Kauai Update #3
I have moved from the Botanical Gardens recently. I was able to stay there for 5 months and the majority of the time there was wonderful. However things were changing and it was time for me to look for another place and now I am staying in a new long term location in Kilauea.
It all happened after a wonderful person picked me up on the side of the road holding my signs the day my parents, brother and in-law dropped me off (I’ll get back to that family-visit part later). So this guy I knew from before picked me up in Kapaa and asked me where I wanted to go. I told him I lived in Princeville but could be dropped off at the bus stop at the town before his road. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “I asked you where you want to go, because I’m going to drive you there.” He then showed me his bracelet which said, “What would love do?” Then he said he was driving me.
Since he was a friend of mine, and we were at the botanical gardens, I gave him a tour of the Botanical Gardens which he really enjoyed. He is really nice and likes a “communal” environment and entertained the idea of a monk living on his property. Eventually, a topic came up about leaving the gardens and he suggested that I come live at his place. There was a discussion about working as a trade, which I cannot do, but I have supporters on the island who can do work for me. Eventually, we had a meeting with my chief Thai supporter and all was agreed that I could move in.
The only work he required was simple. After he mowed the lawn, he wanted someone to weed whack because he is old and can only drive the mower. If there was time, he wanted to try to reclaim some of the land that was lost to elephant grass. This was only required two or three times a month which was not a lot to ask for. After a few weeks of looking at what really needed to be done and seeing all of the green waste that needed to be moved, I suggested that we get a “skids” to maximize the volunteers’ time. A skids is a mini bulldozer similar to a Bobcat machine. As we say in the volunteer business, “Money is cheap and volunteers are scarce.” Well, renting a skids was not so cheap but it was affordable. Believe it or not, you can rent these at Home Depot. It could easily do the work of 50 or more men and that is why they invented them. About 6 Thai guys came plus a few ladies with their children who brought food. We made a whole work event at Buddhist offering day. Below are a video and a few pictures. The owner paid it forward to me by letting me stay and it was arranged to pay it forward to him. We just help each other and it all works out.
I have been going to pindapata on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Kilauea as I reported before in this post here and here too. That has been very fruitful and it has been growing. After about 6 months, I have grown some regular supporters within a few streets. I can get food but I usually need to supplement my meals with a few sources. In addition to the food, I seem to have plenty of people who give moral support. Sometimes when I am finished wishing loving-kindness in front of a house with someone who was there to actually see me do it, they say, “Thanks for the blessing.” You might ask, “Why don’t they see you?” In America, most people rarely look outside or know what is going on outside their houses. However, there are times when they are doing something outside or going to their cars and that is when they see me. You might also ask, “Why don’t they give food when they see you?” The problem is they don’t really know that I am collecting my meal and relying on them for my meal. They think that I am just blessing houses for that sole purpose. It is true I am blessing houses with individual wishes of loving-kindness, but I do that to keep my mind wholesome while I am collecting my food. For those who give, I often get fruit and health bars. Sometimes that is my meal, but they are quite good health bars.. My friend and helper, Friedemann has helped me out often on those two days. I would be withered without him. On the other hand, he has left the island for a month. The first day he was gone another person donated me in his place unknowing that I was without Friedemann. It all works out in the end.
Walking on alms is very rewarding. It is good for my practice as a monk, and it is good for the people too. Sometimes on rare occasions, I see people arguing in or near their homes. When one of them sees me, they feel shame and they come and talk with me to explain things and also to ask for advice. One time, a couple that regularly donates to me was having a small lover’s quarrel and the husband saw me and asked his wife (who did not notice me), “Hey can you get me a snack?” The wife said, “Get the snack yourself!”1 Immediately after she said that, the husband chuckled and then she looked to her left and saw me silently standing outside her house. She smiled and they both laughed because they are very much in love with each other and it was just a rare moment. A snack was brought outside to me and placed it inside my bowl. Then they grabbed their baby and stood together while I made a blessing.
I am also supported by a few of the local businesses too. For instance, one day a lady stopped her car and asked if she could offer a bar. I consented and then gave her a blessing with my usual translation below:
I get these four qualities from your food donation: Long life, a good physical appearance, happiness and energy. In the same way, you make your own blessings and also get these qualities back. So whatever you do good or bad, they will come back to you. Be careful and always have loving-kindness as your guide.
I feel so good after I give blessings along with the translations. I feel like I am doing real propagation and spreading a proper message universal to all people. After I gave the blessing to the lady who offered me a health bar, she told me that she was the owner of the North Shore Pharmacy and invited me to come to her store for food. I told her that I cannot take things myself, and she said she would tell the workers to help me (which she did). I have been going there usually once per week on average. Usually, they give a can of organic soup and an organic energy bar when I need to be supplemented for the day. These really help me sustain myself when I need it most. Recently, the usual worker who offers me the soup said, “I really appreciate you being here so we can do good deeds.” This is exactly the correct attitude because when one thinks like that, they are thinking of cause and effect and the kamma is accompanied with wisdom. Our rules of not touching money and not storing food makes us a prop for people to do good. When I first moved to the botanical gardens, food was being arranged for me on the grounds and I did not have to go out to get my meals. However, when the day for my alms routes rolled around, I broke that standard by going for alms in the village on the days I have mentioned before. After that, the “sure thing-and delivered” meals stopped. It has certainly made things more difficult, but it is very rewarding.
