29 April 2008

Journal 23

Night - this place smells like a huge greenhouse, slightly steamy, slightly moldy: decay is as evident as growth. There is one huge rock, about 50 feet high, and a 100 feet across, with one sheer face. Part of it overhangs, and beneath this overhang has been built a dhammasala - a preaching hill - and temple. The roof, then, and one wall are solid rock, and produce a solid and sonorous bass echo when suttas – discourses - are chanted. It is here that púja is performed. This is a thing - the performance of pújas - not done at Island Hermitage, so this evening I saw, and participated in, my first full-scale púja. The word is derived from the Pali verb pújeti, to worship and consists of the recitation of suttas - which in itself is quite appropriate and salutary when performed for the purpose of reviewing the teachings - but, in a púja, raised - or lowered - to the level of a sideshow, or ritual designed to satisfy the devotional needs of the laity. The dáyakás stay overnight it seems - I can't imagine anyone making the round trip in a day, carrying food, etc. - and this evening, for about two hours, there was this chanting, along with preaching and assorted gimmicks, all designed to make people think that they were actually doing something. What it is that they are doing is to make a mockery of the teachings: to think that in worship, and recitation they are doing enough, when they are, in fact, not doing what is required, which is the development of wisdom and mindfulness for the purpose of escape from the round of rebirths rather than they think, collecting merit for a better rebirth. I didn't recite the gibberish sections of the púja, but my presence is evidently expected, and since there are two pújas a day - at 4:00 AM and 6:00 PM, of two hours each, and perhaps a third one - I don't know yet - during the day - and since there will undoubtedly be a lot of other nonsense expected of me as well, all of which will make the serious and difficult task of meditation impossible - therefore my stay here will not be long. A shame, for the setting is fine, and if it were possible to actually be physically left alone, it would be a good place to practice solitude (which is a mental, not a physical, condition). I have been made very welcome, given a kuti to myself - absolutely necessary, of course – but only at the price of knowing that the two novices are sharing a room. They may not mind this, of course, but I am thus unavoidably imposing upon them, which gives them a right to impose upon me by expecting me to participate in their way of practicing the teachings which, right or wrong, is nevertheless not only not my way, but inimical to my way. Therefore, I can't stay long, and shall, as of now, plan to leave the day after tomorrow: to stay only long enough to see the full extent of their life here throughout one day, and to rest my feet and shoulders (which are sore from carrying my bag: a rucksack would be very easy, for I haven't much; but it seems it's not possible to use a rucksack with robes: it just wouldn't


Night sounds: insects and raindrops.

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