Joke – Thailand

At a temple, there was an older monk and a young monk. The young monk stayed at the temple to serve the older monk every day. He always cleaned the temple and offered water and food to the older monk. One day the older monk told the young monk to go boil water for him because he wanted to have some hot water. So the young monk hurried to boil water for him. When he was done boiling the water, he put it in a bowl to give to the older monk. The older monk lifted the bowl of hot water and blew it to cool the water. The young monk saw him and quickly hit the older monk in the head and said, “Why are you blowing it? You said you wanted hot water didn’t you?”

Jiraporn is virtually an aunt to me. She is a close family friend and she told this joke to my mother, my aunt, and me at our house one evening. We were all watching a tape recording of a funeral that we had recently attended. This brought up the discussion of monks, who are an integral part of Buddhist funerals. As we were discussing this topic, Jiraporn suddenly got excited because she remembered a joke that her friend had told her when she had visited Thailand about a month before the day of the collection. So she told us this joke and we all really enjoyed it.

There are certain aspects of the joke that I realize only make sense to those knowledgeable about Buddhism and customs regarding monks. This ties into the idea that there is a certain lore shared among the members of a group. In this case, it is Buddhist lore. Monks are highly respected individuals within the religion. They reside at temples, pray, and only eat one meal a day. Only men can be monks, but women can be nuns. Women are not allowed to physically touch monks because monks are supposed to remain peaceful, pure, and devoted to Buddhism. Also, it is normal for the young monks to attend to the older monks.

This particular joke is considered funny because it makes a mockery of the high level of respect that people are expected to pay to monks. It is completely unacceptable for a young monk, or for anyone, to hit a monk on the head, especially an older monk. This occurrence in the joke was unexpected and, therefore, had the element of surprise on its side. Also, the young monk’s outrageous action leads to the punch line at the end, which is the question that he poses. This question emphasizes the paradox that the older monk wanted hot water to drink but he must cool it a little bit first in order to drink it without causing himself physical harm. Also, Jiraporn most likely told this joke to lighten the mood a little bit because we were discussing the grave topic of funerals.