Angelina Jolie is not the only person who recently decided to remove her breasts. The winner of Miss Tiffany Universe 2009, Sorrawee "Jazz" Nattee, photocopied Jolie's breast removal mission.
But their purposes were way different.
While the Hollywood actress underwent double mastectomy for health-related reasons, Sorrawee had his silicone implants removed from his surgically constructed breasts so he could enter the monkhood at a temple in his home town last week and follow his pursuit in dhamma.
While Jolie has been applauded for her bravery in removing one of a woman's most important body parts to reduce her cancer risk, the former beauty queen was bombarded with criticism in both the online and offline worlds. While some labelled his decision to enter the monkhood inappropriate and opposed to Buddhism's ordination rules, others supported him by saying everyone should be happy with his choice in life as he has finally found emotional sanctuary in dhamma. At the same time, Sorrawee said he intends to be in the orange robe until his last breath.
After his story made headlines, the abbot of Wat Liab in Songkhla where Sorrawee was ordained came out and explained that Sorrawee himself did not conceal the fact that he once participated in the Miss Tiffany beauty pageant. The abbot also said that he is now 100% man, both physically and emotionally, meaning his ordination is not against any of Buddhism's laws.
Whether we agree or disagree with such a perplexing situation, the controversy does remind us of how much people these days seek solace in dhamma. Especially in this crazy, busy world where bad things happen every single day, dhamma is where a lot of people put their faith _ regardless of religious preferences _ and where people calm their angry souls.
One of my senior colleagues recently pointed out that social network feeds are often full of spiritual teachings. Often, we see a number of our friends posting Lord Buddha's teachings or well thought out dhamma quotations online to remind themselves, as well as others, of how demented the world's citizens have become and how important it is to keep calm, focused and so forth. Peace of mind seems to be what modern people yearn for.
Dhamma lectures and meditation workshops have been mushrooming and are increasingly popular. This sort of activity is not synonymous with the elderly any more, either. Many middle-aged people, and even teenagers, have become more interested in dhamma. People take leave from their family and work errands for several days to join dhamma or meditation sessions to keep themselves peaceful and spiritually healthy so that they can regain their emotional strength and get ready to fight the real world.
Dhamma is certainly a divine thing. It's the universal law that applies to each and every one of us _ irrespective of nationality, religion, gender or age. The concept of self-dependency, for instance, has been emphasised in several religions. While Lord Buddha said one has got to help oneself first before depending on others, Christianity also believes God helps those who help themselves. Some similar dhamma philosophies have been shared by several religions, such as the concept of conscience in Buddhism and the idea of redemption in Christianity.
And because dhamma is heavenly truth, those who seek consolation in it _ regardless of their sexual orientation, nationality, social status or anything else _ should be appreciated, for they are in search of and perhaps about to discover a way to lead happy and peaceful lives. And many of these people should be regarded as being fortunate that they eventually find a pursuit that they can rely on for the rest of their lives. Sorrawee might be one of these people. We should simply be happy for him.
Well, yes, the newly ordained monk was once tagged a transsexual. Back then, he entered a transgender beauty contest to make his parents happy. He got himself involved in showbiz and was entangled in several fights with several other transsexuals due to their different opinions on certain subjects.
But there is nothing we _ nor he _ can do about it. There is no way Sorrawee can fix his past. The best way he can deal with it is to let bygones be bygones and start his life anew along the passage he chooses to walk. This route might not be a bed of roses. It might be full of criticism, negative comments and misunderstanding. But he now chooses to accept them and brave them all.
Seeing Sorawee doing such a courageous thing, we should applaud and support him, just as we do Jolie, and leave him alone in a world of peace many of us might not even be able to comprehend.
On television, Sorrawee appeared at peace despite being in front of cameras. He spoke mostly on Buddhist teachings and this might, more or less, show that he has changed and has been able to indeed put dhamma into practice.
No one can tell if his dedication to dhamma will last. Neither do we know whether the monk will cause a blemish on Buddhism, but for the time being, at least his peace of mind was expressed through the way he presented himself and we should look at this situation from an understanding point of view.
This is because, after all, dhamma is the universal law of nature. And in nature, we should respect each other.
Arusa is Muse editor, Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Arusa Pisuthipan