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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Just before I left Kota Kinabalu to go to Bali, I enjoyed a day at the beach of Pulau Sapi. This lovely island is located in the north of KK. It can be reached by boat within 20 minutes.

   

In the evening I was lucky to meet an extraordinary man. His name is Huang Poh Lo. You might have heard of him. Be sure to check out his website (and facebook page if you’re into that)

   

He greeted me and I sat down to talk with him. We ended up talking for two or more hours. He taught himself Chinese and over the last two decades became a professional calligrapher and photographer.

   


   

   

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Bukit Mertajam, Dhamma investigation, Malaysia, Sharing

Vitamin D

​Time goes by quickly. Looking back it’s hard to believe how much has happened in three months! Most of it is stored somewhere in some hidden corner of my mind… oh wait a sec – there are no corners in my mind!

   

Street corner in Penang. The Dhamma Path is bound to lead to the Road of Nirwana. All you have to do is STOP.

Having some tea tarik in the evening. Why teh tarik? Cuz they ‘pull’ the can while pouring to let air in – for a bubbly surface and a kilo of gula/sugar. Please enjoy. While munching some roti pisang/banana with the tea some cows suddenly appear out of nowhere walking the streets of Penang. I can’t help it, i just love this place 🙂

   

Cows Against The Stream (CATS)

   

I am staying at Nandaka Vihara Meditation for a couple of days. It’s at Bukit Mertajam, about one hour east of Penang. A perfect place to relax and recharge batteries.
   

Frangipani Frangipani

To recharge batteries, yes. And also to get some original Vitamin D (Dhamma). Throughout the last years i suffered from an overdose of Vitamin B (Buddhism). Naturally, as there are so many people around saying ‘this is what the Buddha really taught’ it is hard not to get confused about what is and what is not the path to liberation. 

Ven. Dhammavuddho kindly gave me a disc when i stayed at Vihara Buddha Gotama in Temoh. It is about 8GB full with readings and commentary of the Tripitaka, i.e. the Pali canon. More on my perception of these talks and the suttas themselves in a later post.
    

Come and see 🙏

   

Every day lay people come to donate breakfast and lunch. On Sunday there are particularly many people here at Nandaka Vihara. The Jivita Clinic opens its doors. Families arrive with donations (food, robes, medicine, supplements etc.) and take the five precepts. This is an essential part of the monastic life. Without the lay supporters the monks would have to walk to Bukit Mertajam and beg for alms food there or hire a van & driver to go to a town further away (like it is done at VBG, Temoh)

   

This is probably going to be a kuti one day

There is still a lot of construction work going on… stupa in the lake, library octagon hall, another meditation hall etc. Finished presumably 2025

   

Every Sunday medical care is provided for free on the compound of Nandaka Vihara by the JIVITA Clinic.

Bhante Vijita in the Jivita Clinic, having his pulse checked by Mr. Tan

Reason enough to take a closer look at the Jivita Clinic (on the website it’s still called Aroga Clinic). There are several doctors offering acupuncture, cupping, homeopathic treatment, TCM, and western medicine.

Being a Certified Ohashiatsu Consultant, I am certainly curious about the practical application of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and about Mr. Tan Choh Ling, the acupuncturist.

David, Lee Hong and Bhante Vijita

I tell David that i never had an acuPuncture session before… He asks me: ‘Do you want to try it out?’ Sure I do. Name and age are registered and about 15 mins after that I get my first acupuncture needle set ever. Four in the right shoulder, one in the arm, then three in the neck… and now that we’re at it, a cupping and cracking (postural alignment) session as well. 

   

It’s Sunday. For me this means ‘lazy day’ – I do not permit the timetable to snatch away my peace. It serves to remind me of what i am here for.

Lucky me gets a lift to Bukit Mertajam so I can buy a bus ticket to KL.

The plane to Kuching leaves Tuesday morning.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Enjoy your day! At all times remember, my friend: There are so many reasons to be happy!

   

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Dhamma investigation, Malaysia, Perhentian Island, Sharing

¿Quo Vadis?

