I can't find my travel diary for Sri Lanka - but I do have a post I wrote on Dhammastudygroup six or seven years ago, after arriving home. Some of the people from that group were on the pilgrimage - and so the post contains some personal chit chat.
Getting to the starting point is often a lot of fun when meeting friends in Bangkok. This time travelling from Brisbane to Bangkok via Singapore, I had an inquisitive Singaporean two year old sitting
on her Indonesian Nanny's lap next to me. Smiling eyes, playing the game of "I'll hand you everything in the seat pocket, and you hand it back to me." Eventually she went to sleep and I got a chance to read
Nina's "Perfections leading to Enlightenment" - 52 pages on my printer. Thank you Nina, I found it absorbing, it stimulated reflection, and I look forward to learning more on the second reading shortly. I feel the phrase "whatever comes, let it come" may have been an omen.....
Landing in Singapore at 6.30 p.m. was a lesson about 'no control'. A series of announcements through the evening changed the departure gate three times, from one end of the terminal to the other <groan>, and delayed departure until "who knows when" the next day. The Acapella singers, the live game shows and the on-line gambling were a little at odds with the alert armed soldiers in patrol formation carefully moving through the crowds.
At 4.00 a.m. I checked into the Transit Hotel and rebooked my ticket on another airline who could guarantee I would get to Bangkok in time to join the tour to Sri Lanka. Changi Airport is an interesting
place to be marooned (though I did feel I might have wandered into the song lyrics of "Hotel California") ...."Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
'Relax' said the nightman, We are programed to receive.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave"
What I thought of as the 'Singapore Debacle' was viewed in a different way by the man sitting next to me on the Singapore/Bangkok sector. He noticed I was reading Nanamoli Thera's "The Practice of
Loving Kindness" and introduced himself. He is a practising Buddhist and saw the overnight delay as fortuitous, something to be delighted and joyful about, as it caused us to meet. (Hard to remember the
meaning of fortuitious after 28 hours without sleep.). We had a lovely two hours of Dhamma discussion and I told him all about the Yahoo Lists, and hope he will join us. Eventually arrived in Bangkok around midday - just 24 hours late. That evening, finding K. Amara, K. Betty and K. Sukin felt miraculously wonderful - hugs and smiles all round - mine the most fervent! 39 hours without sleep, and I still appeared to be a sane human being (apart from tipping a waiter in Bangkok $US30 - but he was deliriously happy!) Is a mistake counted as Dana?
In Colombo, we were 'permanently' allocated to one of five coaches. Our Thai tour leader (name 'sounds like' Cook-ai) and our Sri Lanka tour leader (name 'sounds like NissanCar [seriously!]) were patient and efficient ), and a bit shell shocked with over 150 delightfully individualistic Thais to deal with. But lots of laughter, no dosa. They just wouldn't stay on their allocated buses, would they Amara? -
And a decision is only a 'preliminary' step - one needs to make and remake them in a dozen different ways..
Others on the tour will have their own favourites and their own special reasons for valuing certain places. Two places stood out for me -
1. The Aluvihara Temple about 20 miles out of Kandy. Here in the 2nd Century B.C., the Tipitaka was first committed to writing by about 500 monks over very many months. I'm not usually impressed by 'significant sites' but the emotions experienced here are indescribable. This place....this place..... the thought of the Teachings and those responsible for its preservation and dissemination fill me with awe, gratitude, reverence, and moved me to tears.
2. The Sacred Bo Tree at Anuradhapura - the oldest historic tree in the world - grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. I managed to collect a few leaves from the
ground to press as keepsakes.
The Sri Lankan Tour leader frequently spoke about 'The International Women's Problem'. He said that the desperate (but beautiful) ladies on the bus had a problem that would require the stopping of the bus
in ten minutes - if they could be patient that long. And, he said, "Gentlement - you must just bear with me please" - (big grins from the men - did you think we didn't notice Jon, Sukin, Jaran??) I would like to propose that, on future trips, once the desperate (but beautiful) ladies had alighted, the doors of the bus should be locked with the male passengers inside, until departure .... THEN we would
see just 'who' was desperate (but beautiful), and 'who' was being scapegoated....
