On another occasion, a visitor, seeing all the foreign bhikkhus, asked Ajahn Chah whether he spoke English or French or German or Japanese, to which, in every case, Ajahn Chah replied that no, he could not. The questioner looked confused: how did the foreign bhikkhus learn anything then?
Ajahn Chah replied, characteristically, with a question:
“At your home do you keep any animals? Have you got cats and dogs? Have you got any oxen or buffalo? Yes? Well can you speak Cat language? Can you speak Dog? Can you speak Buffalo? No? Then how do they know what you want them to do?”
“It’s not difficult. It’s like training water buffaloes. If you just keep tugging the rope, they soon catch on.”
…The sight of the Western bhikkhus was a powerful one. At a time when Western technology, material advances, expertise were being so touted, here were to be found educated young men who had voluntarily renounced the things that people were being encouraged to aspire to; men who had chosen to live austere lives in the forest as bhikkhus: not understanding the language, eating coarse food, striving for peace and wisdom in the same way that Thai bhikkhus had been doing for hundreds of years.
It was baffling, fascinating, and, above all else, inspiring. Many visitors would leave Wat Pah Pong thinking that perhaps there was more to Buddhism than they had thought. If the Westerners had so much faith in it, how could it be outdated?
This reflection by Ajahn Jayasaro is from the booklet, Twain Shall Meet, (pdf) pp.3-4,4.