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  • hardie karges 7:13 am on February 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mahasi, , , retreat, Thailand, Wat Suan Mokh, Yangon   

    Buddhist Boot Camp Comparison, part II: Suan Mokh vs. Mahasi… 

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    Foreign meditators at Mahasi

    Author’s note: For those of you who read my blogs regularly, then you might remember that I did this once before, with Wat Suan Mokh near Surat Thani, Thailand, and Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, here. But those are two different types of Buddhism, so as different as apples and oranges, really. Mahasi Monastery in Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma), is the same Theravada branch of Buddhism as Suan Mokh, so closer in orientation. And for my traveler’s perspective of Mahasi, here

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    Meditation at Mahasi

    Of course, not everything fits conveniently into a quick little list, so I’ll explain, expand and expound. WSM has fixed sessions on the first ten days of every month, so just show up the day before and sign up, no pre-registration. MM is even less formal. Just show up any morning and sign up. I suppose either could be full, so no space available, but not sure of that. Sessions at MM are ongoing, minimum ten days, but many stay MUCH longer, up to six months, with ordination as monk a possibility. Normal Myanmar visa is 28 days BTW, though longer ‘meditation visas’ are available.

    WSM’s program is more elaborately presented and diverse, with certain hours in the daily schedule devoted to exercises, listening to CD, dharma talks, etc., in addition to meditation. MM is mostly DIY, alternating sitting and walking meditation on the hour all day every day. For a novice, this is nearly impossible, of course, so if you want to play hooky, just stay in your room. I was hassled once for reading in the common area, when I was supposed to be in the group meditation hall meditating. Walking meditation is more free-form, so take a break then…

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    Lunch at Mahasi

    WSM is part of the Thai Forest Tradition, which gives it an environmental orientation that is quiet, refreshing and sustainable, while Mahasi is within the boundaries of a large city, so necessarily busier and noisier, with frequent visitors from the city and taxis coming and going, in addition to construction activity for current expansion, so MUCH NOISIER…

    Interaction with others is a mixed bag. On the one hand WSM has monks sitting in on sessions, meditation and otherwise, but mostly meditating, and thus giving valuable inspiration on how it’s done. This blew my mind at the time. Conversely, while MM has hundreds of monks and nuns in residence, they have little or no interaction with foreign yogis. There are weekly dharma talks and twice-weekly interviews with the sayadaw-gyi, but that is hardly equivalent to the hands-on SM experience.

    The dharma being espoused is a bit different, too, though both are of the Theravada Buddhist tradition. This I know only because I made the effort to read materials available in MM common areas, which SM has none of, but compensate with CD listening sessions. But MM seems very stuck in the old fundamentalist Buddhism of past lives and karma, which was a big disappointment to me. SM, on the other hand, is more modern, and founder Buddhadhasa is a leader in steering modern Buddhism away from those old fundamentalist modes…

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    Wat Suan Mokh

    But where WSM falls severely short is in the facilities themselves, with rooms resembling prison cells in not even the best of prisons, while MM has much more modern facilities. The splash-pools that pass for common baths at SM look like something from science fiction, so interesting, but not up to the modern standards of private showers. This ain’t Boy Scout camp. SM may be fine for ten days, but any longer than that might not be so good…

    So here’s the skinny. Here’s the fat. I’ll compare the two briefly on a number of topics, basic stats mostly. One caveat: I personally attended the Thai-language session at Suan Mokh, but I’ve tried to corroborate information from the foreigners’ English-language session, hopefully correct. Okay? Here goes:

    1. Food: SM is vegetarian with brown rice; MM has a vegetarian option by request
    2. Gadgets: SM holds phones and laptops (and passports); MM holds only passports
    3. Ambience: SM is in the countryside; MM is in the city
    4. Duration: SM is a fixed 11 days, 10 nights; MM is minimum 10 days, 9 nights
    5. In/Out privileges: SM not sure;, assume no; MM only by special request
    6. Hands-on Instruction: SM yes; MM no, not really
    7. Cost: SM 2000 THB ($60+/-); MM donations accepted
    8. Daily Schedule: SM 4a-9p; MM 4a-9p
    9. Rooms: SM basic room, communal bath; MM nicer room, bath down the hall
    10. Meals: SM breakfast and lunch, liquids in afternoon; MM two meals
    11. Sex: SM has M/F sep. facilities, mixed classes; MM: M/F separate all

