Thursday, April 4, 2013

Daily Life at Bodhinyana (Fixed)

The earlier post didn't have images. This one should be fixed. This first post will describe a visit I made to Bodhinyana monastery during the months of January and February.

Bodhinyana monastery is located about an hour from Perth in Western Australia in a small town called Serpentine. The bush (their term for the forest) and climate reminded me a lot of the forests in southern California. The temperatures got as high as 110 (fahrenheit) some days, and some of the evenings got as a cool 55 degrees. There were even some days with rain.

Morning by one of the reservoirs

The monastery is fairly simple. There is a main hall for group meetings and dharma talks. There is a kitchen, dining hall and outside eating area for the meals. The rest of the buildings on the property are bathrooms or brick huts/house to give homes the monks or guests. The monks brick huts were scattered about into the monastery property, some as close as 5 minutes walking distance and others as far as 20-25. The paths were almost all concrete, a nice addition due to the plentiful donations the monastery has received over the years.

Walking monk

This was done in large part to help contain bush fires which can be quite common, especially during the summer. There was one that I saw nearby during my stay. It should be noted that bush fires can be quite dangerous as they can spread quite quickly over large areas.

Reminds of Los Angeles

I stayed in a simple, three-person guest house not too far away from the kitchen and main hall. An ablution block was about 5 minutes away which had showers, toilets and washing machines for clothes.

My home for 2 months

The days at Bodhinyana were broken up into the work week, Tuesday-Friday, and the weekend, Saturday-Monday. During the work week, I would usually get up around 4-6am and do some meditation before breakfast (optional) which was at 6:30am. After breakfast there would be cleanup and then we would attend the work meeting at 7:15am. The work meetings were really short, maybe 10 minutes tops, where we would get assigned work for the day.

The work would last until about 9:30am where we would then head down to the kitchen for meal preparation. Because each day varied quite a bit in terms of the number of people who would bring food (weekends were typically heavy, where certain week days were really light), there would be different amount that was prepared each day. On most days there were at least a few dishes prepared in the kitchen, but most of the meal was brought in from the visitors.

Working in the kitchen
Organizing the offering tables

When the meal preparation was finished, usually around 10:30am, somebody would bring a tray of drinks upstairs to the monks which would signify that the meal was ready to be offered. The monks would come down and the visitors would do a ceremonial rice offering (pindabat) with the monks.

Pindabat

After that, the monks would go inside and help them selves to the offered food, buffet-style. Guests and other people working at the monastery or nearby properties (8-precept holders) would also get a plate of food after the monks. Everybody would head upstairs to the dining hall during this time. Late arriving guests (sometime intentionally so it seems) would offer their plate(s) of food here to the monks. Additional long-term offerings, if they were available, would also be offered, for example, things like toilet paper, cheese, cleaning liquid, bananas, etc. The senior monk would often be giving a short talk while all this going on.

After all the offerings were done, the monks would chant a blessing. I would often use this time to think about the work that had been done or other good things done during the day to help remind myself of the positive qualities within. One beautiful aspect about Buddhism is the encouragement to reflect on one's positive deeds and qualities, as much as possible.

The joy of making toasties

After the blessing, people would head downstairs to help themselves to a plate of food. Most of the monks usually ate silently upstairs in the dining hall, others would take the food back to their huts in the bush to eat in solitude. The guests and visitors would eat all around the monastery property, often in the outdoor courtyard.

Before the meal

After the meal there would be the meal cleanup which would usually last until about 1pm. I was typically exhausted by this time so I would often make myself a drink and hang outside the dining hall while I rested. Sometimes I would chat with the visitors or the other monastery guests, other times I would just relax in silence.

Exhausted by the heat

After the meal time the rest of the day was free. Outside of doing personal chores (bathing, washing clothes, sleep, etc.) I would usually spend most of this time meditating. There were also a couple classes that I was taking part in, one to learn the old language of the teachings (Pali), and the other to learn about the contextual history of origins of Buddhism (the Upanishads and Jainism were covered during my time there). There was also an optional tea time at 6pm that I would usually take part in. I would usually get to sleep at around 9:30-10:30pm.

Probably the morning but imagine it's the evening

In the next post, I'll talk a little more about some of the work I did there as well as the wildlife and anything else that comes to mind.