Nice Gig If You Can Land It

Some monks are socially engaged in all the right ways.

From David Rosenfeld’s journal:

Buddhist monk offers teachings with tea

Special to The Oregonian

Almost every weekday, Adhisila sits under a tent at Northeast Tillamook and North Williams, carving tiny Buddhas from soapstone and offering tea and snacks to bicyclists on their afternoon commute.

Adhisila — Adhi for short — may conjure images of the sadhus of India, holy men who sometimes sat at crossroads awaiting spiritual debates with passers-by.

But he’s different. “There’s no challenge here,” he says with a laugh, his voice soft and welcoming. “Just have a cup of tea.”

Adhi — whose only name means “high morality” in the ancient Pali language — is a Buddhist monk, a rarity in Portland. Rarer still, he’s among a handful to carry on a tradition that dates back thousands of years: asking for alms. Adhi feeds himself, one meal a day, through donations, mostly from 30 to 40 Thai restaurants in the city.

“I help the monk with food because he’s a good teacher,” says Sirilak Promprasert, a Thailand native and owner of downtown’s Bangkok Palace. “He does his job to heal people and to make peace.”

By relying only on offerings, a monk learns to temper desires, a key Buddhist doctrine.

“I don’t need very much,” says Adhi, who’s fed himself through alms for 10 years. “I may give them a blessing and maybe a small teaching about how to relieve their overwhelming suffering.”

Dressed in red Nike high-tops and red Adidas exercise pants under his robe, Adhi is approachable and unpretentious. To stay warm, he wears a 26-year-old wool Marine Corps overcoat, issued during a four-year stint in the early 1980s. He joined so he could play in the marching band. Sometimes he wears a button in support of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to fight in Iraq.

Adhi is as surprised as anyone to find himself in Portland. Born Owen Evans in Ashland in the 1960s, he discovered Buddhism at age 8 when his dad studied Zen. He became an ordained monk about 10 years ago at the Dhammapala Monastery in Fremont, Calif.

Three years ago, Adhi, a self-proclaimed forest monk, was living in solitude and meditating in the Siskiyou Mountains when friends persuaded him to move to the city.

Now he draws support from a network of Portlanders who appreciate his teachings. They might give him money, donate clothes or provide shelter. When he’s not living at the Young Sahn International Zen Center in Beaverton, Adhi house-sits. He also teaches at various places, including the Chinese Miao Fa Chan Temple at Southeast 17th Avenue and Madison Street.

Ian Timm and his wife, Sally, host one of Adhi’s meditation classes every Friday night at their home in Northeast.

“Adhi’s teaching is not encumbered by a lot of ritualism,” Ian Timm says. “It’s more practical suggestion. He teaches as the Buddha did that people are responsible for their own causes and effects in their lives.”

Adhi also makes Buddhist teaching videos at a warehouse and community kitchen next to his tea tent that he shares with Sky High Productions, a video production company. He helps pay rent on the 3,000-square-foot space with donations and income from teaching. He hopes to make more videos and to rent out the space for community events.

Back at his tea tent, Adhi sits on a folding camp chair. Wisdom flows from him like water from a mountain spring.

“People work maybe too hard and think they need too much,” he says. “If you get down to the bare essence, maybe what we need is more love, more compassion and more peacefulness. Those are invaluable resources, and we don’t tap into them enough.”

Good job on this story, David. I’ve stolen the whole thing here, but I’m not getting paid for it!  It’s for educational purposes only, should any of my four visitors read it all the way through….

Makes me want to move to Oregon immediately.

Then again, I’ve always wanted to move to Oregon at the first opportunity. Knowing that it’s a monk-friendly place just adds to my desire.


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