    So there is no clear winner. In general, I’d say that WSM is better for novice and/or short-term stays, MM better for long-term DIY and/or experienced meditators. I particularly like WSM’s prayer chanting sessions, which for me is as much or more the heart of Buddhism as meditation. And the hot springs are nice, too (after I finished cleaning them). But the rooms suck. I’ve got a better idea: try both. Both Thailand and Burma have many other meditation centers as well. I hope this helps. Enjoy.

     
  • hardie karges 4:47 pm on January 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Thailand   

    Thai Buddhism Outback Up North, part 4: Three Questions, Two Uncertainties, a Wish and a Promise… 

    Continued from here

    Kwan Yin Fest near Chiang Dao, Thailand

    Kwan Yin Fest near Chiang Dao, Thailand

    So again I’m having doubts about my direction, after I’d convinced myself that the past lives and karmic retribution of Tibetan Buddhism, which I can’t support, are not an issue in the Theravada system. I guess I should get all Zen-like and mock Kung Fu-ish right about now with something wise and philosophical from my imaginary guru, like maybe: “Cricket, don’t worry about the details, or you’ll never be a good monk anyway. You have a path now, and the path will lead you where you are to go…”

    Yeah, that sounds about right. There is no turning back from this path, this Buddhist path, however the details play out. My increasingly healthy meditation practice will be the proof and the foundation for that. So what if I occasionally flash back on the Playboy Playmate from December 1969? She was cute, it was cold, and I was young. I’ve still got a Suzi Quatro song stuck in there from 1978, too…

    And so what if I look like a pile of lumber spilled from the Home Depot truck until I get ‘warmed up’ meditating? So what if it takes a backhoe to unlock and untangle me once I do? At least that backhoe won’t be necessary to back-fill the logic necessary to convince myself I’m happy when I’m really not, gorging myself with ‘stuff’ in an American society of consumeristic orgy (orgiastic consumerism?)… (More …)

     
    • kc 10:37 pm on January 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      join the clubs, forming in the hundreds of like minded people. Millsaps is offering a course to re-guide one to one’s what, emptiness? Also have on-line far away friends wanting to skype and study. remember that teaching is indeed a most noble profession, and certainly learning never ends. looking for folk art, found $ in my account that i did not expect and not wanting to try and teach r more tech. that he will not get. so art, yes. send art, $ cd not hurt, you can always give it away, i surely do. much love.

    • davekingsbury 1:28 pm on January 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Reminds me in part of the Keats bio by Andrew Motion I’m reading – 600 pages for such a short life! – and it’s fascinating to follow his discovery that pain and pleasure/sadness and happiness are really one and the same or at least 2 sides of the same coin, no one without the other. I’m trying to feel the same about life/death but not there yet!

  • hardie karges 11:35 pm on December 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Thailand   

    Jet-Lag Diaries, part 2: Graduating Thai School–in Buddhism… 

    Continued from here

    img_1400Back in Thailand the king is dead, so all other plans are automatically on hold. The temples are now full of temporary monks, so my own meager plans are secondary. My temple priest once told me it’s up to my own heart, and so it is, I must say, even if I have to pay to play. But if I can meditate in a moving plane and meditate on a moving bus, then I must be moving toward something real and good, is it not? I think it must be: I meditate, therefore I am…

    If I’d left my practice of holy writ and dharma for a month, or longer, then I’d have to start over by design and definition, would I not? But that didn’t happen, so the details of any future ordination are unimportant, best left to the dealers and traders, and not the midnight meditators. So if my shitty little revelations and pissy little epiphanies have to wait another week, or month, or year, or decade, for my eminent imminent ordination, then so be it. The world has waited a few millennia already… (More …)

     
    • davekingsbury 2:51 pm on December 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      A succinct summation here …

      “To wit: if you’re Western and/or Christian, then the glass is half full, and the object of life is to full the sucker up. If you’re Eastern and/or Buddhist, then the glass is half-empty, and the object is to drain the damn thing, then enjoy the non-show of silence.”

