Doi Suthep- Part VII: The Ghost Inside

Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
Trip End Mar 10, 2008

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Teacher's real name is Buddhasak but everyone just calls him Teacher.  I accidentally discovered his name when another monk at Doi Suthep let it slip during a conversation.  His name means "the potency of Buddha," and if you ask me, that's a pretty weighty burden to put on a kid.  Considering he's a monk, though, he has done a good job living up to expectations.

I'm guessing that Teacher and I are about the same age, which was initially somewhat unsettling.  In my opinion, monks, priests, and rabbis should always be older than you- same goes for doctors, politicians, or anyone else responsible for your daily health and welfare.  Nevertheless, he won me over right away.  Teacher is an incredibly warm, generous, and patient man, and I always looked forward to my daily visits with him.

Teacher also leads dhamma talks every day at 8:00 a.m., dispensing pearls of wisdom on meditation, karma, and nibbana, among other subjects.  The lectures are always interesting, made even more so by the language barrier.  Despite the fact that his English is excellent, he has a heavy Thai accent that renders every third or fourth word as undecipherable to me.  Given the density of the subject matter and depth of our collective concentration, it doesn't present any significant problems, but leads to some entertaining moments.

On my third day at Doi Suthep, he was telling a story in which he was referring to "Eddie's son."  I thought Eddie might have been another meditator, or maybe an under-appreciated figure in Buddhist mythology, though I had my doubts any of the five ascetics were named "Eddie."  Finally, he brought up light bulbs, and it occurred to me.....ahhh.... "Edison!"  A few days later, he told a story about his own teacher, who played with someone or something called "Toto" when he was a boy.  For ten minutes, that little dog from "The Wizard of Oz" was spinning around in my brain, until Teacher said that Toto used to hide his head in a shell.   Shell?  Wait a minute.....ahhh....."Turtle!"

When Teacher was a teenager, both his mother and father died within a short time of one other.  Shortly after his mother passed away, he traveled to the hospital to visit his dad.  "Father, he was like strong mountain for me," Teacher recalled.  "Now, I look at him.  He very small, very thin."

After his father died, Teacher made the decision to ordain as a monk to honor his parents.  To do so, he would spend three months studying at a forest monastery.  All of his friends, who couldn't picture Teacher as a monk, predicted he wouldn't last for three days, much less three months.  Annoyed by this lack of support, he went to visit his best friend, who was much more optimistic.  "You'll make it a week," he told Teacher.

His first day at the wat was a very difficult one.  "First day," he recalled, "it seem like a year!"  All day, he kept hoping his older brother would come visit him and bring him a Coca-Cola, but he never did.  When evening came, he went his room, which was a small hut on stilts in the woods.  He was tired, cold, and lonely but determined to prove his friends wrong.

As he tried to sleep that night, he woke up every hour, hearing strange sounds coming from outside.  The next morning, he visited with the abbot and told him about the noises.  "Yes," the abbot responded, "no one has slept in that hut for a very long time.  They say it is haunted by ghosts in the forest."  This bit of information did not make Teacher feel any better about the situation.

The next night, as he tried to sleep, he heard the noises again, coming from underneath the hut.  "They sound like footsteps, " Teacher said, describing what he heard.  "Whoosh....whoosh....whoosh...."  But when he looked down at the ground, there was no one there.  The following night, there was a fierce storm, and raindrops pounded the roof of his hut.  He heard the footsteps again.


But this time, the footsteps weren't coming from the ground.  They were coming from the roof.

For several nights, this went on.  Finally, Teacher had enough and decided to find out for himself what was going on.  That night, as he lay quietly on the hut's floor, he heard the sounds again.


He quietly got out of bed and grabbed a flashlight, moving to the entrance of his hut and ascertaining the precise location from which the sound was emanating.  He waited until he heard the sound again.


Teacher held his breath and counted to himself.  "One....two...three."  He pointed the flashlight toward the sound and turned it on.  But he saw nothing.

Because, he realized, his eyes were still closed.

So, slowly, he opened up his eyes.  And there, on the ground, he saw it.  "It was forest bug," Teacher explained.  "Very large bug with many legs that lives in the forest.  Very common."  While the spectre of a giant insect in the middle of the night would not be a welcome sight for many of us, Teacher, at least, was relieved.

As he went to bed that night, Teacher remembers thinking to himself, "Ah!  There is no ghost.  It is the ghost inside."

There are monsters living in our head.  Demons and spirits and things that go bump in the night.  But it is only when we turn on the light and open our eyes that we are able to see them for what they really are.

Coming Soon- Part VIII:  Buddha Day
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