‘Alles wird gut’

This morning was incredibly beautiful, I was watching out of one window, some butterflies danced in the morning sun, all kinds of birds sang, fluttering around the trees and bushes, the puppy dogs played, a Kolibri like insect was sucking nectar from the blossoms. Too beautiful to be real, almost.

Natures soothing gift to me after seeing A.D.’s dog in the valley monastery yesterday at the funeral in pain and despair, suffering from the wounds that other dogs had caused him by biting him almost to death.

When I came ‘home’ to the beauty of Kun Pang, after the funeral and an unsuccessful visa run, I saw that Masher Muffinsson, one of the monastery dogs, had large wounds on his back. Instantly I  thought it would be burns and after some investigation with the help of our helper, it was clear that someone of the villagers not to be mentioned had thrown boiling water on the poor dog while I am away.

I thought I have so much compassion for these dogs and am suffering with them. But this morning, seeing all the beauty deceiving me, deluding my mind, I found that what I think is compassion and empathy is in rooted in anger. The anger that I cant do anything, can’t ease the pain, anger that others don’t help, anger that there is suffering as a natural fact. Still it is compassion we would say,  though it is at a very worldly level, drenched by defilements and not by wisdom.

Here I sit now, wondering how ultimate compassion would be like, would feel like, longing for it. Often an image or a thought of the Buddha is in my mind and it is a joy, an example, idol, ease, refuge, today it is shining, far far away like the moon.

When I was a child, once I fell  by rocking on a chair which was not a rocking chair. My mother had told me many times that I shall not do it – but what can I say, I was not the most obedient child and enjoied rocking a non-rocking chair. Though not injured gravely, I had a lot of pain and cried. At that time my mum had a woman helping her cleaning the house. This cleaning woman was near me and she rushed by and took me in her arms and said: ‘Alles wird gut.’ ‘Everything will be fine.’ My mum, although commonly a warm hearted person, was in the kitchen and from there scolded me for doing what I was not allowed to (she must have used her supernatural mum powers, how else could she have known that I was doing something I was not allowed to do) and told me to stop crying and bear the consequences of my wrong doing.

Both, the having to bear the consequence of wrongdoing and the warmth of a compassionate hug when suffering is since then deep engraved in the mind and part of the (unintended) Buddhist teaching which I received (unknowing) in childhood. This ‘alles wird gut’ was for a long time a goal, like the holy gral, the happy end, something that I wished for. Now I know that it is the third noble truth and Nibbana the only possible happy end. No beauty, no birds and lullabies can give real peace, really.

So, beauty of the external world, deceive me not, delude me no longer!
(Yes, I know, it is not the beauties fault but my delusion that keeps me in the trap. :)

Report, a few days later: when I went down I could arrange that a friend collected some money and arrange for the dog to see the veterinarian. I heard that he is well now, being fed everyday getting medical treatment and fitting in in the community of dogs at the monastery where he now stayes. Masher’s wounds are healing very well. He happily accepted a  wooden box covered with mosquitonet as refuge for his healing process. There the flies, mosquitoes and large wasps which were always around his open wounds could not reach him. So, that is all good. :)

These days

One of these days

Some may think I’m living a peaceful tranquil life up here. That is often so but not last week from end of the vassa until yesterday.

A while ago A. D. decided to spent the next months studying Abhidhamma in Chiang Mai. In preparation for departure and to join some ceremonies called salakapat, he was gone often at the end of the vassa and so I had to care for the 2 monastery dogs, A.D.’s 3 kittens in his absence. I too had to leave the monastery to go to Chiang Mai to get the visa extension which unfortunately is due most times during the vassa. That was quite some hussle but I got it. Then I went to Ajahn Tongs 91st birthday. Another story. During my absence A.D. took care of all.

