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.
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.