Some people are born to be heroes. Some people earn it through years of trying. Allow me to introduce you to three likely lads who had heroism strangely dropped on their heads. Please enjoy the first adventures of Nicholas (Nick) Godfrey, Stuart (Stu) Wilson, and Spock, three unattached, English, horny, thirty-something lads on holiday, as they almost battle with evil forces, almost rescue damsels in distress and almost save a country from total destruction.
The ancient stage is set. The delicate scent of spicy oriental fragrance drifts through the warm air of the candlelit main hall of the temple [Wat]. Inside, sixty monks of the Tinju order, ages ranging from ten to seventy, were kneeling with their foreheads touching the marble floor, arms extended in front of them. Deep in meditation and waiting for the moment; crouching lions waiting for the scent of their prey.
This Wat was said to be around 2000 years old, built by monks in Salaburi, a remote village not too far from the small south eastern Thai/Cambodian border town of Pong-nam-rom. Situated in a dense jungle, surrounded by jungle-encased mountains like a coral atoll, the Wat is small by temple standards. Gleaming domes and arches are covered in gold leaf and skilfully-carved statues depicting Buddha’s journey through life, as both a prince and pauper, in order to obtain enlightenment.
The Wat is situated behind Salaburi village, against a mountain backdrop. The meticulously maintained temple building has a large door at the front, a small door at the rear, and a door at the side leading to a meditation room. On the outside of this small, windowless room are mosaic tiles depicting a nobleman on a horse smiling down at a poor decrepit individual. It is believed this was the moment when Prince Siddhartha Gautama decided to give up his earthly possessions and begin his journey to enlightenment, eventually becoming the Buddha and entering Nirvana [heaven] whilst still alive.
Inside the meditation room lays an embalmed corpse, a foetus in a glass jar preserved in a clear liquid made from the bark of a local tree and a skeleton. The monks enter this room for intense meditation on the journey through life and to reflect on birth, death and the afterlife. Cut into the floor, a tunnel leads outside to a large cave with a heavy golden gate covering the cave mouth. One hooded monk guards either side, each carrying a small bow and quiver filled with menacing arrows. The handles on their sheathed swords sparkle, even through the dim light. This cave housed the teachings of the Lord Buddha and the Wat’s most valuable possession; the four pre-molar ‘wisdom’ teeth of the Holy Buddha, kept in a golden box the size of a matchbox, adorned with rubies and sapphires from the nearby mines of Chantaburi.
The inner chamber of the main temple is very basic, with large smooth marble pillars either side of a three-metre wide aisle. Small mats lay on the marble floor to the side of the aisle for the monks to pray, receive teachings and meditate. Outside the main temple are the monk’s living quarters and a large arena were they would learn fighting skills, both with and without weapons. Although the weapons are from an age long since a memory, in trained Tinju hands they are as deadly as any modern day weapon. Handed down from generation to generation, the monk’s skills as great warriors in all forms of combat are legendary. The early Kings of Siam (‘Thailand’ since 11 May 1949) had used Tinju monks as bodyguards and assassins throughout the centuries.
Due to the inhospitable terrain, the humidity and many biting insects, the approach to the village is difficult. With no roads or visible tracks, the only people with the knowledge to find their way are the villagers and monks. Through this anonymity the village and Wat has remained unhindered for millennia. They farm the land, tend their cattle and survive on medicines provided by the many trees and plants found in the surrounding forest, using knowledge passed down through the ages. They are totally self-sufficient and have no need for the trappings or indulgences of the outside world which had long since forgotten them.
The monks are chosen before birth. When a Tinju monk dies, the next first-born son of a villager becomes his replacement, believing him to be the reincarnation of the deceased Tinju. At just one day old, the infant is taken to the temple. There he would remain for the rest of his life, never knowing his real parents or family. The infant would be taken care of, taught and nurtured by the other monks. For the family it is a great honour to have a son a Tinju because they are known for their great wisdom and kindness in their search for enlightenment. They are born Tinju and they died Tinju.
There are currently seventy-five monks; the youngest, two years old, the eldest eighty-six. For monks of the Tinju credo, their duty is to guard the sacred relic, a duty which starts from the age of ten and stops usually at around seventy years old, with the exception of the ‘Prime Master’.
Download the sequel: Buddha's Tooth 2, CHALICE