Water, Water Everywhere! (Except where it's needed), October 12, 2011

The news around the world was about water, deluges, monsoons, typhoons, hurricanes, and cyclones. Where there wasn't too much water, there was an appalling lack--droughts dooming crops, livestock, and people in vast swaths of the world. We followed stories of monsoonal flooding in Pakistan, vast areas under water in Thailand with dams filled beyond capacity, and powerful typhoons hitting the Philippines and Vietnam. Where there was water, it was more water than had been seen in living memory, while the droughts were also drier than ever before. Climate change reminds us of Samudda-Vanija Jataka, "The Punishing Wave;" surely the successes and failures of our human species are having an impact on the planet.

Likewise, there were headlines about financial deluges. TV news and the papers were full of stories of floods of debt, turbulent storms of inflation and deflation, tidal waves of unemployment, and stock markets acting like waterfalls. We figure we're quite fortunate to have a (rented) roof over our heads and food to eat. Speaking of rent, we finally got our deadbeat tenant out of 1401 Woodlawn Park Drive. She was $17,000 in arrears and left a $5000 clean-up bill. We were glad to see her go, but now that our elegant brick house in Flint is once again in pristine condition, it is a shame to have it empty. That beautiful mansion wants to be loved. If you know anyone who wants to rent or purchase one of the most appealing houses in the historic College and Cultural Neighborhood of Flint, have them check this listing or contact Suzi Davidek!

With thunderclouds of catastrophe looming on every horizon, it has been a great joy to be part of the solution to the water crisis of one small temple and to experience the generosity of good people around the world. About two months ago, we sent out an appeal for Bodhirukarama Vihara in Kurunegala. That's the temple where Venerable Amilasiri is caring for a number of elderly monks. Donations immediately began pouring in, and within the one-month time limit, we had received the $12,000 needed to purchase the land and to secure the water supply for the monastery. We were deeply touched by the words of encouragement that many of you sent. Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!! Well done!

On Sunday, October 30, we will offer dana at the monastery and hand over the deed in a joyous ceremony acknowledging the gifts and announcing the names of the donors from Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UK, and the USA. We would like to invite all of you to join on this auspicious occasion.

We chose September 13 as Visa Day, got all our papers in order, and hired a van and driver. We assumed that it would be a simple affair, since it has been quite easy for the last couple of years. We left very early in the morning and picked up Venerable Rahula, the Bangladeshi monk who had already helped us with essential paperwork in Kandy. We expected to drop the forms at the Immigration office, serve the monk lunch, stop at the new Buddhist Cultural Centre in the heart of Colombo to deliver copies of Buddhist Knowledge Quest and "Strive On With Diligence," and return to get our passports and visas in the afternoon. Then we wanted to visit our landlady, Savithri, and her husband, Manel, in Colombo before returning home. To this end, Charles and his wife, Manel, (Savithri's sister) joined us. Mr. Manel has been sick, and we had not seen him for a long time. This would be a good time to pay an upbeat social call.

Getting to Immigration was easy. We went into the office of the Deputy Controller, who approved our documents immediately. He was not even interested in meeting Venerable Rahula who took the time to chat with some other monks from Bangladesh. When we submitted the papers at the counter, however, the clerk told us to return on Friday for the visas. We explained that we had always gotten the visas in one day, but she was adamant. It would take three working days. Obviously, Friday was impossible because that was Visakha's birthday dana. We made sure that there would be no problem if we waited until Tuesday to pick them up (We have a class at Vajirarama on Monday.), and she assured us that that would be OK. A bit disgruntled, but resigned, we left for lunch.

Lal was waiting for us at the food court of Crescat Boulevard, where we could get good Indian vegetarian food from Shanmugas. From there, Lal tried to direct the driver to the Buddhist Cultural Centre nearby, but the man refused to follow directions, even in Sinhala, and we ended up taking a long cut. We did not get upset, however, for we knew that we did not have to return in the afternoon to Immigration. There was another very long cut getting to Savithri's house. The driver ignored the landmarks, and we could not find the street names we were looking for, but, after several phone calls (How did we ever get around before cell phones?), we found the house, and Savithri was standing at the door waving.