One kitten had caught a disease and although I tried to do intensive care and A. D. brought antibiotics the kitten died although it seemed to get better. The other two kittens had diareah whle A. D. was gone, short before the end of the vassa. Originally I had intended to give the vihara a thorough cleanup before the ceremony that markes the end of the rains reatreat, vassa. In reality I was much more cleaning persian kitten’s bums. You have to do the bum rinse straight after they drop their diarreah for several reasons, first, because they surely come to the veranda and sit there with their dirty bums, secondly because the excrement dries in quickly in the long hair and then it is very difficult to get it out and thirdly when they see you they come and rub against your legs… and of course because a little kitten with diareah stinks enormous. So that meant to be after the kittens. And also I had to be after the dogs because they would go where the kittens defecated and wanted to eat the droppings. The kitten food must have a lot of nutriments that the dogs were so keen on the excrement.

The villagers came two days before the ceremony to cut grass and herbs on the monastery ground with their motor trimmers. The animals were terrified and either escaped into the bushes or wanted to come inside the kuti, meowing or queeking. For me was left to sweep the grounds and pile cut of braches, leaves etc.

The vihara cleanup therefore was cut a bit short but between washing blankets that had been sullied by cat’s diarreah, sweeping, bum rinsing and so on I could prepare the vihara for the ceremony well enough.

A.D. came back the day before the ceremony and brought a farewell gift for me. A cat. I had said that I like one, a Siamese. I didn’t really think he would bring one but it so happend that he went to his sponsors birthday and they, living in a monastery, breed siamese cats. This particular one was very small although already two years old. As kitten it had been maltreated by a monk so it hated monks. A. D., on his way back to Kun Pang stopped at a monastery for ceremonies around the area and the cat, terrified by the unknown monks and chased by dogs ran away. When they, A. D. And the cat finally arrived here, the cat was sick. I saw it, a beautiful small creature, beige with brown tips, and although I am not a specialist in cats, I instantly thought that it will die. It seemed to have caught the same disease as the other kitten which had died just a week or two earlier.

The nose was blocked and and the eyes sour and full of pus. Almost every hour I cleand the eyes and the nose and drippled some water in the cats mouth. There was some life and some will for life in the little one, but not much. Enough to reject food, that I tried to give, enough to spit out milk and to creep back in the box that I had prepared. For two days it drank and slept under a blaket, it could not keep itself warm and got annoyed when I interrupted the sleep to wipe off nose and eyes and give some water. Probably the best would have been to just let it die from dehydration which would have happend quickly without my interferance. But instead I learned to grind tinned fish and mix it with with milk and water. A. D. had kindly left some fish and some milk for the cat. With the detremination not to let the cat die I wiped and fed regularly but had no medication to give nor the possibility to get some. On the fourth day I thought it is getting better. On the fiths days the cat died short after I had rushed to eat something before it would be too late, I ate, rushed back and took the cat on my laps. We sat together. The cat had been kind of paralised in the morning, it could not move the eyelids , earlier it had often kind of held my hand by softly but firmly putting its claws of the front paw around my thumb, in the morning I could feel the intention of the cat to do it but there was no more power to get the claws out. The feet started to get cold although I keept the cat warm but It had swallowed all water with groung fish that I had drippled into its mouth the whole morning. It made sounds of relief when I wetted the eyes. Then, at about noon, when I sat there with the cat on my laps it was clear that it would not survive, it was already closer to death than to life. Not long after, it started to have spasms. It vomited out everything that I had given. The heart was still beating, in the fingertips I could sense the quick flat pulse beating but the breath got slower. I gave soft hits on the back which triggert some breaths. Then the little body reliesed of the urin and breated its last breath.

Among all the kammic neutral or unwholesome thoughts that I noticed in my mind thoughout thr cat’s dying process, there was one moment, when the cat vomited and urinated all over me, that was striking. Instead of anger and disgust as I would have assumed there would be, I noticed that there was, in rudiments, as an idea of comprehension, ease and peace born of love and compassion. Love, compassion and ease with whatever comes is the natural response to suffering when the mind is not obstructed by defilements.

After the cat had done its last breath, I had a short uproar and outcry of dispair. Among many thought moments of ‘I have to bur the corpse’, ‘ I must boil my robes’, ‘the breeder who gave the cat will be upset’, ‘I knew it would die’, etc. I also noticed that the sadness that I could not keept the little cat alife, was a result of my own fear of death. Will I have spasms, vomit and urinate at the moment of death? Did my father who died alone? (Autopsy said he died peacefully in his sleep) Will my mom? Will I be able to bear to be so close to death with my mum or my uncle?