      No words …

  • hardie karges 5:03 am on August 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Kopan, Monastery, , Tantric, Thailand,   

    Buddhism and Rebirth: Karma Crushes Dogma in 3-Body Pile-Up 

    IMG_0542Dear Readers: If you happen to follow my other (travel) blog, backpackers-flashpackers.net/, then be forewarned that I’ll repeat some of the same material as in my last post there, so I’ll understand if you have other fish to fry. It’s not that I’m lazy, but rather that the issue that presented itself last week I believe is worth repeating, since it affects my future and the future of this blog…

    As you know, if you follow me here, I’ve been moving steadily toward a life of Buddhism over the past year or two, to the point of spending sessions in actual temples, in study of the Dharma, but also to prepare myself for eventually following the monk-hood myself, on a sporadic, if not permanent basis, something you can do in Thailand, whose Forest Tradition is extremely attractive to me… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 7:12 am on August 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Mae Chan, Thailand   

    Thai Forest Temples: Books Not Required; Internet? Pending… 

    IMG_0738Thai Buddhist ‘Forest Temples’ are not the saffron gilded air-conditioned temples of the cities and towns, but rustic temples of the woods, the outback and the heart, a tradition dating from a time when Thailand actually HAD forests and itinerant monks walking through them. This tradition dates back little more than one hundred years, but in that period of time has gained many adherents, both local and international, mostly due to the efforts of the late Ajahn Chah, who taught many foreign disciples, and set them loose upon the world…

    ‘Tam boon’ is the usual Thai term for Buddhist ‘merit-making’ and could just as easily be translated ‘doing good’, though that probably doesn’t convey the urgency with which most Thais accept the need for a showcase to display their gratitude, not simply submit silent offerings. The best deeds tend to be spectator sports to which all are invited, and many a belly is filled, spectacles and feasting more than introspection and fasting, which is a better goal for religion IMHO… (More …)

     
    • kc 7:18 pm on August 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      interesting, recently a COMMUNITY HELP GROUP, all men btw, came and helped me get the front yard/garden set to city specs. they do it for the glory of god, any and all gods, they do not discriminate against the gods nor the people requesting help. i wrote a letter to the editor, that they published, much to my surprise as it mentioned Islam. so, yeah, we’re learning, slowly but surely, to embrace all. for now, i am attempting to reteach r things he has long known, in this instance it has been 2 hours so far, how to turn on the electronic contol oven, by googling the manual and following instructions. this gives him an enormous amount of angst. I really believe that he is somewhat sexist his own self, by demonstrating that he is showing his inability to learn form me, or is it ageist. he has completed rejected the notion that he has any memory issues, and although 3 docs said no driving, he continues to drive, and continues to have car crashes. he may soon learn, but that time may come when it is too late. As the Animals sang in that fab Vietnam War protest song WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE, i must get out of here, to save what is left of my mind and spirit. wish me luck, adventure awaits me. fuck an electronic control oven, give me sticks and a way to start a fire, and i’m good.Glad that you are well, except for gout. i am fine, except for pain.

  • hardie karges 7:00 am on April 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Thailand   

    Buddha-Consciousness in a Pill: In Defense of ‘Low-T’… 

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    Thai Buddhist Temple

    Is there anything more pathetic and disgusting than watching an old man trying to get it up just one more time, meter running, with multiple payment options? Enter Viagra, and sex tourism, and you name it: ‘Low T’ (testosterone), the male sex hormone, or absence thereof…

    It’s all about reproduction, or dying trying, in this life in this world, in this dimension, in this plane of existence, Boeing 747’s equipped with 1st-class cubicles with reclining seats just in case the mood strikes, at the moment of inspiration at the moment of conception…

    Welcome to Thailand, where ‘feed-us’ farming is the late-life equivalent of fetus-farming, for-hire breeding, artificial selection, putting guys out to pasture with hopefully one last biscuit in the oven, just to make things official, and put the young lady on an inheritance plan…

