Friday, November 16, 2012

A Day at Wat Metta

I'm taking a slight detour from writing about my experiences at Abhayagiri last month to write about my visit to the Wat Metta monestary last night.

I woke up around 4am and headed out a little before 5am. Wat Metta is out by Pauma Valley which is sort of in-between Los Angeles and San Diego. It took about 2 and half hours to arrive (with no traffic). Towards the end of the drive involved a lot of turns and winds. I passed by a couple monks who were doing alms-rounds in the neighborhood which was impressive because they had to walk quite a long distance to do so!

Eventually I got on the Wat Metta property after having saw the welcome sign which was a welcome relief not being sure if I had made the right turns. After parking I found a few of the lay residents working in the kitchen. The night I had before I had made a platter of Inarizushi as offering for the daily meal and so I placed that on the serving cart. I then joined the rest of the lay people and helped finish the morning meal.

At around 8:40am, the monks came down the road for a traditional rice offering. The first minute or so of the following video gives an idea of what this rice offering is like...


After the rice offering, the monks left for the main hall (Sala) and the lay residents and a few other young people who were there for the daily offering followed along with the rest of the food on a big cart, which I helped push.

After arriving at the top of the hill, people took different responsibilities to unpacking the food, laying out the food, and bringing it into the main hall to offer the monks. After all the food and drink were offered, most of the people went into the hall for the chanting and blessing of the meal. After the blessing, we went back down the hill with the cart and the remaining food and had our meal at the lay kitchen/dining area. Like at Abhayagiri, there was a lot of food to choose from as there were many dishes prepared as well as many other dishes brought in from people coming in for the daily meal.

After the meal, we did kitchen cleanup. I think more than food, washing a lot of dishes with others is one of the experiences that is so similar in almost any family and communal living situation. Hot water, dirty water, drying, putting away. Lots of random conversations, questions about where things go, things occasionally breaking.

After the kitche cleanup, one of the residents (Saulo?) gave me a brief tour of the local area. Wat Metta is basically located on a number of Avocado groves. Both the lay residents as well as the monks live on platforms/tents or more permanents huts underneath or besides avocado trees. I took the following pictures while I was there to give you an idea of what it looked like...

The typical vegetation in the area

A tent for a lay resident
Avocados - not quite ripe yet!
A meditation platform in a grove of avocado trees
I spent most of the afternoon doing meditation practice, both sitting and walking meditation. Later, at around 4pm, I went with other lay residents to gather at the main hall to speak with the Abbot, Ajahn Geoff.

A picture of Ajahn Geoff giving a talk at a different event
We all got a chance to ask questions about practice. I asked him about worldly winds, and in particular, how I would often get blown around by the praise and blame winds, and if I had any suggestions. He replied that this is common and that practice is about training our minds to understand that this is going to happen and respond appropriately when it does. For example, if we get criticized or blamed for something (which happens to everybody, even the Buddha!), we can look at it and see if it's true. If it is true, then we can thank the person for pointing out something we did not see. If it's not true, we can understand that this is just about the other person and it has nothing to do with me.

After the question and answer period, there a short work period where I helped out a monk with a fellow lay resident hall some gravel to smooth out a driveway. By the time the work period ended, it was getting dark so I went back to the kitchen to get some tea and chocolate, and then do some meditation practice for about before the final evening gathering at 7pm.

The final evening gathering was like Abhaygiri's puja, which consisted of chanting and meditation. Ajahn Geoff couldn't be there so a short recording of a talk he gave earlier was played for us to help us during meditation. We left the hall at 8:30pm and said goodbye to the friends I had made that day and left back from mom's place in Los Angeles, another 2 and half hour drive. Tired, sleepy, I went to bed at around 11:30pm.