The question comes up again & again when travelling, especially if you don’t have a plan. No need to be on a journey, though, to fall into the traveller’s time trap. All it takes is identification with certain trains of thought. Thoughts about ‘whats next?’, jumping into both near and distant future scenarios. Do the next diving course? Work on a farm? Help with landscaping at a rainforest camp? Support a turtle project? Play tourist and visit National Parks? Meditate at the nearby monastery? Sometimes there are too many options… of course, a classical FWP. Certainly, part of it has to do with FOMO.

Like everybody else I have to anticipate actions and consequences time and again. This, in turn, can create stress by leading me ever onwards and trying to cover all eventualities. In the end, the mind can become like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest.

 

monkey stops at perhenti and says hello to fish

Maybe you know that, too… I am enjoying a delicious meal, having a stroll through town, going for a hike, a refreshing sunrise swim, or coming across an extraordinary experience during formal dhamma practice. Next, desire comes in to wreck the show. I get attached to it. It becomes shallow: ‘Not enough…’ I tend to be irritated and hope for something better. Meanwhile, I might feel tempted to light a cigarette, maybe. Who wants to remain aware of dissatisfaction, right? Then i stop and take a deep breath. Am I not acting like a baby?

Wanting something or other and becoming highly agitated if i don’t get it. The objects of desire may vary. The habit pattern of looking for pleasure stays the same. What’s wrong with pleasure, you might ask. Nothing – as long as there is no conviction that this is where happiness can be found.

For example. Did it ever occur to you that a hard nipple and a cigarette filter have approximately the same size and form? Ever noticed that this fact could be closely connected to your habit of sucking on a paper roll filled with dried leaves? Ever noticed how you’re brainwashed into believing you are an adventurous independent grown-up tough guy riding a motorbike across the desert? Oh no, you see now, you’re just a baby sucking on a substitute tittie. Please forgive me if i sound blunt about this.

Realise this.

The more I try to be someone special by all that swimming-against… the more I react like everybody else. Exploring inner & outer nature I realise how utterly human I am. It is a humbling experience to notice what kind of habits I have been forming throughout my life. Times like these it’s important to remember:

Let me not revive the past

Nor on the future build my hopes

The past has been left behind

The future has not been reached…

Bhaddekaratta Sutta

I just watched a video I’d like to share with you. Click here to listen to Guy Winch talk about emotional first aid.  Truly, the ways in which human beings can hurt themselves (and others, too) are manifold. Of course, so are the ways in which we can help and support one another and make our lives more beautiful.

 

If all goes well, I will be in Sarawak tomorrow. Which means the answer is for now ‘orientem’ – east.

 

Kitchen team of Penang Hill East (February 2017)

 

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Dhamma investigation, Malaysia, Sharing

Let nature play its own role

​Here you can read about my impressions during my stay at Dhamma Malaya during a Vipassana Meditation retreat. If you’re interested in the previous three days, please click here.

   

DAY 4

Between two palm trees of the compound I notice the intricate structure of a spider’s web. I follow the threads in order to know where I am able to pass without destroying it. I walk over to my room in block T. Inside, I spot an ant crawling across the room and inspect it. I watch it and take note of the fact that the shadow of an ant is tiny, indeed. Entering the bathroom I see so many of them. They are all checkin de surf in the water basin every time I turn on the tap. Some are coming way too close to the waves I produce and after one or two are swept away into the abyss I refrain from using the basin, taking compassionate action by using water instead from a tap I find next to the shower.

The incessant chatterbox has calmed down. Quiet mind. Images arise from childhood memories to past relationships to future plans. Jumping from past events to future plans becomes so obvious. The workings of the monkey mind, so obvious. No reactivity. Samādhi is stable for about 5-15 minutes. Almost no pain when I sit for an hour. The body adjusts. It seems so, at least. In the morning I eat something even though I am not hungry.

   

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

In the afternoon, Vipassana instructions are given. A humbling experience! All I feel is ‘kneedles’… thousands of them. After the stable experience of calmness due to mindfulness of breathing for four days, the judging mind emerges: “I am unable to sit still. Impossible to focus. Mind goes haywire. Is everywhere but here. Like iz my first time at such a retreat. I feel like a beginner again.”  Making the mind crammed and narrow. Then again making it wide and spacious “Beginner’s mind, yes, but different: I know very well that it will pass. Remember: Anicca. Impermanence.” 

