By the Temple Gate
macaques lie in wait.
They squabble and fight,
like chickens, for the bananas
offered by northern Europeans.
They snatch
bags and cameras
and are happy to scratch
and bite
the hands that feed them.

An enormous limestone hill
three hundred metres high
towers above the temple.

A small staircase leads
up and over the rocks,
then down into the Khiriwong valley,
lush ancient lowland forest
with giant dicterocarps and fig trees,
their flared buttressed roots
offering comfortable back rests.
It is encircled on all sides
by steep overhanging cliffs.

The mountain is riddled with caves
which penetrate to its heart.
These are used by meditating monks.
There are also small wooden kutis
clinging to the rock face,
some of them too small to lie down in,
and cleared walkways.

Thirty years ago the Venerable Chamnean
came here to meditate.
A tiger walked into the cave,
but did not interfere with him.

Because of this, a temple was erected here
and Chamnean became its Abbot.
Now there are over three hundred monks
and nuns and also lay people collected here.
Chamnean is a famous Meditation Teacher
and his present cave
is a large modern building
in its own compound
with air-conditioning
and stainless steel decorative metal work.

The dell is unchanged, quiet and listening.
The macaques do not come here.
Outside one of the caves
someone has painted
in red letters Snake Cave;
and on an inside wall,
in faded white Thai script,
I am Buddha, in Pali.

We asked Chamnean whether
the story of the Tiger was true.
He said it was.

There is a Guardian Deva.

There are also washing machines in the dell.
And overhead lamps on the walkways as well.


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