Sunday, April 12, 2009
In KL we were brought straight to another short retreat. This was a bit of a different session. It was organised by the majestic Maha Vihara in the centre of KL. The place bears a strange combination of a national Buddhist office with a temple. Its miles away from a peaceful meditation centre. But it was just right for me. It was good to be in a protective place with the possibility of making short trips to the Indian street in KL. I needed a break from meditation, but on the other side didn't feel like roaming the busy streets for the whole day. The Vihara had the right combination of peace and commotion, just what I needed. I could be on my own, but if I felt like that, could watch all the visitors, or go out and check how is it going in India...
After this semi-phase we went to Melaka. Wow! Malaysians are quite expressive, little bit like Italians, but Melaka people are more than extraordinary. It might be just due to the extreme cases of Mr. Ong and Agnes The shopping queen. But just these two managed to entertain us above our expectations and in the end even above our toleration. We had fun and always something to do, no doubt about that! The best part was probably the Buddha image shopping. There I understood the nick name shopping queen. I know how to bargain and I have seen some very good negotiators before, but no one can compete with Agnes. I took more than 3 hours and many words were uttered, but it was worth it. The prices were dropping as the Asian rain drops, but both sides were happy.
Finally we went back to KL. On one occasion we went to a big book store in KLCC (PETRONAS towers) and after coming back I realised that I had been robbed. The pick pocket must have been quite skilled because I have no clue when it had happened. The truth is also that I was a bit heedless. Well fortunately I was surrounded with good people, so all I had to do is to block the credit cards (I had two with me, don’t ask me why!). Nice proof of the necessity of carefulness no matter how "holly" you are!
We flew to Kuching, the Borneo part of Malaysia, soon after. Here another 3 weeks experience awaited, and again this will remain just for private talks.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Most of you know that I just came back from my first Asian experience. I longed to go to Asia since I started to travel so you can imagine my excitement the morning when I stepped outside my apartment in Oslo and started my journey eastwards. This was the 1st. of February, temperature was dropping close to negative 10°C and I was full of joy. Even the more than 30 hours journey, comprising of three flights and some bus and car travelling, literally to the other side of the world didn't bothered me, because I knew that this is going to be worth all the effort.
Even though I more-less knew what to expect the first week or so, could be summarised into series of shocks and brand new experiences. The first shock came right after getting out from the Kuala Lumpur (KL) international airport. The temperature was soaring to 40°C, which meant that in within one day I experienced the 50 degrees difference. Thankfully to Theng San I was spared from finding my way to the centre of the city. He dropped me in the KL Wisdom centre and rushed to fetch Klaudia. Jitka was already there, so we started ferocious chat about everything. Soon after Bhante (Ven. Sujiva) came, together with Ulla from Switzerland. So together we created the Euro-group, which was latter in Kota Tinggi (KT) extended to Marketa, Lenka and Alica, Martin from Czeck and Henry from Germany.
What was the most interesting from all the new things? Definitely observing the devotion and respect of the local people towards Bhante and all of us. Even though Malaysia is not a Buddhist country, they still have much stronger Buddhist roots and follow many more rituals and ceremonies than we do. Even Bhante told me that monks here are more of a public property, than a reclusive sages. Devotees just adore them so much that is hard for one to get a longer term solitude. Maybe because of feeling this or just by a pure curiosity me and Jitka decided to go for a little trip before joining the KT retreat.
We aimed south towards Melaka. There we had our private tour guide - Kelvin. He brought us to Melakas Buddhist centre were we could stay overnight. There were two Burmies sayadaws, so it was more than interesting for us. We went for a house blessing with them and then for a luxurious dinner with Kelvin, his son and Wi Chai. During the night we heard him answering some phone calls with a bit fluffy statement: "I have oversees guests, I'll talk to you latter". Basically he showed us the true Asian hospitality with full service and humble heart. The next day we let him to drop us out at the jetty where we catched the boat to the nearby island Pulau Basar. Here we allowed ourselves to enjoy the true holiday type of travelling. After a short indecision from Jitka about where to spend the night she joined me in the budget-but-romantic idea of renting a tent and sleeping on the beach. The water wasn't the clearest, neither the bluest but the island was almost empty and therefore very laid back. The warm water of the strait was just the best place where to spend the rest of the day.
The next morning was a high tide, so the sea was just suitable for a good morning swim -yak, just if there were no jelly fish!!! We took the boat back to the shore, were soon after Kelvin showed up -as I've said: a personal guide. Than we continued our trip towards KT. What was nice was that we didn't need or expect any unusual experience, we just wanted to see the country, the people and organise ourselves. Just a simple bus ride gave us a lot of inputs, especially when it was a local bus, not an aircon long distance coach. We are both quite talkative, so there was always something to discuss about.
In the late afternoon we arrived to the Santisukharama meditation centre that was established by Bhante as late as 1982. Here another story starts. But this is much more private so all I will publish is that the 3 weeks that I spent in intense vipassana meditation deeply changed my attitude towards Bhante and meant an important stepping stone in my religious journey.
NB. The 9 weeks of my Malaysian experience have 5 parts. First week before the KT retreat -topic of this article. Than 3 weeks in Santisukharama -only for private talks. Then I spent one week as a Bhantes kapia in KL and Melaka. This will come in part two. After that another 3 week retreat followed, but this time in Kuching (Borneo) -this will again remain private. The last part consists of another travelling with Jitka -now in the Malaysia part of Borneo. This will be published in part three.
NB2. Most of the pictures are on Jitkas camera, so I will publish only the few from my camcorder.