Later on I remember that whenever I try to focus… and try and try… and exhaust myself in vain. It simply does not work. It is like trying to empty or control the mind. A big misunderstanding of how the mind works. Any attempt to control it only creates more misery.

The task at hand is to observe.

I remember yesterday when I was in pain, sweating profusely, and held still until the chanting, using the breath as a bridge between periods of intense pain. When I opened my eyes, I could see the back of my frontman. His T-shirt was soaked in sweat, too. Well, and today after that challenging group sitting in the afternoon I wonder, yes I wonder: “Am I feeling this body or am I also the impact of something I’d name ‘collective pain’?”  If nothing else, it is an interesting concept: collective pain. Maybe you, dear reader, have experienced something similar: You go somewhere and people are tense and in pain or they are stressed out (and try not to show – even though these days it seems to be prestigious to be stressed and to be “sorry, don’t have time”) and you somehow get your share of stress as well, and you tend to get irritated easily. Of course, this is not to say that you’re not responsible for how you perceive the world each and every moment. Nor should this be taken as a way to evade your response-ability to a particular situation by blaming it on external circumstances. Rather, it is a chance to practice compassion in daily life. Wherever the pain might originate, and whatever the reasons might be of its arising: mindfulness acts like a shield.

   

DAY 5

How I love how the air smells after heavy rainfalls!! You know what I am talking about. Especially these monsun downpours at five pee emm after it has been building up humidity and heat for the last two hours or so. After the heat the world smells and feels so incredibly fresh, so alive and awake!!

   
As I have come to notice in the previous Goenka retreats, this is usually the day when breakfast and lunch become like a dance, a spontaneous choreography. We move in unison after having spent time in the same boat named ‘dukkha‘. This is the time when many a greenhorn comes across the term ‘equanimity’ for the first time in her/his life and learns its meaning in regards to physical sensations and their respective feeling tones (vedanā).

To sit still in the midst of pain and pleasure alike doesn’t make sense per se. And yet, as you might recall, it does, as soon as it changes what you think and who you are. The choreography during lunch time is made possible by that human ability to note, to know, and to let go. By feeling my own body so intimately I come to know how others are feeling, too. Mirror neurons? Could be. But as long as one keeps talking about theories one is unable to touch the inner well of peace.

“Even though your view may be right, if you cling to it you’re wrong.”

(Ajahn Fuang Jotiko)

Entanglement with thickets of views and words and thoughts comes so quickly. ‘Know thyself’, the sages of all eras have said. Equanimity is most important – at the beginning, and the middle, and the end of each and every endeavor.

   
DAY 6

Pain is a concept which can be used as an overly to hide actual feeling tones. The untamed untrained mind has been conditioned to avoid pain. During these ten days one is trained to observe instead what is actually happening. Instead of reacting to it one simply watches it.

By now, compassion and sympathy have come about. I see the faces of my fellow practitioners. There is pain, misery, sometimes desperation, and a flicker of hope. The question seems to be written in the long faces of new students: “What have I gotten myself into here?”

Insights arise. Many things become so clear once the sensibility is heightened, the awareness of sensations on and in the body. Eating, for example. I skip teatime every second day. At breakfast I sit and watch the spoon being lifted to that hole in my face. Then I go to the toilet and feel poo coming out of that hole in my lower back. Just facting. Not: Oh the first activity is so deli and the second is so disgusting. Having written this down, it sounds weird. But I can’t tell it any other way. (Or maybe I can…) One has to experience it. In society two extremes are followed: indulgence and binging on the one hand; fasting and abstaining on the other. It seems as if it’s hard to find a middle way in a society which is so accustomed to live im Überfluss which can lead to Überdruss.