And to THAT staff member of THAT Hotel in Kandy ... 4.30 a.m. is NOT the time to knock on the door and want to check the mini-bar in a lady's room. Next time you may get a worse reaction than an incredulous "You want to do WHAT??" Luckily for you, you beat a hasty retreat. (Clearly another reading needed of the Perfection of Equanimity ... why is equanimity the last of the Perfections?
IMPRESSIONS OF DHAMMA AND FRIENDS:
On a few occasions, some of us didn't go on the day trips so that we could have Dhamma discussions with K. Sujin. How precious those times are ... Much gratitude for K. Sujin's unstinting giving of her
energy, and time, whenever she felt she could be of help to any of us regarding the Teachings.
And the Dhamma topics - I usually remember what is impacting on me at the time, often quite different to, or only a tiny part of how anyone else remembers a discussion. Metta, again, came up ... that there is no need for a special method, time or place; that metta arises conditioned by understanding; 'Who' is developing metta? No self - so there are just moments of understanding, seeing, metta etc. but no self who is 'experiencing' or 'doing'. Conditions for having metta - right understanding of what metta is; understanding at a theoretical level more about realities; association with the right friends.
'Dust rags' were mentioned again. Being a Dust Rag - losing the concept of self - indicates and absence of conceit. This was a bit difficult for me as I spend part of each day 'empowering' people to stand up for themselves, resisting unfair, unkind people and circumstances ... I came to see that 'being a dust rag' is an 'internal' attitude to what has occurred and it doesn't mean that we don't try to change situations and help people. (I hope that's right, otherwise I'm in trouble again.)
There was also an interesting discussion on attachment/bonding to our babies and children. Some of us (me) wondered what affect biology/hormones/survival of the species has, as opposed to others (everyone else) who consider 'bonding' is 'accumulated tendencies'.
Hmmmm ... If there has to be a unanimous agreement then we have a 'hung jury' - if 'majority rules' we have a result favouring 'accumulated tendencies' with one dissenting vote.
No need for me to ponder or discuss 'no control' anymore - I'm in the middle of it - can't escape it, can't 'control' it.
Meeting Ranil and Sumetra, Sumane, Nihal, and Suren and Cinta, was a joy. Ranil and Sumane - lovely to see your keen enthusiasm, knowledge and interest in the Dhamma, please talk to us more often on
dsg, and, who can tell what the future holds, we may all get to meet again face to face.
Good to see Ell has posted. Nina, Sarah, Betty, Lucy, Azita, Joyce and I need more feminine support here. Now that we know about this 'International Women's Problem', we may have to roster someone
on while the rest of us leave the List when struck by desperation for short periods.
NissanCar (who is a well known presenter on Discovery Channel about animals and birds) was giving us a talk about elephants and what to say to one who was at the 'kicking up dirt' stage of an inevitable
attack - (sorry, I've forgotten just what to say (and it would only have worked if the elephant spoke Sri Lankan anyway), but don't run - elephants are faster than humans and can swim further.).
As he was talking, a mahout and an elephant passed the other way in the stream of traffic. This elephant - flapping his pink ears, trunk held high, eyes bright and happy, tail up, swaggering and sashaying,
all body parts wiggling like an articulated heavy vehicle. NissanCar said he was an 'exuberant' young male - isn't that a lovely word? - exuberant? - means joyously unrestrained - and, indeed, he was.
- a very long, very fat slithering snake making it safely across the road. (didn't hear a gulping sound though, Sarah) .
- dogs and more dogs, looking surprisingly like the Bangkok dogs - how far can a dog swim?
- Then, there was the time I was standing on the verandah outside my room in Dambulla, contemplating jungle and mountain views, listening to unfamiliar morning bird sounds. Suddenly a large monkey scrambled up the corner post within arm's reach (his and mine!). The monkey paused and checked me over (for food? for jewellery?) and was completely unfazed. (not so, the human). - I've found a weakness in those Women's Safety lectures I went to, where the Police Constable said "If in danger, scream loudly" - Screams don't happen with frozen vocal chords - (He was a VERY large monkey) - and monkeys are completely and utterly unimpressed by squeaks. I have learned since (from my dear friends) that monkeys are 'probably' vegetarian, and 'probably' don't have rabies. Sukin, tell me again about re-birth and just who could have been my grandmother? Only teasing - I know it wasn't the monkey - it was the elephant, right?
Christinehttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... sage/13833