Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stolen Umbrella

It's been three days I am here. The nights are cool, but the days are hot. The sun is even 
more unforgiving. It shines with amazing power, especially considering that it is winter now. Its rays almost push me back when I step outside. There is a basket of umbrellas in front of the dhamma-hall (meditation hall). The monks every day when we go to have our lunch take one from there against the sun. Today I too pick up one. It is from Japan, and has a very good quality. It has double layers, and blocks the heat very effectively. Under it the hot summer day turns into a warm spring one.

So, after lunch I arrive back to the afternoon session almost refreshed. I'm just continuing my walking meditation, when one of the y
oung Vietnamese monks comes and touches me, and calls with gesture. I am surprised. The meditation rules in Theravada tradition are very strict. We are not supposed to touch, to talk to each other; not even to hold an eye contact. Until this very moment all of them were strictly following these regulations, so I am wondering more and more what could have happened with him. We go to the basket of umbrellas. Then he unmistakably points to the umbrella I took for lunch, then to himself, then he repeats once more without a word. My God! Now I get it! Those umbrellas were not for share, they were owned. To understand this more, you must know that a Theravada monk cannot own only a very few things as his robes, a razor, a water filter, an alm bowl, and... and an umbrella. That is all. Imagine that you have nothing else in this whole world but these, and I take one of them... :) I do not know should I laugh, or stay serious. Anyway, I join my palms in front of my chest and bow, meaning: sorry man, I had no idea! He understands me and smiles.

Nevertheless, something has changed after this incident. There are about eight Vietnamese monks, who are 

studying this meditation technique with me. After my stealing the strict rule is somehow broken, and I realize that often some of them gives a smile, a friendly look. For several days this dumb pantomime goes on. Until the day of my personal interview with the chief abbot (Venerable U Pandita) arrives. From now on, every day he interviews two of us about our experiences, and I am the first one. They are already having the afternoon break when I return from the interview. I sit among them in front of the dhamma-hall, but my mind is still analyzing the chief abbot's words; He gave quite a many, for that matter. The planned time of our meeting was fifteen minutes, but he released me not until forty minutes had passed.

Suddenly I am aware that someone is sitting by me. I have become rather sensitive in the past nearly two weeks, and can sense an urge from the side. An urge for contact. I give a glance, and it is one of the young Vietnamese monks, the one with whom we played the most the pantomime in the past days. What should I do? He clearly waits me to start; and I really would like to, because I am very much interested in him. But there are all the senior monks around us; he could have more trouble than me, and...

Then I feel a gentle, shy touch on my arm, and he says: - Did you visit Sayagyi (the chief abbot)?- Yes. -I am still deep within me. I am interested in him, but nothing more comes out.
- And how was it?

I smile; no difference on this whole globe - this question reminds me to my MSc time, when we eagerly asked one and another about the professor's mood before an exam.
...And then we start to talk. After the break we go together to our accommodations, and talk all the way. About my past, about his, about my aims, about his, about my experiences, about his. He is Shin Santa Maggo, and has been a monk for eight years now. He was born in the Vietnamese countryside and one day, at the age of 13, he visited a Buddhist pagoda with his mother. He felt home immediately, and right there he said to his mom that he wanted to live this life and would be a monk.
- And how did your mother take it? Did she not fear to loose you?
- No, because I had an uncle, already serving in a distant monastery for decades. So, this life style was well known and respected in my family.
A few years passed, when in that particular monastery they were seeking new novices of his age, and then his uncle took him.
- ...And how often do you see your family?
- I do not miss them. I've never missed my home; only now I am missing Viatnam, since this is my first time to be so far away...
Maybe he misunderstood my question, anyway, I shall not force it... Until now, he was mainly focusing on theoretical studies. Now his teacher finds the time ripe to shift the balance to more practical studies. So, he has sent him here, to study the vipassana meditation. He is a very good meditator having very stable concentration. After at most two hours I have to have a walk. During these breaks I quite often see him doing his meditation perfectly unperturbed for three hours in a raw. Wow! After seven more years he will be a Dhammacharia, 'the one who knows the Dhamma (Dhamma-Buddha's teaching in this respect)'.
- Parhaps one day I will visit your monastery. :)
- Yes! You should come to my country! -he says with a smile.
We arrived to our apartments. He is found of languages:
- How do you say good bye in your language? ... Then,
- Viszlàt, he says in Hungarian.
- Xin chào bà, I say in Vietnamese, laughing - at least we've already learnt something! Although he always laughs even more: his Hungarian pronunciation is generally better than my Vietnamese...

Almost every day after this, we walk together, and both of us are excited to explore a way new world in the other. And at Last I feel I've got a friend, who understands my quest, with whom I can share such experiences that are ungraspable for the vast majority of people. At last someone, who is self-consistent; a rear gift that I could find only in a handful persons during my life. Someone, who needs no support, who needs no a way to show, but the same alignment of our individual paths bears the fruit of friendship. Who is mild, yet strong -another rear gift that I've never found... And at last I find such eyes. For that matter many monks here own such look. Look Bhikkhu Ashin Sangharakkhita on the left, or Sayadaw U Nandasiddhi on the right. Both of them are my teachers. At last when I look deep into these eyes I do not see misery, I do not see that they want anything from me, I do not see unfulfilled dreams, I do not see fears. At last there are no gripping hands, which want to fulfill with my existence out here some unbearable emptiness inside there. At last I can look into those eyes without feeling the sorrow I usually do; there is no total chaos and self torture as in most of the eyes I have ever encountered. But there I can see clarity, will, understanding, tranquility, and proud humbleness. I can see presence. That is what I have been looking for for so many years. And here it is; here they are... Thank You, God! Here I am...


- A - C - said...

Another compelling piece of truth, seasoned with stunning photography. My best wishes to you, my friend, and may your path be fruitful.


DMartini said...

Thank You, Andrea! Very kind words... I also wish the very same to You!

Candy02 said...


Thanks for your post. Many umbrellas are lightweight and portable that they come with their own carrying cases, and are simply brought from excursion to excursion.

Fida said...

Was that the first meditation retreat you did? One month! I am not sure if I could have done that - 10 days were perfect for me for the first time. I loved the silence but the energy was overwhelming once in a while. But that is something I have to learn 'to let go' where ever I am :) You are so articulate - wonderful.