1: The Five Precepts

2: Ghosts and Spirits

Our third class on the 27th of July 1997 was attended by;

BOYS

Aung Aung, Aung Ko, Aung Kyaw, Harry, Pyi Sone, Sai Lin , Sithu Soe, Philip, Chan,, Sai Min, Sunny, Chan

GIRLS

May Mi, Rosemary, Thu Thu, Su Lin, Woot Ye


THE FIVE PRECEPTS

This week we studied and learnt the five precepts. It is very important for all Buddhists to know and understand the five precepts. As I've said before, if everyone followed these basic rules for life and mankind, the world would be a safe and happy place, for everyone, everywhere, all the time. Each precept has two parts, the part we should not do and the part we should do.

With all of these precepts we should often ask ourselves;

"How Would I feel if that happened to me?" If the answer is "bad", then, don't do it!

The first precept is about not killing. Naturally, we're not going around killing people or animals but we forget about the little things that we kill without thinking. Like, spiders, ants, flies, cockroaches and all the other 'nasty' little creepy crawlies that we don't like. Actually, they are not nasty and just because you don't like them, doesn't mean you can kill them.

All creatures have their families and their jobs to do. Take ants for example, they live in colonies, like cities and they are all very busy, building and working, just like human beings. Or bees, now, I don't know what happens if a bee doesn't come back to the hive because some kid smashed it but I know how humans feel if someone is killed at work and doesn't come home again. All of the friends and family are very sad, for a long time. Besides, how would you feel if someone killed you?!

If there are a lot of mosquitoes, then use some repellent or a net or cover yourself up or move. Ants, cockroaches and flies come to eat your food, so you can either remove the food or share it with them but maybe in a different place. If they are inside, then just catch them and put them out, gently.

The next part is about caring for all creatures. If an animal or person needs help, then try your best but if you can't help, find someone who can. Try to reduce suffering in yourself and other beings.

The second precept is about taking things that are not yours. If you don't own it, then you mustn't take it without asking. I believe that if you steal something now, then in the future something of yours will be stolen too, that's Kamma. Question; "What if a poor person steals food to stay alive?" Unfortunately, it is still stealing. If someone broke into your house and stole your food, how would you feel? "Bad". So it shouldn't be done by anyone. If a person is so poor and hungry, they will get food from somewhere. If someone said to you, "I'm starving hungry, please give me some food". Would you give it? Of course you would. Question; "Should we give money to beggars?" "My Dad says that they just buy beer with the money". Well that's often right, also if you give them money today, then they will come back tomorrow and ask for more, then the next day they bring their family and friends. One way is to give them food or something they can use, not money. If we give them money and they buy drugs and alcohol then we have not helped them. If they can work, it's better to give them a job to do.

Stealing makes people unhappy; Sharing makes people happy.

Question; Did anyone share anything during the week? "Yes, I shared my sweets"."I shared my lunch". "I shared my hamburger". Were those people happy with you? "Yes".

If you have borrowed something from someone and forgotten to give it back and it's already been a long time and you feel ashamed, then now is the time to give it back, don't wait another day, you'll forget again, GIVE IT BACK NOW! That will make you both feel better.

The third precept is about sexual misbehaviour which causes a lot of problems in the world. It means don't take anyone's girlfriend / boyfriend, wife / husband. Don't fool around or touch anyone in the wrong place and don't let anyone touch you. If you don't understand about this precept, then you should ask your parents or teachers.

It means to respect other people and keep to yourself, that's safe and non-harming.

The fourth precept is the most difficult one to keep because if we have done something wrong, then we prefer to tell a lie than to get into trouble. But that can "Double your Dukkha" Lying just makes things worse. This rule also includes swearing, name-calling, back-biting, gossiping, yelling / shouting, teasing and any kind of speech that hurts another's feelings. Keeping secrets can sometimes hurt yourself and telling your friend's secret to another, can mean losing a friend.

Be open and honest with everyone, every time. If you have done something wrong, then be brave enough to admit it, people will respect your honesty. If you have hurt someone physically or their feelings, please be kind enough to say, I'm Sorry, it makes a big difference. Speak the truth, quietly and clearly. Honesty is the best policy.

