Taking Buddhist Practice into a Taxi Cab

14 Oct

In my first three months in Thailand, I think I’ve learned most of my conversational Thai within the doors and windows of taxi cabs.  Throw your hand out anywhere along a busy street and within seconds a bright blue or pink taxi cab will come zooming up to you.  Step inside and here’s what you’ll most likely see: the interior of the cab adorned with shiny talismans, wallpapered with foreign currency, or plastered with mug shots of the driver’s favorite Theravada Buddhist master.  And most important (in my opinion), a cheery taxi driver with an affable smile and uncanny willingness to do his best to chat in English with you (I say ‘his’ because I’m yet to meet a female taxi driver.  Though I did get one lady, she looked so butch with arms bigger than my legs and spoke with a voice of a 70 year old man with Emphysema.  Sorry, that doesn’t count.  Ok fine, it counts!).  Show him that you’re making an effort to speak Thai and he will become your best friend.  I have made dozens of best friends so far.  And I plan on making more. 

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Buddhism, and I find that it can be beautifully practiced while staring at the back of my taxi driver’s head and making sure to say hi to him.  My idea of Buddhist practice is constantly evolving.  It seems like the less I talk about Buddhism and the more I do Buddhism it, the more I feel that I’m practicing it.  And therein lies the one element of Buddhism that never changes in my mind: one won’t find the wisdom or essence of Buddhism in a single book written about it.  I don’t care if it’s written by the Dalai Lama, Thick Nat Han, or G-d!  If you get sold on the teachings of Shakyamuni Gotama – AKA Da Buddha – then better get off the ol’ buttocks off the couch and start practicing them instead of just reading about them. 

 But there is something that absolutely must be read and enjoyed. In fact it’s the following story I’m about to tell.  One evening I got into the taxi and asked the driver to take me to my apartment.  Holding true to my own personal commitment to just say hi, I initiated the conversation by asking him where he was from.  He told me he used to be the owner and operator of a bar and nightclub on a small tropical island of Phuket.  Then the tsunami attacked from the coast and obliterated everything to the ground.  “One moment I have everything, one moment I have nothing,” he explained.  Then I asked him, “So why did you decide to be a taxi driver?” He said, “I chose to be a driver because I wanted to continue serving others.  When I drive, I get to serve.  It makes people happy.  It makes me happy.”  These words will deeply resonate in my heart for a long time.  In my eyes this man is the human prototype for a pretty decent way to go about life. 




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: