Note: Sorry, I wrote this right after I got back from Thailand, but apparently forgot to post it. Please read it now, and pretend it’s still warm and balmy outside.
The first truth of Buddhism is “Life is suffering”. After passing part of my summer in intensive meditation training at a temple in the Thai countryside, I’m wont to agree. Meditation is incredibly difficult when you come from a culture that has never required more than 15 minutes of concentration before a commercial break. Additionally, as a resident of the temple, the other meditators and I were required to adopt the first eight of the 227 precepts Buddhist monks undertake, plus an unofficial precept that required us to be next to silent.
Precept 1- Abstain from taking life. Generally, I’m not inclined to murder anyone or even eat much meat, but in the Buddhist interpretation, “taking life” includes killing the hugest spider ever than lived outside my door, slapping away mosquitos and squishing the scorpion I found in my room.
Precept 2- Abstain for taking what is not given.
Precept 3- Abstain from unchastity.
Precept 4- Abstain from false speech.
Precept 5- Abstain from intoxicants.
Okay, so precepts two through five weren’t so different from my everyday life.
Precept 6- Abstain from untimely eating. “Untimely” means after noon. Breakfast was at 7am, after we had already done one hour of meditation and listened to an hour-long sermon on Buddhist teachings.
Precept 7- Abstain from dancing, singing, music, shows and from wearing jewelry, perfume or make-up. Basically, abstain from beauty, fun and other things that make life worth living.
Precept 8- Abstain from luxurious lodgings. This is a picture of my room:
Unofficial Precept- Abstain from talking. After my first three days at the temple, I had heard a total of three sentences said and spoken only one. That night, our teacher-monk chastised us for being too chatty while we were all supposed to be focusing on meditation.
If Buddha spent most of his life like I spend the past 10 days, then I’m not surprised he came to such a bleak conclusion about life.