The aggregate of form is limited, in is abilities and in durability, very limited and very fragile.

In the evening I burned the dead corpse so that the dogs would not eat it.

During those days one of the dogs developped a skin desease which causes the hair to fall out. Fortunately one of the villagers had an injection for that desease which is very common here at home and came after the ceremony to give the injection. Today both dogs are not eating. May they be well.

Madeira

When I changed from za zen to vipassana practice, I learned about the four fiundations of mindfulness. One is also aware and mindful of these when doing za zen, but I had not heard about it in such detail and was not familiar with the satipatthana sutta. Of course, as diligent meditation practitioner one does not exclude any of the foundations of mindfulness, the body, feelings, mind and mind objects (Dhamma), one is aware of all (one at the time) – mostly it is the first and easiest,awarenss of the body.

Since one year, after leaving Santi and moving to Thailand and living quite secluded in the mountains, I determened to do cittanupassana as main object of observation, to become aware mainly of the mind and mindobjects, instead as before mainly kayanupassana, the mindfulness on the body. The results of that change are sometimes funny and sometimes scary. Funny in the sense that by trying to be aware of the mind, of all intentions, of impulses, of thoughts, perceptions and everything that is going on in the mind, I sometimes know what I was intending or thinking but I was so focused on it, that I totally lost awarenes of the body so much so that I stumbled over things that I didn’t see, or things slipped out of my hands and so on.

To know the intentions in regards to physical activities i.e. is relatively simple, often an inention for an activity does not come directly before one performs the action but way earlier, and then later, when the conditions allow, the impuls is sent to actually really perform the action. Often intention and impulse follow each other and seem to arise at the same time, which is not true, they come one after the other, but in quick succsession. Sometimes the impulse may seem to arise even before the intention or at least before the intention becomes known.

To know ones intentions for verbal activities or generally in interactions with other people that is different, much more complex to see and requires a lot of honesty. One may say something and think the intention is through and through good and noble but totally denies the underlying defilements. Simple example how often do we say: ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ And we might think we say that only out of so much altruistic joy but there might also be envy or attachment which we usually do not become aware of.

As far as I remember, I read in the Samyutta Nikaya that the intention set in a mind is like the river ganges which flows into one direction and this direction cannot be changed even one were to dig with a spade. In other places it is said that ‘what we think that we become’. That is the scary part. Especially since we do not know what we think most of the times. And when we come to know, it is not wholesome most of the time. I need to make a far greater effort to make sure that one of the paramies pervades my mind and not one of the defilements.

Again and again people say, I cannot stop thinking. Something interesting is: One cannot stop thinking because one wants to think, because one thinks ones thought would have any importance, which is a misinterpretation. A thought might have as much value as a fart. But thinking gives the impression one is doing something and can influence ones surrounding, whereas feeling is entertaining and give the impression one lives, something is happening. The mind wants to be active and think even when we say we would like to have peace and would not want to think so much. But in fact the reason why we can’t stop thinking is that we are attached to our thoughts and that we miss them when they are getting less or it becomes frightening when they dissapear.

What I learned so far is that one cannot trust the mind at all. One cannot trust ones perceptions. The intention for an impulse might be a totally different from what one thought it were.

And most importantly, everything that we see, hear, smell etc. will leave an imprint on the mind. When we are not observing the mind it cannot be noticed. As far as I understand the matter from reading the texts, this would be in regards to the cittabhavanga. Things that we see, even movies that we watched, one has long forgotten that one ever saw that movie or saw this image but suddnely it fashes up. An example of today, I was relaxing and closed the eyes, some blue dots appeared as a flash. I had the thought ‘I saw this, I remember this’ and the picture became clearer, it was the blue of the flowers of trees growing on the streets of Madeira. I had at all forgotten that I ever had been to Madeira, almost, that Madeira exsists, but by recocnizing the blue dots I remembered the whole thing. When not observing the mind this would happen completely unnoticed or would happen only accidentally. Or an image or feeling would arise and could not be related to anything.

