Life in the Saffron Forest: Chapter 18

Speak­ing of funer­al chant­i­ng reminds me of Luang Pi Mahā Sing, the leader of our gang of novices. I don’t know where he dug up such riv­et­ing and amus­ing tales. Once he told the sto­ry of a Chi­nese man named Lim from the vil­lage of Nok Ee-an. He had a beloved wife named Kaew. One day Mrs. Kaew sud­den­ly died, caus­ing great grief for Lim. He came in tears to the monastery to see the abbot. Arriv­ing, he bowed quick­ly three times and said:
‘Luang Por, I’ve come to tell you that my wife has died.’
‘What? You mean Ee Kaew?’ Luang Por exclaimed in sur­prise. ‘What hap­pened?’
‘My wife.’
‘I know it’s your wife. I mean what was her ill­ness?’
‘She’s not ill; she’s dead.’
Weep­ing and moan­ing, Lim then left the abbot’s kuti. By 9pm the vil­lagers were begin­ning to doubt whether the abbot was final­ly going to appear with the monks and novices to do the funer­al chant­i­ng. Hav­ing wait­ed a long time, and sens­ing that noth­ing was going to hap­pen, Tid Chan ran to the monastery to prompt the abbot. As the abbot was don­ning his robes while fol­low­ing Tid Chan, you could hear him mut­ter: ‘He came lament­ing, “Long Por, I have come to tell you my wife has died.” Who could have known that he was invit­ing us to go chant?’

Luang Pi Lan—former clairvoyant—had just joined the group of sto­ry­tellers and griped:
‘What a bunch of jok­ers entranced by Pi Mahā Sing’s bor­ing sto­ries. My sto­ries are much fun­nier.’
‘There you go, and I thought you were only good at per­form­ing mag­ic spells. You can tell sto­ries too, can you?’ Nane Boonkay chipped in. The result was that he got whacked by his opponent’s knuck­les. In the ensu­ing time since the scan­dal of almost two years ago, Nane Lan had reached the age for tak­ing high­er ordi­na­tion as a bhikkhu. Every­one still called him Phra Lan the Sor­cer­er, even though he him­self didn’t like the name.
‘Go ahead and tell your sto­ry, mate,’ Phra Sing said, using the famil­iar form of address used while Phra Lan was still a novice.
‘Once there was a Chi­nese man named Goh. His wife’s name was … what’s a good name? … let’s say her name was See Nuan.’
‘Hey, that’s my mother’s name, jerk!’ Phra Sing shout­ed.
‘Oh, sor­ry, I didn’t mean that. Let’s just call her See. One day, See died. Goh invit­ed the monks to do the funer­al chant­i­ng. In this group of monks was a new­ly ordained Luang Dtah (a monk ordained late in life), who didn’t know the chant­i­ng. While the monks were chant­i­ng, Goh kept a close eye on which monks could chant and which couldn’t. When they had fin­ished, he offered them each an enve­lope with mon­ey, say­ing: “This monk has a nice voice; I offer him ten baht; this monk has a good voice; I offer him ten baht; this monk’s voice is good enough; I offer him ten baht.”
‘When he reached the end of the line, he exclaimed loud­ly: “This monk has no voice; I offer him ten pen­nies!”
‘“What?” the elder­ly Luang Dtah said star­tled.
‘“You made no sound!”
‘Luang Dtah grabbed Goh by the arm and whis­pered into his ear: “Do you know? – those monks who were chant­i­ng loud­ly were chant­i­ng for you. I was chant­i­ng for your wife, so I had to chant very qui­et­ly.”
‘“Chant­i­ng loud­ly for me, but chant­i­ng qui­et­ly for my wife?”
‘“Yeah.”
‘“Wow, you’re spe­cial! You were the only one chant­i­ng for my wife. I will offer you thir­ty baht.”
‘So those monks who chant­ed until they were hoarse only got ten baht, while the Luang Dtah sit­ting there like a mute got thir­ty baht.’

