Friday, 17 November 2017

Right Livelihood

Buddhist literature doesn't say much about right livelihood compared with other factors of the path to liberation.

Right livelihood is the third factor of the Eightfold Noble Path (8FNP) having an ethical character. The other two ethical factors come before it in sequence so any livelihood that is not in conformity with the first two factors is also wrong livelihood. The first two ethical factors are right speech and right action.

Right speech was described by the Buddha, in The Discourse on the Great Forty (Mahacattarisaka sutta M117), as refraining from four kinds of wrong speech: false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech, and gossip.

Right action was described in M117 as refraining from three kinds of wrong actions: killing living beings, taking what is not given and misconduct in sensual pleasures.

Right livelihood was described in M117 as refraining from wrong livelihood that includes: scheming, hinting, belittling, pursuing gain with gain.

Right livelihood was also described by the Buddha, in the Numerical Discourses (Anguttaranikaya A5.177), as follows:

A lay follower (non-monastic) should not engage in these five trades. What five? Trading in weapons, trading in living beings, trading in meat, trading in intoxicants, and trading in poisons.

In other words the Buddha outlined wrong livelihood. He did not explicitly describe activities that are right livelihood. Many Buddhist lay followers (not monastics, not monks or nuns) traded goods and services that are not in the list above.

The list (in A5.177) of trades to avoid are obviously harmful to others and less obviously harmful to oneself. We can use common sense in those trades.

For example, although a car or truck could be used as a weapon, selling cars or trucks meant for transportation is not wrong livelihood. An example of dealing in human beings is buying, selling and using slaves for ones livelihood. If you knowingly include products and services created with slave labour as inputs for products and services you sell for your livelihood then one is doing wrong livelihood.

If as part of one's employment duties one speaks or writes falsely, or repeats falsehoods created by others, then there is wrong livelihood on those occasions.

Many livelihood activities are a mix of wholesome and unwholesome actions and results.

In an employee role there is scope for both right and wrong livelihood.  Each person choose moment by moment to follow the 8FNP.

One person who tends to tell falsehoods for personal gain will frequently be doing wrong livelihood regardless of the specifications in their employment contract. Another person with more wholesome habits doing that same job might always be doing right livelihood.

A monastic monk or nun can also undertake wrong livelihood by hinting or implying that donations to them are especially meritorious without necessarily speaking falsely.

Right livelihood and the other factors of the 8FNP purify conduct and mind. The three ethical factors are the foundation for a stable and tranquil mind which is the basis for liberating wisdom.

Led by right view, the path factors of right effort/persistence and right mindfulness support the development of the three ethical path factors. By continuing to repeat, cultivate and develop all the path factors we set up conditions for awakening.

The Buddha taught us to figure out for ourselves the countless specific instances of right and wrong livelihood. These all require application of right view.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

What did Buddha think about gods?

I post here an edited version of a my response to a question on Quora. That was my first and possibly my last time on Quora. I was browsing the site and found this question "What did the Buddha think about gods?" and read may incorrect and misleading answers by other readers. My response is short and doesn't include any links for more information. I can write more if any readers want detail or sutta references.

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, the Buddha (the Blessed One) taught there are gods. He taught the way to achieving rebirth in heaven realms through wholesome action in body, speech and mind.

My comments here reflect my understanding of what I read in English translations of Buddhist discourses by Bhikkhu Bodhi and others. You may search this translator in Amazon or other places.

There are many discourses where the Blessed One  conversed with gods, known as deva or devaputta (child of a god) in Pali language. Another translation of deva could be deity or spirit. There are six sensual heaven realms where gods enjoyed only pleasure. There are other more subtle form heaven realms where brahma gods with even longer lives (but not immortal) exclusively enjoy bliss of loving-kindness and other divine states. There are discourses describing the Buddha and other awakened beings visiting these various realms to teach the gods. None of the gods or any other beings mentioned in the teaching of the Buddha were immortal or omnipresent or all powerful. They are described as having various powers and capabilities that are limited in various ways.

