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Another Trip to Mississauga

October 19, 2014

This is the most unusual trip to Mississauga.  For this trip, I went alone, my wife was not with me.  And also, all the time I was there, I did not go to Scarborough (for the food in Goumet Malaysia) nor go to Markham to visit San Mong Kok (新旺角)。It was last minute, Dr. Piyal Walpola sent me email that I was no longer on the waiting list, but I only discovered it weeks after that when I digged into my junkmail.  I only packed some loose clothes and drove straight from work after my last class.

What was supposed to be only about three hours according to my TOMTOM, turned into a four and a half hour drive to Mississauga.  I was stuck for about 30 minutes at PEACE bridge (Canadian custom) near to Buffalo and wasted another 60 minutes near Walker’s Line on QEW.

I arrived rather late at night, but the host (a friend so nice to house me) was still in a talk in U of T (5 Bancroft Ave) — the speaker would be my teacher.  Tan, another guest, was also in the house.  As I sat down and was biting into my “wife-cake” (老婆饼) Tan asked me to get ready to go to a restaurant.  I put the “cake” back into the plastic and went with him to Pho Mi 99.  Tan is vegetarian and does not even eat garlic or spring onion.   So he was there just o drink water and the free pot of tea.  For me, 我还可以吃肉边菜。

Anyway, my purpose is for Saturday, so after the dinner when I was driven back to the house,  another Singaporean whom I knew came to the house, but we talked only less than 15 mins and the host and myself chased her home.

‘Tomorrow you’re also coming during the evening talk, right?”

I quickly meditated and slept.  Next day I was awakened at 5AM by the alarm clock of the host daughter.  She needed to climb the CN Tower.  After she was out of the house, I sneaked into the bathroom to take my bath.  Then I took my pile of exams to the kitchen downstairs wanting to grade.  Tan (did I say he is Singaporean?) was already there.

”哇, 你也那么早阿!“

I put my papers aside and chalked up a conversation with him.  He was not going to the retreat that I was going.  He might be at the evening talk.  He was in the house because in between selling and buying a new house, he has nowhere to stay.  We talked until about 7:30AM, and I had to go with the hosts (husband and wife, also Singaporeans).

In the basement of the hall, was where everything would happen.  It looked like four times my floor space at home but they will squeeze in 300 people.  80-90% of the devotees were Sri-Lankans.  At first I thought they were Singaporean or malaysian Indians, but logic told me “cannot be, lah”.  At 8AM, the speaker was not there yet.  Somebody else came in, gave a very long introduction about the guest and repeated the importance of “Noble Silence from 9 to 5” rule many times.  By 8:15AM, the moment we had been waiting for came, everyone bowed whole-heartedly and then there were shouts of

“Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu”

I had no idea what that meant.  I saw it a lot on YouTube comments, I take it it meant “善哉 “。Otherwise, that word is used for holy men who live up in the mountain and come down once in big numbers to the Gange River (Or one or two may appear near Hindu temples and do difficult “stunts” like stood on ONE leg for a few years to make vow for a village.)  Lunch was provided free.  One slice of cake, a potato salad, a curry puff and a turkey wrap (but I don’t think it’s turkey).  My habitual me almost wanted to request for vegetarian because they were handed down like boxes on a budget airplane.

I take every word and every lesson very, very seriously.  My very first lesson (with a Roshi) was in RZC (Rochester Zen Center) a few months ago.  This is my second lesson from a bhikkhus on meditation.  People were standing (and siting) almost shoulder to shoulder.  If I moved to change my position during the meditation, it was almost certain I will rub or hit somebody left/right of me or behind me. But I was very attentive and did my very best even though some of the things I was already familiar by self discovery.  For a total of about 3 hours of sitting meditations and more than 30 minutes in walking meditation, I would have to say my attentiveness paid off.  Almost immediately I see some improvement.  I was so very thankful to the speaker at the end of the session.  I do not know what to give in return.

My only problem was during the break.  Even though Noble Silence was to be observed and even the speaker re-emphasized that.  But every time, when it came to break time, or when the meditation is supposed to be up (and people could continue if they want to), the mumbling and talking would almost inevitably start.  And everyone has a smartphone and that occasional ringing albeit only during breaks made it impossible for me to continue even though I wanted to.

“老远开了四五个小时的车来到这里,我怎么样也得学点功夫。”

Evening, there was a talk and many more people from the city came.  We remained in the basement to watch from the video from the basement while the speaker went upstairs and I could not imagine how the crowd or the people were controlled up there.

In his talk, he mentioned Ajahn Chah (a very well respected Thai monk) many times.  The speaker must be really close to him when he was alive.  I don’t like most of the speaker jokes. 我怕绮语 造口业。But he already reached his first jhana, so he is in full control of his 业章。 But most people were there for that reason. His popularity.  When the question about Physics was raised, I can see he knew a lot.  And he was trying to put in simple words to layfolks how time could be finite and yet no boundary.  Because the words “in the begin-less time” was used a lot in the sutras.  And he mentioned how the gravitational constant was not really a constant and many Physicists already agreed to that, but laypeople still find it hard to swallow.  And some even wanted to prevent schools from teaching or printing in books.  He was reminding and telling people that being dogmatic is no good.

By 8 o’clock at night, everything is over.  People rushed forward to be with the famous star.  我只有默默的感谢这位大师。我为这位优秀的老师磕头拜了几拜,I have no intention to meet him or take a photo with him.  I have to meet my host family who were upstairs.  The crowd was so thick, I was always behind someone.  People who wanted his photo also kneel and bow (as is a tradition in Theravada) do so before taking a picture with him.

photo w Ajahn Bhram

Then I saw the gift that was presented to him, a metal bowl and three robes.  想起这位大师给我的是如此名贵的善言和教导,in return what he got was worth less than somebody’s dinner.  那晚,想了很久,不禁泪眼汪汪.

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