I went to Wat Suan Mokkhaphalaram today because Ajahn Duddhadasa Bhikkhu started this place and I'd read his book about Buddhism last week. It was marvelous - not the golden glitzy kinda Wat in Bangkok and elsewhere, but a nature place, as you can see in the pictures below. Bhikkhu was a scholar, writing many books on Buddhism until his death in the late 1990s. He blended Taoism, zen, and even some Christianity into his interpretation of how to practice the Buddha's teachings.
Picture at the Wat. I think it is about the Buddha spreading enlightenment. Can I be in the line?
Is he a monk too?
While I was wandering around, one of the monks approached me and invited me to spend the night in their women's dorm! I was tempted until I saw the wooden pallet they sleep on :-). "This is not a hotel," I was told, but a serious meditation center. People from all over the world come to spend 10 days or more living like a monk. I sat and reflected for some time, myself.
Buddhism is creeping into my center. Now that I read more and talk to Thais, I see that it is about service and being mindful when you feel pleasure which I now hear is OK to feel as long as it doesn't turn into craving. True Enlightenment is being "empty" of suffering - both pleasure and pain (because pleasure always leads to suffering when it withdraws). Longing for more is the root of suffering and wars. So just enjoy it when it comes and be mindful (= live in the moment to me and go with the flow).
This monk maintains that Bhuddhism is based in science, knowledge, and intellect, not philosophy, so is easier for me to take. It is about the nature of people and things on earth. He doesn't even want to call it religion. It seems to be all about leading a moral and peaceful life by getting rid of the ego ("I") and the belief that anything is "mine". So far I've heard of no creation myth, and no afterlife story although I have heard the G word mentioned. I had a long chat with a Buddhist Thai man on the train and he confirmed that the only spirits mentioned are those of nature, but they don't believe in one creator. Although many buddhists believe in reincarnation, it is not part of the original teaching. Also, the Buddha said that no one should worship images, statues, or look to people as dieties. It is just about finding peace within by eliminating clinging to things or outcomes. Of course they do have images of the Buddha, just as do the Christians with their images of Christ and cross, even though their teachings say worship "no graven images."
I'm definitely going to visit the Wat in Bangkok where English speaking monks teach meditation. In my Lonely Planet book they suggested doing this after spending some time in thailand, and I now understand why. It is more meaningful after seeing it and discussing with Thai people.