It was wonderful to see both of them. Manel was extremely pleased to have visitors. We talked for a couple of hours, and he showed us the scale model of the bank he is designing. One of subjects we broached was a pilgrimage. A few weeks before, after our evening meditation at home, Charles had announced that he wanted to visit the holy sites in India and Nepal. He is over 80 and has been quietly saving money for the trip for some time. Rather than go with an unknown group, Charles was hoping to benefit from our experience, since we have gone on pilgrimage several times before. (2001, 2007) He wondered whether Manel and Savithri might accompany us. We discussed it with them, but concluded that that kind of extended travel might be too much for Manel's health.

The pilgrimage we want to make will be in February, when Indian weather is most agreeable. We will allow ourselves twenty-one days, so as not to be in a hurry. We will have a comfortable van, and, of course, Visakha will be using her wheelchair. Rajiv will arrange everything. Lily will be joining us, and Lal, who will be finished with his Masters by then, wants to go, too. So that Savithri and Manel can feel a part of the pilgrimage, we sent them a copy of Venerable S. Dhammika's excellent book, Middle Land, Middle Way, with its superb photos and text. Just thinking about going to these places where the Buddha taught is wholesome and inspiring.

As we were leaving, Charles instructed the driver to follow a direct route from Dehiwala to the Kandy Road, but the man again refused to listen and instead took us through Fort and the Pettah, the most congested areas of Colombo, at the very worst time of day. We crawled through the narrow streets, with the driver honking constantly at the pedestrians, who had much more right than we did to be there. Very annoying! We did not learn until the next day that, in addition to being a lousy driver, he had hit on both Lily and Savithri's housekeeper. Dirty old man! We will never hire him again.

Visakha's 68th birthday celebrations were happy. On the day itself, she took milk, sugar, dry tea and 68 yoghurts to the Kandy Cancer Home for the patients and their families. For the dana, it was a great joy to offer Ven. Dhammawasa and three Western monks some of the most delicious dishes ever served at our house. Wonderful to be able to celebrate and feast afterwards with good friends.

As for retrieving the passports with visas at Immigration, Ken kindly offered to spare Visakha the round trip by taking the train to Colombo alone. That seemed very reasonable--morning train down, pick up the visas, have a leisurely lunch at the Grand Oriental with Lal and Vivi, who has just received her PhD from Ulster, and afternoon train back. The best laid plans...! Ken turned in the receipt for the passports and was told to wait. When his number was called, he was told to go to the Controller's office. He did not have to wait very long, but the Controller showed Ken the blank space on the Sinhala application and informed him that it was necessary to get approval from the Department of Buddhist Affairs. Ken quietly replied that we had never had to do that before, and that we had been told that it was not necessary. "Who told you that?" asked the Controller. "It's their responsibility, and I've told them to take care of it." He was not interested in any objections, so Ken desisted and simply asked whether it was possible to get the necessary letter in one day. "Of course," the Controller replied. "I've called them and told them that you are from Kandy, and you can get it right away. Here's my card." He wrote the name of the office on a piece of paper, and Ken asked him to write it in Sinhala for the driver. (Fortunately, Sherli, the three-wheeler driver who had taken care of us at the Ambassador's reception was waiting outside.) The Controller explained that, after being given the Sinhala form, the office would write a letter, which Ken was to bring back to Immigration. "To you?" Ken asked. "Yes, to me," and Ken was off.

