Today was spent chanting all day. This is my view of the event. Those that know me, know I could not possibly sit on the floor, so yes, they take old people into consideration, even in the temples. I usually find a chair, this event I have an entire bench in which to sit and contemplate and listen.
Since today was the same as yesterday, minus the politicians I thought I would ruminate over things I have encountered and don’t understand.
Monks with tattoos. Okay, I have no idea why I would think this was not acceptable, it just seems weird, chock it up with monks with iPads and on Vespas, they fall outside ones preconceived notions.
Yes some become monks later in life, and so they came into the monastery with them, but there are two monks in our group that discuss their tattoos and what they will add next. I have come to learn that much of what they have inked is a form of blessing. Why not?
A few posts ago I complained about being jostled and pushed by the male photographers. I realize now this is not the photographers but males in India in general. I was in a very crowded room with a German woman (Stefanie) and we were discussing how the women in the room glide around the room swimming gently past the other women and respecting their space. The men, on the other hand simply run you over. I don’t think it is arrogance or haughtiness, I honestly don’t think Indian men even see women. We are so far beneath them, that we are as invisible as the cockroach on a filthy floor. On the other hand, knowing how strong Indian women are in the home, it could be simple retribution.
Monks robes are very different from country to country. All of our monks tie theirs the same way, and I seriously wish I could learn how they throw the outer “cape” on, it is two swift moves and makes my putting a pashmina on my shoulders look like I am gift wrapping a wounded water buffalo. They take great pride in their folding skills, and if not done absolutely perfectly they will tease each other. You will often see a monk off in the corner pleating a long piece of fabric to make sure it looks just right.
Another thing I have witnessed over and over again in this country is the ability for everyone to drink from a container without it ever touching their lips. They have a better idea than most how filthy things are around here.
Several years ago my mother brought me to India for my first trip. We were amazed at how many people came up to her and asked if they could either photograph her or be photographed with her. We did not really understand it, but later people discussed the reverence that the Indians have for the elderly.
Well now I am the spotlight, and damn it, I refuse to accept the age explanation. When I ask people that have lived here for a long time they simply state it is my blond hair and white skin. I’ll go along with that one. I can not begin to tell you how many family albums I will be in. Today a group stopped me to ask for pictures, I was 15 minutes. I said just one more at least 10 times. At some point, I put my camera down near my hips and the photographer said, no, no and motioned for me to raise it again so it would be in the picture. I snapped this picture at that moment and got a laugh out of the entire group.
Later I had a woman come up and attempt to have a photo taken while touching my toes. I jumped sky high. She settled for touching my knee while her husband snapped a shot. This, I learned, is because they view westerners as wealthy, and touching our feet will rub that wealth off on them. I gather the second best thing is to simply be touching a westerner. It is also a sign of respect. This has not happened before, the people that ask for photos are always either selfies or photos taken by relatives while they are in the frame.
I took to wandering, and next to the event is a Burmese temple complex. I was circumambulating the stupa when two of our Burmese monks recognized me and joined me. They were happy to educate me on the meanings of some of the things we saw.
Your birthday day is auspicious to them and each weekday represents a planet. This is why there are different animals at the base of the different days.
The building on the left is the stupa with some remains of Buddha. The building on the right houses the reclining gold Buddha. This site was really very large in its heyday.
This is Tron Nguyen, his monk’s name is Thich Dieu Thien, a local monk that I just found beyond charming. Tron chanted today, but in Vietnamese instead of Pali. Here is a sample of his chanting, it is really different and lovely.
Tron was born in Vietnam. His mother married an American soldier and he came to the US in 1972, at the age of four. He grew up in East Lansing Michigan and went to MSU.
There has been a monk in his family every generation for 50 years. His mother has established three Buddhist missionaries/monasteris, one in Buddha’s hometown of Lumbini in Nepal, one in Bodh Gaya and this one in Kushinagar.
After Tron’s 2 daughters graduated from college he took his monks vows and began working in India.
Our monks are staying in his monastery, and they are very happy. It is clean and Tron is an excellent host.
When we first arrived I felt it was sort of a Disneyland but he explained that many local people do not have the money to travel to the holy sites so he has recreated them. Normally this Disneyland aspect would annoy me, but Tron is one of the kindest people I have met, and his heart is so full and definitely in the right place.
To top it all off, he runs a school for 600 children. This is what I expect true Buddhism to be about.