It’s funny how it goes if I let it. Initially, I undertook this journey because I read about the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre in Penang. In his book “Mastering the core teachings of the Buddha”, Daniel Ingram (who calls himself an arahat, i.e. one who has overcome lust, hate, and delusion for good) recommends this centre among others. Now that I am actually here, I can’t stay since the monk in charge at MBMC finds it unsuitable for yogis to meditate at the centre during a novitiate programme because of the noise the children are sure to make throughout the days.
So Linda (who picks me up from the hotel and then shows me around the city like a tour guide) takes me to this place called Buddhist hermitage Lunas. It sounds a bit like lunatics and given the timetable, you, dear reader, might be inclined to assume it is a home for the mentally challenged, but I can assure you, it’s everything else but a lunatic asylum. People are friendly here. People are harmless, happy and kind. Monks, nuns, samaneras, sayalays, yogis and yogīnis alike. Together we are about 15 people here. There are also two mellow malaysian meows striding the hall and the compound, lying on the doormat, yawning and stretching in the sunlight and thus, giving hints on right effort and yoga postures; bringing mice into the temple and placing it on the carpet in front of the big white Buddha icon and thus, giving lectures on suffering and impermanence 😉
A friend of mine once called me Freizeitmönch (‘leisure monk’) and I like the sound of it. It’s a label I can live with. It IS a label, though. Maybe also to be true to this honourable title or just taking it as a motivating factor, I spend ten days at a hermitage…
Wake up at 3.30 a.m.
Go to bed at 9.30 p.m.
Venerable Sayadaw U Jotika is the monk in charge here. Two times a week there is a compulsory interview. We are supposed to report on our experience with 1. sitting meditation, 2. walking meditation, 3. daily activities. Two times a week he gives an evening dhamma talk about how to practise properly.
Five times a day I can hear the melodious muezzin reminder call from loudspeakers south, east and west of the hermitage. It’s funny to bow down in front of a big white Buddha statue and hearing “Allaaaaahaaaahu’akbar!!” actualising ear consciousness. You know, sometimes it resembles a distant canon. And it seems rather easy to infer what they are praying to is actually the SUN, especially at 5.50 a.m. before sunrise. (cf. Zeitgeist)
The meditation technique taught at the hermitage follows a Burmese tradition. Why do I mention it? Because there is something peculiar to Burmese style.
Interested? Read more on the Pages “Soft like a flower, firm as a rock”. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out “Dhamma Hall, Dukkha Hell”. I also wrote a food reflection with the heading “Eat your drink. Drink your meal.”
It’s a hermitage, after all, eine Einsiedelei, and it is quite a contrast to the other place I am about to visit, namely Bodhi Heart Sanctuary. Next to a chinese cemetery. Allegedly, it’s a place for people from all walks of life. I’ll see. I have been there one afternoon – Linda showed me around, as I said before – and talked to the managers. They had no objections to my staying at this open space, even for free if I am ‘ready to rough it up’ a couple of hours per day. I said no prob. Of course.