Sherli found the office with no problem. Traffic was not bad. Ken went up to the fourth floor and found a large room with several desks scattered unevenly around. One woman was sitting at a desk in the center at a computer, so Ken showed her the application and explained that he needed a letter. He was asked to sit down. Several monks and a Japanese hippie-type middle aged man were also waiting. A woman emerged from a glassed-in office near the entrance, explained to the Japanese that he would have to go back to Japan and get a proper entry visa, and he left. Two monks went into that office, and came out a few minutes later. All this time, the woman at the desk was typing, staring at her monitor, and scanning documents, all as though she were playing a mysterious computer game about which she had no clue. Ken asked her again about the letter. She looked at his application again with a dazed look and told him to sit down. At this point, Ken realized that the lunch date was out of the question, so he called Lal and canceled. Then he decided to take the bull by the horns and called the Controller. He explained that he was not making much progress. "You have to see Mr. A," the Controller answered. Ken asked another woman in the office for Mr. A and was directed to the glassed-in office. He knocked, stepped inside, and waited for one of the clerks to finish talking with Mr. A. After a few minutes, Mr. A called Ken over to his desk, took the application, asked a few perfunctory questions, signed the form, and gave it back. Ken took it again to the woman at the desk, and within twenty minutes he was able to leave with the required letter.

Back at Immigration, he stepped inside the Controller's office and waited quietly on the sofa while the Controller talked with other applicants. After a few minutes, he looked up, saw Ken, waved him to the desk, and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't see you." He quickly scanned the letter, signed it, and gave Ken's application folder to an assistant who disappeared in the office behind the glassed-in cubicles. After waiting for about a half-hour, Ken took his passport receipt up to the original counter, but was told that it had to be submitted before noon. (It was about ten minutes after.) Ken tried to explain that he had submitted it earlier, but that he had..., but he realized that explaining was useless. A few minutes later, the woman who had taken the application folder emerged, gave Ken a form and told him to pay the cashier, which he did. Twenty more minutes later, he had our passports duly stamped with the visa extension. Finished!

It is a fact of life here that there are no rules for any system like this. The requirements for a process are what the person you are dealing with wants. It was pointless to explain that, just three weeks before, a friend making exactly the same application had been told that approval by the Department of Buddhist Affairs was necessary only for members of the Sangha. When we applied for our first extension, we had gone to the Department office and had ourselves been told that no letter was necessary. Next year, we will make sure we have it before we go to Immigration, but we wonder what other form some official will require. Better not to think about it!

Ken had a lonesome lunch at GOH and walked to Fort Station. The train was waiting, but he could not find a seat number in Car B corresponding to his ticket. He asked several station attendants, but they only pointed to Car B. Finally, one young man explained that, because of the recent accident (Three trains had collided the week before at Alawwa Station in a deadly accident.), old cars had to be pressed into service, and seats were irregularly numbered. Passengers could sit in any empty seat. The car was quite warm, so he sat behind an open window. Unfortunately, the seat was cramped, and he fell asleep for a few minutes in an awkward position. When he awoke, he felt a familiar pain in his right leg. It was the same pain he had experienced three years ago in his left leg. By the time he got home, he knew for sure that he had twisted his back and stirred up the problem he had had in India. This time it was bearable (In 2008, it had not been!), and we were leaving for Thailand on Thursday, so he began wearing his back-brace, grinned, and bore it.

We were leaving for the airport at midnight between Wednesday and Thursday. At 8:20 PM Wednesday, just before packing the computers, we finished! What did we finish? The last of the Jataka E-books! Now all three volumes are formatted and for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and iBookstore. It had taken three months, but we did it! We have, in the process, learned a lot about html and Epublishing. It has been very satisfying!

As for the Jatakas, the BPS print edition (1500 copies) is virtually sold out. BPS has no more. We have a few, and will continue taking orders until they are gone. (Hurry!) BPS has decided NOT to reprint. We are negotiating with another publisher, but we cannot be sure how long that will take.