The Blessed One taught followers to frequently recollect gods and pay respect to them as one might respect parents and ancestors. The wholesome conduct leading to heavenly rebirths includes avoiding unwholesome conduct, practising wholesome conduct. For example, no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and avoiding substances that confuse the mind and lead to the other four unwholesome forms of conduct. The Blessed One taught that generosity, non-cruelty, studying the teaching of the Buddha, respect for beings worthy of respect, and cultivating wholesome states of mind with various forms of meditation all may lead to either rebirth in a heavenly realm and ultimately to final liberation from the round of rebirths - nirvana.

Although the Blessed One taught these ways to rebirth in heaven realms, he most of all encouraged followers to aim for final liberation from the round of rebirths. After a long life-span in a heaven realm, beings inevitably will return to lower realms such as human, animal, ghost and hell realms where there is much suffering. Note that although the heaven realms are delightful, the human realm is favoured for the work of wholesome conduct leading to heaven realm rebirths or to final liberation.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Update from Ireland

Dear readers, I apologize for not posting articles for so long. I am in Ireland right now. When I settle early in 2017, I hope to post more regularly. This year I traveled in New Zealand, Peru, USA, UK and Ireland. I like Ireland very much. I mostly stayed in County Cork. Here are a few images from my time in Ireland.

Drombeg Stone Circle, County Cork

Knowth, County Meath

New Grange, County Meath

MK standing in front of New Grange, County Meath

Path the Knocknarea, County Sligo

Knocknarea, County Sligo

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Gotama Buddha was not vegetarian

Many people believe that Buddhists are vegetarian by default. This belief may stem from the notion that Buddhists do not support killing living beings including humans, animals, fish, birds or insects. While the five precepts for lay Buddhists encourage lay followers to refrain from taking life, there is no prohibition for eating flesh or fish. The Blessed One also taught followers that hunting, fishing and trading in flesh is wrong livelihood and creates unwholesome karma with unpleasant results. Even so, the purchasing of flesh from creatures already slaughtered is neutral kamma with neutral result.

Anguttaranikaaya A8.12 translated by Bhante Bhikkhu Bodhi.
This discourse describes a situation where general Siiha, who had previously been a supporter of the Jains in Vesaali listened to the Blessed One teach the Dhamma and converted from Jainism to Buddhism. Siiha means lion in Paali language.  Immediately upon being converted, Siiha invited the Blessed One for a meal the following day. He asked his servant to go to find meat ready for sale and had a meal prepared which the Blessed One and the Sangha of bhikkhus ate. 

Note the Paali discourses refer to the followers of the Jain religion as the Niganthas, after their leader Nigantha Naataputta (Nigantha, the son of Naata). These days Jains call this person "Mahaa viira", a title which means great hero. Hindus also sometimes use the title of Mahaa viir to refer to the deity Hanuman, though apart from current use of the title Mahaa viir, I am not aware of any other connection between Nigantha Naataputta and Hanuman the deity.

Then the Blessed One gave Siiha the general a progressive discourse, that is, a talk on giving, virtuous behavior, and heaven; he revealed the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual pleasures and the benefit of renunciation. When the Blessed One knew that Siiha's mind was pliant, softened, rid of hindrances, uplifted, and confident, he revealed that Dhamma teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Then, just as a clean cloth rid of dark spots would readily absorb dye, so too, while Siiha the general sat in that same seat, there arose in him the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye: 'Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.' Siiha the general became one who had seen the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma, crossed over doubt, gotten rid of bewilderment, attained self-confidence, and become independent of others in the teaching of the Teacher [this is the stock phrase meaning that Siiha the general had attained the fruit of stream entry Sotapanna - a noble disciple]. He then said to the Blessed One: "Bhante, please let the Blessed One together with the Sangha of bhikkhus accept tomorrow's meal from me." 

The Blessed One consented by silence. Having understood that the Blessed One had consented, Siiha rose from his seat, paid homage to the Blessed One, circumambulated him keeping the right side toward him, and departed. Then Siiha addressed a man: "Go, good man, find some meat ready for sale." 

Then, when the night had passed, Siiha the general had various kinds of excellent foods prepared in his own residence, after which he had the time announced to the Blessed One: "It is time, Bhante, the meal is ready." 

Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, went to Siiha's residence along with the Sangha of bhikkhus, and sat down on the seat prepared for him. Now on that occasion a number of Niganthas went from street to street and from square to square in Vesaali, thrashing their arms about and crying out: "Today Siiha the general has slain a plump animal to prepare a meal for the ascetic Gotama! The ascetic Gotama knowingly uses meat obtained from an animal killed especially for his sake, the act being done on his account." 

Then a man approached Siiha the general and whispered into his ear: "Sir, you should know that a number of Niganthas are going from street to street and from square to square in Vesaali, thrashing their arms about and crying out: 'Today Siiha the general has slain a plump animal to prepare a meal for the ascetic Gotama! The ascetic Gotama knowingly uses meat obtained from an animal killed especially for his sake, a deed done on his account.'" 

"Enough, good man. For a long time those venerable ones have wanted to discredit the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. They will never stop misrepresenting the Blessed One with what is untrue, baseless, false, and contrary to fact, and we would never intentionally deprive a living being of life, even for the sake of our life."

Then, with his own hands, Siiha the general served and satisfied the Sangha of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha with the various kinds of excellent food. Then, when the Blessed One had finished eating and had put away his bowl, Siiha sat down to one side. Then the Blessed One instructed, encouraged, inspired, and gladdened Siiha with a Dhamma talk, after which he rose from his seat and departed. 

Readers may also note three points. Firstly, note the sequence of events. Siiha the general attained the fruit of stream entry sotapanna, a noble disciple, before he ordered his man to find some meat ready for sale. I understand that stream enterers and all noble disciples are incapable of intentionally killing a living being. Secondly, note that Siiha the general was previously a well known Jain and mostly likely followed the Jain teaching of non-violence and vegetarianism. It is significant that on arising of the Dhamma eye and becoming a sotapanna, he knew that purchasing meat and preparing a meal with meat for the Sangha of bhikkhus was both allowable to bhikkhus and not unwholesome. He was now a confirmed Buddhist and confident in his actions. Thirdly, note that not only did he order the purchase of meat and have it prepared as a meal, he offered this meal to the Blessed One at the head of the Sangha. Siiha the general was a  virtuous man, well known for acts of generousity and for his confidence in speaking in public. He may have known that this offering would be a political act, openly defying the Jains. 

Majjhimanikaaya M55.5 Jiivaka Sutta translated by Bhante Bhikkhu Bodhi

"Jiivaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for oneself]. I say that meat should not be eaten in these three instances. I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected [that the living being has  been slaughtered for oneself.]. I say that meat may be eaten in these three instances."

In the Samantapaasaadikaa (the commentary on the Vinaaya, Discipline) Bhante Devadatta made many attempts to injure the person and reputation of the Blessed One so he could assume leadership of Sangha himself. In one attempt Bhante Devadatta instructed his followers to ask the Blessed One to impose five new rules on all members of the Sangha including a rule forbidding the consumption of fish and flesh. The Blessed One's reply was that those who wished to follow these rules may do so but the Blessed One did not make these rules including the vegetarian rule compulsory. 

In the Vinaaya Mahaavagga Mv.VI.23.9-15
 rule prohibits eating ten specific kinds of flesh, mainly carnivorous animals such as dogs, snakes, lions and humans. If the Blessed One wished followers to cease eating flesh altogether, he would've not forbidden specific kinds of flesh, he would have simply forbidden flesh of all kinds. 

During the time of the Buddha Gotama, the Jain religion taught Jain followers to be strict vegetarian. The Brahmin contemporaries of the Blessed One hunted animals and sacrificed animals to their deities.  Later  Hindu revivalists competing with Jains and Buddhists may have sought to appear holier than "decadent" Buddhist monks and adopted vegetarianism. 
The vegetarian tradition in Indian culture grew stronger over time. 

Some ignorant people are influenced by superficial behaviour and do not properly investigate the teaching, so they imagine Buddhist monks who eat meat were not rid of desires and like to enjoy luxury.   So over time many Buddhists became vegetarian too. This became the rule with Mahayana Buddhism. Even today, many Mahayana Buddhists teach that Lord Buddha was vegetarian.  

Here is a short essay by Bhante Ajahn Brahmavamso about this issue which covers it very well.

