Exploring life's passions

Travelling in a Buddhist country

A previous blog was dedicated to David, the owner of the place in Khanom where we stayed for almost two months. He was a new friend who died while we stayed at his place. This blog is in honor of his friend, Pili. A special lady, and a special friend, both to David and to us.

From the beginning, Pili and I connected. We’re both interested in personal development, each in our way, and we had long and interesting conversations about mindfulness and ‘traveling in the mind’ as Pili calls it.

Pili&Leo2.jpgPili shared with me how she and her friend are following the teaching of Buddha, how they are exploring their mind to try to let go of attachments and overcome judgements and emotions, such as anger and lust.

They do this through a long and intense journey divided into eight stages. A road, not frequently travelled, to find the truth. The ultimate goal to never return and become one with the universe.

In the beginning, we had to find a common language and build up trust. We had to make sure we could respect each other’s ideas and could be honest, be sure we could differ in our opinions, and that our personal experiences wouldn’t be ridiculed. And meanwhile, we had to be able to learn from our deviating views, instead of categorizing them as good or bad. Already quickly we realized there was nothing to fear.

20160124_102249_HDREspecially in a country like Thailand, it is interesting to have such discussions. In a country where Buddhism is a dominant force in the people’s lives and where you are surrounded by Buddhist temples and monks. A country where religious observances are considered both as social and recreational occasions, as well sacred occasions.

It’s interesting because it provides an opportunity to explore the differences between how Pili follows the teaching of Buddha and how Buddhism is integrated in daily life of most Thai people.

While I felt that Buddhist celebrations, temples and monks were important to most Thai (and Cambodians), and were treated with respect, I was also surprised by some of the excesses, something which you find in every religion.

In Cambodia, for example, I was astonished by the queues of people waiting to offer flowers and other gifts, including fake money and empty food packages, and how seemingly easy these were subsequently thrown out of the temple onto a growing pile of rubbish because of a lack of space to store all the gifts.

Equally amazing was the tradition of buying caged birds from street vendors and to release them for good karma and to demonstrate their respect for life in all forms.

We also spotted the novice monks check their mobile phones and tablets while meditating and chanting, as they did during David’s funeral.

After all that, it is great to have met Pili. A different kind of religious practitioner, averse to most ceremonies and traditions, in search of the ultimate truth.

She’s probably the gentlest person I have ever met. ThePili&Leo 1.jpg first and only one person I have met who, without seeming uninterested, is able to say she is indifferent to a gift you give, to your and her own emotions, to thoughts and attachment. It is not because she doesn’t care. On the contrary, it is because of her hard work, her traveling in the mind, that she has learned to care for life and each other peacefully, without judging, without needing thanks or reward. With a gentle smile, conscious and awake, she gives and receives equally.

In her travels she has come a long way, and could be a great example for many. Together with David, meeting Pili gave this extra colour and meaning to our stay in Khanom and provided me a deeper insight into the different ways one can follow the teachings of Buddha.

I am grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to spend time together and to have created memories for life. And as for Pili, I am happy to be able to say, let’s meet again.

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