    Low-T? Guys need to take meds for ‘low-T’? That’s like spitting in the face of God, as if Viagra, Cialis, and that pharmacopia weren’t bad enuf, pumps and pills and multifarious cheap thrills in the back seat of cars too small now for proper breeding, need an early model Cadillac…

    It’s ironic that our major form of entertainment—sex—all around the world was never intended for entertainment at all, if we can correctly intuit the mind of God, but you gotta’ give it credit, maybe pandas should take a lesson and start chewing each others genitals instead of so much bamboo while they go happily extinct…

    It’s just a chemical! Without that chemical testosterone and its stiffening influence on the lower extremities, all of our stories and music and literature and art would amount to little, all the philosophies and religion and denominations and free sects… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 9:03 am on April 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Thailand   

    Religion Meet Politics, Soul Meet Body: Buddhism as the Perfect Socialism…. 

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    Room with a view in Thailand’s temple city of Phetchaburi…

    I’ve always been struck by the existence of what I call ‘village communism’, that primordial system around the world which keeps people more or less equal by virtue of jealousy, tradition, goodwill or convenience. It has nothing to do with democracy BTW, not unsurprisingly, which, despite all the advance hype, pretty much promotes just the opposite—vast inequalities… and vast loneliness, every man for himself. You are mostly alone in this capitalist democratic world, like it or not…

    So in the traditional societies, with cities just one step up from the village, the old guild divisions still remain, with certain sections devoted to a certain craft or specialty. Now I can’t say with certainty why that is, but the result is that everyone stays at more or less the same level, copying each others’ products, and keeping a good eye on each others’ customers. Ever heard the old adage: “location location location”? This is similar to a central market even when there is none (though that is likely the origin): so no one has the advantage of location, not really, not much.  They’re all more or less equal…

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    Temples everywhere in Thailand

    The ultimate in village socialism, though, of course, is family, in which the family unit is not just a spatial unit occupying certain locations of varying importance, but a spiritual unit, too, a multi-generational anchor that occupies both time and space, and firmly, too. Ever played the Asian chess-like game ‘Go’? It’s like that, occupying space and time bit by bit in an ever-increasing complexity that provides an anchor like a tree’s roots, no reinforcing rods necessary. In Asia they love their blood ties, spouse optional. In the West we love our sometimes dubious choices made in the heat of passion…

    I always thought that socialism and communism were much more appropriate to Asia than Europe for this very reason, that the societies there were so much more inter-twined and sharing to begin with, starting with the family. From there it’s a short hop to uniting those families by religion, or politics, or both. This is especially appropriate now that families are so much smaller than they used to be, down from a dozen to a few per generation, within the last one or two rounds, generally speaking, at least in the case of Thailand, with which I am most familiar. So what does this have to do with Buddhism?

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    Temple in Phetchaburi, Thailand

    Buddhism is perfect for this role, with its de-emphasis on the individual. The West, America especially, is sick with individualism, which, if carried to its logical extreme, gives you something like Election 2016, with its air of despair and its climate of hate, culture gone to the dogs, with any and all civility singularly lacking. In the future—tomorrow—true sharing will be a necessity, not just the pseudo-sharing of an Uber ride or a VRBO stay. That’s not sharing: that’s vanity, driver at your fingertips and somebody else’s house at your disposal. True sharing utilizes public transportation—and hostels…

    A true socialism is an economy of sharing, by definition, and requires near-equality, and no poverty. That can’t work in societies with vast incomes and vast income differentials. Within tightly-knit societies that is less likely, since class systems function by means of class divisions. You can’t maintain an equality with people from whom you are divided. Tightly-knit societies advance together—or not…

    The old industrial model of socialism is outmoded and outdated. We need updated politics and religion for the digital age—and the future. The great monotheistic religions have a Book. Buddhism has thousands. We can create what we need, and we need it now more than ever. The separation between church and state is an illusory pipe dream, and probably ill-advised at that…

    The trick is for the predominant belief system to be inclusive enough to accommodate all sorts of individual and group tastes and predilections. Labor and management should not be at odds with each other in the perfect system, nor should sects or sexes. The true city of God would allow many paths to meet uptown at the temple to pray, and many jobs downtown at the office to work—for similar pay…

     
    • kaptonok 11:49 am on April 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      In Bankok population fourteen million souls one million live in poverty. It is a world center of finance and business.
      So what you might call western ways are prevalent in Thialands biggest city.
      Do not be deceived by apperances quite recently Buddhist monks have been found to be suffering from obesity a western purge.
      Human nature all over the globe is the same it may hide under different labels or dress itself in the thin veneer of religion but basically it has not changed.
      What sort of communism have we got in China? Why its capitalist communism dressed in the old clothes of Marxism.