The crux is – yes, one can remember things, but one only remembers ones own percetion, only ones own version of what one experienced. And this is tainted by the defilements predominat in that particular situation. In this case it is tainted by liking and as soon as I remembered the blue flowers of the trees I noticed the wish to travel to Madeira again arising in my mind.

Earlier I said provocingly that our thoughts are as valuable as our farts. That is only true for large parts of the unwholesome thoughts that arise due to our defilements. The only importance they have is that all unwhlesome will sink into this enormous flux of our lifestream conciousness and will be cause for some unwholesome resultant kamma whenever the conditions allow. It is not true for every single thought of loving kindness or compassion, or sympathetic joy or any other parami that we have arising in our minds. Those are valuable, important. These thoughts, when nourished and harboured bear great fruit. They transform us into better people and the make a difference in the world.

Weeding the mind

To write the next post, I have to admit first that I have been breaking a rule, not one of the heavy ones, but yes…

We are in our first two weeks of rains retreat. For the beginning of the rains, lay people have come to do some voluntary work in the monastery to keep it nice, like cutting grass, trimming trees, etc. Someone had also started to pull out weeds but since there are plenty, he could not finish and left me with a glance that said’ the rest of weeding is for you.

Weeding is not permitted for monks and nuns. We shall not damage plants.

When I was a lay person I had, at the time when I was living in Spain, a garden and did a lot of gardening, loved to do gardening. Being a zen practitioner and having started meditation in a monastery in Japan, it was natural to me to do gardening. To do weeding plating and so on. When we were in retreat, an hour every day of gardening was part of the practice and so I associated with gardening something peaceful, calming, with the intention to harmonize and beautify the environment. I avoided to harm beings and used no poisons and worked with hands or only light tools in order to have close attention and mindfulness for what I was doing. Then often, I would sit on the low wall and look over the neighbouring gardens, and look to the north west, over ‘es pla’, the flat plateau and the tramuntana mountains and watch the sunset.

Often the sunsets were incredibly beautiful, with colors changing from gold, orange, red, crimson and deep purple. But that leads far away from what I have the intention to write about.

Since I had become a nun, I had not been doing any gardeneing except watering plants, regardless of it being a flower, tree or weed. Sometimes, when still a Mae Chii, a monk wanted me to do trimming, cutting, pulling out of plants but I would not do it. At one time during walking meditation in Wat Rampoeng, where I had a room in at the second floor, I was still a lay person, I saw at every stop at one end of the walking path, when I stood against the window, a woman working in a garden across the street. In the beginning the weeds stood as high as herself, the entire garden was full of weed. Many days I walked back and forth for hours, many days she worked in the garden through the weeds for hours. I saw her suffering in the heat.
And the pulling out and digging up was only one small part of the process. Later had to come the planting, then the caring and maintainance, then weeding again and again. I understood why it is not good for monks and nuns to do gardening. In putting one little seed for a plant to grow or a vegetable to grow, there is so much wanting so much striving involved, the mind and the body need to be so much away from the meditation cushion.

I am very happy and rejoice that people undertake the effort of this process and as a vegetarian, I appreciate it greatly.

So, now here I stood with a small beautiful monastery, weeding half done with clear indications that nobody would come to finish it because people would have to work in the tea and fruit plantations, the lamyai is ripe and needs to be harvested, weeds are groing in the people home gardens also… I was told that before monks had been planting herbs and trees and had been doing the care as well.

For one year living here I refused to lay hands on plants other than watering everything that was green and would grow by being given water. This year however, there was for some reason more pressure from various sides that I would jump in and help with weeding. Not like, ‘do it or go’, but I see the the people every day on alms round, I see them getting sick, having pain, not being able to bend, having to care for their old parents, the children, for the sick, they work hard, it is not an easy life up here. So out of compassion, one day, I started to do some weeding at some places where a weed grows, a creeper that kills everything. It grows over everything, other plants, even buildings. I just wanted it to get down from some trees and flowers, not pull it out actually.
Any way, I stared weeding and thought that I should rather do weeding in my mind.
I tried to do it mindful and without harming, trying to have in my mind constantly thoughts about compassion, about the wish to be harmless, the intention to help, I tried to observe my mind closely while doing it. Thoughts arose about my laylaife and gardening, about zen and gardening, about many monasteries in the mahayana traditions where monks and nuns would not survive when they would not be planting, harvesting, weeding.

