DY5 Bulletin 2d: Adjustments
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This is the second of a short series of "bulletins" written during this year's Dhamma-Yatra for Songkhla Lake. You can get more information about the walk, as well as past walks, from our website:
Wednesday 26 April 2000
DY5 BULLETIN 2
A couple days ago (24th), I wanted to put down the following notes but the truck with my computer bag took off for the day & didn't return until late. Anyway, my body was weary enough to use the excuse to take it easy as much as possible. When I awoke in the morning, somebody had put the computer bag next to my sleeping mat.
One aspect of the walk that most of the walkers, especially we older ones, must struggle with is adjusting to the walking, sun, close quarters, etc. As I am going through this for the fifth time, I'll recount some of the adjustments that my body is making.
After 4 months in the USA, mainly during winter, my usually rugged soles had gone soft from wearing socks & shoes all the time. (In Siam, I go barefoot except in the polluted cities.) The Catch-22 for my feet is that the soft soles hurt when I walk on gravel, laterite pebbles, rocks, or hot asphalt, but certain spots on top get blisters from the rubbing of sandals they aren't used to. So I try to go barefoot as long as I can, then switch to sandals when the soles hurt too much. This time, I remembered to put plasters on the blisters before they popped.
This morning (26th), much of the way was on concrete and asphalt. There was a fair amount of gravel at the beginning, but the soles had toughened up enough to not mind that at all. The next few kilometers on concrete were pleasant, although there were many cow pies to navigate. However, without many clouds in the sky, the asphalt was pretty hot by 10:00 am. Thus, the last hour of walking was increasingly painful as the soles got fried on the hot tar. Conversely, the pleasure was intense when we walked beneath the shade of sugar palms that occasionally lined the side of the road, providing shade for our bodies and cool pavement beneath the feet, plus a heavenly breeze! Nonetheless, I ended putting on my sandals for the last few kilometers after the hot pavement became too painful. (One monk from Surin had no such troubles and managed the whole morning without sandals.)
So far, I've avoided serious blisters and have begun to toughen up the soles. With tomorrow a day off from walking, the feet should be in good shape for the rest of the trip.
My father developed skin cancer when he was the age I now am. After many months well covered against the North American cold, it's back to hot & humid Southern Siam. We're still getting some rain, but not in the mornings when we walk. The sun beats down steadily, seldom distracted by a cloud. Even with fairly thick cotton robes, there is a red tint on my right shoulder. Nonetheless, healthy doses of sun screen 25 on nose, cheeks, forehead, and neck, plus a wet washcloth on my head, have kept away serious sunburn. My nose isn't tender. I guess I've learned from the past. The heat & sun took some of my strength away the first few days, but now that my legs are used to the walking it feels good to walk, whatever the weather. How nice it would be too stay in shape and not go through this again.
MOUTH & STOMACH
Southern food can be very spicy, but I am not a big fan of hot-spicy food. The curries tend to be very hot! So far, that hasn't been a problem. Southerners also eat lots of veggies, although they may not be the ones we find in the supermarket. One of my favorites is Kee Lek curry made from the leaves of the Kee Lek tree. It is served almost every day. Mango Yam salad is also tasty, though it doesn't look so appetizing. Finally, I'm eating lots of eggs, when I usually limit myself to just 2 or 3 a week. Not as much dried fish as in previous years, perhaps because it has been unseasonably wet the past few weeks. Now, the only thing to avoid is constipation.
The first days require a big adjustment. Out of shape, rather fat from too much good food in the States, adjusting to change of climate, and having to live in the midst of a group all the time were a challenge the first few days. So, I've only been eating once a day and resting while others are eating. As of the 25th, I had my strength back and found my legs. It's now fun to walk, so long as the feet don't wince with each step. Then I can look around to enjoy the scenery many sugar palms in this area rather than look carefully where each step is placed.
And as a tasty bonus, farmers are harvesting the sugar palms as we pass. We are offered the frothy, rich sap from bamboo cylinders.
SOME DHAMMIC REFLECTIONS ON THE NOK AEN SITUATION
In reporting about the Nok Aen problems around Koh Maak, I didn't have time to include Dhammic reflections on the situation. Nonetheless, at the end of the discussion at Wat Pakbang Nagaraj, I was asked to do just that. Let me share a few perspectives. More will develop with further bulletins.
Gratitude is a fundamental value in Thai Buddhism. From infancy, Thais are taught to feel gratitude to the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha), to parents & ancestors, and to teachers. This is stressed at home, temple, & school. At least in the villages Older elements in the culture, going back to spirit-based beliefs & traditions, feel the same gratitude towards nature, towards the fields, streams, rivers, forests, swamps, hills, and seas that feed & cloth us, and provide shelter & medicine. Today, many monks extend the notion of "ancestors" to the natural environment that gives us life. In all cases, gratitude is considered the appropriate response: the knowledge that we have benefited from others (kataññu), the feeling (katavedi), and appropriate actions.
The behavior of the Laemthong Co., their cohorts in the government, and local politicians seeking their share of the loot, show a profound disregard for the value of gratitude. What gratitude their class reveals is generally the self-serving showy version reserved for state functions, staged charity events, and other displays that do little good for the people and country as a whole. Duplicitously, the illusion plays on in a culture where "face" is more important than truth.
The basic precepts of non-harming and non-stealing are well established in the minds of ordinary Thais. In the past, popular wisdom imbedded basic Buddhist morality within village culture. For example, it was accepted that killing fish was a "sin," but that doing so to feed the family could be redeemed by doing good (making merit), such as sharing a portion of the food with the temple. However, large-scale killing for the sake of commerce and profit was considered serious bad kamma that would stick with one into future lives. Needless to say, the elites, under "modern" influences (beginning in the early 1800s), have used the education system and media to disparage such values and replace them with more profit and wealth accumulation values. (More on this in later bulletins.)
Clearly, Laemthong's concession, the way it is operated by them, and the way it is administered by the government consistently break these basic precepts. The Nok Aen population countless birds, chicks, and eggs are harmed most directly, along with their habitat. The violence of the company's guards against local people is also quite direct. Finally, principles enshrined in the new constitution stipulate the right of local people to usage and oversight of local resources. That this is denied the people of Koh Maak amounts to corporate and government theft.
Underlying the precepts is the most fundamental principle of all, the inter-relatedness of all life. Implicit in our mutual dependence is the responsibility of mutual support. While no society may ever know a total lack of exploitation and violence, when these are kept to a relative minimum relative to the needs of a healthy society a society maintains itself creatively, justly, peacefully, with the needs of all members taken care of, and without shifting the burden to other societies or the environment. When, however, certain sectors of a society, especially its elites, show little genuine concern for the needs of the majority, let alone the less privileged members, that society will enter a downward spiral of violence, dishonesty, and decay in which its survival is at risk. Thailand has entered this downward spiral in a big way.
These perspectives also apply to most of the situations and controversies we will see. Therefore, these reflections will be continued in upcoming bulletins.
Thank you for your interest. Feel free to share these bulletins as widely as you like. Fax, reproduce, email, and publish them as much as you want. Please do not edit them in any way that changes the meaning or intent of the author, and accredit them to Santikaro Bhikkhu on behalf of "The Dhamma-Yatra for Songkhla Lake" © 2000.
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