When I went to Thailand in 2000 to do the first of many silent retreats to train in Vipassana meditation methods, I was awash with information – things I’d read, accounts of other people’s experiences, different methods and views. And all of it made a mess in my head, such that I had a lot of trouble committing to any particular way or path into Vipassana. And in this initial venture into Vipassana, drifting from method to method as I was, and mixing and matching methods, I was not making progress at all.
I should have been committing to one method and advancing that skillset, and then, from a position of relative skill, experimenting if I needed to.
But I was impatient and my mind was very un-trained by my previous life as a musician – so, for the first month of my retreat I kept making a mess of things and getting very despondent about it.
In this, I think I was a very exasperating student for the monk who was teaching me, Phra Manfred – a wonderful German monk whose patience and strict guidance was so valuable to me at the time.
So one morning during the interview on the verandah of his kute, after so many fruitless arguments with me as he tried to get me to focus, he slid a small booklet across to me, saying: ‘Read this, it might help’
It was only a small booklet, the pages burred and creased with use. I read it in an afternoon, and it changed everything.
I had never heard such clarity spoken about the Theravada Buddhist way, and the place of meditation in it, and indeed, in life itself. The book is not about meditation per se, so much as the attitude behind it, and it gave me what I needed, and inspired me to give myself to the skill I was being taught. From that point, this book formed a core to my practice, and indeed, my life.
It’s not about religion – if anything, unlike many Buddhist monks, he was extremely unreligious in his view of Buddhism. It’s simply common sense and I strongly recommend it to anyone – not just meditators – it is a message of incredible wisdom and inspiration from a man who inspired Thailand itself for almost a century.
ABOUT BUDDHADASA BHIKKU (from Wikipedia)
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (Thai: พุทธทาสภิกขุ, May 27, 1906 – May 25, 1993) was a famous and influential ascetic-philosopher of the 20th century. Known as an innovative reinterpreter of Buddhist doctrine and Thai folk beliefs, Buddhadasa fostered a reformation in conventional religious perceptions in his home country, Thailand, as well as abroad. Although he was a formally ordained ascetic, or “monk,” having at the age of twenty years submitted to mandatory government religious controls, Buddhadasa developed a personal view that rejected specific religious identification and considered all faiths as principally one. His ground-breaking thought inspired such persons as French schooled Pridi Phanomyong, leader of Siam’s 1932 revolution, and a group of Thai social activists and artists of the 1960s and 70s.
(thank you to Bhuddanet (http://www.buddhanet.net) for making this copy of the book available.