The fifth precept. Alcohol and drugs are bad for your health, they make you stupid and you say and do silly things which can get you into trouble. Also, you are not mindful and careful so you break the other precepts and cause harm and embarrassment to yourself, your family and others.

Question; "What is alcohol?" Strong drinks for adults, called beer, wine, whiskey and so-on, that can make you relax but if you drink too much it can make you crazy, sick and even vomit. "Why do they sell it?" One reason is because people want to buy it and drink it to forget about their problems or to have fun or to be cool. Another reason is because the big companies are making a lot of money from it, also the government gets money from it too. Drugs are like alcohol only stronger and worse. Some are like medicines or cigarettes. Please don't take any medicines without your parents permission. If anybody offers you something and you don't know what it is, don't take it! If your friends want you to take something, just say, NO, if they tease you, they are not your friends.

About gangs, they are not cool but they are trouble. Always think for yourself, don't just follow other kids. If they do something wrong then you get into trouble too. If you hang out with fools then you too are a fool. If you have clever friends then you too will be clever. Be careful.

We should always try to keep our mind clear, sharp, alert and pure, free from defilements.

GHOSTS AND SPIRITS

"Do you believe in ghosts and spirits?" Well, many other people do and the Buddha spoke about them so, yes I do believe but I've never met any personally. Are you all afraid of them? "YES" The reason you are afraid of them is because you don't understand them. For example if you go to your friends house and they have a big dog and it barks and growls at you, then you are afraid. If you go there often with your friend, then the dog gets to know you, later on you can go by yourself and you will be friends with the dog. WHY? because you understand each other. It's the same with all other beings.

You know, most other beings are afraid of human beings. We are big, quick and clever. Ghosts try to scare us but if we show that we are not afraid of them, they will leave us alone. What you can do is,

repeat Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha. Or Namo Tassa-Bhagavato Arahato Samma-sambuddhasa.

Then they know you believe in the Buddha and they will leave you alone.

"After I saw a scary movie, I didn't want to go to the bathroom at night by myself". Before you saw the movie it was not a problem so the reason you are afraid is because you think about the movie. Really there is nothing there, the fear is only in your mind, not outside. If you don't think about it, it will be alright. So, try thinking about the Buddha and saying, Namo Tassa ......... Buddham Saranam Gacchami... ...... Or you can do Metta, Loving Kindness to them, that's next week.


METTA - LOVING KINDNESS (revised edition)

Our fourth and biggest class on the 3rd of August, 1997 was attended by;

BOYS : Aung Aung, Aung Ko, Aung Kyaw, Bo Bo, Chan, Edward, Harry, Lawrence, Pyi Sone, Soe, Sai Lin Sai Min, Sunny & Thet

GIRLS: Cho Cho, Linda, May Mi, Rosemary, Thu Thu & Woot Ye

Metta is a Pali word which in English means, Loving Kindness. Just like the five precepts, Metta is a very important thing for all Buddhists to remember. It's not the same as being in LOVE with one person, this is different, it means to have love and kindness, respect and compassion (care), not just for one person but for everyone and everything. We can also call it well-wishing. Wishing goodness for ourselves, others and all beings. There are four phrases for Metta;

  1. May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
  2. May I be happy and peaceful.
  3. May I be healthy and strong.
  4. May I be able to take care of myself, joyfully.

First we start with loving kindness for ourselves. Why? Let's look at the opposites:-

Do you want to be afraid (in your mind)? "No". Do you want to be in danger? "No".

Do you want to be sad or angry? "No". Do you want to be worried or restless? "No".

Do you want to be sick or have a disease? "No". Do you want to be weak and unable? "No".

Do you want to be stupid, forgetful, careless, lazy, clumsy and so-on? "No".

SO, we practice saying these phrases over and over to ourselves, for ourselves, by ourselves, first. When we really know that we need loving kindness too, it becomes strong and we feel nice inside, then we can share it with others. You see until it is strong in you, for you, then you shouldn't share it yet, you would only be sharing weak Metta. If you have powerful Metta, everyone can feel it! Also, you are very happy because you are able to share something with everyone and your face looks nice, calm and peaceful. If you do metta before going to sleep, you can sleep well without nightmares. Everywhere you go you will have good friends, good luck and a good life!

