10 April 2008

Journal 6

December 2, 1967 - Mosquitos are much worse today: a great distraction to all attempts at meditation (and, of course, that's all there is to do – the books are not 'reading' types but 'consultation' types). It's either do or die: I've removed myself from the distractions which were available to me at Island Hermitage. There are, it seems, 4 monks at this arañña - 3 novices and a Bhikkhu. The head of the place is a novice. He was a bhikkhu, he tells me for 33 years - then chose to become a novice again. He speaks very little English and no one else any at all, so any real conversation - if either of us were so inclined – is impossible. I have learned of him, though, from another source: there is a book at Island Hermitage called Saints, Sages, and Seers, by a California professor P. Hopkins, in which he describes his various experiences in the East; in 1950 be was in Ceylon, and at Island Hermitage, for a short time, and at one other place for a longer time. That place, I learn now, was here. His opinion was that this place was chiefly devotional and meditational, while Island Hermitage was chiefly intellectual, which, in 1950, was probably true. I read the book chiefly for its Island Hermitage references, paid little attention to the Ven. Saranatissa's hermitage at Kottawa, and recalled it only when he came last evening with a lantern and a few questions. (He possesses, it seems, the amazing ability of waiting for some hours after having first met me before enquiring of my nationality – a phenomenon I have not previously encountered from an Asian). Food is, of course, not so good as at Island Hermitage, but healthy and satisfying and sufficient. Meal was taken alone here-a vast improvement - and actually it’s only the mosquitos which will, within a few days, drive me away - that, and of course, the goal of the whole trip, which is to visit Ñánasumána (another American monk) in Bundala. It rained last night, is very hot today. Relief at night from the mosquitos too - they leave at sunset via the western window - if I use no light, and remain in darkness until dawn, which is further meditational incentive.

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