Cynicism sucks, really... I mean, if you're always expecting the worst, you can't ever really be happy, even when things turn out for the best. On the other hand, optimism doesn't really accomplish anything useful either, since the optimist has little or no reason to effect real change in their life and tends to ignore or sweep under the carpet their own failings and the problems in the world around them So, I'm trying to be a realist when I say that yesterday's meeting really put the ground back under my feet, and has the potential of ending a long losing streak in trying to simply find a place to live, teach, practice and study the Buddha's teaching.
Read: yesterday's meeting kicked ass (my English Monk translator is broken).
Lots of constructive dialogue, but the best part was realizing that these people are really slick... they had the whole presentation organized very well, they are very knowledgeable about all the various aspects of this project, and most importantly, they are very well connected with the upper echelon of Thai monastic and lay society. Sure, purists might sneer at the thought of relying on connections with high class officials but, hey, you've got to admit it does make little-guys-like-us's job all the easier.
The most remarkable thing about the three-hour-long board meeting is that apparently the first two-and-a-half hours before I came in were spent bickering and arguing about every subject that came up. When it came time to talk about the meditation center (the only part of the meeting I was allowed to witness) not one person raised an objection, whether it was in regards to making me the administrator of the center, building meditator housing, or even buying more land adjacent to the proposed center. It is amazing to me to find a group of Thai business people who actually agree that teaching Buddhism and meditation is what a monastery should be doing; though, I suppose it goes with what I've always found, that the biggest obstruction to spreading Buddhism is with the frocked, not the unfrocked (trying to avoid using the M-word).
And that's really what is special about Wat Thai of Los Angeles, why I've stayed on so long; this curiously twisted state of affairs where the monastic community is not in charge of things, something I would be among the first to denounce if it didn't, curiously enough, work directly in my favour. Hypocrite? Maybe. Or maybe you can call this kusala upaya - making lemonade outta them lemons.
I can't help but feel like finally I have the support to turn the work and training of the last ten years into something meaningful and productive. Sure, I don't doubt that the road ahead is still uphill, but it's now looking less like the little engine that could and more like a 49-ton diesel locomotive of damn right I can.
So, I don't want to say I'm optimistic, but looking at the tea leaves seems to leave no conclusion other than that I'll be spending a great deal of my future in Los Angeles. The whole game has changed in these past few days, I've anted up and you can count me in, at least for the next round. Of course, it goes without saying that it could fold like a house of cards in a minute; such is the nature of samsara. If it does, I'm pretty sure it won't be my fault; these past few days have given a confidence that was lacking before. Rather than wondering to myself whether I can somehow scrape together enough patience and perseverance to continue to fight against overwhelming opposition, I find myself looking at the hand I've been dealt and saying, "man, you know, I can work with this..." The game has changed, and you can count me in for this round.
Expect http://www.sirimangalo.org/ to go through some real changes in the near future; we've got a meditation center to promote.