METTA BHAVANA : LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

There are five types of people to whom children can develop Metta towards;(for adults, see below)

1)YOURSELF, 2)PARENTS, 3)DEAR FRIEND, 4)RESPECTED ELDER, 5)AN ENEMY.

We always begin with Metta for ourselves first because we are the person that we think about and care about the most. It's not selfish or greedy, it's natural. Next, we very often think about and remember our parents and they have looked after us during our lives so we do Metta to them next. First to one parent, then to the other one. The next person that we think about often, is a dear friend. This is someone that you can tell any secret to, someone that you really trust but it cannot be a boyfriend or girlfriend, that would be love! The fourth type of person is a respected elder, like a teacher, an Uncle, an Aunt, someone who is honest and kind and worthy of respect. The last one will really test your loving kindness, an enemy. Why do we wish goodness for someone who we don't like or who doesn't like us? Because they are suffering from anger and hatred and their heart is tight and hurting. People even get angry with us when we don't do anything wrong but don't be like them and make things worse, bite your tongue and do Metta.

So, if someone has been angry or nasty to you, you can say;

May you be free from anger and hatred.

May you be safe from inner and outer harm.

May you be happy and peaceful.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you be able to take care of yourself, joyfully.

If you repeat this over and over, it may not change their mind but it can make you feel better about them and at least you won't have anger or hatred in your heart, that's the most important thing. We can't change the whole world but we can train ourselves to be good people and trustworthy friends.

You can spend a little time or a long time on each person. You can stop anywhere but you must start with yourself. You can just repeat the one line over and over if you want to. When we've finished the five people, we can send loving kindness towards all beings, high and low, far and wide, ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times. Who knows? They might just send it back to you!

May All beings be safe from inner and outer harm.

May All beings be happy and peaceful.

May All beings be healthy and strong.

May All beings be able to take care of themselves, joyfully.

Another way to do Metta, is to send it out in circles. First you do it for yourself, until it's strong, then say,

May All beings in this room be safe from inner and outer harm.

May All beings in this room be happy and peaceful.

May All beings in this room be healthy and strong.

May All beings in this room be able to take care of themselves, joyfully.

(This one is also very good if you feel afraid in any place or at any time.) You say this over and over until you believe it. Then you say, May All beings in this building be safe from inner and outer harm etc.etc. over and over until it becomes strong. Then you say, May All beings in this neighbourhood be safe from inner and outer harm etc.. Then in this city, in this state, in this country, continent, world, universe and All beings everywhere. After all that, you might be a little bit tired but VERY HAPPY!

LIFE IS BETTER WITH METTA!!

If you truly love yourself, you'll never harm another.

If you truly love yourself, you'll easily love another.

Whenever we go on a journey, whether it's in an aeroplane, in a car or even walking, we can say,

May All beings along this journey be safe from inner and outer harm.

May All beings along this journey be happy and peaceful.

May All beings along this journey be healthy and strong.

May All beings along this journey be able to take care of themselves, joy-fully.

Before we eat any food, we can think about all the beings that had to die or work hard to make this food for us. All of the animals and insects in the fields, the farmers, the drivers, factory and supermarket workers and the people that put the food in front of you today, including yourself.

May ALL beings that have suffered to bring this food, be free from their suffering.

May ALL beings that have suffered to bring this food, be happy and peaceful, healthy and strong.

There are five types of people to whom adults can develop Metta towards; (children see above)

1)YOURSELF, 2)RESPECTED ELDER, 3)DEAR FRIEND, 4)NEUTRAL*, 5)AN ENEMY.

*A neutral person is one that you know is in existence now but you don't have any feelings for them, eg. bus driver, shop attendant, gardener. This helps you to have strong loving kindness. Practice this in the same way as explained earlier.

When working; May all my fellow workers, both senior and junior, be free from anger and stress, may they be successful, prosperous and contented.

On the computer: May all beings working on their computers now be filled with loving kindness. Send loving kindness through the Internet.

When someone is ill; visualize them as strong and healthy and think; May he / she be free from suffering, may he / she be healthy and strong etc.

