Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Buddhist Way

Years ago, when I first started learning about Reiki, I also became mildly interested in Buddhism. I bought some books - read them, bought some CDs - listened to them but that was about it, I didn't really go any further. Perhaps it was the indecision of which "tradition" to follow or maybe just a lack of direction. Every now and then my interest would be raised but then....nothing further.
There is an annual Thai Food Festival near us which we would visit and there was always a Buddhist monk there to give blessings and receive donations I would always visit him, somehow drawn and fascinated by the philosophy involved.
There are several different "types" of Buddhism which broadly follow geographical locations. For example Mahayana Buddhism (which includes Zen) is practiced mainly in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, parts of Russia and most of Vietnam. Vajrayana school of Buddhism is found mainly in Tibet, Mongolia and Nepal (this includes Tibetan Buddhism whose leader is the 14th Dalai Lama) and finally the Theravada which is practiced today mainly in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. (This is a very brief, simplified overview of the different traditions).
Anyway, a little while ago, my husband mentioned that a friend of his had a Buddhist Monk staying with him and his wife (who was from Thailand). This sounded interesting, I thought and we duly visited this monk. He looked very out of place in a typical 3 bedroomed house on the border with Hampshire and Surrey but I found his presence fascinating and my interest was renewed. He spoke very little English - luckily an interpreter was on hand and we found out that he was trying to raise funds to help build a temple in Thailand and we asked various questions about Buddhism and about his life. After a short time we left a donation and after having the "string" tied around our wrist, we said goodbye. One other thing we found out was that there is a Monastery in Chithurst, West Sussex.
After a little research, I discovered that this Monastery (called Cittaviveka) was of the Theravada tradition. A lot more research and studying later I decided I would go for a visit. They are very keen that their "lay" community of followers gets involved in what goes on and one can come and go as one pleases - within reason. They are totally dependent on donations (money, requisites or services) which works in two ways. The monastery becomes capable of maintaining itself and therefore remains as a resource for people to visit and draw inspiration from - mutual support. The lay followers provide support for the body and the Monastery provides support for the mind and heart. One can meditate there, eat, listen to talks, work, borrow books, sit and read, join in the group meditation and chanting periods or just sit in the peacefulness and it really is peaceful - set deep in the West Sussex countryside the only external noise is birdsong.
So, my point is that I have now taken the plunge and I can say that I am now a follower of the Buddha and his teachings.