Here is the same essay on a different website:

I read that the Dalai Lama (a Vajrayana Buddhist) is not vegetarian. He prefers not to eat meat but due to a medical condition, has been advised to eat meat at least once every two or three days.  Many Western Buddhists who follow the Tibetan tradition may be surprised and not believe that. You can also read the reference to that on Wikipedia here:  

Bhante Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Buddhist Monastic Code has a chapter on food that explains what the Vinaaya and its commentaries have to say on food, including eating or not eating meat. 

Family and friends, philosophical materialism, equanimity and other divine abidings

I have observed that on meeting family and friends after many months or years overseas can be a "culture shock" for both myself and them. After a few months of being together, we familiarise ourselves with each other and to some extent accept that we have different values and life styles. 

There is no need for regrets that we may have changed or developed in the Dhamma while family and friends follow other paths. After reflecting on my own behaviour during various periods of my life, I imagine that my children and other loved ones are resting before they actively find and walk the Dhamma path.  Many of them seem to be sleeping through life, unaware of life's purpose and meaning.  

If we try to wake up the sleepers by actively proselytising, they would think us rude and they would not understand. They would only become irritated and then "roll over to the other side of the bed to continue sleeping."  The best we can do is to gently and subtly remind them of Dhamma. The rest is up to them. They are the owners of their kamma.  We do our best and then let them be. 

In these cases we also need to reflect on our discontent with this situation and our desire to proselytise. We can help ourselves by developing the four divine abidings, especially equanimity uppekkhaa.  

Imagine the point of view of a senior teacher who has realized the Dhamma to a high level. Many people ignore him or her and others ask for help but don't listen carefully to his or her advice. This is normal. The teacher knows that it is really the learner's own efforts that lead to success rather than the teacher's effort.

In all contact with my family (especially my children) I have tried teaching them to align with the Dhamma. Whenever I talk with them, I try to practice and speak with the principles of Dhamma in mind. I try to set a good example by my actions and speech. I teach them in diverse ways even though they may not know. Now I understand that mostly what I do is help them have happy dreams while they "sleep".  

My failure to wake others is likely due to my own "sleepiness." By writing this blog, listening to the Dhamma, studying the Dhamma, striving to live a virtuous spiritual life and similar activities, I strive to waken myself as much as, or more than, to waken other.

Sometimes, I imagine that we have biological relatives and spiritual relatives. In past existences we have been related to most beings, human and in the other realms (heaven, hell, animal, hungry ghosts etc). Some of these beings will have been helping us on our journey to realize Dhamma and can be closer to us in spirit than our current human biological relatives. 

I believe that as we continue on our Dhamma path, we may meet more of our spiritual relatives here and there. These spiritual relatives will feel naturally close and connected with us. We will share the Dhamma again and again.  In stories of the past lives of the Lord Buddha and the disciples such as Bhante Aananda, Bhante Saariputta, Bhante Mahaamoggallana, Bhante Mahaakassapa, Bhante Annuruddha, Bhante Kisagotami, Bhante Uppalavanaa, Bhante Khema and so on, I found they were all related to each other or were close associates in previous human and non-human existences. Often they were in teacher/student roles and helped each other to develop wholesome factors and other Dhamma virtues. 

A common understanding in Australia is the physicalist or philosophical materialist view which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all phenomena, including mental phenomena and consciousness, are the result of material interactions. This view is held to be common sense. I found that as soon as I ask questions about their assumptions, many naive materialists became defensive because they do not really understand the materialist position through reason or direct experience. They understand it through faith. They grew up with materialism as a given. 

The philosophical materialist view assumes that biological parents have a deep and essential connection with their biological children.  It is as though the blood and genes connect biological parents with children in ways that step parents and adopted children wouldn't.  According to the Dhamma, materialism is a type of wrong view (miccaa ditthi) because it holds that identity arises from matter such as blood and genes which are form ruupa. Such materialists assume some kind of ownership or belonging in the parent-child relationship even though none can explain what part of matter contains the aspect of ownership.  In fact there is no self in ruupa and no self in blood and genes. There is no ownership or belonging in the parent-child relationship except that which social actors may agree on by way of a non-material social or cultural construct.  

