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‘The Monk’ Danish documentary

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran
edited June 16 in Buddhism Today

I came across an interesting documentary on Dutch tv, made by a pair of Danish filmmakers about the Dane Jan Erik Hansen, a brilliant doctor and scientist who later became a Buddhist monk and went to live in Thailand and Sri Lanka in various hermitages. After 17 years in the far East he returned to Denmark, only to commit suicide soon after.

I’ve only watched the first half-hour so far of the two-part docu but it’s an interesting portrait of a man who went in search of Nirwana but struggled to let go of his own past. He made the ‘Dhamma On Air’ video blog, his Buddhist name was Bhikkhu Samahita Thera, and he had quite a few followers who sent him life questions.

I will post a fuller impression once I’ve watched the rest.

Comments

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 16

    Prior to becoming a monk he had a son and a wife, but they didn’t really succeed in making a family together. His wife left him when his son was two, and took the boy with her. Later during the filming he said romantic love was ‘impossible’.

    It was quite a touching story. There were some hints that he was showing early signs of dementia, and that that was the reason behind his suicide. But nothing certain was said about that, in what I’ve seen so far, I still have to watch part of the second episode.

    The thing is, he was a very smart man, a doctor and a scientist. He had a lively mind, and even as a monk he showed that with his video channel, filming, using drones and so on. But also in his facial expressions you saw twitches, microexpressions, and such which were not the facial expressions of a man who has found inner peace.

    He did say at one point in one of his video’s, “this moment I feel at peace and fully enlightened”, which is a rather strong statement coming from a Buddhist, but it looked to me like it was momentary, if that’s what it was.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    I know nothing of this monk but is has me remember that....

    It is not uncommon to meet meditative practitioners who seem to have swapped out their** worldly** set of attachments for a spiritual equivalent of the same.
    While this can be an experiential upgrade in the degree to which their suffering has accordingly lessened, it can often result in an entrenchment in the attachments they originally sought to address.
    Eventually when this karmic loan comes due for repayment, if the need for deeper levels of renunciation are not met, the result of that entrenchment poorly equips the practitioner to face those consequences.
    One teacher of mine, used to remind her longer-term students, that the higher you spiritually climb, the further you have to potentially fall with every misstep.

    VastmindShoshin1Jeroenlobster
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    This is one of the episodes on his YouTube channel which is well worth a look for a wealth of topics relating to Buddhist philosophy.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    This reminded me strongly of why I didn’t become a Buddhist monk when I had the chance in 2015, when I was looking at Thich Nhat Hanh’s programme in Plum Village. It was because I thought monks give up too much of their individual life… you become a monk and for years you are learning the sutra’s, you give up the autonomy over your thoughts and your way of living.

    Osho often said to celebrate life, to not cling and not take things seriously. The path of a monk is extreme, they give up many things, and they propagate the lore from thousands of years ago. It is a very serious job of repetition, of becoming a programmed machine for continuing the Dhamma. For me it’s too far removed from the natural path.

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Sentient Being Oceania Veteran
    edited June 16

    From what "I" gather:
    When it comes to following the Path, it's a case of different strokes for different folks.

    Some laypeople possess a level of self-discipline that allows them to benefit from Dharma teacher supervision, which modern technology has made more accessible. For instance, they can attend Dharma talks in person, listen to video Dharma talks online, or find inspiration in Dharma books, diligently following the written words of wisdom. This form of self-discipline helps them adhere to their Dharma practice consistently.

    On the other hand, some individuals need their self to be disciplined, often finding that a monastic lifestyle suits their needs. However, even monastic life can be challenging for various reasons. While many find fulfilment in this path, others might enter monastic life in an attempt to escape Samsara, only to realise they have brought their worldly Dukkha-baggage with them and may find it hard to let go, or are unwilling to let go. Some leave monastic life but they keep the Dharma practice and eventually they might find some level of peace as a layperson. Sadly some don't find this peace.