At the end of this sto­ry every­one laughed bois­ter­ous­ly except for Luang Pi Dtaw who got up scowl­ing and left in dis­gust. Phra Sing said:
‘What’s got­ten into him?’
‘He’s angry at Phra Lan’, Nane Liam opined.
‘Why’s he angry at me? I didn’t do any­thing’, said Phra Lan rais­ing his eye­brows.
‘You were ridi­cul­ing him. How can you say you didn’t do any­thing?’
‘What? I didn’t mean it. If I’m lying, may I vom­it blood,’ the clair­voy­ant swore solemn­ly.
In fact, Phra Lan hadn’t intend­ed to be insult­ing, but Phra Dtaw had an infe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex about not being able to mem­o­rize any chant­i­ng. When­ev­er some­one men­tioned this sub­ject, he thought they were mak­ing fun of him. It is sim­i­lar to a per­son suf­fer­ing from hair loss. They tend to get upset when­ev­er some­one men­tions any­thing shiny. Even if their friends com­plain, ‘Oh, it’s so hot today,’ they are ready to slap them in the mouth.
Dis­par­age­ment can some­times pro­pel us to make effort in order to gain the upper hand. After the Vas­sa, most of the bhikkhus in our gang dis­robed and depart­ed. Only Luang Pi Dtaw and Luang Pi Muan – or ‘Ara­hant Muan’ – remained. ‘Ara­hant Muan’ – the mas­ter chef – walked on tudong in the coun­try­side. Phra Dtaw stayed on through his third Vas­sa, mak­ing deter­mined effort to mem­o­rize the chant­i­ng, but to lit­tle avail. Dur­ing that year, the vil­lagers of Hin Hae, which bor­dered Bahn Huay, were look­ing for monks to live at their monastery. They sent a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to come and make a for­mal request from Luang Por. Luang Por asked from among his dis­ci­ples for vol­un­teers, but no-one was inter­est­ed in going. Only Phra Dtaw was will­ing to vol­un­teer. Luang Por laughed hearti­ly:
‘As an abbot, you have to at least be able to give the pre­cepts to the laypeo­ple. Are you able to do this?’
‘Yes, I can’, our dear ven­er­a­ble vowed emphat­i­cal­ly.
‘If you can do that, okay. Tomor­row I will inform one of the vil­lage elders to col­lect you. You can take 4–5 novices with you. But don’t bring dis­grace on your teach­ers!’ Luang Por added.
Word of Luang Pi Dtaw’s offer to be the abbot of Hin Hae Monastery spread quick­ly. Most peo­ple found it high­ly amus­ing. Some pre­dict­ed that before long, Abbot Dtaw would be sent back by the laypeo­ple because he could not remem­ber any of the chant­i­ng. As it turned out, how­ev­er, people’s expec­ta­tions were proven com­plete­ly wrong. Abbot Dtaw was able to per­form the cer­e­monies pro­fi­cient­ly; he was able to give the five pre­cepts, the eight pre­cepts, and do the funer­al chant­i­ng with­out any dif­fi­cul­ty. It was so amaz­ing that Elder Khan asked him about this mat­ter:
‘Every­one at Bahn Huay said that you couldn’t remem­ber any of the chant­i­ng.’
‘What about it?’ Abbot Dtaw said with a smile.
‘It appears that you can chant per­fect­ly well,’ the elder replied.
‘Dis­tance proves a horse, time proves a per­son’, Abbot Dtaw said recit­ing a Chi­nese proverb. Ever since he had tak­en up the abbot­ship, he had become notice­ably more elo­quent.
‘What does this have to do with hors­es?’ Elder Khan inquired.
‘It’s a metaphor. Lis­ten care­ful­ly. Over time, we are able to learn new skills. Ear­li­er, I could hard­ly remem­ber the chant­i­ng. But after mak­ing dili­gent effort, I gained pro­fi­cien­cy.’

