Monday, October 22, 2012
When I visit Sri Lanka, as I did last week, I always try to spend a few days at the Island’s Southernmost City, Matara. One goal of my visits to Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heartland is spending time at Matara’s Uposthagasa Temple. The Temple is located on a small rocky island, a few hundred meters from Matara’s bustling bus-station/market place and can only be reached by a foot-bridge.
Uposthagasa Temple is not a tourist destination and so I suppose the periodic appearance of an elderly Caucasian foreigner, who spends hour or more each of several days meditating and chanting may be a bit of a curiosity.
One afternoon, a group of four young monks, three pre-teens and one older, stopped to engage me in conversation. The oldest, in his early twenties, explained that before ordination, he had studied abroad, majoring in sociology, political science and philosophy. Comparative religion had been a particular interest, he told me.
After about fifteen minutes he broke off our conversation and asked me to “please wait,” leaving me in the company of his three young disciples. As the minutes passed, while the four of us smiled and made halting small-talk, with the sound of the waves breaking in the background, I wondered if had misunderstood.
However in due course, the young man returned and handed me two sheets of yellow paper in which he had handwritten – in English – excerpts from his morning devotions and monastic vows,
The vows are now posted over my work desks in Washington DC and rural Virginia.
1. I promise not to cause harm to living beings.
2. I promise not to take what does not belong to me.
3. I promise not to misbehave or act in a disrespectful manner.
4. I promise to refrain from false speech.
5. I promise to refrain from intoxicants or drugs that are harmful to me.
SPREADING LOVING KINDNESS
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings be free from sickness.
May all beings be free from enmity.
May all beings be happy forever.