Back in Perth – new directions old directions

Dear readers, I have been active with other priorities and not blogged much. Now that I’m busier, I’ll probably blog more.  I hope you enjoy the new blog page style. I updated my June post on Sri Lanka and added a lot of photos.

I returned to Perth about 12 weeks ago. I applied for many jobs and finally accepted an interesting role starting on Monday, 14 November.  In order to generate income for paying bills I usually work as a in government on social policy development and project management.  I always find work though it can take about 2 months of applying.  This time it took nearly 3 months…

I enjoyed my recent trips to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. On the first trip to Sri Lanka (3.5 weeks in June 2011) I stayed with Bhante Nyanatusita at the Forest Hermitage where I installed mosquito screens, door handles, and tidied up a storage area. Bhante and I also went on a 5 day tour of places north of Kandy. We hiked in forests and climbed hills. I really enjoyed visiting ancient monasteries at Ritigala and Kaluda Pokuna as well as several significant sites at Anuradhapura.  I learned a lot from close association with Bhante and our Dhamma discussions.

The second trip was only about 10 days and again mostly in Kandy working at the Forest Hermitage. Bhante and I installed a wifi antenna with lightning protection on the roof and significantly improved Bhante’s Internet connection.

The detailed map located just past the main entry gate to Udawattakele, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Old sign for the Forest Hermitage, Udawattakele, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Michael made two mosquito screens with scrap wood and left over mesh at the Forest Hermitage in June 2011. These two screens were installed in the window frames of the outside kuti sometimes used by guest monks.


Inside the outside kuti sometimes used by guest monks at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2011

Shaded meditation walking path near outside kuti, Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Wifi antenna installed on the Forest Hermitage roof, 13 August 2011. It is not quite finished. After this photo we attached three metal pipes connecting the antenna pole to the solar panel frame. These connections were insulated to prevent any lightning current flowing between them. The green wire in the photo is an earth wire that leads from the lightning attractor above the antenna itself down to a lightning rod embedded in the ground. You can see the white plastic pipe protecting the wire from the antenna and entering a small hole in the roof tile.

A new LED lamp for an existing socket at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2011

New lamps, medicine and ARRID plugs for the 12 volt electrical solar powered system at the Forest Hermitage, Kandy, Sri Lanka, June 2012

My second trip (10 days in August 2011) coincided with the Australian cricket team’s tour of Sri Lanka which I had no interest in. It also coincided with the annual 10 day Perahera festival held in Kandy. I have little interest in colourful parades mainly because I don’t like mixing with crowds of people. I saw parts of the parade when I was in town shopping for items to install the wifi antenna. The parade is very popular among Sri Lankan people.

Michael & an elephant at the forecourt of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 10 August 2011 (photo taken by Ven. Nyanatusita)

Corner of Dalada Veediya and Yatinuvara Veediya, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 13 August 2011.  People were sitting on plastic sheets on the pavements waiting for the Perahera festival parade so pedestians had to walk on the roads to get around. 
My trip to the United Kingdom was my first trip to the mother country since 1974. Except for my own two children, all other members of my Australian family (two parents and three siblings) had visited more recently and some have visited many times. I had a mild case of culture shock when I first arrived at Heathrow Airport and then spent my first week mostly in Wittering (near Chichester), Sussex. The weather was sunny and warm almost the whole time I was in the UK, even in Scotland.  I then went to Telford in Shropshire; Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland; and then Beverley, Hull and Polkington in Yorkshire. I visited most but not all of my UK relations. I was warmly welcomed by all and I learned a lot about family history.

This trip to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom was part of my exploration of ways to live a spiritual life as a lay man. I validated this approach and am very confident that this is the right thing for me to do it (not saying this is the right thing for everyone).  In previous blog posts I wrote about getting stuck at the same point during Mahasi method vipassana meditation retreats. Since January 2010 I changed my primary meditation practice to samatha though I am still doing satipaathana (mindfulness of body, feelings, mind and dhamma; it has always been a combination of samatha and vipassana).

Some might say that I have not tried hard enough. I am not keen on metaphorically bashing my head on a brick wall. I believe the path is gradual and gentle.  I think the right amount of viriya-energy arises with the right amount of samaadhi-concentration. An imbalance in the faculties is an obstacle.

On these two recent trips to Sri Lanka I kept precepts and offered items and service to the Sangha that stays at the Forest Hermitage.I also participated in Dhamma discussions with Bhante and others. I listened to and read  Dhamma. Although positive and wholesome, these good deeds maybe less important or virtuous than bhavanaa-mental development through vipassana and samatha.  However, the importance of developing samaadi.t.thi-Right View cannot be overstated. Dhamma discussion, hearing the Dhamma and asking pertient questions are all excellent ways of developing and supporting Samaadi.t.thi.

