On Saturday I took some of the Rotary Peace Fellows out to the temple. I was a little bit nervous about it, because I wasn’t sure what they would think. I am used to the temple after having spent four months living there, but I knew that when people saw it for the first time it was kind of a surreal experience. I needn’t have worried though. Everyone had a ball and loved all the same people I love for the same reasons!
First we met Om and Anita at the visitors centre. One of the taxis had become lost in the temple grounds and when we spoke to them on the phone we realised they were in the underground carpark under the mediation hall! Om explained to the taxi driver in Thai how to get from there to the visitors centre. After we were all finally in the right place, we met Luang Phi Pasura and he gave everyone an introduction to meditation.
After that I was excited to find out that we were going to travel around the temple in the little transporters that I called the “monk-mobiles”. I had never been in one but always wanted to ride in one. I often saw big trains of them carrying hundreds of monks around the temple grounds.
We went to see the Chapel and then went to the local food stalls where I always used to eat when I was living at the temple. It felt like I was home again!
After lunch we were lucky to have a meeting with the Vice Abbot, Luang Phaw Datta. I was so excited about seeing him because he is always very interesting and he makes me laugh with his cheeky grin. Everyone loved him! Luang Phi Pasura and Luang Phi John translated for him when he needed it, but he spoke mostly in English to everyone.
Luang Phaw told us a bit about the history of Thailand and he explained the basis of the Buddhist Five Precepts. He also presented everyone with a bundle of books each.
After that we had a whirlwind tour of the Cetiya and a quick visit to the Vihara. Everyone went back to Chula after that, but I stayed for the whole weekend.
Ping Ping told me that I could stay in my old apartment that night. It was so weird, and yet so familiar, to be back there. I went and said hello to my former laundry lady, the Hom Krun coffee hut girls, and some of the food stall holders. It was so nice to see them all again. Unfortunately my Thai has not progressed sufficiently to have more than a very halting conversation with them, but we got by with lots of hand holding and smiling!
On Saturday afternoon I was back in the Peace Revolution container office with the crew! It was just like old times (and there were even some ants that I carefully avoided)! After we had a meeting about recent developments, everyone got all giggly and announced that they had a special gift for me. They dimmed the lights and put on the projector and showed me a movie that they had made especially for me. It’s brilliant! They basically made a movie about my time at the temple. They had compiled photos of me at various events and some film footage that I had never seen before. At the end everyone recorded a personal message for me. There was even a bloopers part at the end, where they included funny mistakes that they made when trying to put the film together. We all laughed and cried all through it, especially me! The film goes for 20 minutes, and it must have taken them a long time to put it together. I absolutely love it!
On Sunday (after a night on a very hard bed, with no dinner and a cold shower – how quickly we take for granted little luxuries!) I went to the temple with everyone for morning chanting and meditation. While we were there, Fon found me. Fon is in training to be upasaka at the temple. She was one of the first Thai staff I met and she is very sweet. She used to give me massages every day! Anyway, she had made me a gift and she shyly gave it to me. It was in a little bag that she had handmade:
Inside the bag was a book that she had also handmade. It contains the story of our friendship, from the first moment she met me (in the bathroom at the meditation retreat centre) until the present. I was so incredibly touched. She had drawn pictures and inserted photos to make the story. I was amazed at all the things she remembered. It was just the sweetest gift and I got all choked up as I looked through it. I will treasure it forever.
On the page above you can see that she has called me “P’Sam” which in Thai effectively means older sister Sam. So sweet!
After morning chanting and meditation the Peace Revolution crew, including Luang Phi Pasura and Luang Phi John went out to lunch. We had an absolute feast, and there was a great deal of laughter! The monks (as per the rules) sat at a table nearby and ate silently. We served them their food by offering it to them on their yellow cloths that they laid out on the table in front of them. After we had all finished our meals, they chanted a blessing for us. I wondered what the other people in the restaurant thought, but I expect that the Thai people are used to this kind of thing happening. I giggled to myself as I imagined this happening in the middle of a restaurant in Australia!
The monks even gave me a present! A buddha pendant:
After my weekend at the temple, I came back to Chulalongkorn feeling full of peace and very loved. All my wonderful Peace Revolution family are so genuinely caring. They go out of their way to give you compliments, and they are not just those kind of shallow “nice dress” kind of compliments that we Westerners throw around without much meaning. They truly observe the things that you do that are good, and they actively “rejoice in your merits”. For example, sometimes I would be doing something like trying really hard to cheer up a student who was a bit homesick, and later that day one of the crew would come up to me and say “I really love the way you notice when the students are feeling a bit sad and how you go out of your way to cheer them up”. Or I’d come into the office out of the steamy hot weather outside and say “ahhh, airconditioning nirvana!” with a big grin and someone would say “I love how you are so enthusiastic about all the little things”! There should be more of this in the world. We really should learn from the Buddhist philosophy of always “seeing the good” in others and “rejoicing in their merits”. It’s so easy to criticise, or to give half-hearted compliments in order to be “nice”. It’s much harder to really see the good in others, and to make the effort to tell them – but I can tell you from experience – it’s truly worth the effort. You end up surrounded by happiness and feeling truly loved! Thank you Peace Revolution crew and the teaching monks – you have given me some of the most precious gifts of my life, and so much more than the video, the book and the buddha – you have taught me invaluable life lessons and been such good examples for me. I rejoice in your merits and share mine with you with much love!