Saturday, July 8, 2017

Vassa, and life

So -- today  is the first day of a season/tradition called Vassa, when Buddhist monastics, at least those of the Theravadan tradition, tend to stay in one place for three months, rather than going out into the world to teach. The tradition stems from the days of ancient India, when this was the rainy season and travel was difficult for the monks. Twenty-five hundred years later, the tradition is still observed, though rain or shine travel is much easier.

Teaching still happens, of course. But more 'in house' I guess you'd say, rather than roaming from place to place. Not all that many monastics actually roam these days. Most are connected to a monastery somewhere as a home base, even if they travel to teach. But, I know of one at least who has been traveling the world for years now, staying with friends or at monasteries. He always observes Vassa, wherever he is.

I've spent time in monasteries during Vassa, but never really noticed anything much different other than that often bikkhuni's from over the world might come and join the others for the three months. I never thought about observing it myself, on my own, in any way, until a week or so ago. There was a Google Groups message from an Indian man whose family is offering much financial support to Dhammadharini during this time. He suggested various ways lay people could participate: come to the monastery, wear white and serve the monastics, meditate, and such. I was invited to spend time with them this summer, and wanted to, but in the end gave in to the reality that I just didn't have the energy for the drive down there, among other things.

But then -- light bulb! -- he mentioned that Vassa was sometimes called the Buddhist Lent, which I'd never heard before, and that lay people could observe it in their own homes by doing something that was good for them, giving up something that was bad for them, and spending more time in meditation. This sounded like something I could and wanted to do, though I admit that I had some reservations over the last few days. But, here I am.

Wearing white every day, meditating twice a day as something 'good for me', and not playing computer games serves as giving up something 'bad for me'. Those games were and are a terrible habit, and are bad for my eyes as well as my right arm which has an annoyance something like carpal tunnel syndrome, though not in the wrist, and has had for years. Comes from the same idea -- repetitive motion.

Other than these easy things, life goes on as normal but since the mind is always aware of the need to avoid the games and to remember to meditate, it's also more aware than usual of the general Buddhist philosophies and the wish to live by them perhaps more strongly than normal. Now, I'm as skeptical about me actually doing this for 3 months as anybody else, so we'll see. But that's the goal.

Hard to catch the cat in the window long enough to take a picture, but I managed. She's grown -- not so much bigger, but sturdier and heavier. Not fat, just solid. She's a sweetie, tries so hard to be the perfect cat. A great companion that I'm glad to have with me.

This morning I awoke to some beautifully risen (over-risen, unfortunately) sourdough bread I'd started yesterday. I baked it anyway, and it rose but not as much as if I'd baked it sooner. I tried something different this time: added rosemary and greek olives and black pepper to the dough, guessing at quantities from a non-sourdough recipe I really like. Fortunately, the idea was a good one, but there is too much black pepper, certainly, and maybe too much rosemary. However, I made a half recipe and it's not inedible, so not much is lost.

The garden is doing well, though snails decapitated a couple of pickling cucumber seedlings, three bean seedlings, and some of the stem of an eggplant. I don't know if the eggplant will produce any fruit -- sure hasn't been growing, but looks healthy otherwise. One bean bush has maybe 3-4 beans on it, but the other seedlings are shot. Squash is doing great, Swiss chard and everything else are doing great.

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