It seems to me that it’s really quite simple: Don’t eat too little. Don’t eat too much. Listen to your body. Leave ¼ of the stomach empty, better even ⅓. Then there is no drowsiness. Instead, one is able to be awake and alert, laugh heartily, do sports, concentrate effortlessly, meditate, dream calm dreams. Of course, there are more factors than just eating habits and it is therefore important not to become obsessed about when and what and how to eat. Otherwise, worrying might have more detrimental effects on the overall health than the best quality superfood might have beneficial effects.

Another thing. When one smokes, the taste buds get desensitized, so one is led to eat more spicy food because of the craving for more intense sensations. The stomach will adjust after a while. The habit is formed. Hard to let go of wanting artificially flavored food as long as smoking continues. Of course, everyone knows that. Wir wissen alle Bescheid. But unfortschnittly, one lacks the experience to sensitize one’s taste buds by chewing long enough to notice what is actually going on inside that hole in one’s face.

The more resistance I develop to pain in the body, the more doubt comes up in the mind. Doubts about the practice, the teacher, doubts about my aptitude. Thoughts about why Goenkaji emphasizes hard work. What about Mooji? What about Tolle? They all state that their teaching provides a shortcut to nibbāna. The assistance teacher raises his eyebrows and asked incredulously: “You don’t believe in defilements?” 

All that brainwashing about purifying the mind. When you state that the true nature of the mind is pure, and therefore, there is no need for all that hard hard work, then it is only a sign that you are deluded, ignorant, and that you are not observing yourself properly, that the fact you don’t see defilements is a defilement, namely ignorance (moha). For me at least it seems easier to grasp the term ‘conditioning of the mind’ and to call the process of vipassana ‘deconditioning’. In my humble opinion, that sounds more appropriate than the doctor-speak of impurities, operation etc. Yet again, Sayadaw U Tejaniya helps me out:

“Try to recognize that defilements are simply defilements; that they are not ‘your’ defilements. Every time you identify with them or reject them, you are only increasing the strength of the defilements.”

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Dhamma investigation, Malaysia, Sharing

Nothing has meaning…

until it changes what we think and who we are.


   

On the way to Dhamma Malaya Vipassana Centre we take rest for an hour at a nearby lake

   


INTRO

I read this statement in a book titled Running from Safety by Richard Bach. It conveys very well what I experience at meditation retreats time and again. Since my first vipassana retreat (as taught by S.N. Goenka) I have refrained from unveiling what’s actually going on there. There are already enough testimonials on YouTube, I thought.

Another reason I hesitated was that up til now I was not at all sure what to write and what to omit. Trying to jot down an insight or rather its verbalized form does not necessarily contribute to a deeper understanding. Instead, it might create expectations and thus, disappointments which in turn are prone to create confusion. The motivation to write arises partly out of an anxiety, namely to forget, when in fact insights are by their very nature only accessible to memory in a limited sense. Insight changes my ideas, views, habits, priorities, behavior. If it is truly experiential insight, i.e. bhavana-maya paññā, it has the power to change the way I perceive myself and the world, it changes my reality altogether, in one word, it has an impact on how I live my life.

As Sayadaw U Tejaniya puts it:

“The account of someone describing certain experiences leading up to an insight and the actual insight itself are two fundamentally different things… You can express the effect an insight has on you or the experiences’around’ it but not the depth of understanding you gain through the insight.”

That pretty much sums it up and may serve as a brief rationale for why it took a while to write about it.

Regarding the ‘setting’, the timetable is clear. You get up early and you go to bed early. No food after noon. Every participant has to observe the precepts. This includes keeping Noble silence at all times. So far as the framework is concerned, it seems quite clear.

Now, what about the inner turmoils, the questions that arise, the internal storms within the external quietude? Of course, one wants to know what one is getting oneself into. My intention is to make it a little bit easier for anyone to be prepared for such a workshop and also to encourage you, dear reader, to go ahead and apply for a course. It’s well worth your time and energy. What’s more, you will find this investment is going to leave you with all the time in the world, and an entirely new form of NRG which gives you a fresh perspective on what really matters.