MAY ALL BEINGS BE FREE



VIPASSANA MEDITATION 1

The Fifth Class (10th of August, 1997)

We bowed down three times, to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Then we paid homage to the Buddha, chanted the three refuges and the five precepts, in Pali and in English.

This week, we had a couple of mature kids, Kim and Tanya from P'burg, thanks for coming! If you have any friends that are really interested in the Dhamma, first, show them your notes, then if they still want to come, let them come!

Really, we mostly did Metta this week because we read our notes from last week which helped us to remember all about Loving Kindness. It can really help you in your life and make you and others happy, don't forget; Life is better with Metta!

Vipassana (Insight) Meditation

When we practise Loving Kindness Meditation for a while, our mind becomes calm and peaceful, then we can switch over to vipassana.

Vipassana, means to understand your mind and body. We practise in four different ways or postures; What are they? Sitting, standing, walking and (everybody's favourite) lying. You can do eating, cleaning and even running meditation (but that's a bit tricky!).

So, meditation is just mindfulness, it's about watching what is happening in your own mind and body, right now. It sounds easy and basically it is but sometimes it can be very hard work.

The Little Puppy

Our mind is just like a little puppy that doesn't know anything yet. If you tell the puppy to sit, it stands, if you tell it to stay, it goes. Our mind is just the same! As soon as we try to concentrate on something, we start to think about something else. If we call the puppy back and it doesn't come, we have to follow it and keep calling it. Later on, when it knows it's name, it will come back quickly for you. Meditation is like that. When our mind goes off wandering, thinking and imagining, then we follow it and we call it by it's name, "wandering, wandering, wandering" or "thinking, thinking, thinking" or "imagining, imagining, imagining". At first we have to say it many times because it just keeps on wandering but later on when you understand your mind, you'll only have to say it once or twice and your mind will be clear again. We call this mental noting, it means, to say the word in your mind of that which you are experiencing in your mind or body.

Sitting Meditation

We begin by sitting with our legs crossed, Burmese style, one in front of the other, not touching. Do your knees touch the floor? Then we sit up very straight and relax but still upright. You can put your hands, palms up on your knees or one hand inside the other, in your lap.

When we breathe in, our stomach expands and we say "rising". When we breathe out, it contracts and we say, "falling". We start with only one, long, deep breath and we say "rising, rising, rising, rising, rising", "falling, falling, falling, falling, falling". Then we breathe normally, continuing to watch the rising and falling. If you hear any sound, you say "hearing". If you feel pain, you say, "pain". If you feel sleepy, you say, "sleepy". If you're thinking, then you say, "thinking". Just five objects to begin with; rising / falling, hearing, pain, sleepy and thinking. Remember, don't move your hands or legs and don't open your eyes. If you're itchy, don't scratch! Just say in your mind, "itchy, itchy, itchy". Try just five minutes at first, then ten, twenty, thirty........one hour!

METTA SUTTA

DISCOURSE ON LOVING KINDNESS

Owing to the glorious power of this Metta Sutta, spirits dare not appear in their frightful forms. Anyone who chants this sutta, day and night, sleeps peacefully, has no bad dreams and enjoys many benefits.

Come on, let's recite this Metta Sutta!

Those who are skillful in good practices and wish to attain to that state of peace, should follow this;

One should be efficient, honest, perfectly straight, obedient, gentle and humble; contented, easy to look after, with few duties, simple in livelihood, controlled in senses, discreet, modest and not greedily attached to people.

One should not do anything that the wise may blame you for: Just think;

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY AND SECURE

may their hearts be wholesome.

Whatever beings there are, weak or strong, without exception,

long, stout or medium, short or tall, large or small,

seen or unseen, near or far, born or unborn,

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY!

Let one not deceive another, nor despise anyone at all.

With anger or ill-will, let one not wish harm to any other.

Just as a mother would protect her only child, even at the risk of her own life,

let us develop boundless Loving Kindness towards All beings.

Let's send unlimited Loving Kindness towards the whole world, above, below and all around, freely and without hatred or enmity.

Whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, as long as we are awake, we should develop this mindfulness, this they say, is the highest conduct.

Not following wrong views but purely and wisely not being attached to many pleasures, one is not to be reborn.