      • hardie karges 1:20 pm on April 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Only one million in poverty in Krung Thep? Maybe more, I’d guess. But when I refer to Western and Eastern ways, I’m referring to traditional distinctions. Obviously those break down as the world gets smaller and more crowded. Thailand up-country is very different from BKK. And yes, I definitely don’t consider modern China as the model for socialism, nor would Marx, I don’t believe. Thanx for your comment, very accurate… 🙂

    • davekingsbury 8:48 am on April 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      As always, hugely inclusive … posts like this help me focus on the creative synthesis we need to overcome our vast problems … I’d come up with a secular religion, if it wasn’t a weird oxymoron!

  • hardie karges 8:38 am on June 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Thailand   

    #Clickbait and the Decline of Western Civilization 

    Clickbait’: I like that word. Doesn’t that describe most of what passes for the so-called ‘social media’ these days? People are even starting to write—and talk—like HuffPost: “You won’t believe what happens next.” And then they pause—dead stop. You have to ask what happens next while looking around to see if you’re missing any important advertisements or coupon specials…

    But videos are the worst. It’s no wonder advertising loves the medium. I don’t know of any official figures, but you must easily spend twice the time watching a video as you do reading the same information at your own chosen speed…

    That’s the key: waste time shopping. Department stores in Thailand rearrange the whole store once a week, just to mess with your head, and make you waste time shopping–and buying. But, of course, in Thailand the ‘Psychology’ section of any bookstore is full of marketing tips. “I’m okay, you’re okay?” yeah, right. Pay in advance.

    Yes, we’ve certainly advanced past the primitive days of TV, that dinosaur medium long since surpassed in the effort to see who can watch a movie on the smallest screen while acting the hippest and coolest in the process. Monetize it by multiplying it. Revolutions per minute = sales per minute, consumption of precious resources while flying through the air firing two guns simultaneously… you won’t believe what happens next…

     
  • hardie karges 9:33 am on May 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Thailand   

    Religio-Politics 101: The Eluctible Modality of the Invisible 

    Everything happens for a reason.” How many times have you heard that? Is it accurate? Is it true? Is it even valid? Meh; that probably depends, on who or what is sentence subject and who or what is object in a life sentence with no parole. Fortunately our language structure allows for a multitude of possibilities, with its general vagueness, allowing plausible deniability. But is that what you want—plausible deniability? No, you want certainty. That’s the beauty of religion, and that’s the slice of thought that statements like this come from.

    The answer is probably ‘no’, of course, that ‘everything happens for a reason’, given no reason to think that it is true, and that is, after all, the bottom line: truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… But that is the basis of life, not religion, which relies on the power of positive thinking and retrofit of spurious logic. That’s not a bad thing, and can offer more than silly smiles on sullen Sundays, reasons to push on another day. But life is more than the agreement of subject and object, isn’t it, after all? Life is neither happy nor sad, in and of itself. Any serious Buddhist knows that… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 5:39 pm on May 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I wanted to see you smile.

  • hardie karges 9:29 am on July 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Chinatown, , , , , , Thailand   

    #Facebook #Chinatown: Where ‘Likes’ are the New Currency 

     

    Like Me, Baby...

    Like Me, Baby…

    Strolling through Facebook now is like strolling through Chinatown or along a carnival midway, complete with barkers and colored balloons, signs and advertisements now occupying every available inch of empty space, imperceptibly creeping like Capitalism into our lives and our computers and smart phones like viruses (virii?), the good kind, friendly bacteria that you can live with. In Chinatown there IS no empty space. Social media has degenerated into one big tease: “You won’t believe this!” or “You’ve got to see what happened next!” or “Don’t forget to share.” Likes are the new currency.

    (More …)

     
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