Every year on sixteenth day of July the people of Thailand's 'Urra Hirra' village hold their 'Feast of Plad Day' when they celebrate, or more accurately 'mock', a time when Hi Po Plad, a fifteenth century Chinese Buddhist monk arrived at their village. When he entered their village of Urra Hirra it is said the monk Hi Po Plad became sad at seeing how the people there were dining on a meal of boiled black ants, for being a devout Buddhist monk Hi Po Plad would never deliberately harm any of God's creatures. But the villagers of Urra Hirra saw nothing wrong in eating black ants. In fact they'd been doing so for thousands of generations, adding them to their many kinds of delicious spicy dishes.
When they saw that Hi Po Plad was very tired, for he had been walking barefoot all the way from China, the village elders immediately invited him to share their meal of boiled black ants, insisting that after filling his stomach with the hot nutritious delight he then rest the night in the very best bamboo hut of Urra Hirra. But Hi Po Plad grew angry and told them he'd rather sleep on a nearby rocky hill with one of it's cold rocks as his pillow.
Had they offended the monk in some way? They did not understand how. Would Hi Po Plad care to explain the nature of the offence they asked. Hi Po Plad flew into a rage, kicking over their large boiling pot of black ants from their fire, and telling them they were committing a grave sin against God by eating the black ants. The monk Hi Po Plad then turned his back on them and walked out of their village heading towards the nearby rocky hill.
The following morning at the crack of dawn Hi Po Plad came running excitedly back down into the village telling everyone he'd received a message in his mind from the black ants of Urra Hirra. He told them how three times on his descent from the rocky hill the ants had sent a message into his head telling him to tread carefully for on the rocks of the hill there were black ants going about there work.
"He think we be fools" they said. "He thinks the people of Urra Hirra will believe this ridiculous story he speaks"
"He thinks we will stop eating the black ants of Urra Hirra when we come to believe they do communicate with the minds of men" reasoned the oldest elder of all Urra Hirra's elderly.
"Who sins against God?" he asked "Is it the people of Urra Hirra by eating the ants, or the Chinese monk Hi Po Plad who speaks his lie?"
They then chased Hi Po Plad out from their village throwing rocks and stones at him as he ran away back to China.
But was the devout Buddhist monk Hi Po Plad a liar, or had he been telling the villagers of Urra Hira the truth? Had the black ants of Urra Hira warned the monk to tread carefully through some sort of telepathy? At Bournemouth's Buddhist Temple of the Sun, teacher of Buddhism Peter Weaver believes Hi Po Plad was simply telling the villagers what had happened to him that morning.
But how would it benefit a black ant to pass a telepathic warning of it's presence to someone who does not much care for black ants? Left to continue his stroll along the path without receiving the ant's telepathic warning he might not then come to step on the ant anyway. Such a person might simply go on to tread on the ant deliberately. The ant would have been better off not bothering to inform that person of it's presence at all!
Do the black ants also have a way of knowing in advance whether or not the approaching person is likely to act on the information in a way likely to be of benefit to the ant?
Mr Weaver believes they can read the minds of approaching people so that they know who to tell of there presence and who not to. "This ability on the part of the ants to separate 'friend' from 'foe' explains why Hi Po Plad came to receive the telepathic warnings from them whereas the villagers of Urra Hira never had. Hi Po Plad after all was a very devout Buddhist monk who literally would never harm a fly. The ants knew he would respond to there message to him by taking care not to tread on them. On the other hand the villagers of Urra Hira saw the black ants as being just a convenient local source of food. Is it any wonder the ants did not choose to inform them telepathically of there presence?"
He continues, "Some people today are just like Hi Po Plad. They would never deliberately harm a fly, or a black ant. I believe those people have received hundreds of these telepathic warnings from black ants over the years, but have simply not realised it. They have suddenly found themselves looking down towards the pathway they've been walking along to see, a yard or so ahead, a black ant. They have then simply stepped over it. Then they've just carried on with their walk without giving further thought to it. It hasn't entered their mind that such a tiny black ant had sent them a telepathic message asking them to look down to see the ant, to tread with care".
So was Hi Po Plad right all along, or are we to believe the devout Buddhist monk by that name was nothing more than a liar?
"I cannot prove Hi Po Plad was being truthful" he admits. "Even today there is no real proof to show telepathy exists at all. But what is proof? Those who share the same respect for all God's creatures as did Hi Po Plad will know in their hearts that it cannot be mere coincidence for them to have suddenly looked down to see a black ant as often as they have, just in time for them to avoid stepping onto them."
Are YOU a person who steps on black ants deliberately, or when you see them do you step over them? Are YOU a person the black ants would choose to communicate with?
"Next time you see a black ant on a path you'll have your answer!" says Buddhist teacher Peter Weaver.