I have a few donors who like to offer Subway sandwiches to me and they order the subs online with a special note. “Please wait for the monk to come and ask for his sandwich.” The full-time employee knows me well and she saves the tickets for me. Sometimes I don’t pick them up for two or three weeks. It depends. If I don’t go there, that means things are going quite well for me.
On Thursdays, I go to Sukhothai Cafe. There has been an increase in Thai people who come to Sukhothai. Sometimes it is as many as 8 people. On Saturdays I still go to the Farmer’s market in Kilauea. That day is usually an easy day to get food now that 6 months have passed. The locals know me and my purpose. I interact with many people and more and more people learn about what I am doing. Since there are no houses in the farmers market, they understand I am looking for something. Often people try to offer me money, and then figure out that I am only looking for food. One man offered $100 but I refused. A lady tried to give me money and I refused that too. A week or so later, while on my village alms round, that same lady saw me standing in front of the Kilauea Bakery and offered me a banana muffin. It is a learning process.
On Fridays, I was once served two very big meals from the people who rented a house on the botanical gardens. Now I’m back to my old schedule which is either Hanalei Big Save or go to Lotus Garden (a Thai restaurant) to collect my food. The owner and manager of the Ching Young Village shopping complex where the Big Save Supermarket is have been very nice to me and buy me food if they see me. Even their maintenance workers buy me food. The nice thing about standing in front of a supermarket is that I can usually get a real complete meal, but not always. Lotus Garden is a Thai restaurant in Princeville. It is a sure thing any day of the week, but I usually only go there once a week or less. I try to spread the burden and I don’t want to wear people out.
All and all, it has been more than 7 months and I have never gone hungry. While monks in Asian countries swear that they need to break the basic 10 rules of a beginner monk to accept and use money, I challenge those statements and I am a living example of what can be done in the USA let alone Asia. I have always had enough food. Granted, sometimes I need to walk or stand longer to get it, but I get the food to do the job. Granted, it might not be the healthiest meal, but most of the time, I do quite well.
I have not done other routes thoughh, like I did three years before, but I still do a lot of walking. I still practice loving-kindness in front of most of the houses on my route. I have resorted to using an umbrella at times, even if it is really sunny. The sun here is just way too strong and The Buddha allows us to use an umbrella during times of sickness (or prevention). I learned the hard way that I needed protection for my bald head and I am sure a doctor would suggest using an umbrella if I asked if it were a medical reason. I really burned myself badly one day and lost a bunch of hair follicles. On the bright side, it is now easier to shave my head. Because of the strong sun, my robes are faded on the outside, while the original color remains on the inside.
In October, my brother arranged for me to meet his new husband and my parents. I have not seen my brother since 2011 and my parents since 2013. However, we do Skype often. Usually we make an appointment for Skype and do an hour long conversation. My father has sworn that he will never go on an airplane again, but for this occasion and a little arm twisting, he did. My brother rented a wonderful condo that had a really nice view in a Princeville complex called Pu’u Poa. Despite the climate change which has given us nearly constant rain since I arrived in April, it was pretty much clear for a week straight during my parents visit. That was just too awesome, because my mother does not like the rain. (I like the rain that falls in Kauai). Below are pictures of the complex and views from the balcony:
For my birthday, I was able to get a helicopter ride and in exchange, I got them a local rate using my local Hawaiian ID. If you ever do one helicopter tour in your life, do it in Kauai. It was amazing. We also did many other things and we usually made it back before sunset to watch the sunset each night. While I was with my parents, I took a couple days off from my alms round. However, I did do the Sukhothai Cafe day with my family. There my parents could see me doing Buddhist services of giving 5 precepts and several blessings along with accepting food. My father really liked that event because it was a chance to see me doing the works of my profession as a monk. That was really inspiring for him to see me in action. Usually he only hears about my alms rounds which is not so wonderful for a Western father to hear. After a trip to the Thai restaurant, he started to have faith that a monastery might actually form.
There has been some progress with forming a monastery. The first step of creating a nonprofit organization has been done. Because it is a religious org, if we meet the requirements located here , then we are automatically a 501c3 organization thanks to the constitutional amendments which separate church and state. However, to be more legit, and to satisfy skeptical donors or more likely corporations like Google that do matching funds (2 to 1) the committee members will need to file form 1023 (non ez form). We will see what happens. Currently, the budget for land is just too small to make anything happen, but miracles do happen on Kauai.
Aloha and until we meet again!
I leave you with a picture of my father and I walking in Secret Beach.
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