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Case 38: Ajaan Lee Refuses to Bow
Phra Ajaan Lee once passed the rainy season among the remote hill tribes of central Thailand. One night when he was feeling ill, he dozed off for a moment. A woman dressed in white appeared, followed by two girls and carrying a white flag covered with Chinese characters.
“I am the queen of the deities,” she told Ajaan Lee. “If you live here, you have to bow down to me.”
“I wasn't willing to bow down, seeing as I was a monk,” Ajaan Lee wrote later. “Still, she insisted. We had a long argument, but I stood firm. Finally she left the hut, climbed the hill and disappeared. I meditated in comfort for the rest of the night.”
Phra Ajaan Lee Phra Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo (1907-1961) was one of the most important teachers in the Thai Forest tradition, founded at the turn of the last century by his teacher Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta. Ajaan Lee was instrumental in bringing that tradition into the mainstream of Thai society.
NOTE: Ajaan Lee’s autobiography, along with many of his teachings, have been translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu and can be read at accesstoinsight.com.
What kind of monk refuses to bow? And yet, it makes sense when you think about it. Queens belong to capitols, and capitols belong to kingdoms. A monk doesn’t belong to either.
Besides which, what’s the queen of the deities doing so far from home? Her appearance in the forest is suspicious to say the least. What’s in it for her, getting a skinny backwoods monk to put his forehead on the ground?
Once upon a time
The goddesses lived in groves.
Now they’re city girls.
Wonder what this monk would do
If the trees asked him to bow.