DY5 Bulletin 5:
[Watching a sunset over the mountains of Phattalung & a thunderstorm over the upper lake from Wat Laen Haad, Kao Yai … 2 May 2000]
The Dhamma-Yatra reached Kao Yai (Big Island) via Wat Pako, a famous shrine associated with the leading, and perhaps legendary, saint of the South, Luang Poo Tuad. We reached there on a Sunday morning (30th) and it was crawling with Malaysian tourists, complete with firecracker bursts. It was clear this place was more interested in making money than teaching Dhamma, let alone the objectives of the Dhamma-Yatra. The Abbot didn't really want us there, since we brought in no income, so we were glad to move on early the next morning.
The walk to Kao Yai was beautiful. Much of the way was through marsh and Pru forest lands. Very rich greens, white cranes, and quiet greeted us. At one point, many of us were taken by a high-pitched voice singing with natural joy. A woman? Where was she? Turned out to be a young man collecting sugary sap from a clump of Danot palms, unquestionably happy that morning, hopefully all day.
Koh Yai ("Big Island")
It will take us 2 days to walk around Koh Yai. 3 issues stand out. First, trucks carrying laterite soil pass us regularly and most of the hills have huge gashes in them. Second, there are tiger prawn ponds in many parts of the "island," even though they are forbidden here by the Ministry of Agriculture & Cooperatives. Third, many locals have been sold on the idea of a bridge — resurrected version of the old dam project — to join Kao Yai to the Phattalung mainland. The government seems to prefer the dam, which looks likely to stir up many conflicts. We hear that there is concern among the "islanders" about all of these, but they are afraid to speak out because of "local influences."
We also met a friendly monk (remembered from the 2nd walk) who unabashedly was growing oil palms on temple land as an income spinner. He didn't seem to notice any contradiction between his economic acitvity and the meaning of being a bhikkhu. At another Wat, the youngish abbot was boasting of his success in raising money among his flock to build various concrete buildings (all rather ugly, lacking the skill & taste that characterize the many old wooden structures we see deteriorating around the lake). We find more abbots like these two than those interested in breaking out of old ruts to do something for the lake or for rejuvenating local Buddhism.
After more than 10 days of walking certain small lessons are refreshed and more deeply ingrained in a consciousness that so easily forgets the simple. The simple pleasure of a nice shower when one has expended energy & sweated in a healthy way. Clean clothes. Simple food when one is hungry. A clean patch of floor without too much noise or many mosquitoes on which to spread one's mat at night. Friends. Generosity. Good health & healthy living. The quiet of meditation.
Small lessons, perhaps, but very important today for part of the response to what ails us. I am thankful for being reminded by the life of the Dhamma-Yatra.