Before we went i was told that i will have to stay like the monks in a hut of wood and leaves, no electricity, no phone. the drive was only a few kilometers from where we were, the car, a jeep, was stiffed with driver, 5 monks, 1 mae chii, a laywoman, bowls and luggage. Femals and luggage on the extra back seats, 4 monks on the back row, the boss next to the driver. Some of the monks knew me from last year or got used to me in the past days, they treated me like one of them, just another monk. Good!
When we arrived i was given a nice kuti, with bathroom inside and electricity. The mae chii who lived there left a while ago, she was too old and went back to her family.
The laywomen who came with us likes me. They say she can tell the future. For some reason she sees something great in me and wanted to see the kuti i stay in. Inside she told me she wants to build a kuti for me in the other forest monastery. I know meanwhile the relation of Thai’s to promises so i didn’t even react on this and just smiled friendly. Then she started to say prayers and explained that she is talking to the devatas, asking to protect me. She took me outside and started to talk with the trees and explained: when the leaves are shaking and trembeling the devas are coming to listen. The day was sunny and there was no wind. No moving leaves at all, she told me to put the hands together and look around in the trees. Then it was really strange, some leaves on some branches moved, they trembled while all others around remained still. Then we went to another tree and the same happened, it was a bit spooky, she asked the devas to protect me from all evil and men coming into my kuti. Then she went back home with the driver.
I’m not sure if anything would have been different without her asking the devas to protect me but I had a great time.
On the first day the villagers who came to the first Dhammatalk of this pariwara stared at me as if I were a calf from the moon. Probably I was the first mae chii farang the first wearing brown, the first who acted like a monk and not like a mae chii.
There was another mae chii with a young laywoman taking part. She wanted me to sneak out with them after the talk to go to the kitchen and chat, but I refused to go, sat there in meditation. Than tea for the monks was brought, and one of the monks who knew me told the novices who brought it to give to me, too and offer it properly as well. Some of the 19 monks looked a bit irritated, but those who knew me and the one who invited me gave the impression that it’s the most normal thing, that a mae chii gets tea with the monks - which is, according to my former experiences, absolutely not the case.
Next morning 4:30 h, the mae chii and the girl didn’t come to the chanting. After chanting some villagers brought some hot soup and the monks told them to give to me, too. I felt that some of the monks and some of the laypeople thought that this is not proper and I knew that they must have discussed the case, everybody was informed that I’m mae chii, not Bhikkhuni.
A laywomen asked if I went for chanting and where I am going to eat. I told that I will go on pindabat with the monks and went sweeping some leaves.
Short before it was time to go to almsgiving which was organized at the temple, the girl was sent to get me, the mae chii invited me to offer alms food to the monks with them. “No”, said I, “I go for alms as well”, “no” said the girl, and said thai-words I didn’t understand but I did understand the meaning, “ Oh, I don’t understand, but doesn’t matter, I go for alms”, once more she said something that must have meant something like: “don’t go on pindabat, come and offer food with us as it fits for a mae chii”, but I really didn’t understand and the bell was rung so I excused myself and got my bowl.
Only three of the villagers put some rice in my bowl, at least no uproar, I thought. But lots of food was prepared on a table and all monks and a nun were invited to take and the abbot himself observed that I took enough. I was the last in the row, First the monks in order of seniority, then novices, then I and after me the villagers. A following woman was wandering why I skipped most food, before I could answer the novice before me who knew me from the last pariwara said: “She eats vegetarian”. For some thais this is pure asceticism, a horror vision.
I went to my room, mixed everything and started eating when a novice passed and saw me eating out of my bowl, surrounded by a swarm of wasps which lived in the door that I had left open to let them fly out of the room where we had spend our first night together.
After washing my bowl I went to a platform with a Buddha statue on a hilltop to meditate. A group of visitors came, I heard voices of children, women and men so I didn’t feel any danger and kept sitting in meditation when they walked around rang the gong, talked about mae chee farang and left, than a group of samanens came saw me and left silent.
When I came to the evening chanting, the monks and lays had made up their mind: I am a Dhammayud monk. Some talked about me when I passed said: “skilled”. The abbot gave me a woolen hat in Dhammayud monks color and said “you can wear it”.
The Northern thaistyle chanting of paritas or the Dhamma is very fast. I know some of them or can at least follow, when chanted slowly, when it’s so fast as they do it here, I end up hyperventilating and with a knot in the toungh. But they saw me trying to follow and asked if I know the chants, “when done slowly, I can, some.” Next morning the chanting was done slowly and the leader with the mic stopped often, to hear if I’m chanting. The Abhidhamma was chanted, which I can follow quite good, hehe, and then the mangala- and the karania metta sutta, which I can follow as well. Now the last barriers were broken. And one monk took the microphone and said something like: “now we know mae chee farang really can do the chants”. (I have to admit that I only can follow, I couldn’t lead them.) He was so happy and kind of proud of me.
This morning and the following days my bowl was full of rice, everybody gave.
The next days passed quickly, I was one of the monks, the mae chee gave up to get me to the layfolks, I meditated on a wooden meditation platform which was located on a hill side a little hidden in front of a cave, it was wonderful. My barefoot walking influenced another monk and he started walking barefoot, too.
The last evening the girl came to ask my phone number. She wants to ordain somewhere and was, until then, student of the other present mae chee. The abbot had send the girl to ask me to teach her. I said she can come to the monastery where I stay and ordain there. See if she calls and comes. She will be a good nun, I guess, she is a shy Thai girl from the village, but has a devoted and courageous, good heart.
After that she followed me everywhere except to bed. We were sitting and talking with one of the monks, a Dr. PhD whom I met before but never spoke with. He said he is building a temple and meditation center and he wants me to be the teacher there in future. “The people will fever for you”, he prophesized. As I said, I learned not to pay any attention on such promises cause they will be broken. And, on top, it is absolutely exaggerated, but it was nice to hear, though.
In the end every monk had to say a few words, a local radio moderator gave the microphone to everyone. He passed me and I relaxed, but he came back and there was no escape, the mic was underneath my nose. With my three words Thai that I speak I tried to show my gratitude for the good treatment and chanted a blessing. Then they asked me to talk more in English, it was translated into Thai and finally the mic disappeared, pooooh!
Next morning, after breakfast, I went to say goodbye to some of the monks. Lompu Wen gave a little talk for me (in Thai) at one point I said “I don’t understand”, “doesn’t matter if you don’t understand, words are not important, you have a lot of metta and you understand with your heart”.
Phalañanī has to breath in and out mindfully, to acknowledge feelings like pride and excitement arise and disappear. Yes, they disappear. May I not be conceited, neither by thinking I’m great nor by thinking I’m low. May I grow into that what the monks saw in me there. May I grow in the Dhamma.