Vipassana Meditation 2

Our sixth class, 17th of August, 1997

We began by looking at the notes from the week before. We read the Metta Sutta and found out that sutta is a Pali word which means, discourse, talk or speech. The Buddha gave many such talks throughout his life. He was often talking to the monks but sometimes he was talking to laypeople or other ascetics (holy men), from other religions who came to hear the his teaching.

There is usually a story why the Buddha taught something. This time, a large group of monks had gone to live in a forest to practise meditation, but! In the forest there were spirits, who didn't like all the monks coming to live there, so they frightened them away. The monks went to the Buddha and reported their problem. That's when the Buddha taught this sutta. The monks went back to the forest and practised loving kindness, then the spirits were very happy to let them stay.

Vipassana Meditation: Then we practised vipassana meditation in the sitting posture for about 5 minutes and we talked about our experiences.

Question; What happens if there is more than one object to note?

We can do one of three things,

1) Note, "confused, confused, confused", or

2) Stop noting and just observe, until one object is clear,or

3) Choose one object.

I wanted to do sitting again but they weren't happy so I said, we'll do lying meditation and they shouted ,"Yeah!".

Everyone found their lying place, with their feet pointing away from the Buddha, lying flat on their back, hands by their sides and palms up. There are 2 types of lying meditation; Systematic and Freestyle.

First, we did Systematic. We found the places where the body touches the floor, called "touching points". We started with the right heel, then the right calf muscle, the right buttock (bottom), the back of the right hand, the elbow, the shoulder and the head. Then down the left side of the body at the same 6 places, 13 points, altogether. Then we watched the rise and fall of the abdomen, once, and then from the top of our head, we swept our mind down to our toes, we feel the body lying. So we meditate by feeling all of these things as we go around our body. At each touch point we note "touching", 13 times, then, "rising, falling" and finally, "lying". That's the system. If you start thinking, just note it and go back to the system, anywhere.

Then we practised Freestyle which is the same as sitting meditation, we just note whatever happens, "rising / falling, hearing, thinking, touching, lying, sleepy". Remember, if you're sleepy, you can try shouting "sleepy", in your mind, not out loud! Don't be like the monk who fell asleep sitting on a bench, he was so far bent forward, that I thought he was looking under the bench for a snake or something! A few kids tried to do laughing meditation but found out that it doesn't work! Two or three people were irritated and when they noted it, it went away. The same thing can happen with anger, sadness, FEAR, boredom, if you just keep noting it, it goes away. We can practise that at school, home or anywhere, any time. Try it and see if it makes you happy.

We did a bit of standing meditation. It's not so easy to stand perfectly still for 5 minutes but there's some good pain to note. You should try it for an hour or two!

Near the end we heard a story about "The Meditating Security Guard". It was about the holy man who did walking meditation all night and the robbers couldn't rob the caravans. "It pays to have a holy man around". At the very end, we did photo-taking meditation, that was easy!

PLEASE CONSIDER ....... THE BUDDHA'S WAY

This is an old saying and not one of today:

They blame those who sit silently

They blame those who talk too much

They also blame those who speak too little

There is no-one in this world who is not blamed.

There never was, there never will be and there doesn't exist now, any person who is completely blamed or perfectly praised.

Conquer anger with Loving Kindness

Conquer evil by doing good

Conquer the stingy by giving

Conquer the liar with truth.


( Week 7: 24 th August 1997 )

THE SANGHA

Community of Buddhist monks

(1) The Rules (Vinaya)

(2) The Sangha Food Rules

(3) The Sangha: the Four Needs and the Eight Possessions

(4) The Jataka Tales

This week we talked about the Sangha. In Buddhist countries like Burma, the Sangha is the community of Buddhist monks. A monk can also be called Bhikkhu, which means the one on the way to Nibbana. In western countries like America, were there are few monks but many people practising meditation, they call their community of yogis, Sangha. Yogi is an Indian word which means meditator, it doesn't mean Yogi Bear!

Monks live in monasteries. The name of our monastery has the Pali word vihara, it means monastery. By the way, Dhammodaya means the flourishing (growing / spreading) teaching of The Buddha. Altogether the name means, The Burmese Monastery of the Flourishing Dhamma. In Burma there are many, many monasteries, pagodas and monks.