Very few people read or hear the Dhamma, never mind understand it, even if they do read or hear it. Even so, we live in a social world and the non-Buddhists around us have expectations about how relationships and social responsibilities work.  As Buddhists engaged in this social world, we need to manage those expectations and assumptions. Even if philosophical materialism is an instance of wrong view, its is assumed as "normal" and common sense in most social situations. So being part of a minority with right view can be difficult and lonely. We need to be patient and persevere with equanimity uppekkhaa and the other divine abidings

Knowing that most people suffer under their wrong views is already exercising compassion karunaa. Interacting with others with a mind of loving-kindness mettaa, is a skillful tactic for reducing our own tendency to be irritated or agitated by others' attachment to wrong views. Observing the success of others in the materialist world with a mind of altrustic joy muditaa helps us to be content with whatever status, property or health we may have. Altruistic joy also reduces our tendency to be jealous and thereby motivated to acquire gain, honour and praise at the expense of spiritual success.

Our "sleeping" family and friends may think that we don't love them because we are on a different path and don't do the same sleepy things they do. Let us consistently demonstrate that we do love them even though we may see and know in diverse ways. 

Finally, we should not give up trying to influence our family and friends to follow the Dhamma. I recommend you all read A8.26 Jivaka Sutta (translated by Bhante Thanisaro Bhikkhu) from the Anguttaranikaaya for the Blessed One's advice on how to do this. Here is the almost identical discourse translated by Bhante Bhikkhu Bodhi. 

A8.25 Mahaanaama Sutta

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu in the Banyan Tree Park. Then Mahänäma the Sakyan approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him:
"In what way, Bhante, is one a lay follower?"

' 'When, Mahanama, one has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, in that way one is a lay follower."

"In what way, Bhante, is a lay follower virtuous?"

"When, Mahanama, a lay follower abstains from the destruction of life, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from false speech, and from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness, in that way a lay follower is virtuous."

"In what way, Bhante, is a lay follower practicing for his own welfare but not for the welfare of others?"

(1) ' 'When, Mahänama, a lay follower is himself accomplished in faith but does not encourage others to accomplish faith; 
(2) when he is himself accomplished in virtuous behavior but does not encourage others to accomplish virtuous behavior; 
(3) when he is himself accomplished in generosity but does not encourage others to accomplish generosity; 
(4) when he himself wants to see bhikkhus but does not encourage others to see bhikkhus; 
(5) when he himself wants to hear the good Dhamma but does not encourage others to hear the good Dhamma; 
(6) when he himself retains in mind the teachings he has heard but does not encourage others to retain the teachings in mind; 
(7) when he himself examines the meaning of the teachings that have been retained in mind but does not encourage others to examine their meaning; 
(8) when he himself has understood the meaning and the Dhamma and practices in accordance with the Dhamma, but does not encourage others to do so: 

it is in this way, Mahänäma, that a lay follower is practicing for his own welfare but not for the welfare of others.

"In what way, Bhante, is a lay follower practicing for his own welfare and
for the welfare of others?"
(1) "When, Mahänäma, a lay follower is himself accomplished in faith and also encourages others to accomplish faith; 
(2) when he is himself accomplished in virtuous behavior and also encourages others to accomplish virtuous behavior; 
(3) when he is himself accomplished in generosity and also encourages others to accomplish generosity; 
(4) when he himself wants to see bhikkhus and also encourages others to see bhikkhus; 
(5) when he himself wants to hear the good Dhamma and also encourages others to hear the good Dhamma; 
(6) when he himself retains in mind the teachings he has heard and also encourages others to retain the teachings in mind; 
(7) when he himself examines the meaning of the teachings that have been retained in mind and also encourages others to examine their meaning; 
(8) when he himself understands the meaning and the Dhamma and then practices in accordance with the Dhamma, and also encourages others to practice in accordance with the Dhamma: 

it is in this way, Mahänäma, that a lay follower is practicing for his own welfare and also for the welfare of others. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Four Kinds of Persons Adorn the Saṅgha

Here is a discourse from the Anguttara Nikaya (translated by Bhante Bhikkhu Bodhi) that explains how the word "Saṅgha" refers to more than just the community of monks.

AN 4.7 They Adorn
“Bhikkhus, these four kinds of persons who are competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, experts on the Dhamma, practicing  in accordance with the Dhamma, adorn the Saṅgha. What four?

