This post is a sample of Kike Calvo’s National Geographic series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people he meets during his travels.
“I was young the last time I was here. It was, perhaps, 45 years ago” Buddhist monk Tak Tak, 60, said gently as he contemplated the silent magnificence of early morning Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia.
“There were many more trees, larger plants wrapping around the ancient walls,” said Tak Tak as he gazed at the bas-reliefs and recalled the emotions of the first time he saw the temple as a samaner (śrāmaṇera) or novice monk.
While his monastery, Phras Ang Tep, is less than three miles away from Ta Prohm, this is only his second visit to the temple. “Monastic daily life is regimented and rules are to be respected. I go out but only on occasions,” said Tak Tak uncertain, and fairly unconcerned, about the next time he may be able to see again the striking eight-century old Angkorian World Heritage site that stands close to his home.
As annual flocks of two million tourists rush across the globe to see the ruins, scientists work hard at preserving the structure and looters try their luck at getting a piece of the divine, Tak Tak knows that inevitably Ta Prohm will continue to change.
“Everything is constant change. Everything is flowing. That’s the teaching of impermanence,” said Tak Tak. “My dream is to see more monks in Buddhism. I would like to become a chief in the Theravada Buddhist tradition to guide new generations, to teach them and inspire them to respect the rules of Buddha.”