A Midsummer Miscellany, July 26, 2014


Click any of these images to view more photos of the visit.
On July 13, we went to Kurunegala for the ceremony to invite the monks to spend the rains retreat. Although we were declaring our intention to support the monks for the three months, Ven. Amilasiri assured us that the regular danas would continue to be offered and that we were not expected to provide everything. To illustrate the point, two other groups were providing lunch that day, but they graciously allowed us to add a large pot of Lily's savory egg curry to the dishes to be served.

Likewise, when we made our ritual offering to representative monks, we included the day's lunch donors. Some of the under robes we had taken were folded into cones and filled with betel leaves, areca nuts, and flowers. One by one, these were offered to the monks. We also offered trays of tea, milk, sugar, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, and soap. A table at the side was covered with bags of rice, potatoes, dahl, several kinds of vegetables, and a special pumpkin, which Lily assured us would last for a month.

Ven. Susila, a meditation teacher now well over eighty who speaks excellent English, explained the special merit that comes from providing this support to the monks for the rains retreat, during which they practice intensively. As we listened to his short sermon, we shared merit with those who have already sent donations. He concluded by pointing out how fortunate we have been in finding the Dhamma and expressing his confidence that we would never take the Triple Gem for granted.

It was a wonderful day, with the happy promise of others to come. To wit:

Wednesday, August 27, A Birthday Breakfast

On a day between Ken's and Visakha's birthdays and near Shehan's, Lily want to serve string hoppers and kirihode to all the monks and novices. We'll leave very early to get there in time. Fortunately, monks are not allowed to eat until it is bright enough to see the light through the cracks between their fingers when they hold a hand up to the sky.

Sunday, September 28, A Cleaning Party to celebrate the birthdays of Mike, Lily, and Anoma

We will go to the temple, probably by bus, carrying brooms, mops, sponges, brushes, cleaning supplies, paint, and tools for a day of general cleaning and beatifying.

All are invited to join. Wear old clothes and join in the fun.

In addition to scrubbing the washrooms and the halls of the new ward and cleaning everywhere, some of us will begin painting (called "color washing" here) the main buildings. Behind the refectory, there is a standing water tap. Lily is donating a proper basin to be installed that day. We also want to make sure that each light socket has a CFL bulb. Those with green thumbs can join in planting flowers and bushes around the temple.

Click the image to see all the paintings.
Recently, Lal gave us a set of twelve beautiful Sri Lankan temple paintings of scenes from the life of the Buddha (available from Buddhist Cultural Centre). We've had them framed and will take hang them in the elders' residence and main hall.

We will need to know by early September how many will be going so we will know what size bus to hire.

Saturday, October 18, and Sunday, October 19, The Formal Kathina Celebrations

Saturday evening, there will be a perahera (procession), with drums and dancers, parading the cloth for the robe through the village and to each of the nearby temples. (Ven. Amilasiri will arrange for an experienced monk to sew the robe within the allotted time.)

Sunday morning, we expect perhaps 150 monks to join the dana. In addition to the special Kathina robe, we hope to offer every monk a new robe. This will be the largest dana we have ever organized.

Ven. Amilasiri has assured us that he can find suitable accommodations for any number who want to participate. We will take a bus from Kandy on Saturday afternoon and return on Sunday afternoon. Please let us know by October 1 if you wish to join.

Even if you are not able to take part personally in any of these events, donations are welcome, and merit will be shared with you without fail.



Nezumi is a brave kitty, a hero!

She has started spending a lot of time sitting on our laps because, as long as she sits quietly, we can remove her hood and, holding one hand over her still open wound, allow her to groom everywhere else on her body. She really enjoys that and actually begs for it. Ken often holds her while he is at the computer. Of course, he can't work very efficiently that way because he has only one hand for typing. The other night, however, he was using SKYPE, so there was no problem. He was talking with a woman from American Express about a credit card. Suddenly, Nezumi leapt down.

"Grab her!" Visakha cried. "Don't let her run around without her hood!"

"Just a minute," Ken said to the AmEx woman. "We have a cat problem!"

"Okay," she calmly replied.

Ken tried to catch Nezumi, but she darted under his computer stand and into the corner. Ken bent down under the stand and reached for Nezumi but suddenly froze. About six inches from Nezumi's nose and only about a nine inches from where he often stretches his feet, he saw something slender. "There's a snake!" he shouted.

"Catch Nezumi! Call Lily!" Visakha cried.

"Sorry!" Ken said to the computer. "We have a snake in the room! I'll call you back."

"Oh, my goodness! Of course" the woman gasped and hung up.

"Catch Nezumi! Call Lily!" Visakha repeated.

Ken tried to grab Nezumi, but she wanted that snake. He managed to pick her up, but she was frantically clawing to get down. Spitting and hissing, she was bundled out of the room.