(1) “A bhikkhu who is competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, an expert on the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorns the Saṅgha.
(2) A bhikkhuni who is competent ...
(3) A male lay follower who is competent ...
(4) A female lay follower who is competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, an expert on the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorns the Saṅgha.

Bhikkhus, these four kinds of persons who are competent,  disciplined, self-confident, learned, upholders of the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorn the Saṅgha.”

One who is competent and self-confident,
learned, an expert on the Dhamma,
practicing in accord with the Dhamma,
is called an adornment of the Saṅgha.

A bhikkhu accomplished in virtue,
a learned bhikkhuni,
a male lay follower endowed with faith,
a female lay follower endowed with faith:
these are the ones that adorn the Saṅgha;
these are the Saṅgha’s adornments.

Note the phrasing of this discourse.  The four kinds of persons are one thing and the Saṅgha is another thing. It seems that some persons, followers of the Buddha Dhamma, who are not so competent, not so disciplined and so forth, are still part of the Saṅgha though not 'adornments'. A person  becomes an adornment through greater alignment with the Dhamma.  The more a person lives in accordance with the Dhamma, the more the Dhamma shines forth and the greater is their capacity to adorn the Saṅgha.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Book Review of The Kosambi Intrigue

the kosambi intriguethe kosambi intrigue by Susan Carol Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Kosambi Intrigue is a rare historical fiction set during the lifetime of the Blessed One Gotama Buddha about 2500 years ago in India. The novel is set during the early period of the Blessed One's 55 year teaching career and uses the development of certain monastic rules and the writing of an early collection of discourses as plot devices. The book is easy to read and not technical. No prior knowledge of Buddhism or ancient India is required.

Some of the elaborations of the Blessed One's intentions and thoughts did not accord with my understanding. I recognise that the author may have used this technique to help some readers relate to the fictionalised character who may otherwise seem god-like or super-human.

This book may suit teens/young adult readers. It may also suit readers who are developing an interest in Buddhism who have found the early discourses solemn or obscure. This fictional account may help such readers develop a lively mental context for their Dharma studies.

I recommend that readers who enjoyed this book may like to try: Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy. This book contains short biographies of 24 disciples. A more difficult and yet rewarding book to read is The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon.

View all my reviews

Friday, 11 November 2011

Back in Perth - new directions old directions

Dear readers, I have been active with other priorities and not blogged much. Now that I'm busier, I'll probably blog more.  I hope you enjoy the new blog page style. I updated my June post on Sri Lanka and added a lot of photos.

I returned to Perth about 12 weeks ago. I applied for many jobs and finally accepted an interesting role starting on Monday, 14 November.  In order to generate income for paying bills I usually work as a in government on social policy development and project management.  I always find work though it can take about 2 months of applying.  This time it took nearly 3 months...

I enjoyed my recent trips to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. On the first trip to Sri Lanka (3.5 weeks in June 2011) I stayed with Bhante Nyanatusita at the Forest Hermitage where I installed mosquito screens, door handles, and tidied up a storage area. Bhante and I also went on a 5 day tour of places north of Kandy. We hiked in forests and climbed hills. I really enjoyed visiting ancient monasteries at Ritigala and Kaluda Pokuna as well as several significant sites at Anuradhapura.  I learned a lot from close association with Bhante and our Dhamma discussions.

The second trip was only about 10 days and again mostly in Kandy working at the Forest Hermitage. Bhante and I installed a wifi antenna with lightning protection on the roof and significantly improved Bhante's Internet connection.

The detailed map located just past the main entry gate to Udawattakele, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Old sign for the Forest Hermitage, Udawattakele, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Michael made two mosquito screens with scrap wood and left over mesh at the Forest Hermitage in June 2011. These two screens were installed in the window frames of the outside kuti sometimes used by guest monks.

Inside the outside kuti sometimes used by guest monks at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Shaded meditation walking path near outside kuti, Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Wifi antenna installed on the Forest Hermitage roof, 13 August 2011. It is not quite finished. After this photo we attached three metal pipes connecting the antenna pole to the solar panel frame. These connections were insulated to prevent any lightning current flowing between them. The green wire in the photo is an earth wire that leads from the lightning attractor above the antenna itself down to a lightning rod embedded in the ground. You can see the white plastic pipe protecting the wire from the antenna and entering a small hole in the roof tile.

