Friday, October 10, 2008

Group Meditation in Dhamma Hall


Establishing Awareness Course as taught by S.N. Goenka

Battambang Vipassana Center

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato

Samma sambuddhassa

In Cambodia, there are over 3900 monasteries. Wherever there is a Buddhist temple, there is always a school. Theravada Buddhism significantly contributes to social, spiritual and educational development in the country. Since Buddhism is deeply rooted in the daily lives of all Cambodians, I decided to learn more about the practical teachings of Buddha by serving Satipatthana, establishing awareness Course at Vipassana Center of Cambodia in Battambang. The main prerequisite for the Satipatthana course is the completion of three ten-day Vipassana courses. The word Vipassana means seeing and experiencing things as they really are (no imagination). It is the process of self-purification by self-observation. This 10 days course from September 1st, 2008 through September 10th, 2008 introduced and exposed me to core Buddhism introspection of Pariyetti (theoretical knowledge), Patipatti (practicing Dhamma), and Pativedha (penetrating knowledge into the nature of Dhamma). I have gained valuable and practical knowledge to help myself so I help others. After all, the real core of teaching is learning more about myself and finding ways to give that to others. Below are the highlights of my memorable learning experience.

All eighty-five students and Dhamma workers committed themselves to staying for the full ten days, observing a rigorous timetable (from 4:30 AM through 9:30 PM with 11 hours of daily sitting meditation), maintaining complete silence among themselves for the first eight days. At the beginning of the course, they took the five precepts as given by Buddha to households: to refrain from killing, to refrain from stealing, to refrain from lying, to refrain from talking any intoxicants, and to refrain from sexual misconduct. They started with the practice of Anapana meditation, the observation of natural breath, as it is, coming and going, deep or shallow. They tried to maintain awareness of the reality of the sensation in this area of the body, below the nostrils above the upper lips, as it manifest from moment to moment. On day two, the copy of Sutta (discourse) was given. In this way, the theoretical knowledge (Pariyetti) and the actual practice (Patipatti) were most beneficially combined to gain penetrating knowledge of Dhamma (Pativedha). On the third day, when some piercing concentration has been gained through Anapana, they switched to the deeper level practice of Vipassana, the systematic of the entire mind-matter phenomenon through vedana (sensation). They worked on the insight which purifies their mind; specifically insight into the impermanent, suffering and the egoless nature of the mental and physical structure. On the last day, they practiced Metta, loving-kindness, by sharing merits and Dhamma they have gained with others.

Having discovered the ultimate truth (Abhidhamma) at the deepest level, Buddha teaches this natural law to help people understand reality to end their misery through Satipatthana. Sati means awareness, the witnessing of every reality pertaining to mind and matter within the framework of the body. Patthana means getting established in a proper way and only with proper understanding and wisdom. Establishing awareness through Satiphatthana can purify the mind from defilements so as to achieve lasting peace and happiness. In this course, I learned real understanding, clear and free from any doubt or skepticism, comes with my own experiences by practicing Vipassana. I directly experienced the three characteristics of all phenomenon: anicca (impermanence), dukka (suffering), and anatta (selflessness, no “I”) within myself. Manifesting in the mind and body, the experience of anicca, arising and passing away, plays a crucial role. Every moment, there must be awareness of sensation of arising and passing away. Reaction is full of negativity. What ever happens pleasant sensations (sukka vedana), unpleasant sensations (dukka vedana), pleasant mental feeling (somanassa vedana), unpleasant mental feeling and neither pleasant nor pleasant sensations (adukkahamasukha vedana), I observed the reality of sensations inside and remains equanimous based on the experience impermanence (anicca), then all the decisions and actions will be healthy-not reaction, but positive action, good for me and good for others. I learned this wonderful technique to free myself from suffering. As I practice, I understand more and more what Buddha meant. “Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by mere discussion” S.N. Goenka.

I am most grateful for my respectful father for introducing Vipassana, the authentic practice teaching of Buddha to Cambodia in the early 1993. I finally want to thank my Dhamma teacher Jugen Stowassser, and all the Dhamma students and workers for the wonderful experience. May all beings be liberated and be happy.

Personal Reflection of Cambodia

“If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you are not let one will pass by without sharing it in some ways” Buddha.

Life is calling. Cambodia is calling. Being back home makes me think in a different perspective. I feel as an outsider stepping into and insider stepping out of the same country I go back to. I look forward to contribute to the educational wealth of my beloved country through learning and teaching. I am at the generativity stage, the stage of my life where my primary goal is to help developing the younger generation lead useful lives for the benefit of human kind. I internally mobilize my strengths to do what I can to transpire hope and faith for the future. I want to make a lasting contribution to educate impartially all the children I encounter. I feel my work just began.

