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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 11:46 GMT
Malaysian monks face ant dilemma
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Buddhist temple in Penang, Malaysia
Penang's wildlife have been known to make temples their homes
A group of Buddhist monks in Malaysia is appealing for help to solve a problem with ants.

Buddhism forbids devotees from harming any living creature.

So the monks are looking for a creative and non-violent solution to deal with the insects, which are biting worshippers.

The monks at the Ang Hock Si Temple, also known as the Hong Hock See temple, in Georgetown on Penang Island have had to learn to live with nature.

Some years ago they shared their temple compound with a cobra.

The chief monk, the Venerable Boon Keng, told the BBC that they had become used to meditating alongside the snake but eventually decided to catch it and take it away to a nearby forest.

Now he says the cobra's place has been taken by a colony of fire ants.

Vacuum cleaner

But the ants are dropping from the temple's sacred bodhi tree onto people meditating below - and when they bite it causes painful swelling.

The Venerable Boon Keng practises what he calls "letting go" meditation - so he "lets go" of the pain.

But out of consideration for worshippers less far along the path to enlightenment the monks are looking for ways to persuade the ants to go.

An attempt to remove them using a vacuum cleaner failed, so the Buddhist community is appealing for help.

They cannot encourage anyone to harm the ants, but the chief monk says that if someone turns up unbidden and deals with them without the monks' involvement then that is the will of the universe.

Country profile: Malaysia
13 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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