Indonesia's Tolerance Exemplified in the Thudong Journey of Buddhist Monks

The Buddhist Channel, 2 June 2023

Magelang, Indonesia -- In a remarkable display of tolerance and harmony, Indonesian communities warmly embraced a group of Buddhist monks embarking on the Thudong pilgrimage, a traditional practice of walking long distances to emulate the Buddha. The streets leading to Magelang, Central Java, were filled with enthusiastic crowds as dozens of bhantes (Buddhist monks) made their way towards the Borobudur Temple, their final destination.

Thudong, or forest monks tradition embrace ascetic austerities. These monks emphasize meditation and ascetic practice over scholarly and literary pursuits.

Commencing their journey in Thailand on March 23, 2023, the 32 participating monks arrived in Batam, Riau Islands, on May 8 before continuing their trek to Magelang District. Resting at the Liong Hok Bio Temple after traveling from Ambarawa to Magelang City, the monks were graciously offered therapy services by members of the Indonesian Traditional Health Association (PPTI), who volunteered to alleviate their fatigue.

Accompanied by security forces from the police and military, as well as local community organizations, the monks wearing brown robes proceeded through the city, receiving friendly greetings from local residents. This hospitality exhibited by the Indonesian people toward the Thai Buddhist monks is a testament to the true face of harmony and tolerance in the country.

Supriyadi, the Director General of Buddhist Community Guidance at the Religious Affairs Ministry, expressed that the monks were deeply moved by the warm reception they received from the Indonesian people. This acceptance in a predominantly Muslim-majority country like Indonesia showcases the nation's spirit of friendliness and tolerance. Several bhantes participating in the Thudong pilgrimage commended the high levels of religious tolerance and harmony they experienced throughout their journey.

Maha Or, a monk from Malaysia, praised Indonesia for its outstanding tolerance and the warm welcome he and his fellow monks received. Their arrival in Magelang was eagerly anticipated, with Indonesian residents demonstrating an extraordinary level of acceptance and hospitality.

The Thudong ritual, initiated by Bhante Kantadhammo from Indonesia, saw the participation of 32 monks from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Starting in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand, on March 23, 2023, they walked from Jakarta to Magelang, passing through DKI Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java. The Thudong pilgrimage will conclude at the Borobudur Temple in Magelang with a joint celebration of the Tri Suci Vesak on June 4, 2023.

The monks, having traveled through Malaysia and Singapore, expressed their admiration for the warm welcome they received in Indonesia. This hospitality, coupled with the high levels of religious tolerance demonstrated by the Indonesian people, left a lasting impression on them.

Monk Kantadhammo, a Thudong participant, commended the Indonesian people for their warm reception. He noted that while the monks had ample time for meditation during their journey from Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, their time for introspection was reduced upon arrival in Indonesia due to the need to greet and interact with local residents. This act of greeting, according to Kantadhammo, is an expression of love and tolerance that complements their meditation practice.

The genuine hospitality and warmth shown by the Indonesian people towards the visiting monks mirror the nation's commitment to the motto "Bhinekka Tunggal Ika," which means "Unity in Diversity."

Throughout their Thudong route in Indonesia, the bhantes received continuous support from local residents, who provided them with food, shelter, and medical assistance.

The gracious gestures displayed by Indonesian communities towards the Buddhist monks exemplify the daily implementation of unity in diversity, a core principle that lies at the heart of Indonesian society.

About Thudong / Forest monks tradition

Thudong, or forest monks tradition embrace ascetic austerities. These monks emphasize meditation and ascetic practice over scholarly and literary pursuits. Originating in India, Thudong later spread to historical Thailand, Burma, Laos and Sri Lanka. Its revival, however was a nineteenth-century reform movement intricately related to its forest setting. The tradition essentially passed out of existence with the destruction of its natural setting. Nevertheless, the Thudong tradition represents a rich heritage of eremitism.
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