Question; How many monks are there in Burma? "Two thousand?" No. "Six thousand?" No. More. "A million?" No! Too many. There are between two and three hundred thousand, nobody knows exactly.

THE RULES - (Vinaya)

Monks live by many rules.

Question; How many rules do Buddhist monks live by? "Two thousand?" Really, there are thousands of rules but there is a special set of rules. "Seventy five!, one hundred and seventy five?" No, there are two hundred and twenty seven, 227. You try to keep five precepts, we try to keep all 227.

There are some very serious rules, like the four "deadly" rules. They are called deadly because if a monk breaks one of them, he must disrobe (change back to a layman). Just like if you cut the top off a palm tree, then try to put it back and make it grow, it will not. So too, a man can not become a monk again after he breaks one of these rules. These four rules are;

  1. A monk must never have sex;
  2. A monk must not kill any human being;
  3. A monk must not steal anything;
  4. A monk must not lie about being an Arahant (a person who has attained to nibbana) or about having magic or special powers.

We have some other rules like; monks cannot play games or do exercises to keep fit, we can go walking but that's meditation. We don't cut trees, plants or even the grass. Monks aren't gardeners or farmers. The Buddha said that there may be devas or deities (spirits) living with the plant. In Burma and Thailand, at the big, old trees there are usually little shrines and places to offer things to the tree spirits. There are uncountable little insects everywhere. So monks are very careful not to harm them.

Monks don't accept, hold or keep any kind of money, gold or silver. If someone wants to give us money, then someone can keep it for us.

Question; " What happens if they steal it?" Then that's their bad luck and their problem, it's not our money. Monks don't go to work or make business. We don't go shopping. If we really need something, then someone can take us to the shop and we can choose the right thing for a monk but then the layman pays for it. Rather than give money to a monk, it's better to ask him what he needs or tell him, "If you need anything sir, please let me know".

The Sangha don't watch TV for entertainment and we don't go to the movies. Monks only wear robes and we must shave our heads. We don't take alcohol or drugs. These days, there are some monks who keep money, smoke cigarettes and chew bedel "kun". They don't look like good monks.

MAY YOU ALL HAVE THE CHANCE TO LIVE IN A MONASTERY AND LIVE IN PEACE.

THE SANGHA - FOOD RULES

There are many rules about food. The Buddha said that one meal a day was enough to keep a monk alive. Monks don't eat from 12.00 noon until dawn the next day. We are only allowed to take juice, honey, sugar or candy and medicines.

Question; "WHY?" At the time of the Buddha some hungry monks used to go to the village for alms-round in the morning and then go back again in the afternoon. So the Buddha said, only once a day, in the morning. Also, because we don't take dinner, we don't have to worry about it and we have more time to practise meditation.

Story; In 1995, when I was living in Burma, I visited the Mon State, near the border of Thailand. Previously it was a closed area to foreigners. Anyway, it opened up and a Burmese Bhikkhu friend took me and an American Bhikkhu to visit that area.

No foreigners had been there for a very long time, the people were quite surprised to see a couple of white, "nain gan cha pon gyis" (foreign monks). We stayed in the Dhamma Hall at the main pagoda or zedi in the town of Ye. Many people, came to see us. Some came to offer drinks and candles and various things, some wanted to hear us speak Burmese, others just came to look. One old lady said that now she was happy to die because she knew that Buddhism had spread to other countries! So, we were quite popular.

Many of them asked us what time we would go for alms-round, we didn't tell them exactly because we didn't want them to be waiting for us with lots of food. We left at different times and went in different directions. When I left, no-one was waiting, that was nice. I went down a side street, with my eyes cast down, doing Metta Bhavana; "May ALL beings on this alms-round be safe from inner and outer harm, May ALL beings on this alms-round be happy and peaceful, etc. etc. and the first man that saw me said, "Yat daw mu ba oun Paya!", which means something like, 'Please do the noble stopping gesture!' It's very polite and we hear it very often on alms-round. That man gave me a whole pineapple, too big to fit in my bowl but it was complete with a stalk, so I carried it.