Skillful Giving – How to Donate

One of the most convenient ways of developing wholesome mental states is to give or donate to others. However, the benefits accruing from donating, both for the donor and the recipient will vary depending on each side’s virtue or spiritual development.

Anguttaranikaaya  AN 6.37   PTS: A iii 335
Dana Sutta: Giving
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. And on that occasion the lay woman Velukandaki, Nanda’s mother, had established a donation endowed with six factors for the community of monks headed by Sariputta and Moggallana. The Blessed One saw with his divine eye, surpassing the human, that the laywoman Velukandaki, Nanda’s mother, had established a donation endowed with six factors for the community of monks headed by Sariputta and Moggallana. On seeing this, he addressed the monks: “Monks, the lay woman Velukandaki, Nanda’s mother, has established a donation endowed with six factors for the community of monks headed by Sariputta and Moggallana.
“And how is a donation endowed with six factors? There is the case where there are the three factors of the donor, the three factors of the recipients.
“And which are the three factors of the donor? There is the case where the donor, before giving, is glad; while giving, his/her mind is bright and clear; and after giving is gratified. These are the three factors of the donor.
“And which are the three factors of the recipients? There is the case where the recipients are free of passion or are practicing for the subduing of passion; free of aversion or practicing for the subduing of aversion; and free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion. These are the three factors of the recipients.
“Such are the three factors of the donor, the three factors of the recipients. And this is how a donation is endowed with six factors.
“And it is not easy to take the measure of the merit of a donation thus endowed with six factors as ‘just this much a bonanza of merit, a bonanza of what is skillful — a nutriment of bliss, heavenly, resulting in bliss, leading to heaven — that leads to what is desirable, pleasing, charming, beneficial, pleasant.’ It is simply reckoned as a great mass of merit, incalculable, immeasurable.
“Just as it is not easy to take the measure of the great ocean as ‘just this many buckets of water, just this many hundreds of buckets of water, just this many thousands of buckets of water, or just this many hundreds of thousands of buckets of water.’ It is simply reckoned as a great mass of water, incalculable, immeasurable. In the same way, it is not easy to take the measure of the merit of a donation thus endowed with six factors as ‘just this much a bonanza of merit, a bonanza of what is skillful — a nutriment of bliss, heavenly, resulting in bliss, leading to heaven — that leads to what is desirable, pleasing, charming, beneficial, pleasant.’ It is simply reckoned as a great mass of merit, incalculable, immeasurable.”
Before giving, glad; while giving, the mind is bright and clear; having given, one is gratified: This is the consummation of the sacrifice. Free of passion, free of aversion, free of delusion, without fermentation: the consummation of the field of the sacrifice, one restrained, leading the holy life. Having rinsed oneself, having given with one’s own hands, then — because of oneself, because of the other —  that is a sacrifice yielding great fruit. Having given thus — intelligent — a person of conviction, with awareness released, reappears — wise — in a world of bliss unalloyed.

Ten Bases for Meritorious Deeds

The following list of ten bases for meritorious deeds (pu~n~nakiriyavathu) shows ten ways to develop wholesome kamma for the sense sphere (kammavacarakuala.m).

I strongly recommend everyone memorise this list and make strenuous efforts to put the list into practice. This will be for your benefit now and for a long time into the future.

  1. Daana – giving generously and freely to worthy recipients such as virtuous monastics
  2. Siila – ethical conduct; keeping at least five precepts every day and regularly observing
    8 precepts on Uposatha days (about once a week)
  3. Bhavanaa – mental development through meditation either vipassana-insight meditation or samatha-concentration meditation
  4. Apacaayana – reverence and respect for elders, parents, teachers, monastics, officials and so forth; recognising the importance of their senior or guiding role
  5. Veyaavacca – service for promoting the Dhamma, assisting others to do meritorious deeds
  6. Patidaana – sharing merit with others while undertaking meritorious deeds oneself
  7. Pattaanumodana – rejoicing in others’ meritorious deeds; congratulating them and being happy with them during their meritorious conduct
  8. Dhammasavana – hearing the Dhamma or reading the Dhamma
  9. Dhammadesanaa – teaching the Dhamma either by speech or writing
  10. Ditthijukamavasena – straightening out one’s views, studying Dhamma to be sure that one understands the Dhamma correctly (also sometimes spelled: ditth’uju-kamma)