ASK da MONK in-training : anything!
Scot Kamimae: If monks shave their heads, does
that mean they shave their butts too?
HMMM, ever wonder...about :
or a hole in the ground?
Where to start? Using toilet paper in neat little plastic
containers instead of napkins at meals was odd at first. I got used to the squat toilets in Japan (they don't stink if you
flush them thoroughly, but since you have to flush them manually by scooping water into them with a little bowl, it can take
a while), so those don't bother me anymore. The first time I ate bugs as part of a meal (and later when they composed the
entire meal), was strange, but now it's not. THey actually don't taste bad.
I still have to remind myself about the Thai foot taboo,
how you're not supposed to touch or do anything with your feet except walk and kick people if you're a boxer (though to be
fair, they mostly kick with their shins). Mostly it's been the cultural values, like it was in Japan, that are difficult to
get used to. After coming from Tokyo, to describe Thailand as "laid back" doesn't even begin to cover it. Like most such cultures,
they have an expression that kinda sums it up, "sabai sabai", which I think literally means "relax" or "take it easy", kinda
like the Australian "no worries" or Jamaican "cool runnings". That's the expression I most often hear, but there are probably
tons of others. I dunno, People are the same wherever you go, they just express it differently. If there are specific things
you wanna know, I'll oblige.
03.2002/ Sex Scandals?
It's daylight here, we're about fourteen hours ahead of you. Like
any other religious (or otherwise) institution, the sangha has its share of sexual misconduct, and whether it's just a sign
of the times or people are just nosier (probably both), there have been a lot of scandals recently about monks messing about
in things they shouldn't. Ask just about anyone, thai or foreign, monk or civilian, they say the monkhood's in a bad state
and they don't see that it'll get better. However, since homosexuality doesn't have the kinda stigma here as it does in the
west (far from it, in fact) there isn't the same pressure for gay men or men who suspect they're gay to flee to the church
to get "cured" or "saved". As for pedophilia or abusive treatment, I have no idea, but it's not unheard of.
does one reach nirvana? what are u meditating on are u seeing anything while u meditate?
Nirvana (Pali "Nibbana") is supposed to be perfect bliss,
the only thing is you have to go thru hell to get there. THere are other, more accessible states of joy in meditation, but
they take varying degrees of skill and discipline to achieve. Most people, in the religious life or not, I think would forgo
these for simpler means. But maybe I'm cynical.
As I understand it, you don't visualize enlightenment per
se, because by definition it is a state beyond conceptual thought. You can, however, meditate on the "factors of enlightenment,"
which are, if I'm not misrepresenting them, the qualities that allow the experience of enlightenment to manifest, such as
wisdom (the direct knowledge of the impermanence and emptiness of all phenomena), equanimity (dispassion, aloofness), and
various others that I can't remember right now. THeravada Buddhism has a lotta technical terms and categories, and I get em
mixed up a lot, but the basic idea is that If you perfect certain qualities of character ("sila" or virtue, morality) and
couple those with a proper understanding of the nature of reality ("panna" or wisdom) and sustained concentration ("samadhi"
sometimes translated as "calm" or used interchangeably with "meditation"), you will create the conditions for the realization
of ultimate truth ("Nibbana/Nirvana") to occur. Implicit in this is the understanding that the Truth is always there, but
that our perceptions are too untrained and clouded by various factors (principally ignorance and immoral behavior) to recognize
what is basically right in front or our eyes, so the practice (and I do mean practice, 'cause the whole thing is primarily
a skill) is essentially a constant refinement and sharpening of one's ability to perceive and know.
The biggest mistake people make is that they think Nibbana
is something you "achieve" or "get to", when in fact it's there all the time. It comes from a root verb meaning (if I remember
correctly), "to quench or extinguish", as the Buddha likened the world to a fire, constantly burning with greed, hatred and
delusion that fed it and allowed the cycle to continue indefinitely, and that the enlightened person was able to snuff it
out and be free of it (so that "liberation" is maybe a little closer to the gist of it than "enlightenment").
As for what I focus on, Anapanassati ("mindfulness with
breathing") is the method most used around here (along with "vipassana", or insight/exploratory meditation). AP is concentrating
your full attention on the breath to reach a state of calm, then using it as a tool to explore the body.
That's a really gross explanation, I'm not
sure if there are any Thai Wats around Seattle (I'm sure there are) or meditation centers that offer it to explain the nuances
(which I'm still tryin to get my head around with limited success), but any of them (or a trip to Elliott Bay) could probably
straighten out the mechanics for ya. After that, it's just dogged stubbornness until you get some rersults. Strive on, scotto