The person who is able
to live by themselves
and make their practice alone,
will be happy to stay in the forest.
Dhammapada verse : 305
A monk without a monastery
On my very first visit to India I began teaching in Budh Gaya. This was certainly not planned as my intention had only been to make a pilgrimage before returning home again to re-ordain with my teacher. However, one morning whilst walking alone along the main street, a young man approached me and asked if I would teach him and some friends Vipassana practice. After a little reflection I agreed and we began to meet in the Dhamma hall at the Burmese Vihar. I had already been sharing the Dhamma teachings on my own teachers direct instruction on the Isle of Man for some time, but I had not arrived in India to do this. However, my feeling is that Dhamma is for sharing and my responsibility as a dedicated disciple, was to offer it when asked.
One of my students in this very first group in Budh Gaya was a very pleasant young German woman, and after some time she and I became close friends.
It was well known in the town that I would take the robes again with my teacher on my return to England, and this, until some time later, was my only plan.
One day Maria, my German student and now friend, asked me to go with her to the Ashok Hotel, in those days the smartest place in Budh Gaya, for afternoon tea. We sat in the pleasant surroundings, drank tea and ate cucumber sandwiches.
’Michael,’ she began,’I must tell you something.’
These were already ominous words, so I waited for the worst to come.
’You must not become a monk again.’
This was such a shock and exactly what I did not want to hear.
’But why do you say that ?’ I asked.
’You are my teacher and my friend so I speak only from honesty. If you become a monk, only Buddhist people, or people interested in Buddhism will hear your teachings. But I’m not Buddhist and neither are any of the people that you have taught here in Budh Gaya. If you do not show the Dhamma to them, who will?
It is possible that the monks robes will be a barrier between you and many people who want to be happy.’
This was a shock for me, but it’s truth was inescapable.
The Buddha did not teach Buddhists, he taught Dhamma, and this Dhamma was for everyone. Limiting its availability by joining a particular and often exclusive group did not seem the way to share the purity of truth.
After six weeks of confusion and reflection suddenly I understood. The insight was enormous. Dhamma is for everyone who wants it and it is offered without conditions. Buddhist or not, is not the question.
Unhappiness is the question, and liberation is the answer.
Many months later, having travelled extensively in the beautiful and life changing country of India, I returned home and went immediately to my teachers monastery in Birmingham.
I met him in the hallway. He was smiling and welcoming, and he spoke in his usual, loving playful way, ‘ah Michael,’ he began, ‘now you are a guru.’
Word had already reached him of my intention now to live in the world as a lay man but to offer Dhamma with an open heart to everyone equally so that they can be happy and then share that happiness with all beings.
’No Bhante,’ I replied, ‘I will share with others that which you have shared with me.’
’This is good,’ he continued, ‘and you can do it, but,’ he leaned in closer and with his beautiful smile whispered, ‘but you are no longer a monk so you must make sure that you receive enough money.’
So began my life as a ‘professional’ Dhamma teacher, but actually, nothing has changed. I share the Dhamma in the best and clearest way that I can so that others may benefit. I live a simple life, alone in the forest and since my teacher died, unconnected to any group or organisation. I travel to where I am invited and if I can offer support to the practice of others I am happy.
I am a monk without a monastery, dependent on the good will and generosity of others. I feel that this is the way of Dhamma, to have confidence in life and people’s generosity and kindness, and to trust that all is well.
May all beings be happy.
Anjali with Michael
coming together in Dhamma
A new service for close disciples of Michael
Anjali is the Buddhist word for the hands coming together in front of the heart in an attitude of prayer. It signifies mutual respect, gratitude and humility, and this is where we meet you and I, on our Dhamma Path, in an environment of love and compassion.
It is not my place to tell you how to live, or what you should or should not do, but only to share with you the Pure Dhamma as my teacher shared it with me. This is the great and beautiful tradition of sharing the Truth. Not religion, not politics, not social adgenda, only mutual love, respect and above all, self responsibility.
Our intention here is to make close contact with the Master readily available so that a true and energetic Dhamma practice remains our priority, and that we don’t feel isolated or even abandoned, in our spiritual life.
Dhamma realisation brings peace, happiness and a depth of understanding that we cannot even begin to imagine before we have it. The reality is simple, when we are happy we will share that happiness with all beings, when we are confused we will share that confusion with all beings. Ultimately the whole world will benefit by you staying on the path of love and awareness. When the heart is open, the face smiles.
Anjali with Michael will take the form of the retreat private interview where you are free to ask questions about meditation practice or simply life itself. The time will be for you and with the free modern technology of Skype, vision and sound are available together. We will encourage you to make this committment for a private Dhamma session at least once a month.
Of course, we ask that a small fee is paid to support the life of the teacher and also because you as a disciple must show your intention to be serious about this relationship. Dhamma is the most important thing in life, please don’t miss the opportunity to be in the presence of someone who lives it moment to moment.
For details of this please contact us.
May all beings be happy
A monk asked the Master, "How does an awakened being return to the ordinary world?"
The Master replied, "A broken mirror never reflects again; fallen flowers never go back to the old branches."
In the end, morality must be the natural manifestation of our heart.
We do not harm, hurt or kill others simply because the desire to do these things no longer arises, whatever the circumstances.
From Buttons in the Dana box
Follow Michael on twitter @MichaelKewley
Next Pure Dhamma Newsletter, January 2013To receive our free quarterly e-newsletter,
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