Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tea retreat

Walking mindfully with Thay

The bus left Pham Ngu Lao at 8.15pm. 5 hours later I arrived Bao Loc in the middle of the night. The gate was closed and I had to trouble a novice to open it for me.

3000 people came for this retreat! I was told and my sleepy eyes awoke a little. the next early morning at 4.30 the sonorous temple bell rang throughout the monastery compound. After brushing I made my way to the meditation hall. I saw seas of heads in the huge hall, with a silhoutte prominently standing out from behind the lighted buddha statue.

It was, unmistakenly, the Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh. This was my second retreat with him and I felt good seeing him again.

During walking meditation, Thay (or teacher as it's called in Vietnamese) led us from the hall down to the tea plantation. The Prajna monastery is, to my surprise, nestled right on top of the tea hill. Thousands of petit yellow butterflies danced admist the fragrance of tea when we walked past. I felt blessed in Thay's presence and I could feel Nat and Koh's presence too.

I also had my first taste of raw tea brewed from fresh tea leaves. It had a biting after-taste on my tongue. The tea meditation was great to relish, beside Thay's comprehensive teachings on how to guide our minds into the 21st century. Most of the attendees were under 30 so Thay focused quite a lot on the problems faced by the young generation.

The rainy season approached with heavy downpours, making a huge number of cicadas buzz with a loud note. A few times Thay's voice was engulfed by the roaring buzz and we were totally lost in nature's cacaphonic symphony.

My cheeks were wet with rains when I left Bao Lac. For a while I couldn't tell if they were rain drops or my tear drops.

monks walking, Luang Prabang, Laos.