Phung Islet or Phoenix Islet is a rather famous tourist destination in the Mekong Delta. Coming here, in addition to enjoying the fresh air and admire the unique architecture of a temple founded by Coconut Monk, tourists also get to hear stories talking about this monk. There are many strange things about Coconut Monk. Based on the telling word of his younger brother, Nguyễn Thanh Hải, who is alive and living in Coconut Monk’s hometown, we would like to tell you the strange things about this unique monk.
Nguyễn Thành Nam (Common name: Ông Đạo Dừa, English common name: Coconut Monk, religion name: Thích Hòa Bình) was born in Phước Thạnh Commune, Châu Thành District, Bến Tre Province on December 25th Kỷ Dậu (1910). Leaving Vietnam for studying in France in 1928. Getting the Chemical Engineer Degree, returning to Vietnam and getting married in 1938. Going to Cấm Mountain, An Giang Province and becoming Buddhist Monk in 1945. Returning Phước Thạnh Commune and continuing to meditate. Going to Phụng Islet in Bến Tre and continuing to meditate and found Hòa Đồng Tôn Giáo Religion (Common name: Đạo Dừa, English common name: Coconut Religion). The Coconut Religion disintegrated in 1975. He died in 1990 at Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Hospital, Bến Tre and was buried in his hometown.
Every day, he ate only once at noon, from 11 to 12 o’clock. His meal had only some vegetables and the water of 3 coconuts. He never ate salt and sugar. He said if someone did not eat salt and sugar, his or her body would not be decomposed. He also said eating vegetables made the body become clean and would not be affected by the radioactive material of an atomic bomb. The diet of Coconut Monk is unique. Before, the Buddha ate only once a day, but his meal could have lots of kinds. People usually called Nguyễn Thành Nam or Thích Hòa Bình is Ông Đạo Dừa (Coconut Monk) because he only drank coconut water, not drinking other anything.
During his life, he did not speak (Vietnamese: tịnh khẩu) many times. There is 1 time, he did not say for 15 years. When he wanted to give his thought to the other, he only wrote on paper (Vietnamese: bút đàm). He said he did not speak to have the strength of spirit. So far no other monk in Vietnam has ever done like him.
Over 40 years, he did not take a bath, but there was not a bad smell. He explained because he did not eat salt and sugar. Some people said that every year, he only took a bath on the Buddha’s Birthday (April 8th of the lunar calendar). If normal people like us do not take a bath for 1 day, we would not feel comfortable.
Over 40 years, every night, from 6 pm to 6 am, he meditated on a high tower. In the daytime, he went down and he did himself personal work such as washing clothes and making meals. Normally, monks only meditate for 1 hour or 2 hours, can’t sit longer.
Thinking about himself
He said that he was Minh Mạng Emperor reborn. Minh Mạng Emperor (1791 – 1841) was the second emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty of Đại Nam (now Vietnam). Contemporary historians consider Minh Mạng the most outstanding king of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
Mr. Hai said, “In 1964, a man who kept the tomb of King Minh Mạng coming from Huế offered Coconut Monk a Long Bào (Dragon Coat, which is for a king)”. That coat is still existed today and is saved at the house in the tomb area of Coconut Monk.
Spiritual practicing way
Meeting anyone he also advises them to eat vegetables and recites Buddha’s name. This is the same as some other religions such as Buddhism, Caodaism. However, there is one thing very different from those religions. Coconut Monk allowed males and females to live together like friends or brothers and sisters so that they had the opportunity to help each other on the way of spiritual practice (Vietnamese: tu hành). Other religions, especially Confucianism, believe that the cohabitating between men and women would lead to many harmful consequences.
The tomb of Coconut Monk is unlike any tombs in the country, even the world. It is a tower having a triangle shape connected from 3 pieces of concrete. One side has a Vietnam’ map, 2 other sides have dragon pictures, all are carved skillfully and colorful. Coconut Monk’s body is placed in a standing position. Especially, the bottom of the tower is placed 1 venting tube going out. Over the years, no water from the body flows out, people think that Coconut Monk’s body is not decomposed.