Then it started to rain, that was OK but nobody was giving rice anymore. I stopped outside houses where I heard people but they seemed to ignore me, so I kept going. Then at one house I happened to see a man wearing a little white cap......'these people are Muslims!' Then I went past a mosque (Muslim Temple), 'I'm in the Muslim part of town, no wonder they don't offer rice!'

I took a different course and started to get more rice, then I thought I should head back. That's when I saw a few women running up the street ahead of me. Now, I know from my experience that Burmese women only run for two reasons; in an emergency or to give food to a Bhikkhu. As I approached the end of the street, I saw a small crowd of people outside a little shop. I was right, they hadn't cooked any food yet so they ran to the shop to buy something. About six people with handfuls of food came towards me and filled the alms-bowl, stacked food on top and a man offered to carry the rest on a small tray for me. Remember, I'm still carrying the pineapple!

I headed straight for the Pagoda but I saw a little sea of umbrellas outside the gate, so I tried the side gate but they ran through the Pagoda to meet me and there were already two or three people at that gate. I felt sorry that I couldn't accept all of the food personally while on alms-round but they brought it inside anyway and everyone ate very well.

The moral to the story; We just don't know the future.

For a continuous seven month period, I just lived on one alms-round meal per day. Some days, we just get rice, peanuts and bananas. We only eat whatever people give us when we are outside the monastery. This helps us to appreciate food and people.

Also, monks are not allowed to keep food from one day to the next. Some people say in English that we are beggars but we don't ask for anything from anyone, we just stand quietly, if they want to give, it's OK, if they don't that's OK too.

THE SANGHA -THE FOUR NEEDS

There are four things that every human being needs to live well. The Buddha said that these are the only things that a monk really needs, everything else is extra. The four things are;

1) food and water:- To get food, we go for alms-round. We can accept food in the monastery or even go to a family's house, if they invite us. We can get water from anywhere.

2) clothing:- At the time of the Buddha, the monks used to get rags from the roadside or clothes left at the cemetery after a funeral and make a set of robes. These days we are given ready-made robes.

3) shelter:- This includes the root of a tree, a cave, a grass hut or a building.

4) medicine:- In Buddha's time, there weren't chemists or pharmacies, if a monk was sick, he had to take fermented cows urine as medicine. (The class atmosphere changed when I explained what urine is.) Traditionally, monks are allowed to take five kinds of medicine; butter, ghee (purified butter), oil, honey, molasses (sugar). These are also allowable to take in the evening but we can only keep them for seven days. We can take ordinary medicine that has been given to us.

THE EIGHT POSSESSIONS

There are eight things that a monk should always carry with him;

1) An outer robe. This is double thickness in case of cold weather.

2) An upper robe. The same size as the outer robe but single thickness.

3) An inner robe. About half the size of the upper robe, like a longyi.

4) A belt for the inner robe.

5) Needle and thread, to make and repair robes.

6) An alms-bowl with a lid and ring base.

7) A water filter, to make sure we don't drink any insects by mistake.

8) A razor for shaving head and face.

Of course, we do have other things such as toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, a small towel, books and pens, a sitting cloth, bag, cup, spoon, an extra, small robe for washing. We may also use slippers and an umbrella but never on alms-round.

VASSA - rains retreat

Monks usually live in monasteries unless they live in the forest to practise meditation. Even if they do live in the forest, they still have to come to the town or village to get food. In Asia, there are three seasons in a year; hot season (very hot and dry), cool season (not so hot and dry) and the rainy season, sometimes called the monsoon season, (hot and wet). During the rainy season which is called vassa in Pali, monks must live only in one monastery for three months and do not travel around. If someone in another town wants to hear the Dhamma, they can invite the monks but only for six days at the most. South Africa doesn't have a rainy season, so we follow the Burmese calendar; from the full moon in July to the full moon in October.

KOYIN

Before a man can become a monk he must be a samanera, koyin in Burmese or novice in English, it's like a training course. In Burma most young boys are koyins for at least a week at some time. It is considered good luck for him and his family. A samanera must follow 75 rules as well as the ten precepts. The ten precepts are; no killing, no stealing, no sex, no lying, no alcohol or drugs, no eating after midday, no entertainments, no perfume or jewellery, no sleeping on high and comfortable beds or seats and no money.

