Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why ignorance can hurt you

It worries me when I read that there are groups of people, including ordained monks and nuns who openly accused Luangta of being a political monk. I am not worried for Luangta but worry for the person in question who openly said such thing. They are usually involved in the scholarly aspects of the Buddhist teachings and because what Luangta does apparently does not ‘fit in’ to what the scriptures had taught, Luangta is given all sorts of label.

I will offer the same advice as what my teacher had told me when I was judging and criticizing others- look within yourself first. Check your own practice- it is very important. And you will never know what verbal kamma you commit if you really ended up criticizing a real Arahant….so don’t take any chances. Better to devote the energy to watch our practice instead of looking around for faults in others. And becareful to accept and agree to second hand judgment by others. Come and see for yourself instead of believing what other people say.

Here, I want to share with you my real personal experience. Please note I am not trying to judge anybody here but I just want to show you that with just a little mistake I’ve done due to ignorance, I’ve spent years paying the price.

Years ago, before I learned about Thai Forest Tradition, I was helping out in hosting a speaker from Thailand. That time, she started lobbying to allow woman to ordain as fully precepted female monk instead of the current 8 or 10 precept ubasika. As a learned scholar and very educated woman when she was a layperson, she could quote from the suttas and commentaries to justify why female ordination should continue. What she said seemed logical- and I had not learned about Thai Forest Tradition first hand.

She said some negative things about senior monks in Thailand (even though I don’t remember that she had mentioned him, but I know that Luangta was one of those senior monks who had disapproved of the movement). And she also had a theory that Maha Kasappa (senior disciple of the Buddha) was actually anti-woman and according to her, history had shown that some monks do not want to help out women (later I was told that Maha Kasappa was actually a very compassionate elder and was never anti women).

All I did was to arrange for an interview and transcribed her talk (I was not really credited in the transcribe- my friend was supposed to do it but she was too busy so I helped out). That was all I did. And after that, I forgotten about the incident.

Then about few years later, I came to know the Thai Forest Tradition via Luangta Maha Boowa’s book. When I first read the book, I knew it was what I was looking for all this while. I made the determination and aspiration to go to Thailand.

My journey and my practice had been difficult. About a week before I was about to go to Wat Pa Baan Taad in Udon Thani, I dreamt that I opened the door to a monastery and saw a lot of very old monks. But in my heart, I knew that Luangta was not there. I was greatly disappointed in my dream…

When I was finally there- true to my dream, he was not there. But as I stepped foot into his monastery, I knew intuitively that when I come back the second time, I will be able to see him. I did, and as I have mentioned before, the first time I saw him in the sala hall having his morning meal, I just knew that all the effort and hardship to make the second trip had been worth it.

My self practice in the monastery was also fraught with a lot of obstacles- first, being my health was no good and I was very very tired all the time. I was determined to come back and worked hard to improve my health. There are a number of other things as well, so much obstacles that made me on the verge of giving up….but each time, I find the strength to preserve.

And even that, I also had a lot of obstacles- my practice was stuck for a long time and I was not seeing results. One day, as I sat meditating and asking why the path had been so tough for me, the memory of the talk which I transcribed for the female Thevaradian monk came back. I knew instinctively that even though I had committed the kamma of first agreeing with her, and then transcribing the talk which eventually was made available in many forms of media--- even out of ignorance, I still paid the price.

The thing is that because when I read about the teachings of Ajahn Mun, I knew with certainty that this is the path for me. Had I just approached and interpreted Buddhism from a scholarly perspective, I would have given up.

But the first time I read about Luangta’s teachings, it seemed that his words spoke straight to my heart. You know, language of the heart really does exist- it is not made up by him. The contents written in the spiritual biography seemed not to make sense if you don’t really meditate- but through personal experience, I know that his teachings were true. If you have not experienced them for yourself, you can never begin to comprehend. And we should not judge things that we don’t comprehend- because we don’t want to be paying the price later on when the second hand information we have obtained and chose to believe in turns out to be wrong.

Yes, there good as well as ordained monks/nuns who’ve obviously broken the Vinaya and even appear in the news. When that happens, these news will be reported worldwide and it brings a bad name to Buddhism. If you look around, breaking monastic codes also appeared in other religions.

Everyone is a human and sometimes, people lose even though they go into the religion with the best of intention at first. Some monks and nuns who know that they could not abide by monastic rules due to certain personal issues would choose to disrobe. In Thailand, it is acceptable to disrobe because it’s better to disrobe than to remain in the robes and knowingly break the Vinaya. If a scandal arose, the kammic consequences are heavy- and the person in question will have to answer for his/her own kamma. It is their business….we really should not get involved.