29 May 2008

Journal 46

December 23 - This morning I tried eating that fruit, which I found edible but not very tastey - slightly sour, not at all olive-like. I was told this afternoon that there is some meat inside the pit which is edible, but have not tasted that. Washed my robes today. Naturally I was shown the right way of doing it - my way was not at all good. The Kirinda way is correct. It takes out half the color as well as the dirt, but it is orderly. Also was given another raking lesson. It seems that the strokes I was making were too large, I don't mind raking in their pattern which is not a bad design, but I tried to produce some variations on it, just for the pleasure of seeing some variations. That was quickly corrected. There is, I am taught, only one proper pattern for sand to be raked in, and no other designs will do. Variants are heretical: they will tolerate no fake patterns in their sandbox.

I also met a newly-arrived monk who talked exactly like the translator at Kiyanduwa. It turned out that this monk was a former cop. Perhaps Ceylon police are all taught English like that? It turned out, also, that he received his novice-ordination at Kiyanduwa and also that I had met his mother, who spoke no English, when I was in Opate. He taught me how to sit when meditating (which, of course, I had been doing wrong. I just sat; he developed a five-minute ritual in going from standing to sitting position) and told me, I think, that I couldn't walk to Humbantota because the elephants would eat me and that therefore I must turn around and go the other way, by bus, with him to his arañña so that the nearby villagers could come and gape at me. I was taught how to pick flowers, how to pour water from a basin and how to dry my bowl after washing it (which I somehow or other had managed to do correctly). I was also given several further lessons in how to put on and wear my robes. While sweeping the sand clean I saw some monkeys having a fight overhead, during which both I and the just-cleaned ground were showered by large quantities of leaves, twigs, and monkey curses. I found that some monkeys are white-colored from their waist to their thighs, which gives the appearance of pants and solves the curious spectacle of the female monkey in trousers that I saw at Kottawa. I was also taught how to breathe correctly. (How could my upbringing have been so neglected as not to have been taught to breathe correctly? If I hadn't figured out something for myself I might have suffocated long ago.) I expect, at any minute, to be told to readjust my heartbeat.

I have also discovered that another American has taken the robes a few days ago. I met him once, in August, when I learned he wanted to be a missionary, to return to America, and preach to people dying in hospitals. What an ambition! How heroic, self-sacrificing, and absurd! How can a person who wants to preach in hospital sick-bays have an understanding of a teaching which says that we must strive individually for our own welfare?

No comments: