Don’t Feed the Monks

Dear non-Hong Kong person,

Please do not give money to the Buddhist monks begging for alms outside bars in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui. REAL Buddhist monks are NOT out on the street begging for alms outside bars in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui. Rack up your karma points by REFUSING to pay these charlatans.

“Oh but what if they really are Buddhist monks? I’d hate to offend a holy man.”

Bodhisattva, please. No, they’re NOT monks, not even if they are outside Buddha Lounge or Dharma Den. Would Catholic nuns be traipsing around LKF or loitering outside Drop after midnight? (Btw, the scantily dressed ones on Halloween aren’t real nuns.)

Real Buddhist monks should be tucked in bed by sundown because they ought to be up at 5:30am for morning meditation. They should not be lurking around on Cougar Avenue—I mean Wyndham Street—soliciting drunken white men and women for money.

Whenever they try to come up to a non-Asian friend of mine, I usually turn to them right away and ask: “Dharma teacher, which temple are you from? What sect are you? Tiantai or Pure Land?” That usually gets them scuttling away like roaches. One tried to get Zen with me once. He replied with a “Fofa jiushi Fofa.” (Buddha dharma is Buddha dharma.)

“So hanging outside loud clubs soliciting piss-drunk foreigners at 2am is Buddha dharma?” I asked. He displayed an uncomfortably self-conscious grin and then power-walked away.

I saved an American mother and daughter their US dollars once outside the Peninsula, where a decidedly handsome young monk was asking passing tourists for money. I just went up and said: “Don’t give him any of your money; he’s not a real monk.” The Americans were most thankful, and the “Buddhist” shot me the most MURDEROUS glare I’ve ever seen. And I thought I had perfected the dagger look. His was like, the meat cleaver stare. Such fierce violence in a monk’s eyes! Hello, Angulimala anyone? I dashed into the safe hallowed walls of the Pen before he could rob me of my life.

The alms bowl is really for food and not dirty money. They’re not supposed to take cash. Next time a “monk” shoves his begging bowl into your face, feel free to dump some fries, falafels or a soggy salad for their sustenance into their begging bowl. Please refrain from offering meat or alcohol lest they have an excuse to act all pissy pants and get all Shaolin Temple on you.

As the majority of these are CROOKS from mainland China, it is acceptable and advisable to seek communication in Putonghua, and not in the local Cantonese language.

Dismiss them with a diplomatic “Namo Emitofo” [na-mwo uh-mi-tuo-fwo], “Namu Amitabha” in Sanskrit, which means: “Praise to the Buddha of Infinite Light.” Or tell them to STFU with a tranquil “shàn zai, shàn zai”—“It is good, it is good.” a transliteration of “sadhu, sadhu,” a Sanskrit/Pali exclamation with the nuance of: “Hey, it’s all good; chill.”

So, I won’t be feeding the violent monkeys at Uluwatu this weekend in Bali, and you shouldn’t be feeding those vampiric fake monks in Hong Kong either.


A version of this column was published 1 Dec 2011 in HK Magazine

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