Omnivore - Drinking with monks

NPR visits Tokyo oddity


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  • Vows, booze and Buddhism

NPR's "Morning Edition" recently included an interesting story about a bar in Tokyo. It's operated by Buddhist monks whose house specialty is a cocktail called "Burning Hell." Customers come to drink, of course, but they also commonly drop by for the monks' advice.

There's nothing particularly new about bartenders listening to their customers' woes. But actually offering to do so purposely isn't something you see in the States — especially by religious figures. Imagine an evangelical preacher slinging cocktails for Jesus and cataloging your sins of the flesh.

Still, I relate to bartenders in this respect, Buddhist or not. (And I have heard some pretty incredible stories from them over the years). My other occupation is psychology. Some years back, during my pre-gym campouts at Starbucks, I found myself with regular visitors to my table who were asking for feedback or advice about their personal lives. Among them were former clients, but mainly people I knew only peripherally.

Friends, watching this, suggested I put up a little sign with my customary fee. Eventually, I learned to tell people that I was trying to get some writing done and they quickly got the message.

But, hey, maybe someone could make a pile of money by opening an advice bar here in Atlanta. I fear the most common advice would be, "Drink more," but it's worth a try.