It has been a little over a month since I have been on the island of Kauai. Things have been going well although my situation is still the same. I am still in a tent at Anini, but I have a new tent in Anini with a better view of the pristine Kauai shore! Things are dryer than the record rains we had last month.. and I guess if it were wetter than before a new record would be set. I have made somewhat of a schedule and I try to update my schedule on my phone calendar which synchronizes to the webpage calendar over here (in case you are interested).
I have added two days of alms round to my routine on Tuesdays and Wednesdays since I am outside the park on those days and sleep on a couch on Tuesday nights. Getting out of the park on a reliable basis is not so easy, but those two days are quite fixed. Going through the different streets for alms has been a great pleasure and I spend the majority of my time wishing the people in each house loving-kindness.
May they be they free from enmity and danger
May they be they free from mental suffering
May they be they free from physical suffering
Sukhī attānaṁ pariharantu
May they take care of themselves happily
During my alms round, I stop in front of houses and I practice on these phrases, usually with my eyes closed focusing on loving-kindness for the members of the house. They don’t know that the monk is trying to collect food or that the thing I am carrying is a bowl. I can occupy my time wisely, and protect myself this way. It is a real joy to do this and when I did this custom made Hawaiian alms-going style for the first time in two years, I thought to myself, “This is a practice I should keep doing, someway and somehow.” So I decided I would do it on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So far, I have kept to that schedule.
This past Tuesday, someone came up to me and asked me, “How is it for you being a monk going through a neighborhood that does not know the monks?” I told him that I practice loving-kindness to protect my mind from getting upset about not getting food and told him about the 4 phrases above. Lastly, I said it also protects me (in general) and I get to wish loving-kindness on the (inhabitants) of the houses as well. Then I told him that I have not touched money in 17 years, and that I am not collecting money, and I don’t eat after 12:30 pm (solar meridian time here). Then he told me he wanted to give me half of his salad that he made for his lunch that day. I asked him if he wanted a blessing, and he agreed.
When I give a blessing, I explain it first in English, and then I do a small chant in the Pali Language. Normally we chant about the 4 dhammas (qualities) that will come back to them. First I explain, that I don’t eat after the solar Noon so they support my life for one day and I can live longer because of their donation (āyu). I can also maintain my physical appearance (vaṇṇo) by eating their food. I am happy because I do not need to search for more food (sukhaṁ), and I also have energy (balaṁ) from the food. Then I tell them that because I get these things from you (the donor), you will also get these things back many times over. Through the power of your morality and my higher and detailed morality, this will also increase the results. I often speak of the purpose of supporting a monk and his efforts for spiritual endeavors, and how I wish them to be protected and happy for a long time. I also speak about how the effects are more powerful in the future life, but they also come into this life. Lastly, I say that my blessing isn’t really magical and I am just explaining how a donation works. However, I tell them that I am only adding wisdom to the whole process of donating by explaining how it works. After that, I chant a common verse containing these statements and I usually get a “Thank you” at the end. I am surprised at how many people wish to receive a blessing and groove with what I say in English and Pali. I think it is about 90%.
It is always nice to receive food from someone and then be thanked for taking their food! I feel appreciated, and fulfilled with a purpose in life. I often tell people that we (monks) are often a prop for other people to make merit. That is why it is important for monks to not touch money, and not store food and follow all of the 227 rules. The rules create a dependence on the lay people simply just to eat each day. If the monk does not follow the rules, then this process is simply artificial. That is why the Buddha said that the morality of the receiving monk is part of the formula for the benefit of the donor. I have no problem taking half of someone’s lunch. I do it often in Myanmar, and now I do it in America too. I need the food, and I need the food because I am following the rules. That is probably why more merit goes to the donor.
In Sri Lanka and Burma (Myanmar), I don’t get a chance to teach so much. Every day and every time I get food, I usually teach a variation of cause and effect on the act of giving. But sometimes, the talks get more deep. For instance, someone offered me some water and sugar at a café (because there was nothing else allowable for me in the afternoon). He sat down with me and said, “Now, I have a question for you.” and he put his recorder on the table.
“Why are we here?”
This was a deep question and since he is a practitioner of “The Now,” he wanted to hear something deep and profound. I was able to answer the question in a deep way explaining how rebirth happens and that there are 5 major causes for each human rebirth to happen (which are also called 5 results). I also explained the type of kamma that one must do in order to be human and the whole process. I branched out from there and could speak lucidly and fluently. I saw him the next day and continued from there about Wisdom rooted people and how to make donations correctly. So how should that be done? One should make donations with wisdom and knowledge of cause and effect, wishing for Nibbāna. One should do so with a happy mind before, during and after the donation.
I have added standing in front of the supermarket in Hanalei as another form of going for alms. This has been a fun adventure. I learned about standing in front of Supermarkets during my visit to Amaravatti in England, 2013. Hanalei is probably one of the most picturesque towns on the planet and that is where “Puff the Magic Dragon” takes place ( “.. in a land called Honahlee”). So far, I have been able to get food simply by standing and gazing downward, waiting for people to come an approach me. When they do, they ask me questions about this or that and I say my usual spiel and I get food. Sometimes I am offered money which I refuse, but often they come back with something to eat. The first time I had ever tried this location, I was late to get started and begun standing at a mere 11:00 am knowing that I must eat before 12:30 pm. Even in Myanmar, you are sort of nuts for going into a village at that time (which I have done several times). Nevertheless, I got enough food that day. I call it, “Extreme Sports Bowling.”
While food seems to be a major topic for what I do, you must understand that it is for sure a major thing that I do. Life is not so easy in Hawaii and as I explain to my donors, every time I get food, I am alive for another day. I need to eat, and the Buddha has often asked his monks if they are sustaining themselves well. I often do not get back to the park until 3pm on average. Could you imagine how difficult it would be to collect dinner? It is a long process to get out of the park, getting food and to get back into the park. However, it is very rewarding. Because I don’t touch money nor store food, I have to search for food everyday, usually outside of the park. However, Sundays are usually spent inside the park due to the donations by the residents who have collected food from the local food pantry. As people learn, everything gets easier, but it is still difficult.
I do get time to meditate, and I usually do my morning chanting and sitting routine before I emerge from my tiny one man tent. While my varicose veins have been acting up without proper angled cushions, I have found a new and enhanced peace added to my meditation. I am blessed with this little experiment in Kauai and life is very satisfying. Perhaps that is why.
I am not sure how long this will last, but I have at least 36 more days in Anini Beach park left. I should be able to run into the end of June and maybe into July. After that, I will need to find a permanent place or ship out.