I had no money so I had to find food and shelter. The manager of the cheapest hotel in town let me have a room about 500ft above the village of McLeod Ganj. it was spare. I found out why after I got eaten alive by fleas. food was a problem. Couldn’t beg. some western neighbours fed me a bit but I had to find work. I heard about a westerners place up the hill that did meditation retreats so I went up asked if there were any odd jobs. There were. It was a lovely 5 room bungalow with a long two room stone cabin at the back. It was called Elysium. I was given work and the next time there was a retreat it was suggested I join. There would be no charge. it was 38 years ago so bear with me. the meditation being taught was Vipassana.
In the Theravadin context, this entails insight into the three marks of existence, the impermanence and unsatisfactoriness of every conditioned thing that exists and non-self. In Mahayana contexts, it entails insight into what is variously described as sunyata, dharmata, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness, clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness.[web 1]
Vipassanā is commonly used as a synonym for vipassanā-meditation, in which anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing, is used to become aware of the impermanence of everything that exists. Vipassanā is commonly used as one of two poles for the categorization of types of Buddhist practice, the other being samatha (Pāli; Sanskrit: śamatha). This distinction originates in the earliest interpretations of the Sutta Pitaka, not in the suttas themselves.[a]
i already had some experience when I became a follower of the boy guru in my London squat.We were under the auspices of Goenka ji. a Theravadin teacher based in India. A disciple of his an Englishman Kitty Subho a Thai monk, was a friend and meditation teacher (being groomed as Goenka jis successor until we all had a faaling out over the nature of Vipassana, another story) I understood anapanasati mindfulness of breathing. Concentration could be honed to the degree of being aware of hairs in the nostrils vibrating. We would sweep our bodies and be aware of sensations. You could have an ache in your knee and concentrate on the sensation and dissolve the pain. Seeing it as impermanent as were all bodily sensations. i tried hard and developed a good degree of concentration over following retreats. (I became caretaker and used to cook for retreats too). However the body was one thing but controlling the mind was another. I would see the arising of thoughts but this would trigger another thought. I would see them as anatta (I translate as not-this which is more Mahayanist than Theravada not-self) I would watch them but get caught up in them. Determinedly I would come back to my concentration but it would soon fade into being caught up in them again. The goal was to achieve emptiness when sensation ceases to arise. I was terrible at meditation. I worked hard at mindfulness in every action when walking there is only walking. but my mind would wander off. Over the next year or so I practiced but never achieved much progress. I was very influenced by the Tibetans too and studied Mahayanist texts which got me into trouble. However recognizing I seemed to be stuck the best way forward to limit the effects of Samsara was to become a monk in the Thai tradition as becoming a Tibetan monk was for life. after discussion it was agreed that Kitty Subho would give me a letter of recommendation. I journeyed to Bodh Gaya to the Thai temple. a nice touch was when I was catching the train HH was there too in his train. Took it as auspicious. I got blessed.
I won’t bore you with my experiences suffice it to say after three months serving the monks I was accepted as a novice monk. i was ordained Jnanabodhi. loosely translated as “Knower of Enlightenment ” I was troubled and got into trouble. Firstly my ordination coincided with the beginning of a retreat for westerners. I was carried around the temple on their shoulders. I hated it I wanted to be humble. but loved it too. Another time the monks arranged a trip to a holy site where a saint had lived. I was prepared for the pilgrimage then discovered we were going on Elephants! The ride of kings. It was a Elephant ride how could I say no? Jeez still struggling with Samsara. We had one amazing Pilgrimage to Raj Griha Vultures Peak and I sat on the place where The Buddha gave The Astashrihasika Prajna Paramiter Sutra. i still have my copy. OMG I got high as a a pure spirit just doing a visualisation.bad Theravadin am I. Then I was asked to bless people. Who me? Jeez who the fuck am I some holy man? All this was not reducing Samsara. I upset a monk who stopped speaking to everyone for a week coz I invited a westerner in trouble into the complex and justified it with Buddhist doctrine. then with another monk I visited a very sick friend she had been bitten by a bee (monsters in India) , To comfort her I touched her knee. the next day I was before the abbot and had to retake all my vows. I had touched a woman. BUT BUT its the mind……oh I had to leave. So I was sponsored to go to Bangkok and I found a little isolated monastery 20 minutes up river in the jungle. No one spoke English. I practiced as a monk should. For 9 months. I discovered the uncontrolled mind is a bitch. I have not meditated since. I watch the mind but it gets out of hand and rules. It is said the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. i have been diagnosed as bi polar, manic depressive, which suggests I do not have a “normal” brain. i cannot say. I only know I often live in a world of extremes. I always try to be mindful. and :
33. Just as a fletcher straightens an arrow shaft, even so the discerning man straightens his mind — so fickle and unsteady, so difficult to guard.
34. As a fish when pulled out of water and cast on land throbs and quivers, even so is this mind agitated. Hence should one abandon the realm of Mara.
35. Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.
I can only remind myself of The Dhamma. It is never far away.
I disrobed and moved to Tokyo and became an English Teacher. I am still a Buddhist and a Bodhisattva, Jnanabodhi.