The flight across the border was achieved without a hitch, but, when we arrived in Bangkok, we were dead tired. We checked into the Manohra Hotel and slept 16 hours straight. After breakfast, we taxied across the river for our two free nights at the luxurious Hilton Milennium, thanks to HiltonHonors points from our credit cards. We had told friends that we were arriving in Bangkok on the twenty-sixth, so that we could hide out at the Hilton, which is exactly what we did. We did not leave the hotel until Sunday afternoon. Our executive suite on the twenty-first floor had a view of the river and two wall-mounted 36-inch flat-screen TVs. The breakfast buffet in the main dining room was a ten-course extravaganza (including natto and sushi). Wi-fi and cappuccino were free all day in the Executive Lounge on the thirty-first floor. High tea, with specially-prepared vegetarian sandwiches was from 3-5, and Happy Hour, with non-alcoholic cocktails and specially-prepared vegetarian hors d'oeuvres, was from 6-8. We graciously permitted ourselves to be pampered with chocolates and beautiful orchids in the room. The pool was a bit of a disappointment, though. It is on the fourth floor in what is called "The Beach." The balcony is strewn with sand, and there are about sixty deck chairs sitting in shallow water. In the middle of this "beach" is a rectangular pool, about twelve feet wide, fifty feet long, and only three feet deep. Fortunately, most people prefer to lounge on the beach, for, if more than three try to swim at the same time, the pool is over-crowded. The water is clean enough, but there is a roof hanging over most of the pool, and it feels rather confined. Still, we enjoyed paddling back and forth, in spite of one end of the tiny pool being closed part of one day because some photographers were conducting a fashion shoot. Too bad for them; they had chosen a day when there was no sun! Ken also enjoyed the sauna, which was good for his back.

One of the most interesting, but little noticed, features of the hotel is in the spa/massage area, next to the exclusive bakery/coffee shop. In building the hotel, the architects preserved an ancient banyan tree. Its spreading branches have been trimmed and the area around the massive trunk enclosed. The ground has been covered with a wooden platform, so that guests can walk under the aerial roots. In the jungle, this might be the shade into which anyone who steps becomes captive of the resident yakkha. Here, however, the tree, with its lovely spirit house, was safe, and Visakha loved it.

The purpose of this trip to Bangkok was, ostensibly, to sell books. In July, as soon as we learned that we were eligible for a complimentary companion ticket for renewing our AmEx card and entitled to two free nights at the Hilton, we contacted Asiabooks and Orchid Press and asked whether they needed more copies of the Jatakas. Both immediately responded positively. The next day, we made reservations and posted sixty books to Assajita at his Himalaya Residence. He responded that Kinokuniya had also asked him for more copies. Rather than posting more, we decided to carry some in our luggage.

We took those seven copies we had carried to Orchid Press, but the posted boxes didn't arrive while we were in town. We are sure they will, and we have arranged with the bookstores and Assajita to see that they are delivered. Assajita will also take care of the money, so there is no problem. Everything should be so easy! Thus, we were essentially free for two weeks. It was a real vacation, something we seldom enjoy!

With all the flooding in Thailand, we were confined to Bangkok, but we hadn't wanted to travel anyway. David Holmes had just returned from a three-month stay in Nepal, much of it at Assajita's family's homestay, "Sanu's House," and with Venerables Dhammagupta and Mangala (neither of whom we have seen for about twenty years), so we were eager to hear all about it. David had gone to Ratchburi just before we arrived, but, due to a sprained back (sound familiar?) he was coming to Bangkok just as we were leaving the Hilton, so he opted to spend two days with us at the Manohra. Delightful!

We invited him to accompany us to Modern Optical, and he was also fitted for glasses, which, considering the hours he puts in on the computer, he sorely needed, but might not have gotten on his own. He hosted us at the British Club to two luncheons and fun swims in the Olympic-sized pool, which puts to shame the baby pool at the Manohra. We also went together to Himalaya Residence for dinner with our friend and (now retired) driver, Thong, his wife, daughter, and grandson. We had never met the family, but David had gone to Yasothorn with them just before the grandson was born. Assajita joined our party when he returned from the Matichon office, and it was a delightful evening.

