Sunday, October 19, 2008

Meditating with Monkeys


We're out! We're out! Yes, the rumours are true. We have made it through our 10-day retreat in silence, learning about Tibetan Buddhism. Now, the time has come for me to share nothing other than our encounters with the lovely monkeys of Dharamsala.

The monkeys around Tushita are very clever and rather sneaky little guys. We were warned that if we were eating any of our meals away from the dining hall and some monkeys approached, it was best to just hand your food over to them, since they would take it anyway. Since we had heard similar warnings in the past, I wasn't too concerned about it. I mean... they're just a few monkeys, right?

Well, it turns out we lived very intimately with these creatures and I will share three encounters with you.

The Cookie Thief
From 2-3pm everyday we were allowed to speak in small groups of six to ten people. These were our assigned discussion groups. After a few days, one of the members of my group thought it would be nice to bring a package of cookies for us to enjoy while we discussed different points of Tibetan Buddhism. What a lovely gesture, I thought, and apparently so did the rest of my group, as the next day three people brought packages of cookies!

Three packages!!! A FEAST! Oh boy oh boy, so we quickly devoured the first package and opened the second. Discussions took our attention away from the cookies and towards each others' hearts. It was really the most lovely part of the day.

Anyway, back to the monkeys. So, as were were listening to one of our group members speak, a monkey slowly crept up and crawled silently between two of us. Before we had time to even acknowledge that a monkey was sitting in the middle of our circle, it snatched the package of cookies at incredible speed and ran away to consume them in a nearby tree.

We laughed heartily as did all the neighbouring groups. Oh, you little monkeys.

The Apple Snatch
Often we had the opportunity to eat apples as part of our lunch. We grabbed as many as we liked from a bucket where they had been sliced in half. Being an apple lover, I grabbed a half, put it in my salad bowl, and head outside to eat on the porch of the dining hall.

Practicing mindful eating meditation, I sat very quietly and observed every bite I took, taking special care to put down my fork between bites. While I sat there, surely as serene as Shakyamuni Buddha himself, a monkey saw the perfect opportunity for his lunch. He jumped down from a tree ran across a nearby roof, fell to the railing, scurried across the table, and SNATCH! He reached into my salad bowl and looted my apple!

Everyone laughed and the monkey returned to a tree just above where I was sitting and sat there eating the apple right in front of me. Oh, you sneaky little bugger.

The Revolution
One evening while we all sat in the gompa, we heard incessant monkey cries from outside. This was not altogether unusual, but this time there was quite a bit more than what we typically heard. So, Stephanie and I took a peek out one of the windows where we saw around ten monkeys just hanging around out front of the gompa. They just sat around in what Stephanie saw as a planning moment of the revolution when monkeys will take over. It lasted for 20 minutes and was really quite interesting to watch.

Around fifteen of us were just standing watching the monkeys in confused amazement. Oh, you crafty little buggers.


Anyway, hope you enjoyed this post. I've been at this computer for far too long now, so I'll see you later :-)

1 comment:

bob said...

Hey Pete. I was expecting to hear that you were surrounded by monks, but not monkeys.

Yours and Steph's posts are both calm and exciting. Good stuff.

Peace and love, Bob