If a novice wants to become a monk, he has to ask a senior monk, Sayadaw in Burmese, to ordain him. He must also have three robes; outer, upper, inner and an alms-bowl. Then there must be at least five monks present. First, the novice will be asked some questions about his health and life, like; Do you have diseases - leprosy, boils, eczema, tuberculosis or epilepsy? Are you a human being? (not a deva or ghost!). Are you a man? (not a woman). Are you a free man? (not a prisoner). Are you free from debt? (no money owing). Are you free from government service? (Army etc.). Do you have your parent's permission? Are you over twenty years of age? Have you got a complete set of three robes and one alms-bowl?

If all of these things are fine, he may be ordained as a Bhikkhu, live and practise the Dhamma in peace.

JATAKA TALES

Jataka tales are stories about the many lives of the Buddha as a Bodhisatta, before he became a Buddha. Bodhisattha is the name for someone who will become a Buddha.

Jataka tales have been a very important part of the education for children in many Buddhist countries. Not only that, the stories have spread with travellers by word of mouth to many other countries, including England, Europe, China, Japan, USA, and now South Africa!

For many centuries, Buddhist monks and lay teachers have used these wonderful stories to teach children about sharing, morality, and meditation; Dana, Sila, Bhavana. Of course, Jataka stories aren't just for children, they are for everyone, even the teachers. When someone tells a Jataka tale for others to hear, the storyteller gets just as much joy from the story as the listeners.

Every story has a moral (good message) in it. The stories often show us bad actions, speech and thoughts but then teach us Right actions, speech and thoughts. So we can see the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, opposites like these;

Greed -SHARING -IF YOU SHARE, YOUR GREED WILL BE LESS

Hatred -LOVING KINDNESS -WITH LOVING KINDNESS HATRED HAS NO HOUSE

Delusion -WISDOM -LOOKING, LISTENING, LEARNING AND PRACTISING

When you read or hear these very old stories, there's no need to wonder if it's true or not. The Buddha gave advice like this; If you know that something is bad and wrong, give it up. If you know that something is good and right, accept it, follow and practise it, you will be happy!

THE GRATEFUL FOX

One such story is about a grateful fox. One day the fox was caught by a huge snake and was fighting for his life. A poor farmer heard the cries of the fox and helped him to escape from the killer snake. From then on, the fox always wanted a chance to help others.

At another time the poor farmer was trapped by a killer snake. This time it was the fox's turn to repay the compassion of the man. The fox couldn't free the man by himself, he needed help so he went to the village where some men were working in a field. The fox couldn't speak and he thought that they wouldn't believe him anyway. So he picked up some of their clothes in his mouth and ran away. The men chased him. The fox ran straight to where the man was in trouble and dropped the clothes. When the men arrived they found their clothes and freed the man from the killer snake.

Moral; Only in an emergency and with compassion can we break one of the five precepts.

PRINCE FIVE WEAPONS

This time the Bodhisatta was born as a prince, his name was Prince Five Weapons. His father, the king, sent him to be trained as a king in another city. He passed all the tests, was the best student and was given five weapons as a reward. He was on his way home, when he met a huge monster named, Sticky Hair. The prince used all of his weapons to frighten him but they just got stuck in the monster's sticky hair. So he used his fists, his feet and finally a big head but but the prince was completely stuck.

The monster was going to kill the prince but the prince said you can't eat me because I've got a diamond weapon inside me, if you eat me, you will die too!

The monster could see that this man was without fear of death, he must be special, so he set him free. Prince Five Weapons was thankful to the monster but more importantly, he had learnt a few lessons. He learnt that his body and weapons are useless but his mind could help him always. He also knew that lying was wrong but it saved his life. He told Sticky Hair, the reason that he was a horrible monster was because he did so many bad things in the past. They both agreed to always follow the five precepts. The monster understood, gave up his evil ways and even changed into a forest fairy. The Prince went home and became a wonderful king.

Moral; The only weapon we really need is the one inside, WISDOM

(Warning; I have shortened and changed these stories. Please refer to the originals.)