The monstrous statue of Buddha hit me with a force of lead falling from the sky. I was on my way back to my austere room, when suddenly, there it was – a magnificent piece of sculpture, as big as three double-decker buses on top of each other. I stopped dead in my tracks, never seen such a sight that would impact my life forever. I was alone – not afraid, just curious. I held his calf with one hand and pushed myself up to reach his lap. I sat there for a while, enveloped in his arms. He was kind to me; didn’t speak, didn’t question me, didn’t judge me. I thought he was an ok guy!
My dear friend Jane arrived and said ‘ what the bleep are you doing’ -‘ just hanging out with Bud,’ I replied. ‘Anyway, here’s my camera – take a photo so I can show my grandchildren one day.’ She took a few photographs and told me to come down before I fall.
7.00 a.m. and back in my austere room. Cold, I’m cold and sniffling – my common cold has exploded.
The others’ are aimlessly walking round the meditation room; apparently, it’ a form of learning the discipline of Buddhism.
I’m hungry, but have half an hour to go before breakfast is served. I know I’m hungry as the gurgles and rumbles were evident in the silence of the meditation. I may not be fed, but at least I have showered.
Maybe Buddha had a fetish for cats, there are three I have seen so far, one even appeared under the toilet door, to my horror.
If buddha was thoughtful, he would (If he is a man), grace this retreat with a little sunshine; I’m very cold.
Almost time to go – think the menu is mealy meal – this is the staple African diet…but, I’m not African.
8.10 a.m. – back in my room after eating cereal and yoghurt – gave the mealy meal a miss on this occasion. Strange, not to talk over breakfast, quite uncomfortable; not natural. The only sound was the spoons hitting the bowls and, whispers from the hidden kitchen staff.
Next on the agenda is more meditation – oh well, that’s why I’m here. The mist has set in for the day – it’s an eerie sight to see walking zombies heading towards the awesome statue of Buddha.
Still cold and damp – hoping my second meditation will inspire me. The inmates appear glum. I wonder who they are and what lives they have led?
Yoga completed. Fooled and deluded myself that I was the same as twenty years ago. I’m stiff, and still very cold, although the rain has stopped and the sun is trying to come out.
Most of the group are…guess what? meditating again. Thought I would give it a miss and sit next to Bud. Actually, I’m at his side, they didn’t consider putting a bench in front so he could be ogled. He looks quite smug with his wry smile; perhaps he knows the same secret as the Mona Lisa. So far, albeit I have only been here for 24 hours, don’t think I’ll become a Buddhist Nun…or, maybe I should. Apart from this irritating cold – I feel quite calm. Four days to go – I wonder what’s on TV.
Simplicity and goodness pours out of the very existence of this place – but, is it real?
Where do believers go when they are alone. or back into the demands of modern life? Do they maintain their compassion for their fellow-man? I doubt it. After all, we humans naturally and instinctively fight to survive. The only way to maintain this state of zombie-ism would be to take up permanent residence. And why not, it’s the most beautiful and special place I have ever seen. High in the mountains in Ixpoco, South Africa.
One can’t imagine the political war going on not too far away from here. If the same warring souls came to see Buddha, maybe they would be enlightened , as hopefully I will be.
12 noon, all of sudden the zombies are monosyllabically walking past Buddha, the mist has now gone. There is a bell ringing in the distance, resounding through my body. I wonder what it’s for? The zombies are wearing orange capes – they look like moving oranges. At least these moving oranges are embarking on a walking meditation…I should feel guilty, but, I don’t. I’m as free and open as a spring flower.
The orange capes incidentally, are worn out of respect and to show reverence. I am getting excited, it’s nearly lunchtime and we are allowed to break our silence, however, there will be one table reserved for Noble silence…I know where I’ll be sitting!
I have decided that I am not a committed retreatant, as the walking oranges are parading up and down at a pace of 20 steps. Backward and forward, and so on. They remind me of faceless apparitions going nowhere. Maybe I’m the one going nowhere – participation is the point of being here. My thoughts are ‘flighty’ a definition that Kittisara uses constantly.
Scattered and fractured are also used to explain how ‘we’ the lesser mortals do not use the power of our minds. We are conditioned not to.
How many times does the average person just sit in the here and now? It’s a strict regime that requires steely determination and willpower.
I must have achieved something this last meditation as I almost fell off my stool. One minute I was listening to Kittisara, and then felt myself falling into space. I quickly composed myself and corrected the meditation position. My favourite bit is the ‘chanting’ – not that I have participated yet. It’s the most amazing sound of men and women acoustically in perfect harmony. It sends shivers down my spine.
9.15 p.m. and guess where? Back in my room. The meal was in silence – not too bad really as Jane and I gesticulated to each other…pass the salt!
TO BE CONTINUED…