    It's so sad when life feels so overwhelming/unbearable that it drives people take their own life...
    May the mind stream of Bhikkhu Samahita Thera find peace <3

    I'm under the impression that past Karma has a lot to do with how one adapts to the Dharma Path.

    lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Shoshin1 said:
    It's so sad when life feels so overwhelming/unbearable that it drives people take their own life...
    May the mind stream of Bhikkhu Samahita Thera find peace <3

    He was a valued voice in the Buddhist community, or so I heard, and people around his hermitage in Sri Lanka took the news of his death rather hard.

    Seventeen years is a long time, but even so when the filmmakers first visited him in his abode in Sri Lanka he didn’t want to discuss the prospect of his son visiting on camera. Tellingly, I thought. He didn’t want them to focus on the biographical details of the man Bhikkhu Samahita Thera, or Jan Erik Hansen at all, he wanted to bring the flavour of the deathless to the project.

    My impression was that he was mentally caught by the story of the Buddha. That he had laid down many of the burdens that ordinarily define one’s place in society, education, a job, a family, money. Given it all up for the quest for Nirwana, but that in giving up these desires had not left himself anything to define himself by, and so still carried the past with him.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Even if he showed signs of progressing dementia, maybe that was the next step in his journey, letting go of thinking and becoming closer to being a child again. If you truly are close to being enlightened and don’t have to rely on the body anymore it should stand to reason that the things dementia does to you would have little influence on you.

    Certainly for my stepfather that wasn’t true. He lost more and more of his presence of mind, and started having personality changes as his Alzheimer’s progressed. So maybe these things like spiritual progress are still linked to the body, however ecstatic you feel.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited June 18

    Tee Hee!
    (should not laugh at others misfortune)
    I liked very much @how answer. A good plan is never to admit being enlightened. Otherwise people expect you to be:

    • wise :love: and fully mettaing at all times... Pah!
    • able to levitate like a Jedi, Grogu or Acolytle >:)
    • some sort of god substitute o:)

    I can tell you that when I met plum village supremo and now dead TNH, I sensed in him and his senior disciples (entourage) no enlightenment. That is using what little siddhis I have. I was highly disappointed, as I had valued his books as extremely insightful.

    Onward and upward, sideways and inward. Time for me to plan my exit into 'Soylent Green'... :mrgreen:

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @lobster said:
    I can tell you that when I met plum village supremo and now dead TNH, I sensed in him and his senior disciples (entourage) no enlightenment.

    Yet when I met the Dagpo Rinpoche, there was something unusually clean and white about him.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    Yet when I met the Dagpo Rinpoche, there was something unusually clean and white about him.

    And this means? What you assume?
    Did you observe any other people present, how were they behaving?
    Some enlightened people behave in an apparently strange way. Babies and innocents are clean and bright. Enlightened? Not so much so.

    You keep quoting Osho/BogOne/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajneesh
    Was Chandra Mohan Jain a clown guru? Buddha? Because...?

    VastmindJeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @lobster said:

    @Jeroen said:
    Yet when I met the Dagpo Rinpoche, there was something unusually clean and white about him.

    And this means? What you assume?
    Did you observe any other people present, how were they behaving?
    Some enlightened people behave in an apparently strange way. Babies and innocents are clean and bright. Enlightened? Not so much so.

    I only tend to notice this of certain people. I always assumed it meant an enlightened soul, if not always an enlightened mind…

    You keep quoting Osho/BogOne/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajneesh
    Was Chandra Mohan Jain a clown guru? Buddha? Because...?

    Osho definitely made a lot of jokes, and integrated them into his discourses. I feel he was special and enlightened, his presence was extraordinary.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    Wow, I didn't realize he was dead. He used to post here and other Buddhist forums regularly. I will definitely have to check out the documentary. I'm always interested in the life of monastics, and often wish I had become one the numerous chances I had.

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/20388/bhikkhu-samahita-dhamma-posts

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    He died in 2019, so a few years back.

    I had a look at the Dhamma posts link you left, @jason, and I think it’s a perfect illustration of why I didn’t become a monk — the man obviously had filled his mind full of the words of the Buddha. Also interesting to note his website domain is now taken over by a gambling site.

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