6 May 2008

Journal 28

Leaving Opata yesterday morning I walked as far as 3 miles north of Akuressa where, I discovered, there is a temple-school where I spent the night. The village is very pleasant, well laid-out fields, seems thriving. The temple is several hundred years old. The monks here function as teachers. There was a broad muddy river where I had a pleasant bath - the color of the river seems to have no relationship to its ability to cleanse - and spoke to the Pandit Thera (Pandit = teacher; Pandit Thera is, in this case, the Principal), who acted like a schoolmaster and always kept a large wad of betel nut and leaf in his mouth. They had a library which included books donated by the Asia Foundation, including a selection of Dr. Seuss books (which are great), college English books, and the 10 volume Grolier set of Science Books, of which he was especially proud.

I was well received, of course, and the quietness of the place was stressed, Unfortunately, a little while later a generator was turned on to provide electricity for the lights - a feature which they thought more highly of than I did - and it rained well into the night. Mosquitos were bad - slept poorly because of them. I had to share a room, and the roommate was a monk who had no business at all being a monk - a teacher who earned a salary and conducted himself in all ways like a layman. He was, in fact, a layman in monk's robes, and, though he taught Dhamma, he had no understanding of its purpose. The laity are taught Dhamma here like children are taught maths in the States - as a mere collection of data having no relationship at all to their lives. I discovered this both in talking to the 'monk'-teacher and in talking with one of the school's products, a fellow who simply did not understand that the Dhamma was something to be used. Here there was almost no attempt at even maintaining the Discipline (Vinaya) of the Buddha, let alone the teachings. (The araññas, at least, do maintain the vinaya.) They wanted me to stay longer, but not even Dr. Seuss could induce me to remain in that farce - and worse than farce, it totally misleads any who might otherwise find the Dhamma of use. I learned, also, that there is an official Government exam which all children must pass - an exam on Buddhism – to graduate. By reducing the Dhamma to the level where a child can understand it well enough to pass an exam they distort the teachings so that it simply no longer has anything to do with reality. The whole thing would be comic if it wasn't so sad. The temple contained Hindu gods. When asked the Pandit Thera seemed embarrassed - he knew, of course, that it was a very misleading thing - but excused himself on the grounds that the 'laymen want it'. This place is, then, a Business with a Product (Buddhism), which they Sell, and for as great a Profit as possible. They are the worst sort of leeches I've yet discovered…

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