There was actually no moment, when I enjoyed the work, I did it because it had to be done and I use it to reflect on it. This particular creeper is a real intrudor, it invades, overgrows, dominates, creeps in, grows back, is resistant, … Just like our defilements. This creeper grows in very, very long thin strings that can easily be 10 meters or longer, it has leaves every 10 cm when the conditions are right. It can grow roots at every point of its strings and continue to grow from there in every direction, when it is not possible to grow new roots it still grows, spreading its strings in directions where it might find conditions to grow roots, often a string looks dead, no leaves, no roots, so one pulls at it, meter for meter from underneath a building and finds at the other end where it came out from underneath the building, that it was alive and green at the other end. It builds kind of a net of its strings interwoven, there is no beginning, no end, it is in fact not possible to pull this weed out, one can only pull oy parts of it, which gives the other parts strength to grow stronger and faster. To really kill this plant one had to be extremely persistend and diligent. If one had pulled out a string and its roots, but a part of the root might have remained in the earth, a new plant will grow from it. (Which means, in fact I did not break a role.)

So it is really exactly as it is with our defilements when one tries to observe the mind in order to root out the defilements. They are just like this weed and one needs to be very, very persistent and diligent. Then when one does the work, in the field or in the mind, suddenly under the weeds appear plants, beautiful flowers that have been planted once but are dying, suffocating, and they can start to grow, to florish. Same as in our minds, once we pulled out the defilements with right effort, our eautiful and good qualities can grow. Or, more likely – realistically – other weeds appear, thorny ones, hurting ones, the ones who when one gets in contact with them, closing their leaves when touched and almost seem to dissapear among grasses and leaves then. They might also grow just as a short plant above the earth, they have strong roots and spread them wide. Branches can grow flat on the ground and when overgrown by grass or something else they become roots. When the conditions are in favour, they can grow into bushes and trees and form a thicket which is terribly entangled. If that is not exactly as it is in our minds, with our defilements. I can’t speak for everybody , but it is exactly as I experience the weeding of defilements in my mind.

Just for the completeness of the story it may be said, that the unwholesome kamma in this case ripens immediately in form of skin allergies.

I feel very much at unease with doing it but did it more than once. Every time I did it y body was full of terribly itching rashes and blisters. Every litte rash, when scratched mulitplies and causes a rash at the next spot touched, when whatever it is is in the cothes and it touches the skin, rashes spread all over. Then a looong shower has to be taken, and mind you, the water is cold, clothes have to be washed and that probably more than once, Then, with some anti allergene cream, it is only a matter of hours that the itch dissapreas. Honestly, I thought I could go mad and scream or weep. But I didn’t, I bore it, stoic, lowering my head in deep respect and acknowledgemet of the law of kamma.

After a few meditation sessions after the weeding I need to add, that it was a very good lesson and I learned a lot. Most of all I learned about the subtle ways of kamma and its interrelation with intention. Trying to keep the mind as object of obsrevation during the weeding, I noticed, that even when I have the general good intention of beautifying and harmonizing the monastery, when I think I do it to help the people because they have no time for it and I would not ask them to do it anyway – there is one moment – cause the present moment can be quite short and passing quickly, there is that one little part of a second intention. Without an intention to bend down there would not be the impulse to the limbs to actually bend. That is the first interruption of that general flux of nice thoughts of harmony and helping. Without the intention to pull at the weed to uproot it, the hand would not go towards the weed. This is the second present moment in which the flow of wholesome thoughts is interrupted. The streching out of the hand cannot take place when the mind does not agree to the pulling out of the weed. So, the wholesomeness of intentions is twisting into unwholesome direction. And then for the actual pulling out an effort has to be made. An effort that has quite an aggression as underlying potential. It is too soft to be called ill will, really, but had the mind not as an underlying tendency the disposition to aggression, if the mind were total ahimsa, this effort would just not be possible. Probably one would not even bend down. This has not even something to do with the object to be pulled out, but merely with with part-of-second present moment thoughts which commonly happen unnoticed. In addition to that there is the judging of the mind ‘this is a good plant’, ‘this is a weed, it must be pulled out’ instead of the bare, impartial seeing of a plant of any kind. Etc.etc.