As any patriotic Cambodian, I am proud of my heritage and tradition. After many wars from the Angkor era, the Thai, the Cham, the Vietnamese, the Japanese, the French, the US, the Khmer Rouge, and now under the current regime, our country and our people suffer enormously many set backs such as deep rooted mistrust, Khmer killing Khmer, grinding poverty, injustice, greed, corruption, lands grabbing, nepotism, culture of impunity, oppressions of thoughts and actions, fear, destruction of our natural resources, safety, security, education, lack of respect of the rules of laws, etc... The poverty is rampant over the world, but there is noting like being poor in Cambodia. It is very fashionable to talk about the poor so the top leaders can get more foreign aid. Unfortunately it is not fashionable to talk with the poor to find out the reality of their real sufferings. The environment most Cambodians are living now is hurting the next generation. We have lost many, many traditional values and cultures. Is it REAL? What can I/you do to help? How can I/you make a difference?

The reality is Cambodia is still a very poor country, plagued by uncertainties and a mess of contradictions. I don’t have all the answers to the complex problems. I am far from perfect, but as a teacher/educator I learn early that I can’t fix everything but can help most things. I know I cannot offer material goods or gifts to the children but I always can offer pieces of my love through teaching and learning. I cannot erase all the dark sides of the current government, but I can change the way I deal with it, I can rise above it and stay strong and TRUE to myself by applying the teachings of Buddha: “abstain from all unwholesome deeds or do not engage in any harmful actions; always perform only wholesome ones those that are good, subdue and purify your own mind”. By practicing Sila (morality) and following the five precepts (refrain from killing, stealing, telling lies, all intoxicants and immoral sexual activity) I can inspire others to think and act with integrity and vision for a sustainable and just society. I just want to bring hope to hopeless people knowing that sometimes the joy of doing good for my country may be the only reward I receive ~ but it's worth it! To me, it is better to suffer for doing good than doing evil. Once again, may all Khmer people see the truth of what really happened so we can still have a place to call home, sweet home for the next generation. I work to create real and lasting change in the lives of all children.

Cambodia and her people is torn apart in the hands of a regime practicing, dictatorship, silencing the oppositions, nepotism, extreme corruption, deforestation, and many unimaginable acts of destruction to the social fabric. Disparities exist across the country. Inequalities increase dramatically among the riches and the poor, the powerful and the vulnerable, the strong and the weak. I witness all of these disparities and inequalities myself on my daily life in Cambodia. Denying this real problem in Cambodia will only contribute more and more to the decline. It is only when we don't understand things deeply that we create problem, more problems for our next generation to solve. The majority of Cambodian people continue to suffer because of the short sight decision made by the current and ineffective, yet very powerful and too cohesive regime. Once again, Cambodia has been mismanaged by greed and extreme corruption. According to the latest annual survey Transparency International, the anti-corruption ranked Cambodia 166th of 180 countries. It has gotten worse from last year, the year before last, and so on. Yet the top government officials dismissed the findings as well as any well documented findings. The poor are poorer. The riches are richer by extracting the wealth from their own people and the natural resources that belong to all of us. The “Money-Is Everything” doctrine can be seen and felt in Cambodia. This inequality on wealth distribution creates a very unbalanced society. “What powerful people say will always be right, and what small people say will always be wrong" must be also changed. The corrupted and powerful leaders fail to see the consequences of their own actions. When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then Cambodia will know real peace and lasting prosperity.

I want to do something to help others, helping the new Khmer generation. "If your plan is for one year, plant rice; if your plan is for 10 years, plant trees; if your plan is for 100 years, educate children" Confucius. One of the most important answer is to educate our population, all children. When all Cambodians have good education, they can think and make good rational decision based on morality, national interest and patriotism instead of "self interest" and nepotism, then they will become more aware of the situation, begin asking questions, have debates, offer dialogues, seek answers, find common solutions and act conscientiously. In this context, education is not a matter of always seeing new things, education means seeing the same things in a new light. Education is liberation. It frees people from their pasts and inequalities, so they learn to live in the present and have hope for the future. It frees them from obstacles, oppressions and a lot of other things that can set them back. Once achieved, education can never be bought, bartered, sold, or even stolen. Quality education for all is the answer to breaking the cycle of poverty and destruction. Don’t fight darkness. Just bring the light in and darkness will disappear.

Looking at my home country with a fresh pair of eyes has elevated my commitment of long standing, a willingness to postpone gratification, but most of all an acceptance of possible failure. I can never be certain of a final outcome. I can only be sure of my tireless effort. Reconnecting with my roots has made me realize the importance not only of gratitude and appreciation for the hands I have dealt in life, but also of sharing, caring, and giving back. My metta (selfless love, loving kindness) for the Cambodian people is best expressed when I help the children live with hope and take control of their own lives. These are my feelings about Cambodia.