Things went smooth­ly for sev­er­al months, until one day there was trou­ble. It was the full moon Obser­vance day. As usu­al, Abbot Dtaw had to give the Uposatha pre­cepts to the laypeo­ple and deliv­er a ser­mon. Every time he gave the pre­cepts or deliv­ered a Dham­ma talk, he would hold a cer­e­mo­ni­al fan in front of him. On that day, he for­got to bring his fan and he there­fore asked his dis­ci­ple Jiew to quick­ly fetch it for him. As soon as Jiew hand­ed him the fan, he broke out in a cold sweat and his hands began to shake. He bum­bled through the pre­cepts mak­ing numer­ous errors – a 180 degree turn from pre­vi­ous occa­sions. After giv­ing a talk, he imme­di­ate­ly walked crest­fall­en back to this kuti – devoid of any ves­tige of an abbot. The scape­goat was dis­ci­ple Jiew, whose bot­tom was caned until it was full of welts. Abbot Dtaw felt humil­i­at­ed in front of the laypeo­ple.
Jiew had stub­born­ly torn off the piece of paper with all the chant­i­ng writ­ten on it that Phra Dtaw had affixed to the back side of his cher­ished fan.

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Life in the Saffron Forest: Chapter 16

Some exam­in­ers are extreme­ly strict; if one makes even the slight­est mis­take, one is not let off the hook. There is a sto­ry that one exam­i­nee trans­lat­ed the ear­li­er pas­sage as ‘a bird goes through the air.’ The exam­in­er replied: ‘Wrong. Try again.’ The exam­i­nee looked right and left, and saw his friend out­side wav­ing a red hand­ker­chief, mouthing the words: ‘A bird must fly! Just say­ing “go” will not suf­fice!’ Lack­ing smarts, the exam­i­nee answered: ‘The red bird goes through the air.’ The exam­in­er laughed loud­ly: ‘What kind of red bird? A com­mu­nist bird?’ The exam­i­nee duly failed. 

There is sto­ry of King Rama IV (King Mongkut) from a time when he was still a monk (named Phra Vaji­rañāṇa) and when he act­ed as an exam­in­er at the Roy­al Park exams. He got into a dis­pute with anoth­er exam­in­er over the way an exam­i­nee had trans­lat­ed the pas­sage: Āsane nisī­datha. The exam­i­nee had answered: ‘They sit in the sit­ting plat­form,’ and this answer was accept­ed. Somdet Phra Mahāsamaṇa Chao Krom Phraya Vaji­rañāṇavaro­rasa replied: ‘How can they sit in the platform—did they rip the top off to get inside?’

So what should he say?’ asked the oth­er exam­in­er furi­ous­ly. 

He must be sit­ting over the plat­form’ was the imme­di­ate reply.

What sort of pos­ture is that—over the plat­form? Was his bum hang­ing in the air?’ the exam­in­er retort­ed.

These inter­pre­ta­tions are a mat­ter of linguistics—who is to say which one is cor­rect? If we think too much about it, we begin to have doubts. But what is cer­tain is that these two ven­er­a­ble sirs were incom­pat­i­ble from that time onwards. Lat­er, when one of them dis­robed to ascend the throne, the oth­er feared roy­al ret­ri­bu­tion and dis­ap­peared on tudong for many years. King Mongkut asked his min­is­ters to find this monk and call him for an audi­ence. When beck­oned, the for­mer antag­o­nist thought: ‘Now I’m fin­ished.’ The king, how­ev­er, ele­vat­ed his eccle­si­as­ti­cal rank as a ges­ture of kind­ness and to show that he har­boured no ill-feel­ings. This is one of the many anec­dotes of the Roy­al Park exams.

I have men­tioned before that in order to receive the title of Mahā, one must pass the first three lev­els of Pali stud­ies, which is an exhaust­ing process. Each year, more peo­ple fail the exams than pass them. To pre­vent those stu­dents who failed from get­ting dis­cour­aged in their stud­ies, dur­ing the reign of King Rama III, the viceroy Somdet Phra Bawon­ratchao Maha Sakdiphon­lasep took those novices who had com­plet­ed the sec­ond lev­el of Pali stud­ies under his patron­age and bestowed on them a cer­e­mo­ni­al fan as encour­age­ment. For this rea­son, these novices were called ‘Front Palace grad­u­ates’ (bpri­an wang nah). This cus­tom was main­tained until the reign of King Rama V, when it was even­tu­al­ly abol­ished.

