In an attempt to clear the way for his master's "one step, one kowtow" Tibetan-style pilgrimage, a Buddhist monk recently shocked people with a martial arts gesture straight from a Jackie Chan movie. An on-line video clip recording senior monk Thich Tam Man's trip from HCM City to Yen Tu Pagoda, one of the foundations of Buddhism in this country, showed him kneeling down and touching his forehead to the ground in submission at every step.
Then, as a passer-by seemed to coincidentally pass in front of the bobbing monk in a busy street in central Quang Binh Province, one of his followers, another monk, suddenly jumped up in indignation. He took several quick bounds forward, throwing his hat at the passer-by as he went.
Despite some disapproval from the crowd, the junior monk picked up his hat and walked off. It all seemed a bit unnecessary, a bit too showmanlike.
Monk Thich Tam Man's pilgrimage of nearly 2,000km started in January, 2009. His final destination is the holy Mount Yen Tu in northern Quang Ninh Province where he will pray for a prosperous nation and a happy life for humanity. During the trip, many Buddhist monks, followers and locals have joined the entourage, which is escorted by local wardens out of respect for the leader's dignity and determination.
But obviously, not all the followers have minds as peaceful as the Buddha's.
Back from the dead
Can there be anything happier than a missing daughter suddenly re-appearing after two decades? In this case, the lost child found that her old home had an altar devoted to her. To the parents of the girl in Ha Noi's Kham Thien Street, her return was a dream come true.
The young teenager was reported missing after leaving home in 1992. This followed a quarrel she had with her parents after a late night out. But, in fact, the young girl was later kidnapped and taken to China's Guangdong Province where she was sold as a wife to a Chinese man.
The grief-stricken girl tried to escape several times, but all her efforts failed until she met a young Vietnamese man who understood her story and promised to help. The man and his friends put Van (not her real name) into a sack used to carry pigs to market and covered it with more sacks.
In a trip fraught with danger, Van and the man, who became her second husband, eventually made it to the border and got back home. After 20 years, things in the street she had left as a girl had changed a lot. And her overjoyed parents were now over 80 years old.
Van's mother regretted not giving her a better upbringing in the past, admitting that it had indirectly pushed her into many "traps" as a teenager. But her real relief was being able to take down the altar devoted to her departed daughter – and registering her name as a resident once again. One down for the kidnappers!
No more happy endings
Some parents in HCM City are worried at the many weird and wonderful fairy-tale books for children that have appeared on Vietnamese bookshelves. One of the stories is about an intelligent dog that tricks a wolf into jumping into a river and drowning because it bullies other animals.
In another story, an elephant teases a mouse who threatens to eat it. That night, the mouse and the other mice come out and eat the elephant "to the bone". The illustrations include an elephant's skull and skeleton lying on the ground as fat and happy mice sit back licking their lips.
Many other illustrated stories end cruelly and heartlessly. They have no happy endings, no sweet and beautiful words – and nothing educational for children. The theme of "living happily ever after" seems to have been replaced by "lets scare you to death". No wonder few people are buying. — VNS