Relaxing with David and discussing the Dhamma was an experience in growing old gracefully. David had known Venerable Nyanaponika and Bhikkhu Bodhi in Kandy long before us, so we thoroughly enjoyed hearing his reminiscences of those good old days. He is going to a new position in Ratchburi, and he is hoping that someday we might be able to offer an intensive English seminar for Thai and foreign monks in Thailand. Wouldn't that be something!

In addition to getting new specs, we spent some quality time with Julie and Moon. It was wonderful to see the photos from Julie's son's wedding (Julie had taken the red and gold sari we'd given her last year and turned it into the most beautiful mother-of-the groom dress we've ever seen! Stunning!) Some months earlier, we'd sent material we'd gotten in India, and nobody sews as well as the dressmakers at Julie's. Although they aren't doing much custom sewing anymore, instead doing a lot of wholesale outfits for Robinson and for export, they designed some really beautiful outfits for Visakha. Ken got himself one really handsome safari suit from Sindoo across the street. We're ready for the next reception at the Embassy in Colombo or for another book launch, should the occasion arise.

Cllck the image to see photos taken in Anniwatte.
Cllick the image to see photos taken in the Botanic Garden
Let's jump back now to August. On the tenth, Ross arrived from Arizona. We had spent considerable time planning how to show him the best Sri Lanka had to offer. We celebrated Ken's birthday by reserving the finest seats in the house at the Queen's, the oldest hotel in the country, for the Esala Perahara, Sri Lanka's biggest festival. That happened to fall on the highlight of the ten-day pageant, the next-to-the last night. We had front seats on the balcony overlooking the entrance to the Temple of the Tooth. The procession lasts about three hours and includes whip crackers, jugglers, acrobats, dancers, drummers, and more than one hundred caparisoned elephants. Each of the Hindu Devales is represented by its own colors and has its own dance troop. We'd seen the Perahara five years ago, when the war was still on and terrorism was on everybody's mind. At that time, we'd sat on street level. This time, we looked down on the elephants, and it was a completely different show. From that vantage point, we could see the superb choreography of the performances, as well as the brilliant, colorful displays. It was a feast for the eye and ear, after we'd enjoyed a scrumptious international buffet in the dining room on the first floor, Ross's treat.

Ross had said that he was interested in ruins, so we were sure he would like the Cultural Triangle. In addition to Aukana, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruva, Sigiriya, Dambulla, we wanted to include Thanthirimale, a place we had never been. It has been featured in the newspapers recently and seemed easy to visit. In Anuradhapura, however, we looked at the map and realized that it was out of the question. That gave us an extra day. Between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruva, we stopped for tea in Habarana, and our driver suggested that we return there and spend an afternoon in Minneriya on an elephant safari. We considered the logistics and realized that it was the perfect way to spend Ross' birthday. We were able to see everything in Polonnaruva in one morning, have a late lunch, and return to Habarana for a pre-birthday cake and tea. The next morning, it was an easy run to Sigiriya for a leisurely climb to the top: then back to Habarana for a buffet lunch. That afternoon we drove to the ranger's office, bought tickets, and arranged a jeep for the safari.

Our tracker was amazing. As he was driving, he identified various trees and showed us a weaver bird's nest that we would have missed. Once, he suddenly stopped the vehicle and shouted "Snake!" Right beside the jeep was a gorgeous emerald-green snake, no more than a centimeter in diameter and forty-five centimeters long. We couldn't imagine how he had spotted it. He also pointed out a beautiful but shy fox, a giant squirrel, and a dignified (lesser) adjutant stork (the largest bird in Sri Lanka and endangered) wading in the tank. The highlight of the safari, however, was the herds of elephants. All together, there must have been more than three hundred animals. Seeing these magnificent beasts in completely natural settings was wonderful. We quietly watched some females taking care of babies who played with each other, but stayed close to mother and aunts. We hadn't known that elephant infants, like human babies, have to be taught everything they need to know to survive; unlike other animals, they have no instincts, just lots of curiosity and potential. Other elephants wandered in and out of the forest. All of them were grazing peacefully with their trunks swinging back and forth, pulling grass and feeding. At one point, our jeep got too close to a testy male, and he charged us, trumpeting loudly. Fortunately, our driver was able to drive away quickly, and, after a short pursuit, the elephant was satisfied. We don't like to think what would have happened had the driver's reflexes been slower or had the engine stalled. All the tanks in the park were much reduced in area because of the drought, but, just before we left, we stopped to watch one good sized herd of elephants lolling and sporting in and near the water. Delightful!