   

Natural habitat of Vipassana yogis

   

DAY 1
The first thing I notice is how agitated my mind is. Usually that fact goes unnoticed. I only react to the agitation. Come to think of it, I do not become aware of it right away during the first day. Rather, it happens on the second and third day. Why? Because the mind is so beleaguered by thoughts there is not enough room to realise: “Wow! I can’t even do such a simple practice as observing respiration for one hot minute. I get distracted so easily.” There is no room for that recognition, let alone the ability to be relaxed about the fact. Over time, the mind has become so entangled in its own magick that there is no way of noting the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as out-breath. It can be quite a humbling experience to notice how unstable and capricious the mind is. Hitherto, I thought it is my mind. I ought to have control over it. Now I am embarrassed to see I am not at all in charge. 

Also, questions arise: “Why am I doing this? What is that supposed to do? What is it good for?” It is only later that the results present themselves in a most extraordinary way.

   

DAY 2

After a while it becomes clearer and clearer that this simple (but not easy) practice is a preliminary for vipassana. In order to calm the mind down, it is essential to find an object that is sufficiently stable, like the breath, and stay with it. On the second day I notice that I am trying too hard. In the evening, I am quite hungry.

Also due to the Goenkaji’s evening dhamma talks critical thoughts come up:

This being my fifth or sixth retreat in the Goenka tradition, it becomes obvious how strong the emphasis is on ‘washing out defilements’ and on ‘eradicating impurities’. It is presented in an apodictic manner. It seems to me that the man who emphasized  the teachings to be ‘non-sectarian’ and ‘non-dogmatic’ is actually followed by a sect-like entourage propagating strict adherence to his so-called ‘non-sectarian’ teaching.

Then again, I reflect and ponder:

Am I critical about the teachers while in fact it is rather the followers who are worthy of critique because they interpret Buddha-Dhamma in a certain way? Can I really hold a teacher responsible for the structural setting his followers established?

Currently I am reading Bowker’s recommendable anthology (see below “Sources”). He investigates the history of Marx’s ideas, too, and finds that they were corrupted by tyrants to become an ideology but that there were passages in his writings that could foster ruthless aggression towards reactionaries and the belief that the ends justify the means. Same goes for Christianity which started with the message of love and freedom and was instrumentalized to instill guilt into the hearts of the people. First the Christians suffered from prosecution and then they prosecuted and burnt those who were later titled martyrs. So from that perspective innaway I dig Goenkaji’s worries about the Dhamma being diluted or misrepresented but in his sayings these interpretations were already implicated.

Thus, it is clear that Day 2 is kind of a dhamma-vicaya day.

   

Such cute lil’ puppies at Dhamma Malaya 😛

   

DAY 3

Goenkaji repeats again and again: “Continue to work. Patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently.”

As with every other skill you just have to practice, man, for hours and hours just practice. After a group sitting suddenly a thought I’d had long ago once again resurfaces: Now at least I know enlightenment doesn’t exist, so I can relax. Endowing this thought with some credibility, the next few sittings go pretty smooth. A relaxed breath is an easy breath. Later, I feel energy arising naturally and sit extended periods. Even so, there is still a lot of pain when I try to sit for one hour without moving a muscle. Also, a slight headache visits me. In my mind, I crack a joke to myself: “Better headache than heartache. Take it easy, Kimo.” My smile turns the headache into something else not quite so disturbing.

Theoretical questions don’t bother me so much anymore. Even though, I have an interview with the assistance teacher to ask him if Goenka was a Buddha. No, he says, a bodhisattva with a lot of ‘mettā power’. It becomes clear that awakening is a gradual process, so I also ask a question about sudden awakening, “what about Mooji and Tolle?”, but alas, he only explains method and lineage of Goenkaji.

During Goenkaji’s dharma talk this evening I heard him sing ‘Happy Birthday to yuuu’ with more than 100 people around not knowing that it is actually my continuation day. I am aware that I am another year closer to the cemetery 😉 It was only after the course that I realized it was the day before that: Day 2 of the retreat. Funny dat.

   

   
SOURCES

Bowker, John: Problems of Suffering in Religions of the World

Richard Bach: Running from Safety

Sayadaw U Tejaniya: Don’t look down on the defilements. They will laugh at you


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