Cer­e­mo­ni­al Fans

This gives you an idea of how impor­tant study is for the monks, to the extent that kings and princes have praised and extend­ed their patron­age to those monks who pass the exams and are knowl­edge­able of the Tip­iṭa­ka, for instance those monks who reach the stage of Mahā.

Some schol­ars claim that the term mahā, besides refer­ring to some­one who has com­plet­ed the first three lev­els of Pali stud­ies, also refers to some­one who receives ‘great roy­al kind­ness’ (mahākaruṇā-adhiguṇa) from a monarch. Mahā is thus an abbre­vi­a­tion of this longer term. One need not pass exams to earn this title. For exam­ple, in the case of Somdet Bud­dhacharn Toh, peo­ple referred to him as Mahā Toh, even though he nev­er took part in the Roy­al Park exams. This ven­er­a­ble elder was great­ly respect­ed by King Rama IV. It is fair to say that he was the only monk able to ‘tease’ the king with­out incur­ring his wrath. Some­times, how­ev­er, he would acci­den­tal­ly push the king’s but­tons and receive the con­se­quences.

For exam­ple, at one time, the king had a pond built, along with a beau­ti­ful roy­al res­i­dence in the mid­dle. He asked Somdet Toh: ‘Ven­er­a­ble Toh, isn’t it beau­ti­ful?’ The ven­er­a­ble elder respond­ed: ‘Very beau­ti­ful, Your Majesty. Just like an exquis­ite roy­al char­i­ot.’ This short reply caused the king to be annoyed for sev­er­al weeks. The read­er may not know why this answer pro­voked such a response. It is because King Mongkut was a Pali expert. Somdet Toh’s words ‘like an exquis­ite roy­al char­i­ot’ cor­re­spond with one of the Buddha’s proverbs, stat­ing: ‘You should see this daz­zling world as sim­i­lar to an exquis­ite roy­al char­i­ot. Fools become enchant­ed by it, but the wise remain detached.’ The king got angry because he thought that Somdet Toh was call­ing him a fool.

This is how it is. When learned peo­ple admon­ish each oth­er, they do so in sub­tle ways. In regard to two wise peo­ple, the first knows what the oth­er is up to. This dif­fers from ordi­nary peo­ple, who may be scold­ed by the wise yet remain com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous.

When Somdet Toh was first appoint­ed as the abbot of Wat Rakang, the monks at this monastery were quite ill-dis­ci­plined. Some of them played kick vol­ley­ball, some of them prac­tised box­ing, while oth­ers behaved in oth­er shame­less ways. But in the end, Somdet Toh was able to bring a sense of order and dis­ci­pline to the monastery, using his own astute meth­ods. One day, he was return­ing from a roy­al cer­e­mo­ny at the palace and he met one of the monks enjoy­ing hav­ing a pee against the monastery wall. Somdet Toh said to him: ‘Stand on one leg—that way you won’t incur an offence.’ (Accord­ing to the Vinaya, it is an offence of wrong­do­ing—dukkaṭa—for a monk to uri­nate while stand­ing up.) The monk loy­al­ly did what he was told.

Wow, a moment ago I almost got into trou­ble. I was tak­ing a piss on the wall and just then, peek-a-boo, there was the Somdet,’ the monk told his friends.

Did he tell you off?’ they asked.

No. Instead, he had the kind­ness to show me how to stand up while pee­ing with­out falling into an offence.’

How can one stand and pee with­out it being an offence?’

He told me to lift one leg.’

Ha, ha. He was tak­ing you to task—can’t you see this?’ his friends laughed. 

How so?’

Stu­pid. What ani­mal lifts its leg while it is pee­ing?!’ 

