Sunday, September 16, 2012

Help Wanted

Tonight is the time for our regularly scheduled Q&A session on YouTube. Not happening. No particular reason comes to mind, but that the impetus to broadcast has disappeared from the mind.

Some interesting thoughts; first, about deciding on a place to live... is Sri Lanka the right place? Really like it here, no question about that, but not so sure it will be the right place to continue. It all has to do with other people, really; if it were just me, there would be no need to even think about moving. But in order to accommodate others, I need to be stable myself; here, as in Thailand, there seems to be no budging on the don't-let-the-foreign-monk-run-the-monastery issue. Maybe that's not even the problem; to really do this sort of work, I'm thinking a native passport would be necessary. There are many problems that can't be tackled by a visitor - I can't sign for people's visas, for one, and I can't get beyond the slightest bit out of line without fear that someone is going to decline to help extend my visa (think ordaining women, e.g.).

Another thought is about spreading the dhamma; asking myself what it would take to dispel the apathy that has taken over in that regard. Maybe it will pass, but it's not even so interesting to write blog posts anymore...

Makes me think I need help :) no, not so much mental as physical.

The first step in starting a Buddhist community is of course locating a place. I have the great fortune to have two monasteries at my disposal, one in Thailand and one in Sri Lanka. I have the great misfortune of being neither Thai or Sri Lankan. In non-Buddhist countries this wouldn't really be a problem, but in Buddhist countries it makes me ineligible to run a monastery, provide visas for students, etc.

Wondering if there is anyone out there in say Ontario, Canada who would like to help set up a monastery on my home turf... wondering if there's anyone out there in any non-Buddhist country with those sort of intentions. Sad in a funny kind of way how impossible it is to do Buddhist work in Buddhist countries. Not fully formed are these ideas. I've always thought about moving to a non-Buddhist country; we almost started a place in California after all... but now with the online community, I wonder if we could actually pull it off without relying on cultural Buddhists to support and control it?

Which brings me to another thought, that physical help has to be physical. Our online community is great, a real encouragement that there are good people out there interested in the same things I am. But it's missing the physical. That's what the online hangouts were supposed to add, but they didn't really, not from my point-of-view. See, I still remember Doi Suthep, where we had ten to fifteen meditators from ten to fifteen different countries in intensive meditation practice every day. There is a real energy in such a setup.

What I think I need is a team. A group of people who are "here", where ever that winds up being. So, besides seeking out ideas on a place to build a community, I'm looking for a community.

See, what I've noticed is that applicants for ordination tend to think of ordaining as just constant meditation with a little bit of study. So, they try that for a bit and find it so overwhelming they disrobe (or change their minds before ordaining) and leave. So, I'm not looking for people who want to run away from the world by ordaining, I'm looking for people who want to live. I don't know how to better put it, but what I mean is people who are dedicated to meditation but as a means of understanding life... their life, not some hermit on a mountain's life. People with skills, brains, brawn, whatever, who want to learn how to use their talents mindfully, not run away from them and pretend to be a saint.

It would be really nice to have a camera person, silly enough as it sounds. Because videos are a great way to spread dhamma, as we've seen, but it's so silly having to set it all up to record yourself. We could use people who have knowledge about construction and computers, budgeting and scheduling; heck, whatever you are, the point is to take you as you are and put your life to good use. Maybe you think your life is being put to good use already; such people need not apply! For those of you who think, like I thought many years ago, that you are wasting your life, or not living up to your potential, come, make a career choice you won't regret!

You see? The idea is to find people who want to really live their lives as Buddhists, not run away and hide in a forest for a while before deciding it's just too extreme. I think the best way to approach ordaining is to take it as a means to learn about who you are, not to become someone else. It would be nice to find people who want to ordain with such an approach, but ordination is not really necessary, depending on where this all winds up happening... if it happens.

One thing that has become pointedly clear is that if you don't do something, there is no reason to think it will happen. More specifically, life isn't a Hollywood movie. There is no happily ever after waiting at the end - it might turn out like a Shakespearean tragedy... life often does. I can't say that Sirimangalo International is going to be a great organization, worthy of my teacher's namesake, but that seems no reason to be afraid to try.

So, come, let's try something new. The worst outcome will be death; but it's the only inevitability you'll have to face - non-profits don't pay taxes, after all.

I'm opening up two new forum threads to see who is interested, even just to offer thoughts, suggestions, etc. The first is on where to start:

The second is on who wants to help:

Join the conversation... if nothing comes of it, no worries :) life is good, all is well, I'm really happy living a life of relative indolence these days. Indolence doesn't seem so bad when no one is asking you to do anything :)

Peace to all.