Decked in a sturdy pair of tennis shoes, saffron robes and a backpack, Thai Buddhist monk Sutham Nateetong trekked through Claremore Thursday morning.
“I walk for peace,” Nateetong said, while journeying from Santa Monica, California, to New York City.
Nateetong began his journey in March and has traveled along Historic Route 66 since then, conquering about 30 miles a day.
“Our world has many wars, bombs and killing,” Nateetong said in broken English. “I want our world to be peaceful and everyone to be happy.
Now 57 years old, Nateetong was once a lawyer and politician in his native Thailand.
“When I was a political man, I worked hard, but my country is still the same,” he said.
He turned away from that life five years ago to practice Buddhism full-time as a monk. He says he is a much happier man now.
“Buddhism is peaceful and about showing love and kindness to everybody,” Nateetong said. “I wanted to bring peace and meditation to many people.”
Buddhism is the fourth-largest religion in the world with over 520 million followers.
The basic belief is that as humans we crave and cling to impermanent things, which causes us to suffer in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. However, through meditation and other practices people can be liberated from the impermanent physical world and attain nirvana, which ends the cycle of rebirth and redeath.
Nateetong has been to the U.S. many times. The first was 25 years ago.
He was enamored with the history of Route 66 and so he chose to travel along the parts of it that still exist during his journey to peace.
As he travels he stays in hotel rooms or in the homes of people who invite him. However, when he was walking through the desert or when he can’t find a place to stay, he uses a tent that he carries in his backpack.
Many people stop to shake his hand, pay for a meal, and hear about his journeys.
Outside the U.S. he has also walked in India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos.
After completing his 3,000 mile journey through the U.S., Nateetong plans to return the Thailand and begin a 7,500 mile, two-year journey from Thailand to Paris, France.