The teaching we receive go beyond words, so it is difficult to give a written account how it was. The proceedings however are no secret. After raising at 4:45am we had the first offering of light and flowers session at 5:15am. Greeting the day with Pali chanting was a refreshing alternative to my daily hectic routing.
" Namo Tassa Bhageavatao Arahanto
It is Buddhist practise to bow towards the Budhha, his teachings and the monks and nuns. Being a rather proud European (all man is created equal) it was my first lesson in humbleness. The Venerable Mahinda explained in the evening briefing, that it is up to us, if we want to follow that custom. I was the only non-Asian in the group, so if felt it's better "if in Rome, do like the Romans do". What a wonderful lesson learned for me.
After the morning chanting and a traditional Chinese vegetarian porridge breakfast, Sister Sumitra explained about the nature of Metta (Loving kindness) and how the meditation on loving kindness needs to be conducted. She surprised me with a lively and up-to-date way to explain things. On the various layers of meditation she said: "Look it is like a zip file: you look from outside, it is very small. But then you look inside and realize how big it is". I wish all Office workers would have that level of IT literacy.
Sister Sumitra introduced the Natural State of Mind. In the Natural State of Mind, the mind rests within. is sharp and aware of every phenomenon arising. It is not projected to the outside nor does it generate any thoughts. (Do try this at home, it is a real tough call!). In this Natural State of mine one can connect to the spiritual heart and feel the tender soft and deep compassion, that is the very fabric humans are made of. There is no philosophy you have to subscribe to, no rites to perform, no vows to take, no initiation to go through. Calm the mind and you will feel the compassion.
The Buddhist call this compassion Metta (in Pali = loving kindness). Cultivating this loving kindness enables one to radiate it our to oneself, all the beings in the surroundings and the whole world. Seems the principle of loving yourself and your neighbour is quite universal.
To cultivate one's mind sitting and walking meditation are one way to get going. We had sufficient time until the evening to practise. When you sit on your cushion or meditation chair you also can practise tolerance against pain. When you can overcome this pain your meditation will become deeper. I realized, that with some kind of light-hearted humour I was reminded of the Buddhist believe: "All live is suffering".