04 February 2010

Experiences of the sublime I

Something I would like to write about here is various experiences of the sublime I have had in my life.  The sublime primer can be found on Wikipedia.

In the Spring of 2008, I went to Laos to do teacher training with Teachers Helping Teachers, a group that is now a part of the Japanese Association of Language Teachers, but at the time was just independently run by English teachers in Japan. I went to Bangladesh with them in 2007 and incidentally had another experience of the sublime there, but that's another post.

We did a lot of things in Laos, but one of the most meaningful things was visit a Buddhist temple where one of the students at the Lao-American college, a young monk, lived. He was extremely full of life and reminded me quite a bit of one of my best friends from college. He took us around the temple, explaining the various things. I kept pestering him with questions about his life: how it had been to leave home, what was it like to beg for alms. At the time, I had been listening to the Berkley Buddhist Podcast and was really interested in the Buddhist worldview, not as a system of belief, per se, but as a philosophy.

As we walked around the temple, we came to a gong, which the monk told us we could strike three times. I remember it being related to the forgiveness of sins, but I can't, as I think back on it, remember for sure. Several years earlier, I might have been apprehensive about striking the gong, worried that god might mistake my eagerness and curiosity with idol worship, but at this point in my life, I was open to it. I stuck it three times, and afterwards, walking out of the temple, past the buddha and into the brightness of the morning light, for a very brief moment, things made sense.