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We are back, again

My apolo­gies for neglect­ing this web­site. Some­times impor­tant tasks remain sim­mer­ing on the back burn­er. An update since the last post:

My dear friend and ex-monk Shaun Ricordel, who was great­ly influ­en­tial in mak­ing this web­site hap­pen in the first place, passed away on 7 Feb­ru­ary 2018. He is still sore­ly missed. 

Shaun Ricordel

A pre­lim­i­nary online ver­sion of ‘Bud­dhad­ham­ma’ is avail­able at https://www.watnyanaves.net/uploads/File/books/pdf/667-Buddhadhamma-English.pdf

Please be aware that this is a very large ras­terised ver­sion that is not yet suit­able for many prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es includ­ing word search­es. A more suit­able eBook ver­sion is cur­rent­ly being pre­pared. 

Bud­dhad­ham­ma’ is also now avail­able at book­shops in Thai­land includ­ing Asia Books and Kinoku­niya. If you want to buy a hard copy and have it sent to your address please let me know.

Third Edi­tion (for sale)

May all beings abide in safe­ty.

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Buddhadhamma’ Complete

After 17 years of work, the book has final­ly been pub­lished. For those of you who wish to acquire a copy, please con­tact the Bud­dhad­ham­ma Foun­da­tion at buddhadhammafoundationthai1987@gmail.com. A 3rd edi­tion was com­plet­ed in 2019 and is avail­able at book­stores in Thai­land. Even­tu­al­ly, a 3‑volume set will be pre­pared, as well as an eBook ver­sion.

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We are back! After hav­ing our serv­er hacked, final­ly, after two years, we are back on line. Thank you Shaun for hav­ing backed up all the data and help­ing to get things off the ground again. Sad­hu

Offer­ing the final man­u­script of ‘Bud­dhad­ham­ma’ to Tahn Chao Phra Khun Somdet

Luang Por receiv­ing hon­ours for his new eccle­si­as­ti­cal title of Somdet


 

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Life in the Saffron Forest: Chapter 17

Novices Chanting

One of the activ­i­ties that mem­bers of the Saf­fron For­est must con­stant­ly engage in is mem­o­riza­tion. In Pali mem­o­riza­tion is called sajjhāya—con­stant, voiced recita­tion for the pur­pose of com­mit­ting a text to mem­o­ry. Mem­o­riz­ing Pali is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. If one is intel­li­gent it is tol­er­a­ble, but if one is a bungling dimwit like Ven. Dtaw, by the time one trun­dles through a sin­gle verse there is great toil and drudgery.

There are numer­ous things to mem­o­rize in the Saf­fron For­est, includ­ing the words of con­fes­sion, morn­ing and evening chant­i­ng, words for pour­ing water, the yathā/sab­bī chants, pro­tec­tive chants, and funer­al chants. This last item in par­tic­u­lar is cru­cial; it can be called a source of liveli­hood for many monks. There is a Thai idiom: ‘The monks live off the ghosts; the lay offi­cials live off the monks.’ For this rea­son, new­ly ordained monks are urged to learn the funer­al chants as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Oth­er­wise, some­one may sud­den­ly kick the buck­et; when the rel­a­tives come to invite you to chant at the funer­al you don’t want to die of embar­rass­ment.

There are two kinds of funer­al chant­i­ng:

  • Saṅ­ga­ha
  • Mātikā-paṁ­sukūla

The Saṅ­ga­ha funer­al chant­i­ng is done when the body of the deceased is kept at the family’s home or at the monastery, before the cre­ma­tion. On these occa­sions only four monks are invit­ed to chant—no more, no less. For the most part, the chants include vers­es relat­ed to the Abhid­ham­ma, derived from the book ‘Abhid­ham­mattha-Saṅ­ga­ha,’ com­posed by the Sri Lankan elder Ven. Anu­rud­dha. (The name of this chant­i­ng is an abbre­vi­a­tion from this title.) This chant­i­ng resem­bles a form of melo­di­ous singing, includ­ing fluc­tu­a­tions in pitch. Some of the monks pro­duce a falset­to that rivals the folk singers Pon Pirom or Chi­nagon Krailat. Occa­sion­al­ly, Thai poet­ic chants are includ­ed in this per­for­mance, in par­tic­u­lar as a reminder to reflect on the imper­ma­nence of con­di­tioned phe­nom­e­na.

