WHEN I first encountered Buddhism, it was amazing. The Four Noble Truths seemed like heavenly manna falling to earth. The teachers seemed just as amazing. I was home.
I found myself willing to give a lot up in order to pursue Buddhism. I was not a natural meditator, and it was hard work. Ordination as a monk was to corner myself into cushion hours. But there have always been a lot of other things I would like to do to. Things that I had to give up.
For instance, I have always wanted to traverse Antarctica. I don’t know why. Because it is bleak? Because it is cold (I’m English after all)? Or maybe because there is hardly anyone there!
IN December 2013 I read a story of Maria Leijerstam who cycled to the South Pole. WOW. Now that’s a challenge I’d love to try. Only … I’m not sure what I would do when I got there. Take a Selfie???
These days everyone has heard of the Four Noble Truths. All the teachings of Buddhism are right there on the screen of your laptop. It’s so easy to get the information. But it is no easier to actually do than it ever was. Getting yourself on to the cushion takes a bit of courage, and encouragement. I’m sure grateful to the teachers, friends and supporters through the years who enabled me to put in the hours. Meditation is no longer hard work for me – it gets easier and more profound the more you do it.
NOT everyone is interested in meditation, despite the relentless plug that it gets in modern ‘wellness’ magazines. But I would like to play my part in enabling others to give it a try. Community support and the encouragement of your peers is a huge blessing. So in 2007 I decided to run a set of six talks on meditation and dharma. Just to see what would happen.
I did not have any public speaking skills. And I had no experience with anything like this. I recall the first talks – I was calm and mindful in my mind. But my body knew how I really felt. It was shaking terribly!
Still, a magical thing happened – quite a few people came together and a Little Bangkok community was born.
I’m proud to have played a part in bringing people together. After the six talks, we kept the community going. It’s the only thing of its kind in Bangkok, and over the years many many real friendships have touched people’s lives during their stays in Bangkok.
It’s a great thing to know that you have put something positive into the world. In Buddhism it is called ‘punya’ – something that brightens. It is a kind of Pay-it-Forward. Like microphone feedback creates a loud noise loop, Punya benefits both the giver and receiver into the future.
WHILE politics is dividing people violently in Thailand, Ukraine, and of course Israel, I personally feel helpless – I don’t really understand the problems, and I certainly don’t have the solutions. I couldn’t do anything if I did know the answers. But helping bring people together peacefully in the name of dharma, meditation and kindness – that is something that I can contribute.
And it’s not just myself, but the efforts, participation and sincerity of many people. Especially we have to thank our different venues for providing facilities – that has been a huge blessing! Ariyasom Villa of course, without whom Dhamma and meditation in English in Bangkok would have fizzled out long ago. DMG, Dance Centre, Tavana Dhamma, BIA, Baan Aree, Mai Kaidee Oasis, and of course, the Indus Restaurant. The generosity of these venues goes beyond just a room – there is the cleaning, the staff, the refreshments. The sound gear has to be set up and put away, as well as the mats. The hosting and feeding of visiting teachers.
MEDITATE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO
Through August and September is an all new Dhamma Talk Series; the first in three years. All things are impermanent, and who knows if or when we will be able to do this again. Tightening visa restrictions have squeezed several of my fellow monks out of Thailand in the last month. So I hope you will be able to join Mondays in Chit Lom over the next seven weeks.
IT took a year of training, and 10 days for Maria to cycle to the South Pole. I admire that, but I too have a passion, and its not to raise my arms on the South Pole and take a selfie! I want to get enlightened. And I have commitment too. I eat once a day, and I can’t go to the cinema. I don’t have any money, and have trouble getting dental care. I will never get married or have children. All my peers – friends and acquaintances, all have done better than me. They have houses and cars, and can go abroad each year. I gave all that up. My goal might be further away than the South Pole but it is worth a lot more than a picture on facebook. I am here to talk about my passion. I am here to talk about Enlightenment. This is the greatest journey of them all. So facebook can wait. Turn off your smartphone and join me on Monday evenings.