Our second trip with Ross was to the south. We left Kandy early in the morning and drove to Ambalangoda, where we had lunch with the DeSilvas, the SERVAS hosts we had stayed with in 1979. It was a lovely afternoon. We had tried many times to visit them during the last few years, but, with our teaching schedule and the Jatakas, we had not been able to get there. This was the perfect occasion.

Ross wanted to visit Galle to see the historic Fort he had read so much about. After ensconcing Visakha in the balcony corner of a stately restaurant overlooking the ocean, where she could read and drink tea, Ross and Ken set out to ramble. For several hours, they wandered along cobbled streets, walked on the ramparts, visited the old Dutch church, the lighthouse, and several other historical buildings, and had a great time. The most interesting place was, without a doubt, the Maritime Museum set up by UNESCO. For each exhibit, there was a very informative explanation posted on the wall. As you stroll through the spacious rooms, you gain a brief, but satisfying, summary of Sri Lankan history and development, particularly relating to its encounter with the rest of the world through its ports. For Ken, the most important piece in the museum was a wooden image of the Buddha which was found somewhere in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. It is Thai-style and in perfect condition. There is no explanation of where it was found, and no one knows where it came from, but it is beautiful.

Our driver for the Cultural Triangle was Jagath, who had been the steward for Venerable Sumedha for many years, having taken over the position from his grandfather. In addition to being a registered guide and travel agent, Jagath is a remarkably patient and cautious driver. A couple of years ago, our old friend, Hoon, was organizing a tour of Sri Lanka for a group of forty Malaysian Buddhists. She had contacted a travel agent in Colombo, but was very dissatisfied. We suggested she contact Jagath. She and her friends had a list of meditation centers, and they wanted to travel around the island visiting these places and meeting the respected teachers. Along the way, they would include a few Buddhist "tourist" sites, and they wanted to offer dana wherever they could. Jagath arranged comfortable buses for them and accompanied the group in his van to make sure that everything went smoothly and to handle emergencies. The tour was so successful that Hoon has returned several times, always relying on Jagath to make everything work.

As we traveled around the Cultural Triangle, even showing Jagath several sites that he had never visited, we discussed the possibility of combining our resources and providing a valuable service for serious Buddhist travelers. Sri Lanka is a perfect place for a Buddhist tour--combining visits to sacred sites; meditation; offerings of dana to monasteries and other charitable institutions, such as schools for the handicapped, cancer homes, and centers for the elderly; nature safaris; and several thousand years of history. Unfortunately, most travel agents emphasize handicraft and gem shops which give them kickbacks on purchases. There is also, as Hoon discovered, a lot of padding and outright cheating in figuring a bill.

We are not ourselves travel agents, but we have a lot of experience traveling. As Donald O'Connor said to Talullah Bankhead (or was it the other way around?), "I've been around the world, you know!"* In a serious vein, we know a scrupulously honest travel agent in Sri Lanka (Jagath), two in India (Rajiv and Bappa), and one for Thailand and Nepal (Assajita). We, perhaps as "Student of the Lotus Tours," would like to help arrange, for any of our friends or for any friends of our friends, serious and wholesome tours around any of those four countries.

What we suggest is that a potential tourist send us information on the kinds of places he or she (or a group) would like to visit, the kind of activities expected, the quality of accommodation required, approximate dates and length of travel, and any other pertinent information. We will confer with the respective agents and try to put together a tour to fit those needs. We are sure that the agents we work with can arrange an interesting and satisfying tour more reasonably than anyone else. All of them are intent on combining Dhamma with tourism, a concept perhaps unique in the travel business. (By the time we begin our pilgrimage next year, we hope to have ready the prototype of A Pilgrim's Companion, our collection of selected readings from the Buddhist texts corresponding to each site on a pilgrimage of the Holy Sites in India and Nepal.)

