Wednesday June 14, 2006
I’ve never been one for football, personally. This is not out of any high moral objections, but simply because I was never particularly good at it. To be honest, when I say that I was never particularly good at football, I am understating the case somewhat. Whilst at school I was, in fact, astonishingly inept at the game, my failure to grasp the rudiments almost total, my lack of grace upon the pitch breathtaking. All of which makes me think that I might make a perfect candidate for the Buddhist monkhood.
Entering the monkhood is not an idea that often occurs to me. I’d probably have trouble even remembering the 227 rules of the vinaya (by the way, is there an offside rule in the Vinaya?), let alone following them – rules have never been my thing. But when it comes to football, I’m right up there with the best of them.
You see, leading authorities have been stressing of late that football and monkhood do not mix. Leading Cambodian Buddhist figure Non Nget has reluctantly permitted the country’s forty thousand or so Buddhist monks to watch the World Cup, but only if they maintain a monk-like calm throughout. Any watching of the games in public, cheering or betting will lead to their immediate dismissal from the monkhood. Meanwhile over in Thailand, the government has ruled that monks there may also watch the World Cup, on the grounds that a knowledge of worldly affairs is beneficial to their religious education. Again, however, gambling and cheering are ruled out.
Any football-loving Buddhists thrown into a deep moral quandry by these apparently mixed messages should get hold of a copy of The Forbidden Team – a documentary that follows the Tibetan national football team all the way to Denmark where (despite strenuous efforts to prevent the match from the Chinese government and FIFA) they play their first international match. Against Greenland, who win 4-1.
I’ve not seen the film myself, but apparently it provides sufficient religious justification for football-mad Buddhists. In the film, a monk who is living on a hillside near to the Tibetans’ training-ground where he is dedicating himself to meditation explains that football and Buddhism are remarkably similar. In football, he says, the ball is controlled, whilst in Buddhism it is the mind. And teamwork in football, striving to keep the ball away from the goal, acts as a fitting metaphor for how the elements of Buddhism work together to keep unwholesome thoughts away from the mind.
But tell that to Non Ngat…
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