Hello, dear readers, or sawadhi kha.
I’m here at the center now, in Bangkok. My dearest friends Nawng Joy and Aey picked me up at the fancy hotel where I was quarantined.
They had spent all day, like many other days, in conferences about the future of S.D.S. now that Khun Mae is gone.
Nawng Joy explained that my home here had been uninhabitable until VERY recently: i.e. just before I arrived. She had appealed to a young and wealthy Thai entrepreneur who is a passionate volunteer here at Sathien Dhamma Sathan, explaining that Pa Joy (Auntie Joy) is coming, but her house has completely dissolved into rot and fungus, due to water damage through the roof. So this young man, named Somchai, assembled his crew and they spent a week completely re-building Ban Pa Joy. Another two women were adding the final welcome-home touches as we arrived: flowers, fruit, a small refrigerator, a fan, filtered water, and a hot water heater for my morning tea. There is no other single dwelling here at the center with all these amenities.
I am humbled by the generosity of spirit that I am offered here. I wandered around the next morning
before dawn, seeing with new eyes, after two years’ banishment due to COVID-19. I could feel the Green Tara radiating her blessings around the world, amidst the immense suffering of war, disease and chronic disasters that continue to ravage the human race. She manifested from one of Shiva’s tears, when he looked down upon the earth, and wept.
Although still incredibly beautiful, I could see that S.D.S. is losing its sheen: repairs are slipping behind, and the usual pristinely maintained gardens are lacking their lustre.
Only a handful of nuns remain here, whereas fifty nuns have migrated to the new center in the south, known as Bodhissatva Valley. The entire construction crew plus the magic gardener named Chom are similarly now centered in Bodhissatva Valley, doing their magic there, with renewed zeal.
Many of the children who grew up as little nuns at S.D.S, (some having been abandoned as infants, or who needed a home), are heading out into the world, to try their fortune as non-monastics.
One such child is named Assamita, a Nepalese girl. She came to live here when she was 13. I spent many afternoons that first winter with her, sharing English lessons and comforting her because she missed her family so much. Assamita disrobed yesterday, at the age of twenty.
Nawng Joy, Aey and I took her out to dinner to celebrate. Assamita had never been in the mall before, and had never eaten dinner (or probably any meal) in a fancy restaurant. Monastics in Thailand always fast from lunch until the next morning.
I had another reunion with a dear friend a couple days ago… the six-foot monitor lizard who lives in my neighborhood. She used to be incredibly shy, but this time she never even ran, just gently meandered on the path in front of me for about five minutes.
I believe I mentioned at the beginning of this Tale that
Khun Mae is gone.
Except that’s not entirely true. She is still in a refrigerated coffin in the main hall, next to a video of her talking, all the time. When I asked Nawng Joy when Khun Mae would be cremated, she told me: We’re not exactly sure.
Probably at the end of this year.
Is this mystifying to me?
Next week we will be celebrating the hundredth day since her passage from this earth.
S.D.S. here in Bangkok is still incredibly beautiful, dear readers… Yet I sense the beginning of a long slow decline.
My next Tale will be from Bodhissatva Valley, where I arrived last night…
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