With his eye on the little snake, only about six inches long, Ken grabbed the clear plastic CD spindle cover we use for spiders and insects and placed it carefully over the serpent. Then he slid a clipboard underneath and lifted the snake up to take a look. We don't know what kind of snake it was, but the head seemed triangular, if that means anything. It didn't seem upset and just coiled up. We gave it to Lily, who gave it, the next morning, to Ashoka, who took it to an uninhabited area, put it into a rivulet and reported that it swam merrily away, head up and alert, tongue tasting the air, in the direction of the Mahaweli River.

It was, indeed, a close shave, and Nezumi saved the day! It was, admittedly, a small snake, but Buddha taught that even baby cobras are not to be dismissed lightly.

Nezumi's stitches are out, but she's really tired of swearing the hood. The hole in her side is shrinking, steadily, if almost imperceptibly. Until it's fully healed, she's has to stay inside.

Last week, Lily's knee suddenly grew more painful, and she went to the doctor for a treatment. Afterwards, the doctor ordered her to stay off her feet for a week, so she moved into the guest room. There was no way she could negotiate the one hundred steps to her house. She and Nezumi were very happy to spend more time together. Actually, this week, Nezumi has learned a lot from Sri Lankan TV!

FLASH! As of today, July 26, Lily is back on her feet and working! No more pain! Hooray!

In less than a week we will be leaving for Japan, for a very short visit, with Ken's sister Nancy, whose messages are growing more excited as she counts down to their flight from the States.

We've already started packing lots of gifts and making a list of the things we want to bring back. We're also eagerly anticipating all the Japanese dishes we love so much--natto, tempura, shisomaki, and age-dashi-dofu, not to mention Japanese rice, which is good enough to eat by itself.

We haven't been in Kofu for more than 15 years, so we're expecting lots of changes. We've called and spoken to several cousins. Hiroshi Kawasaki (the only relative who attended our wedding in 1975) has written us a few emails, apologizing that his English has become rusty from long disuse--delightful letters bringing us up to date on how the family has grown and who's doing what. Another cousin, Kayoko, who visited Oregon as an exchage student, wrote to us on Facebook, telling us how eager she is to meet us. It's going to be a wonderful reunion.

We'll have two nights in Tokyo, and, happily, several old friends are planning to meet us there. Madoka is coming to the airport, and Hiroshi and Hiroko will travel up from Osaka.

Out of the blue we got news of a Burmese monk we'd known and supported on the Thai/Burma border. Sayadaw had a monastery on the Salween between Dawn Gwin and Manerplaw. For several years, he temporarily ordained many ABSDF students. We helped him in building a beautiful pagoda on a hilltop overlooking the river, and visited the site just before the liberated area was overrun by the junta's army in 1995. When that happened, Sayadaw quietly shifted to a monastery in Mon State. We had heard from him only once after that.


Recently, an old ABSDF friend visited him, and Sayadaw asked him to get in touch with us, saying, "They promised not to forget me. I want to see them very much." It seems his eyes were sparkling when he talked about us. We've thought of him often, but there was never a possibility of contacting him. What is even more amazing is that this ABSDF friend is now in Tokyo. He will be flying to Burma shortly after we arrive, so we will be able to meet him and to give him some gifts to take to Sayadaw. Sayadaw wants to do renovate the monastery, and we are delighted to help.

We are working feverishly to finish the last of the 52 Buddhist crossword puzzles we hope to turn into a book. They're fun to make, but not at all easy to solve. They are, however, full of gems of wisdom and should pose a challenge to students and puzzle afficionados interested in Buddhism. (Those on the website are early versions.)

Work on Merit, our Buddhist ESL text, progresses nicely. The pilgrimage has reached Savatthi. Only Sarnath remains! One of the pilgrims in the book is Josh, a professor of religion, so we've explored the beliefs of nine different faiths in class. In Savatthi, one character mentions the old Jain temple, so the monks and nuns in our Subhodarama class had an interesting session comparing Jainism and Buddhism. Since Savatthi was also where Angulimala committed mass murder, we read his story. Their homework: consider how each of the other religions we've studied would judge Angulimala after his killing spree and conversion. We're looking forward to that class after we return from Japan!

Congratulations to Ven. Nirodha who recently had her higher ordination after ten years in Sri Lanka. We are so happy for her!

A spontaneous bloom from a water lily leaf in one of our ponds.

Announcements

Books available at Amazon from Casey Riverpoint (That's us!)
Beyond the Blue Gate, Recollections of a Political Prisoner, by Teo Soh Lung A young Singaporean lawyer we had met in 1979 was arrested in 1987 and held in solitary confinement for 22 months. This memoir is an important document relating how power can be abused and strength of character can survive.
Playing Pillow Politics at MGK, by Lal Medawattegedara The first novel by our dear friend and one of our volunteer teachers and winner of the 2012 Gratien Prize. This delightful fantasy offers an engrossing description of the various characters one might meet in Sri Lankan society. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to know about this island we now call home.
Of course, books purchased from Amazon can be received quickly since they are shipped from the United States.
Jataka Tales of the Buddha: An Anthology and A Pilgrim's Companion are also available from Casey Riverpoint.
Reviews of any of these books are more than welcome!


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