Is it Zen?
A couple of weeks ago ma famille and I visited Monkey Park in Kyoto's Arashiyama district. After a short climb, we came to the park, which is the home of snow monkeys. These monkeys live in the wilds but they appear quite docile. I've seen monkeys in the hills of Kuala Selangor and elsewhere where they would come up close to visitors and snatch their plastic bags or food. Why do these snow monkeys behave so well unlike their counterparts in Malaysia and other countries? Does it mean that Malaysian monkeys are less disciplined? Do these snow monkeys also have the discipline that Japanese people are well-known for?
When we arrived at the foot of the hill, we had to purchase our park entrance tickets. We were told to leave our bags there at no charge. Visitors also have to observe some rules or advice such as not to look the monkeys in the eyes and not to feed them in the open. At the park, there's a small shop where you can buy food to feed the monkeys. The shop has an annex with wire netting where visitors go to to feed the monkeys. We didn't go into the shop; so we didn't feed the monkeys. From the outside, looking at the visitors feeding the monkeys from inside the annex, I just couldn't help but feel that the roles had been reversed.
Back to the question of why these snow monkeys appear to be so well-bahaved. Well, the park authorities didn't set out to train or discipline the monkeys. They discipline the visitors by imposing rules before they ascend the hill. When all visitors do not carry bags, there's nothing for them to snatch. Feeding of the monkeys is also confined to a certain spot by having the visitors "caged" in the annex. Over time, these snow monkeys get used to going to the annex for their food. Elementary Pavlovian psychology.
Quite often when I pose this question to people, the common answer is to train the monkeys. In this case, the park authorities "train" or "discipline" the visitors so as to synchronize their behavior with that of the monkeys'.
Note: 'Iie' in Japanese means 'No'.