This year we made another trip to Pak Chong to see Ajahn Jayasaro for a dhamma talk.
The rough plan is to make such a trip 3 times a year. However, the political situation meant I put it off in February. While the topic of politics is current, it is on people’s minds, and it is easy to make an insensitive remark. We have yogis on both sides of the political divide. Hopefully we can meet up in harmony for the common ideal of dhamma.
Ajahn Jayasaro, and Pandit Bhikkhu
The last trip to Pak Chong was August 2013, when we had 4 mini vans. Plus a number of people who drive themselves to the venue. To join the vans it is necessary to pay the van fee in advance. If you go by yourself, there is no cost.
Please note that Ajahn Jayasaro keeps to his own company. He lives in a very large private family compound, off in the corner of the land, amongst the trees he has planted. He comes to the main house on the first and third Sunday of the month, to give a dhamma talk in Thai. The event is in the morning and usually there are a few hundred people there. Please do not try to go there at other times; it is a gated compound and you won’t be allowed in.
We will arrange trips to go see him, and get out into the cooler hillside air and flowers, for a special dhamma talk in English, as an afternoon session.
Loading up the vans ….
This time our vans were more expensive than previous trips. This is due to a new law prohibiting 14 seater vans. So now we use 10 seater vans, which are in fact, more comfortable. This adds 100 baht to the van price. But there is always a free spot for anyone who needs it.
Taking bookings is a lot of work. Each person who books takes 2 or 3 emails. Everyone seems to be a special case! It takes around 200 emails per trip to arrange. The biggest problem is people asking for a seat, but not wanting to come and pay in advance. One year, eight of these did not show up, and I ended up paying 3000 baht for an empty van to go home. So now I have to really insist. If you want to arrange your own transport, you are welcome to do so. If you would like us to arrange transport for you, please pay the van fee in advance and turn up on time.
Shepherding 50 people, many of whose faces I don’t know, is quite a job
We don’t use bank transfers – because this is a burden for the person who volunteers to use their bank account. It is hard to keep track of, especially when there are 50+ people, depositing, cancelling, returning money, matching bank account names to the nick names that the booking is often under. Et cetera.
Another thing that really helps is not to go wandering off. When we are waiting for a van driver to get back from his lunch, or someone who is slowly shopping in a gas station, switching vans and that kind of thing. To move a group of 50 people is quite a challenge, so the people who can sit in the right place, be in the right van and not make endless special requests are really appreciated.
We start out from Baan Aree. What is a good leaving time? We tried 8am, but people complained it was too early (slackers!). So we changed to 9am, but this means no waiting for late comers, and no stops along the way. Everybody should be able to go 2 hours without the bathroom. If we stop, as a group, it is always 30-40 minutes lost at the gas station. And you make a real panic for us organisers who desperately run around trying to round up lost sheep who have slipped off for a cigarette, fried rice, coffee, photographs, or changed van for some reason. The longer it takes – the more people decide to get out of the van and stretch their legs after all!
Lunch is at 11:30am at Rabieng View Restaurant. This is a mid-price restaurant. Food is pretty good. But it is a real difficulty when 50+ people arrive all at the same time. There is always someone who waits an awful long time for their lunch. Service suffers drastically.
We can solve this by arranging a group lunch table. But then you are laying an extra burden on myself and the others who help organise. Now we have to feed you too! And there is no end of special requests when it comes to food – Can you separate the onions? I can’t eat garlic! Chili upsets my stomach! Can I have gluten free? Are there eggs in that? Isn’t there dessert included? Can I sit with you, but eat my own food?
So rather than one monk trying to feed 50 fussy lay people, better to have you all organise yourselves, and feed the one non-fussy monk! Even if it takes longer.
Our group filled every table!
What we might do in future though, is stagger the vans – some to leave at 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, and the rest at 9:00. This will give the restaurant more time to serve each van load. Volunteers to lead a van are appreciated. The directions are easy – the van driver will get you to Chok Chai farm in Pakchong, and you direct the next 2 turns for the last 6 miles. Easy. Both turns have big obvious land marks.
One person told me that directing a van would detract from his enjoyment of the trip. But it really helps me out! Personally I can go to Ajahn Jayasaro’s talks in Thai. I organise these trips just for you!
always fun to make some new friends!
Otherwise we can try to send all the vans together, and have some large tables of food waiting for us. You can also take some snacks or tidbits for sharing too. The restaurant has a raised open air veranda, surrounded by lush trees and flowers. Especially in May, it is very bright with flowers.
Roadside flowering tree and concrete water drums. TiT
It’s a nice place to hang out (if you are not waiting for your food), as the air is cooler than Bangkok, and it is fun to meet some new people.
Around 1pm we had to the venue for the talk a couple of miles away. There is time for coffee and hanging out with the trees.
Thailand seems to always be in flower season!
And then up for the dhamma talk. Ajahn Jayasaro is probably the best known Western Dhamma speaker in Thailand. There are 200-300 people for his talks in Thai in Pakchong, and many hundreds more when he used to come to Bangkok. For the English talk it is less crowded – about 80 people this time round.
This time he was talking about ‘Bhavana’ and how good conduct supports the mind when you sit meditaiton. He continued talking about the traditional split between concentration and mindfulness meditation, before pointing out that such a split does not occur in the original suttas. Finally he talked about the state of mind that is bright and simply mindful – difficult to say if it is more vipassana or samatha!
Ajahn Jayasaro, Pandit Bhikkhu, Phra Frank, Samaneri Visakha and Anagarika Danielle
Finally, we have a short break, and then head home to Bangkok. Again, some people want to stay and enjoy the countryside longer. But most people don’t like to get back to Bangkok late. It usually takes longer on the return trip due to traffic. I used to suggest an ice-cream stop at the Chok Chai farm home made icecream parlour, but once in the vans, pretty much everyone votes to get home.
Next Pak chong trip should be around mid August 2014. Keep an eye on this website for details.
Thanks to Mary and Sandeep for dealing with the money and the bookings, and Denise and Steven for leading some of the vans. And to everyone who went along – you are a great group to hang out with!
Comments and suggestions welcome below.