A new LED lamp for an existing socket at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2011

New lamps, medicine and ARRID plugs for the 12 volt electrical solar powered system at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2012

My second trip (10 days in August 2011) coincided with the Australian cricket team's tour of Sri Lanka which I had no interest in. It also coincided with the annual 10 day Perahera festival held in Kandy. I have little interest in colourful parades mainly because I don't like mixing with crowds of people. I saw parts of the parade when I was in town shopping for items to install the wifi antenna. The parade is very popular among Sri Lankan people.

Michael & an elephant at the forecourt of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 10 August 2011 (photo taken by Ven. Nyanatusita)

Corner of Dalada Veediya and Yatinuvara Veediya, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 13 August 2011.  People were sitting on plastic sheets on the pavements waiting for the Perahera festival parade so pedestians had to walk on the roads to get around. 
My trip to the United Kingdom was my first trip to the mother country since 1974. Except for my own two children, all other members of my Australian family (two parents and three siblings) had visited more recently and some have visited many times. I had a mild case of culture shock when I first arrived at Heathrow Airport and then spent my first week mostly in Wittering (near Chichester), Sussex. The weather was sunny and warm almost the whole time I was in the UK, even in Scotland.  I then went to Telford in Shropshire; Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland; and then Beverley, Hull and Polkington in Yorkshire. I visited most but not all of my UK relations. I was warmly welcomed by all and I learned a lot about family history.

This trip to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom was part of my exploration of ways to live a spiritual life as a lay man. I validated this approach and am very confident that this is the right thing for me to do it (not saying this is the right thing for everyone).  In previous blog posts I wrote about getting stuck at the same point during Mahasi method vipassana meditation retreats. Since January 2010 I changed my primary meditation practice to samatha though I am still doing satipaathana (mindfulness of body, feelings, mind and dhamma; it has always been a combination of samatha and vipassana).

Some might say that I have not tried hard enough. I am not keen on metaphorically bashing my head on a brick wall. I believe the path is gradual and gentle.  I think the right amount of viriya-energy arises with the right amount of samaadhi-concentration. An imbalance in the faculties is an obstacle.

On these two recent trips to Sri Lanka I kept precepts and offered items and service to the Sangha that stays at the Forest Hermitage.I also participated in Dhamma discussions with Bhante and others. I listened to and read  Dhamma. Although positive and wholesome, these good deeds maybe less important or virtuous than bhavanaa-mental development through vipassana and samatha.  However, the importance of developing samaadi.t.thi-Right View cannot be overstated. Dhamma discussion, hearing the Dhamma and asking pertient questions are all excellent ways of developing and supporting Samaadi.t.thi.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Quick tour - Ritigala, Anuradhapura, Mahintale, Dambulla

Sri Lanka, June 2011

On Friday last week, Ven. Nyanatusita and I took a bus from Kandy to Matale and visited the Aluvihare Rock Temple. There were some interesting paintings and caves converted into small buildings. Many Sri Lankan pilgrims and a few foreign tourists were walking around.
A view looking West from the main gate up the hill toward the Aluvihare Rock Temple, near Matale, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A view looking east at a courtyard between boulders at the Aluvihare Rock Temple, near Matale, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Michael near a moustached lion figure at the Aluvihare Rock Temple, near Matale, Sri Lanka, June 2011
After walking around, we ate lunch and then took a bus north to Dambulla where we thought we might be able to climb the hill to see the cave paintings. We arrived around 2pm in the hottest part of the day. There were many pilgrims perhaps returning from the Poson Poya (possibly the most significant uposatha day in Sri Lanka - Thursday, 16 June 2011) celebrations in Anuradhapura and Mahintale. We heard a report that there were over 5000 Sri Lankan Police Officers mobilized to monitor over 1,000,000 pilgrims. We decided to visit the Dambulla caves another day and walked across the road to drink tea at the "Tourist Welfare Center".

