Not Straying from Ancient Virtue

While living in monastic community, visitors often asked, “What do you do?” I would describe the daily schedule: rising early, morning and evening meditations, chanting, the almsgiving, work projects, meetings and other duties. But what I am is not just what I do or…

Setting the Pagoda Alight

When I was 37, I undertook an intensive meditation retreat at the Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha in Rangoon. Within several months, inspired by the purity and profound benefits of the practice, I felt called to the holy life and, in honour of that intention, navigated…

Sole Food

I live on faith – day by day, not knowing if I will eat. Far from the abundance of established community, the alms I do receive can range from feast to fasting. Whatever comes, I accept. Whatever the circumstances, I persevere. In monastic community,…

A Community of One

What continues to nurture me outside the formal structure of monastic community? Living with a group of companions committed to the holy life was a boon to my spiritual development. More telling has been the process of detaching myself from that framework and spreading…

Ripened on the Vine

This morning, as I passed through the ‘wet’ market of Pulau Tikus with my devotee, an elderly man supporting himself with a walker shuffled awkwardly towards me. His daughter held him on one side, her elbow in his arm. Seeing my robe and bowl…

A Frayed Knot

Wise living cannot be legislated or simulated through script or form. It needs to grow from the inside, maturing when we reflect on our omissions and misjudgements – if we resolve to learn. Valuable as they are, the lessons we garner from yesterday’s choices…

Red Erring

Mid-morning of a quiet Friday and time for my meal of the day. Weary from the tropical heat, I settled at a table outside a spread of hawker stands in the abbreviated shade of a cheerful scruffy over-sized umbrella. While my devotee went off…

Jingle Belanja

During my kappiya’s long search for suitable accommodation, a handful of owners refused even to show their rental properties once they were informed she would be housing a Buddhist nun for several months of the year. One building manager declared that renting to Sangha* would not be ‘fair’,…

Still Bowing

My father once asked me, “What is the most important thing in life?” Contemplating the chaos, greed, and violence in the world, foremost in my mind was love. I had only to look at the thick wrinkles around his smiling eyes to confirm what…

Holey Bagels

We are not “foodies” in the monastery. We’re simply human. The traditional incantation over the meal (translated from the Pali) goes like this: Wisely reflecting I eat this alms food, not for fun, not for pleasure, not for fattening, nor for beautification, but only for…