become used to meditating alongside the snake but eventually decided to catch it and take it away to a nearby forest.

Now he says the cobra's place has been taken by a colony of fire ants.
The ants are dropping on the monks and biting the monks when they pray under a special tree. The monks have to practice a special meditation to try and ignore the pain all the while not getting angry and hurting the fire ants.
But the ants are dropping from the temple's sacred bodhi tree onto people meditating below - and when they bite it causes painful swelling.

The Venerable Boon Keng practises what he calls "letting go" meditation - so he "lets go" of the pain.

But out of consideration for worshippers less far along the path to enlightenment the monks are looking for ways to persuade the ants to go.
The BBC says they tried to use a vaccuum cleaner to remove the ants but it didn't work so now the chief monk is hoping someone will come along and fix the problem.
They cannot encourage anyone to harm the ants, but the chief monk says that if someone turns up unbidden and deals with them without the monks' involvement then that is the will of the universe.
The will of the universe is a good thing if it means no more fire ants.

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