The teaching we receive go beyond words, so it is difficult to give a written account how it was. The proceedings however are no secret. After raising at 4:45am we had the first offering of light and flowers session at 5:15am. Greeting the day with Pali chanting was a refreshing alternative to my daily hectic routing.
" Namo Tassa Bhageavatao Arahanto
It is Buddhist practise to bow towards the Budhha, his teachings and the monks and nuns. Being a rather proud European (all man is created equal) it was my first lesson in humbleness. The Venerable Mahinda explained in the evening briefing, that it is up to us, if we want to follow that custom. I was the only non-Asian in the group, so if felt it's better "if in Rome, do like the Romans do". What a wonderful lesson learned for me.
After the morning chanting and a traditional Chinese vegetarian porridge breakfast, Sister Sumitra explained about the nature of Metta (Loving kindness) and how the meditation on loving kindness needs to be conducted. She surprised me with a lively and up-to-date way to explain things. On the various layers of meditation she said: "Look it is like a zip file: you look from outside, it is very small. But then you look inside and realize how big it is". I wish all Office workers would have that level of IT literacy.
Sister Sumitra introduced the Natural State of Mind. In the Natural State of Mind, the mind rests within. is sharp and aware of every phenomenon arising. It is not projected to the outside nor does it generate any thoughts. (Do try this at home, it is a real tough call!). In this Natural State of mine one can connect to the spiritual heart and feel the tender soft and deep compassion, that is the very fabric humans are made of. There is no philosophy you have to subscribe to, no rites to perform, no vows to take, no initiation to go through. Calm the mind and you will feel the compassion.
The Buddhist call this compassion Metta (in Pali = loving kindness). Cultivating this loving kindness enables one to radiate it our to oneself, all the beings in the surroundings and the whole world. Seems the principle of loving yourself and your neighbour is quite universal.
To cultivate one's mind sitting and walking meditation are one way to get going. We had sufficient time until the evening to practise. When you sit on your cushion or meditation chair you also can practise tolerance against pain. When you can overcome this pain your meditation will become deeper. I realized, that with some kind of light-hearted humour I was reminded of the Buddhist believe: "All live is suffering".
He also was very versed in psychology and actual trends, with a lot of humour he laid out the challenges one faces in the world and how meditation and Metta can improve mental health. He also poked a little fun on some of our current education crazes: Everything in Singapore in this days has to be designed to improve self esteem. In the old day when the Buddha teached, there was no such word, but the Buddhas receipts work wonder here. In psychology self esteem is " actual performance divided by expectation" Since the Buddhas teaching lead to expect nothing, the self esteem of a practising Buddhist grows to indefinite. What a hearty laughter in the hall.
Sister Sumitra's talk circled around love. Unconditional love coming from the core of your spiritual heart. This love can heal physically, mentally and spiritually. She reminded us to send out Metta as often as we can, since our world lacks so much of it. I could sense, that she is a big healer and she cared for every single of the participants (given that we were nearly 300, quite a challenge). Her explanation reminded me on this books.
The closing of the day was conducted with another round of Pali Chanting.
Etena saccena suvatthi hotu!
(By this Truth, may there be happiness!)
What was in for me: a shipload of tears, while I reconnected to a much softer and gentler side of myself. The rest (and there is a lot!) is beyond words.
Sukhino va khemino hontu
Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhi-tatta.
(May all beings be happy and safe,
May their hearts be happy.)