“How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man's city?”
While this story took place in Thailand, it is not just a book about Thailand. It is a book about adventure, transformation and the renewal of spirit. It’s about intentionally ripping oneself away from everything one knows and loves and exchanging it for the wonders of the unknown, knowledge and experience.
This book is also about paths. The ones we choose, or the ones that chose us. I believed I was on a path in life so sure footed I could have walked it blindfolded. At thirty seven and through a series of events, I found myself suddenly and in a very untimely fashion at the bitter end of mine.
In Thailand and took refuge in the northeast in a region known as Isan, where the people re-taught me how to sit like a Thai and then as a monk, how to walk like monk. In a rural Buddhist temple I learned the art of stillness without the aid of television and from some very fine monks I learned that there is still an abundance of love and grace in the world if we are willing to see it.
My experiences in the temple did not result in my transformation, or enlightenment in the Buddhist sense. That would take more than a year anywhere, Buddhist temple or otherwise. It did teach me that spirituality and knowing ones purpose in life is an incredibly difficult journey on an unmarked path.
Excerpt #1 SONS OF ISAN
I looked at Thailand through different eyes from when I first arrived. It was not the charming paradise that once enamored me. The smiles no longer disarmed me. The Buddhist monks I used to look upon with such deep admiration, with the exception of a very few, no longer stir my spirit with inspiration.
I hated myself for arriving at this point and even more so for allowing myself to feel so self-righteous. What did I really know about this country, anyway? I was just another ignorant foreigner on the Thai yellow brick road, and somewhere, tucked deep into the forest, was a small man behind a curtain.
I wished Phra Maha Nikhom were there; maybe he could explain it to me. Maybe there was something I was missing, or maybe I was just full of shit. I wondered what he would think of that. I wondered also how honest I could be about my experiences. I'm sure nothing I had seen was news to him, and yet he allowed me to come. I know what I imagined for myself, but I would ask him what he imagined for me, what lessons he hoped I would learn.
Maybe these very questions were at the root of it, that sending me to his country was his way of teaching yet another disgruntled and spiritually bankrupt American that there is no spiritual Utopia or geographical cure for any of us. "Boy," he says," life is suffering, all the time. You know?"
Feature News Service
Some people lose themselves in the bright lights and bars of Bangkok. Others seek the soul of Thailand, in the oddest places. Bill Reyland's quirky and compelling narrative of a journey into the heart of Thailand will make you want to leave your own armchair behind.
- William F. White - Feature News Service
Gwangju News S. Korea
"Reyland's genuine account of giving up his typical American possessions to start a new life as a Buddhist in a monastery in Thailand is at time funny and moving. His detailed description of life in a Thai monastery is full of unexpected moments that readers familiar and unfamiliar with Buddhist rituals will find enlightening. By showing the day-to-day habits and regular human faults of the monks, Reyland's "Sons of Isan," is both entertaining and educational.