On the subject of a pilgrimage, in our class at Subodharama, where we are using Merit, our Buddhist ESL textbook, based on a pilgrimage, we had a marvelous experience--the thing that every ESL teacher dreams of, but which we had not experienced in our combined ninety years plus of teaching. In one of the dialogs, we had one of our pilgrims meet a young man who described himself as a "secular Buddhist" and who referred to Stephen Batchelor's book, Buddhism Without Beliefs. Then we asked the students--Korean, Chinese, Burmese, and Bhutanese monks and nuns--to list the core beliefs of Buddhism. Within a few minutes, they had come up with an impressive list, beginning, of course, with kamma, rebirth, and Nibbana. Then, class was over. Ross had just arrived in Sri Lanka, and we were going to be traveling for the next three weeks, so there would be no class. We asked the students to ponder the list during the "vacation" and to be ready, when we next met, to discuss some of these core beliefs, to explain how they are interpreted differently in the three traditions, and to indicate which they thought would not be accepted by secular Buddhists.

We knew that this group of students, all of whom are in post-graduate programs at university, was diligent and that they would have something ready, but we were not prepared for what they did. During the next three weeks, each two-hour class was spent in serious discussion. All students participated, and each group tried sincerely to present its own interpretation of the belief in question. The topics were introduced and debated entirely by the students. We served merely as moderators, helping individuals with grammatical forms and difficult words and sometimes rephrasing ideas to make them a little clearer for others.

What was amazing was that the students were listening intently and responding to each other. At times the discussion became quite heated and challenging, but it was always polite and good-humored. During our careers, students had often asked for "free conversation," but that usually ended up as expostulation by the teacher on some aspect of American (or British) culture or a superficial review of the cultural differences between teacher and students. This was much more like a university seminar where the clarification of ideas was of prime importance, and it was an exhilarating experience.

The other day, we received from Malaysia, six hundred copies of a remarkable book, A Buddhist Perspective on Pain, Stress and Illness, by Bhikkhu Sumedha (the same monk for whom Jagath was the steward). Venerable Anandajoti edited the manuscript which Venerable Sumedha left. It is a beautiful little book, which we hope to use in conjunction with an exhibition of Venenerable Sumedha's paintings to raise funds for a burns unit for Peradeniya Hospital, a project which Venerable Sumedha held in high regard.

As we wrap up this report for posting, we will simply add that Ken is receiving treatment for his back from a physiotherapist here in Kandy. It is essentially the same as he got in India, and the pain has greatly receded.

One other note for birdwatchers: We often swim in the pool in the garden at the Queen's Hotel. Several times, we have seen a beautiful blue kingfisher flitting over the pool and dipping into the water. It is difficult to see clearly because we don't swim with our glasses. Yesterday, he surprised Visakha with a playful dive-bombing attack. Then, after we got out to dry off, he perched directly over our heads and preened for several minutes. Then, just to show off, he dived into the water, splashed about for three seconds, and returned to his branch. How nice to be home!

On October 12, we received word that Ken's brother, Jim, died in West Virginia. He is the second of the eleven children of Maggie and Happy Kawasaki to pass away. He had been suffering from cancer and was living with his son, Jimmy. We had not seen Jim since Mom's memorial service in 1980. We will share merit with him as we make our offerings on October 30.


*This was one of the favorite Broadway stories of our dear friend Alex Burdett. Both Donald and Talullah were drunk when the line was said, and it was followed by silence. The prompter whispered, "How was it the world?" but the two actors just sat there. The prompter repeated, a bit louder, "How was it the world?" Silence continued. The prompter almost shouted, "How was it the world?" Talullah stood up, walked to the footlights, looked down at the prompter and said, "We know the line, Darling, but which one of us says it?"

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