The real value of money (and meditation)


Above: The dubiously valuable Burmese kyat

Travel has a way of shaking one’s faith in the workings of paper currency, as I point out in the most recent installment of my Traveling Light column at Yahoo! News. As I say in the opening paragraph,

One of the most startling travel epiphanies I’ve had in recent years came on a trip to Burma, when I was counting out money to buy a packet of toilet tissues. The Burmese kyat had recently suffered a jag of devaluation. Tallying up my toilet-tissue money, I noticed that it consisted of twelve small denomination bills.

Given that Burmese tissues came in packets of ten, it occurred to me that it would be more economical to simply use the currency as tissue and pocket the difference.

For my full meditation on the money’s value (or lack thereof), including a history of what has passed for currency in the past, click here.

Last week’s column was a Q&A that dealt with Buddhist meditation in Thailand — and I offered the reader a counterintuitive approach to seeking out a proper meditation monastery:

…my advice is this: Travel to Thailand, but save the monasteries for last. Give yourself a month (if you have the time — and I recommend that you make the time) to wander the country, north and south, jungles and beaches, Bangkok and Isaan. It’s dirt cheap to travel in Thailand, so knock yourself out. Go on a trek. Learn to scuba dive. Talk to everyone — Thais and travelers, rural villagers and middle-class urbanites — and listen to what they have to say. If it comes up in the conversation, ask people about Buddhism, or Buddhist meditation. Watch how people live. Enjoy the backpacker hangouts if that’s your thing — but try to get off the travel-circuit and explore small, everyday Thai towns. Learn Thai phrases and make Thai friends.

After a month of this, your visa will have expired, and probably you will have fallen in love with Thailand. Perfect. Now pop across the border, renew your visa, and come back to Thailand. Not only will you know by then what kind of meditation center best suits your interests — you’ll also have an experience of Thailand that is far more intimate and authentic than what you’d have experienced walled up in some monastery. You’ll also have a better idea of the role Buddhism plays in the lives of the people who’ve been practicing it for thousands of years — and not just the role it can play in your California (or wherever) lifestyle.

Full meditation column online here.

Posted by | Comments Off on The real value of money (and meditation)  | March 31, 2006
Category: Rolf's News and Updates, Travel News

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