This goes beyond the capability of my intention of living a pure life… In order to live that, a pure, a holy life, one has to live as if one weren’t there.

Heart broken

Has your heart ever been broken?
And you felt all the pain?
Trying to sooth the suffering thinking:
‘Since now it is broken it can’t break anymore’?
But then it broke once more and again
When your love left,
Your child, your mother and father or friend,
when they died.
It broke when you heard of the hunger and war,
And it broke when you could not help.
It will break again and again as it always does,
since eons in every life.
It broke as a lions heart when a spear pierced your young one,
As a child who saw the mum carried away by a beast,
Millions of times it broke cause of love,
As a women for being reduced to an object of lust,
And as a man when you had to do what a man has to do,
Then it broke cause the world and all others are bad,
And then when you saw that you are the same,
When people betray, deceive and slaughter each other
And as an insect, carelessly trampled upon,
When you killed and were killed,
Or when you sat as a beatle in dung.
It will break again as it always does.
It will break into thousends of pieces
– and then -
it will break some more.
So often, so much that the pieces will become like fine grain of sand
then more, until it is merely dust.
Until there is nothing left,
Until you find: in this Nothing
there is all love -
wide, open, beyond time and space
Unconditioned, boundless, limitless.
And of you there is no trace.

all normal…

The construction of the new kuti is in full process after a long break around Thai new year. Most every day 2 or 3 men are working on it. Kun Wen sais it is livable at Vesakha Puja but I do doubt it. For almost one week we had almost no electricity. They do work but it is much slower when they have to sow everything by hand. Yesterday the official constructor has been ordered home, something happened there and someone came to get him. I understood ‘falling’ and ‘roof’ but I am not certain whether the roof fell or someone fell from the roof.

 

For as it is the work is proceeding well. The roof one day, the veranda one day. The floor half a day luckily a day with electricity otherwise it would have taken 2 days. The black water pit and bathroom walls one day. Now the wood for the walls gets its fine plane, the structure to keep the windows in place is set. So more than 50 % is done. Walls, bathroom installation, stairs and electricity is still to do.

 

A.D. Has gone for a month. People are really o.k. with me here now. Yesterday I chatted a bit with the workers after their work. We were all surprised that I am progressing in speaking Thai.

 

Puppy Hercules almost took his last breath. But he survived and is well now. Some mushrooms were growing in front of my kuti the workers said they are poisonous, not edible. Some time later, I saw Hercs around the place eating something and much less mushrooms… His face swell, his body was red and hot, the skin had rashes, he either ran around squeaking and scratching or fell asleep. Next day he was better. Now he is fully recovered. He came on alms round twice, today in pouring rain. The village dogs didn’t come out of their dry places so Shabala and Hercules followed me all the way. In the end Hercs was chased by the headman’s dog and ran straight home.

 

Since 2 days I am sick. I had this piercing tickling in some nerve ends and a night with light, disturbed sleep. I feel very tired and sleep all day, body heavy and head like numb but happy that it is not too bad. I have itchy, painful rashes at the neck and pain, so it seems to be shingles again. Last time when I had shingles around the same area, a tooth died. But it is not getting as bad, I think.

 

Since weeks or almost months I was without pain, could breath fully in the chest. Welcome back pain. As Ajahn Suphan sais, pain is like your best friend, comes often and stays long, so learn to live happily with it. Perry will protest when I write that this body is a burden, a mass of suffering. But even without pain it is – because it is subject to old age sickness and death.

 

Fortunately I have time to sleep and cure this body. I will not force it through a retreat although it would surely be interesting, would have done that 2, 3 years ago. Now I shall be a bit more compassionate with this conglomeration of elderly elements.

 

In regards to what I wrote earlier about feeling feminin. I did not follow after that. First I thought I have to find the feminine way to enlightenment but I am a Buddhist nun and trust the Buddha’s teaching. According to this mind is mind, whether it is pure or defiled is completely independent form being female or male. These two are, according to the Abhidhamma, just two points in a list of physical characteristics, so why bother with feminine or masculine.