We then rode a three-wheeler towards Sigiriya stopping at a national park where we walked around inspecting the remains of an ancient meditation monastery.  I was very impressed with this place. It was quite overgrown in many parts and the paths not clear. We explored many old cave sites and found evidence of kutis being built hanging between large boulders. I felt inspired and imagined the ancient Sangha living on the site possibly over many hundreds of years.  After 2-3 hours we got back in the three-wheeler and continued on to the Pidurangala Temple located at the base of a large granite hill 800m north of the more famous Sigiriya. The young pirivena monks allowed us to stay the night in the dusty local village headman's office including an ensuite occupied by many varieties of local frogs.

On Saturday morning, we climbed the stairs to view various cave kutis (meditation huts) and ruins. Unfortunately none of the kutis were occupied. Though looking well built on the outside, the kutis stank of bat faeces and needed repairs. We doubted any meditation monks would like to live there now because of the steady traffic of curious tourists and pilgrims walking by. We climbed up the hill and through some boulder strewn areas to reach the flat peak. I didn't see the easy way at first and took a rather dangerous and steep climb with no supports.  We passed a young English woman on the way up who also later climbed the hard way. After a false start, I expressed respect for mutual bravery. Shortly afterwards some Sri Lankan people and more foreigners arrived (the easy way). The top of the hill is spectacular. The winds were gusting strongly and could be dangerous for people near the edges. There are no railings so visitors must take care. It is best to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. The rock would become very hot.  We could see nearby Sigiriya and in the distance also see the hill with the Dambulla cave temple.

A restored reclining Buddha statue at the ancient ruins of a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

A view looking south at the ancient ruins of a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A view west at a modern Buddha statue at a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A view looking north at a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011. The kuti under the rock in the photo was built over 20 years ago and abandoned. It is now inhabited by bats.

A view looking northwest at the ancient ruins of a monastery near Sigira, Sri Lanka, June 2011

The central buildings of a monastery near Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011.  The building on the left is used as a dining hall and is built under a large boulder.

Michael climbing the hill where the stupa was being constructed at Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Michael climbing between boulders on the hill where the stupa was being constructed at Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A makeshift ladder near the top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

Michael feeling rather nervous after getting off the ladder near the top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011

The top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Michael near the top of a hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A rough path on the side of the hill where the local Ritigala monks wanted to build a stupa, Sri Lanka, June 2011.  This section of the path is relatively easy to walk on.

Michael scrambling down the hill where the stupa was being constructed at Ritigala, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Sunday , Amarvarti, Abhayagiri Vihara, Abhayagiri stupa, Great Stupa

Monday Anuradhapura Mahabodhi tree, 

Tuesday Mahintale many cave kutis and stupas, Kaludiya Pokuna

Wednesday Mahintale  many cave kutis and stupas

Some ruins at Abhayagiri monasteryAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

Some ruins at Abhayagiri monasteryAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

Some ruins at Abhayagiri monasteryAnuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

The restored elephant tank at the ruins of Abhayagiri monastery, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

Restoration work at the Abhayagiri stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. There are probably 30-40 monkeys not quite visible in this photo, climbing around the framework and making a lot of noise.

Restoration work at the Abhayagiri stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. 

The Great Stupa at night, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011. Michael sensed something very special about this stupa.

Looking north towards the Great Stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011

A water catchment "tank" near the Great Stupa at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Kaludiya Pokuna, Mahintale, Sri Lanka, June 2011

I got safely back to Kandy last night (Wednesday) around 9pm. The 100km ride from Dambulla at night was thrilling. The fare was about 60 cents each with front seats to a rally car race in which out bus was participating. I've done it before in Thailand but this was perhaps more intense. I just let it happen and enjoyed the ride and the psychedelic light show above the dashboard glorifying various Buddhist and Hindu deities. Many cyclists with no lights and chaotic traffic weaving in and out, sudden stops and turns. Bald tires, soft suspension and bouncy seats set to a sound track of falsetto vocals and deep bass drums etc. At the second last town the bus filled beyond capacity and I had to keep my arms out to stop people sitting or falling on me.  All a memory now.

I'm flying to London on Monday 27 June. Not long now. I've been sort of preparing by downloading travel guides for England and Scotland and even reading the text of Macbeth which I hope to see performed at Stratford Upon Avon sometime in July or August.

Maybe England first in early to mid July and then Scotland in late July-August.

Note: I didn't get around to writing this posting in as much detail as I'd planned.