For instance:

Anic­cā saṅkhārā, all for­ma­tions are fleet­ing,

Aris­ing and pass­ing away—expended, con­sumed.

Adults and chil­dren alike pass away, swept clear.

Even doc­tors and heal­ers must die, their lives com­ing to an end.”

Or they may be max­ims on the law of kam­ma, e.g.:

Doing right­ful deeds by body, speech, and mind;

Good­ness rec­i­p­ro­cates and rewards the doer;

Hap­pi­ness fol­lows in every moment;

Good­ness sup­ports and sus­tains the doer of good.

The delud­ed, wicked fool who per­forms bru­tal and heart­less deeds,

Sure­ly comes to ruin and dis­grace;

He gar­ners only woe, his hard­ship mul­ti­plied;

Thus evil is reaped by the evil­do­er.”

Corpse With Flowers

Regard­less of whether Thai or Pali is used, no-one seems to be able to under­stand what is being said, because the monks tend to draw out the chant­i­ng, ren­der­ing the words incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Even­tu­al­ly it appears like the monks are only chant­i­ng for the ghosts.

This is no match for the chant­i­ng in India. One of my friends used to live in India. He recount­ed how in the Land of the Indus when some­one dies the rel­a­tives car­ry the body in pro­ces­sion to the banks of the Riv­er Ganges. While trav­el­ling to the riv­er they chant in har­mo­ny: ‘Rām Rām maraṇā satyā haa’ which loose­ly trans­lates as: ‘Even Rāma must die; how could we escape the clutch­es of Death?’ Such a sim­ple and con­cise chant has dis­tinct advan­tages over the chants in Thai­land.

As I can gath­er, the Saṅ­ga­ha chant­i­ng is only per­formed in the cen­tral regions of Thai­land. It is not the cus­tom to invite the monks for Saṅ­ga­ha chant­i­ng in the back­woods of the North­east. When I was ordained we were nev­er invit­ed to sing. This is because the peo­ple in the North­east gen­er­al­ly do not keep the deceased at home. Imme­di­ate­ly after some­one dies, a rel­a­tive rush­es off to the monastery to invite the monks to chant the Mātikā-paṁ­sukūla. After the chant­i­ng is com­plet­ed the body is car­ried to the char­nel ground for cre­ma­tion. There is there­fore no Saṅ­ga­ha chanting—only the Mātikā-paṁ­sukūla.

Mātikā-paṁ­sukūla is com­prised of two sep­a­rate words: Mātikā and Paṁ­sukūla. Mātikā refers to chant­i­ng the main top­ics or the abbre­vi­at­ed head­ings of the Abhid­ham­ma. Anoth­er name for this chant­i­ng is Kusala. Chant­i­ng the Mātikā and chant­i­ng Kusala is one and the same. It has this alter­na­tive name because it begins with the word ‘kusala’: Kusala dham­mā, akusala dham­mā…. The Mātikā is not chant­ed in a melo­di­ous fash­ion as is the case with the Saṅ­ga­ha. It is chant­ed in an even and reg­u­lar into­na­tion. When the Mātikā chant­i­ng is fin­ished, the senior monk pass­es a skein of holy thread down the line to the last monk in the row. The monks then chant the Paṁsukūla—also known as the Anic­cā chant, because it begins: Anic­ca vata…. In Cen­tral Thai­land the thread is usu­al­ly placed down taut in front of the monks. The laypeo­ple then place an under-robe (sabong) or upper-robe on the thread. The monks hold on to the robe while chant­i­ng, and when the chant­i­ng is com­plete they draw the robe out. This pro­ce­dure is thus com­mon­ly known in the sphere of the Saf­fron For­est as ‘draw­ing Paṁ­sukūla’ or very sim­ply chak (‘draw,’ ‘yank’).

