The first snowfall of winter arrived just before dawn on Saturday 27 October 2012. Fortunately, it was just a dusting as I was driving 45 miles to the Day of Meditation at Wat Buddha Metta, Harston near Cambridge. Not that I am good at meditating. Quite the opposite, in fact: having turned 60, sitting for much longer than half an hour at a time is notnearly as comfortable as one might suppose.
But there were plenty of things to compensate as such a Day is special and for many reasons. Not least, I could renew my acquaintance with Luang Por Sudhiro and Than B, the Buddhist monks in the Thai Theravadan Forest tradition who are currently based at Harston. One is immediately both impressed and at ease on being with them. I am always made to feel welcome – like I’m a member of the family!
As well as opportunities for collective and individual meditation, the programme for the Day included some chanting, some Dhamma talks and a very nice lunch offered by local Thai people. It also afforded an opportunity to chat to the various friends who were also participating in the Day and contributing from their own particular perspective. The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed throughout.
Although I have some experience of meditation, I still regard myself as very much a beginner. My practice has a very long way to go. Fortunately, sitting is not the only way one can meditate and I spent some of the afternoon practicing walking meditation in a quiet country lane nearby the Wat.
I especially enjoy listening to Dhamma talks. There is always something new and interesting in the Buddha’s teachings. On this occasion Luang Por told us about the deeper meaning of the Triple Gem: the qualities of being a fully ‘awakened’human being demonstrated by the historical Buddha; the Dhamma – the Buddhist teachings and the truth they embody; and the lay and the monastic community that together constitute the Sangha. We also learned about the Three Universal Characteristics of all phenomena – impermanence, suffering and not-self. If we see and know the truth of this we can “let go” and avoid the dangers and adverse effects of attachment to these worldly things. In such ways the teachings can help us all to improve ourselves and become the very best that we can be - not just on special days like this but throughout our lives.
Before closing the Day, Luang Por explained that he is trying to establish a permanent centre in the area and that the Sangha - in Thailand, UK and elsewhere - are gradually working to this end. Many people in UK are as yet unawarethat Buddhism is a superb resource which really can help us to live our lives well. So I hope his endeavour succeeds and helps make this resource available to anyone and everyone.
The Day is over all too soon and, after chatting over a cup of tea, I find myself making my way down the M11 in heavy traffic, in a torrential rainstorm and in the deepening dusk – asharp contrast to the bright autumn sunshine and peacefulnessthat had characterised so much of the day. Now what was itthat Luang Por was saying about impermanence….?