I’d been silent for nearly five hours.
The giant stone steps where people had been sitting in contemplation for 30 years, the meditation cushions that somehow absorbed the struggles of countless wanderers… the kitchen where food was gently prepared in silence and significance—it all seemed perfectly designed to guide me further and further into the mystery, my mystery.
The outhouse was down the hill on the tall grass bluff and my view from the pot was a mountain vista that somehow held the gaze of everyone who looked.
I felt like I had counted a hundred shades of blue.
The buildings seemed to gently blend into the landscape. Straw bails, mud, clay tiles, stone dug up and assembled over generations by hands of the many who showed up here unannounced.
The primary meditation hall had captured the blue shades I’d been counting. The light coming in the windows framed the occupants perfectly as they sat with erect spines and focused intentions.
I was fascinated by the people here and was thankful their eyes were shut to avoid the stalker-like gaze I had fixed on them.
I wondered where they had found their perfect Zen outfits and what they had been thinking as they labored on their journey to arrive here.
I wondered about how lost or how found each were and asked myself the same.
I wondered if this was what they had been searching for and I knew it was more than I had been and I sat for a long time in gratitude.
The smells were damp, but it was hard to distinguish because the whole country is damp—the lingering not wet but not dry in-between place that makes you constantly unsure but somehow adds perfectly to the ambiance.
I decided a place off the grid should smell and feel just like this.
Hiking up behind the buildings, two lovers were caught as I reached the top of this remote hill but it didn’t matter because I was more focused on removing the leaches from my feet than paying attention to them.
I wandered a long time, trying to climb deeper into this vibe.
The library’s door was ajar and the walls were covered in tattered books, the kind I love because each page seems to have that incredible, musty smell no iPad will ever recreate and that reminds me of the perfect Sunday morning rainstorm, coffee, a giant fire and too many books to ever get through but an eagerness to try anyway.
Taped to the doors was the story of Godwin Samararatne. He’d been the resident meditation teacher here for nearly 20 years.
Although he’d died nearly a decade ago, his essence, intentions and teachings still held this place firmly together.
I reached randomly for a book and settled into a compilation of his public talks with retreatants over the years. I instantly understood why this all was here, why I’d traveled 10,000 miles:
Retreatant: “Sometimes you may treat other people with loving-kindness, but other people may not treat you with loving-kindness, so what can we do about this?”
Godwin: “Very good question. This is what happens in everyday life. This is one of the greatest challenges we have in everyday life. People who are unfriendly to you, people who are unkind to you, people who are unreasonable towards you; they should be our Gurus, they should be our masters, they should be our teachers. As one of my friends put it, they really present you with a mirror. So when you meet such people you should be really grateful for them because they are testing you.
The important thing is to not become concerned about what they are doing but to watch what is happening inside your own mind. This is why we have been emphasizing so much the practice of awareness, just knowing what is happening. Then, when you realize that the problem is what is happening here in your own mind and not what is happening out there, people may behave in any way but there is no reaction to that.
This shows we are all still humans. According to the Buddha, until and unless we are enlightened we are all crazy. We are living in a crazy world, but the problem with us is that we are taking these crazy people too seriously. The sane way to live in a crazy society is to realize this, to understand this and to have compassion towards the crazy people we have to be with. This is how we can relate to such people—they should be our teachers. So I hope you meet more and more masters, such teachers, such gurus in your life!”
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Assistant Ed: Sanja Cloete-Jones Ed: Bryonie Wise