Greetings from cool, green Wat Buddha Dhamma, 10 Mile Hollow, Wisemans Ferry, NSW 2775, Australia; www.wbd.org.au
Here it is nearly the middle of 2021! Time, of course, is very subjective. Some months have passed very quickly, while others have crept by ever so slowly. The 'slow month' for me was March as I was waiting expectantly to move into my new lodging on the hill, halfway up the valley. However, a series of issues arose in the finishing up and delays kept piling up. Phil, our builder friend from Belegin, completed the main structure in early January after working 8 hours per day, six days a week since the end of October. We then returned to our normal work period of 2 hours per day to finish off the details. Fortunately, we had many eager and willing volunteers to contribute their energy to the project.
Most of our long term residents and many guests spent some time on the site. Anagarika Miles and David took turns helping Phil, and then continued with the detailed work. Annie oversaw much of the painting work. Yuwadee, Noy and Pat spent a whole afternoon painting ¾ of the outside walls (the fourth and steepest wall took nearly 2 months to paint between rain storms, scorching heat and courageous painters!). Yoshi, Ray and friends got the water and septic tank set up, while our devoted electrician, Rene, wired up the Solar electrical system and installed the hot water heater.
Fortuitously, Michael, a professional landscaper, happened to be cycling past on the Old Great North Road and stopped in to visit. Once he was introduced to the project, he generously volunteered many hours masterfully completing the rocky staircase.
Through all the drama of hut construction I was also slowly working towards the publishing of my latest book, which has become a project in itself. I think the writing is basically complete after five years of gestation (although I make changes every time I look at it). Amaravati Publications has offered to publish it and a generous sponsor has come forward for the printing costs. The primary edit is complete and several proof readers are going through the text. A friend from Canada has offered to do the layout and I am seeking permission to use quotations from various publications. All-in-all it is slowly coming together, although details of printing and distribution are still in negotiation.
The purpose in putting together this book is really about systematically gathering into a coherent form my research on the theme of Anatta, no permanent self. Firstly, this involved collecting the relevant passages from the Pali Canon and translating them (2 yrs). The next stage was ordering them into some comprehendable form (many changes). Just when I thought I was nearly finished, I realized that some of the basic technical aspects of the teachings (Kamma, Nibbana, The Five Groups of Grasping and Dependent Origination) needed to be explained (2 more years). Editing and filling in further reflections took a further year.
One of the major, on-going challenges is translation of Pali terms to English. Although I normally think in English (sometimes Thai) trying to 'get my head around' some of the Pali concepts became a mind-bending exercise. Even though English is quite a flexible language one soon discovers its limitations through translation work. I have to keep reminding myself that language does not entirely encompass the real experience. On the other hand the purpose of a book is to communicate. I won't mention how many times I was ready to give up book writing! However, I do think that there is some useful material which some people may find helpful in their practice.
I call the book a 'contemplative workbook' as its purpose is to provide various themes for contemplation, including principle Buddhist teachings and guided meditations. Hopefully this will allow an experiential investigation beyond mere words. How many of us have ever really experienced the depths of ignorance and craving?
May you experience Liberation, good health and well-being.