Out­siders may hear the monks using such tech­ni­cal terms, for instance:

Hey Kam­mai, how many times did you yank yes­ter­day?’

Only once. I can’t beat Tahn Vinai—he yanked three times.’

Don’t yank too much—you’ll get knack­ered.’

If you hear such a con­ver­sa­tion, don’t think too much, or you will cre­ate bad kar­ma unnec­es­sar­i­ly. The monks are sim­ply ask­ing one anoth­er how many times they went to chant the Paṁ­sukūla. The first monk here is dis­cour­ag­ing the sec­ond monk from accept­ing too many funer­al invi­ta­tions, and encour­ag­ing him to take some rest.

Chant­i­ng the Mātikā-paṁ­sukūla is a spe­cial activ­i­ty; it is not per­formed reg­u­lar­ly. Only once in a while is one invit­ed to chant at a funer­al. For this rea­son, most of the monks can­not remem­ber these chants as accu­rate­ly as they can the morn­ing and evening chant­i­ng. The monks and novices at Wat Huay trem­bled at the thought of hav­ing to be the senior monk on these occa­sions and to lead the chant­i­ng. Tak­ing part by sit­ting at the end of the line, how­ev­er, was gen­er­al­ly not a prob­lem.

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Bliss

The com­men­taries define five kinds of bliss (pīti): 1) minor bliss (khud­dakā-pīti): enough to make one’s hair stand on end and for one to shed tears; 2) momen­tary bliss (khaṇikā-pīti): one expe­ri­ences momen­tary flash­es of rap­ture, like flash­es of light­ning; 3) peri­od­ic or surg­ing bliss (okkan­tikā-pīti): one feels puls­es of rap­ture in the body, like waves wash­ing against the shore; 4) trans­portive bliss (ubbeṅgā-pīti): one feels a strong sense of exhil­a­ra­tion, caus­ing one to behave in spon­ta­neous ways, say by utter­ing vers­es, or to feel as if one is float­ing; 5) all-per­va­sive bliss (pharaṇā-pīti): to expe­ri­ence rap­ture and exhil­a­ra­tion through­out one’s whole body.

(Vism. 143–4)

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Life in the Saffron Forest: Chapter 16

Wat Molee Lokayaram

Some exam­in­ers are extreme­ly strict; if one makes even the slight­est mis­take, one is not let off the hook. There is a sto­ry that one exam­i­nee trans­lat­ed the ear­li­er pas­sage as ‘a bird goes through the air.’ The exam­in­er replied: ‘Wrong. Try again.’ The exam­i­nee looked right and left, and saw his friend out­side wav­ing a red hand­ker­chief, mouthing the words: ‘A bird must fly! Just say­ing “go” will not suf­fice!’ Lack­ing smarts, the exam­i­nee answered: ‘The red bird goes through the air.’ The exam­in­er laughed loud­ly: ‘What kind of red bird? A com­mu­nist bird?’ The exam­i­nee duly failed. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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Life in the Saffron Forest: Chapter 15

Wall Painting on a Door from a Monastery in Chiang Mai

The Monks and Novices Go to the Royal Park

Every group devel­ops its own spe­cial lan­guage and tech­ni­cal terms for com­mu­ni­ca­tion. One needs to be a mem­ber of a spe­cif­ic bat­tal­ion or pla­toon in order to under­stand these terms; out­siders are left in the dark. Mem­bers of the Saf­fron For­est also have a large num­ber of tech­ni­cal terms spe­cif­ic to their com­mu­ni­ty. New mem­bers must per­se­vere before they gain any lev­el of pro­fi­cien­cy in such ter­mi­nol­o­gy. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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Nature & Society

Monastery Bell

A com­plete spir­i­tu­al devel­op­ment involves an inter­ac­tion with and an under­stand­ing of both nature and soci­ety, because peo­ple are shaped and influ­enced both by nat­ur­al and social forces. Such devel­op­ment is nour­ished by soci­ety and by nature, bring­ing about pros­per­i­ty and hap­pi­ness. Con­tin­ue read­ing

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