Two months ago, while on a medical mission in Poipet in northwest of Cambodia, I met a monk in his early 20s. It was Operation Smile Cambodia’s surgical mission there and he was one of the many who patiently queued and waited for their turn to be screened by our international team of doctors.

I was surprised to see him with several tattoos which he consciously tried to hide and scars from previous piercings on his body. He told our volunteer doctor that, in his past life – meaning before he entered the monastery, he used to be a punk and had these “decorations” on his body. But he got tired of that kind of life and sought forgiveness and renewal. He laid down his secular clothes and exchanged them for saffron-coloured robes, as he decided to enter a monk’s life to pay for his past misdeeds, start anew and earn merits.

monks tattoos Cambodia


He is quite a character but nice enough to talk freely about his past. All this he told us as he was being screened. At the end of the day, he received a free injection for his keloid scars.

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  1. What a fascinating story. It is amazing how over time our life path opens to a new direction… or it could be the start was really the impetus to help us recognize the true path we were on all along!

    Please consider yourself officially invited to participate this year’s 5th Annual Gratitude (word) Quilt. Instructions (it is very simple) and a link that explains the origin of the word quilt can be found at the top of my blog. In past years there have been participants from every continent except Antarctica. If I’ve already invited you, I apologize… I am trying to reach as many people as possible, and sometimes forget whom I’ve already left this message for in a comment. My intention is most certainly NOT to spam you. I hope you’ll join us, it is really amazing when all the words unfurl on November 27th, Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

  2. oh what an interesting story!

  3. Beautiful story, I met a monk in Laos, he was a unemployed teacher and went to the monastry for new studies. That is something I like on the buddhist society, a place for a new beginning.

  4. Each day is a new beginning, though many don’t really understand that . . . and I all to often forget that too!

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