A New Person

A New Person
My 2015 youth retreat experience

Dunisha Panditaratne
"it felt as if a huge wind (my mind) had blown me away. "
I had left all comforts of home behind, and all simple pleasures that had blinded me from the truth were gone. I was going to learn more Dhamma, gain a vast amount of merit, and seek more wisdom.
When I arrived at the temple a new way of life was set out for me. I was to follow the daily five precepts with an additional three. After I had taken the eight precepts, Bhante Wajirabuddhi had said that I was going to be a new person and not be the same way I was at home. Me being my ignorant self, I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. What did he mean by a “new person?” I was still going to be the same Dunisha, wasn’t I? The end of the day was approaching, so I proceeded to help with the Attivisi puja, still thinking about Bhante Wajirabuddhi’s words.
The next day I woke up with determination to become mindful and to not break any of the eight precepts. But as we all know, saying something in your head is a lot easier than doing it. During morning meditation, my mind was my worst enemy. One moment I was thinking about breathing and the slow inhale and exhale of every breath, the next moment my mind went in all different directions. The aching and cramping of my legs was no help whatsoever as well. Each time I went back on the path of breathing, it felt as if a huge wind (my mind) had blown me away. I found it impossible to focus for even one minute without my mind wandering somewhere else. At the end of the meditation session I vowed to do better the next day.
After the meditation it was time for the breakfast dhanna. While I ate, I focused on the process it took for me to digest the food. I thought about how the food had to go through the whole entire digestive system to soothe the hunger inside me. After work period, I prepared for sutra discussion. That day we had studied the Mangala sutra, which focused on the discourse on blessings. Such as associating with the wise and not with the foolish, to restrain from intoxicants, abstain from evil, etc.
A little while later the sutta discussion ended and I proceeded on to Abbhidharma where Venerable Deepaloka talked about the thought process and of the mind and how there are seventeen minds that make up one form of a thought. The first mind is past bhavanga, which is the revert state of mind. Next comes the vibrating bhavanga and then the arrest bhavanga, which is the end of the revert state of mind. After the arrest bhavanga are the seven impulsion minds. The fourth and fifth impulsion minds are the strongest impulsion minds. For example, if a good deed is done with either the fourth or fifth impulsion mind, the person doing the good deed would receive a quantity of merits. However, if a bad deed is done using either the fourth or fifth impulsion mind, the person doing the bad deed would get immense bad karma. This includes all of the minds: nine through fifteen. Once the impulsion occurs, the mind creates consciousness for two minds.
The day started off with meditation, and I guess my vow to do better had actually motivated me. I could concentrate for longer amounts of time, not nearly a minute, but there was always room for improvement. I paid no attention to my leg during the meditation, so I couldn’t feel the pain and cramping that I had felt the day before. The only thing stopping me from concentrating on breathing was my mind. My mind constantly fought for my thoughts, and I struggled to focus on breathing. I felt myself concentrating for a few moments, more time than the previous day, but I still couldn’t keep that concentration going for a minute. Although I had done better than the previous day, I still wasn’t happy with myself. I made the same vow as the previous day, except I said it with more determination.
During sutta discussion, we talked about the four evil actions such as gambling, indulging in intoxicants, going to the streets at unseemly hours, and going to shows. Bhante wajirabuddhi went into detail of the consequences for every evil action. For instance, one consequence for indulging in intoxicants is loss of knowledge and a consequence of going to shows is that one gets a bad reputation. A consequence for going to the streets at unseemly hours is that one and their family are unprotected, and a consequence of gambling is that the loser loses his/ her wealth.
Soon after the sutta discussion we had an Abbhidhamma lesson with Venerable Deepaloka. He talked about the three consciousnesses. The immoral mind (unwholesome), the moral mind (wholesome), and the rootless mind ( having neither moral or immoral minds).The immoral consciousness could be a prompted or unprompted unwholesome action. For example, if one steals something without being told to do so, that would be an unwholesome unprompted action, which would result in the most demerits. However if someone was told to steal something it would be considered an unwholesome prompted action, which would give them the least amount of demerits.
I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a blissful morning meditation. I had more determination than ever before, and I was going to do better. That morning I had concentrated for nearly a minute. At first I would have short moments where I concentrated, then a long period of time where I didn’t. It was hard to focus but I thought of the whole respiratory system; like how the air came through my nose and went through my lungs in a quick moment, and the heaving of my chest which meant my lungs were contracting . By focusing on the respiratory system I had almost concentrated for a minute. At the end of the meditation session I felt I had a done a little better than the previous day.
Sutta discussion started a little later with the Sigalovada Sutta. This sutta talks about the foes in disguise of friends or “fake friends”. A foe in disguise as a friend is someone who wants something from the friendship. Another example is a “lip service friend” who only says they would help you, but don’t do anything in the time of need of the friend. One who flatters should be recognized as a “fake friend”. They only flatter you to have your trust; they are not really your friend no matter how many times they compliment you. A “fake friend” is also someone who helps you go to hell. They do bad things and influence or peer pressure you into doing bad things. These types of friends only drag you down with them. These “fake friends” are not ones you want to associate with.
A little while after sutta discussion, Abbhidharma class was in session. We continued the discussion from yesterday about the mind. We talked about the moral minds and how they are all accompanied by knowledge. There are immoral consciousness without roots which include the nose, ear eye, body, consciousness, an investigating consciousness, and a receiving consciousness. These are all accompanied by indifference, except for the body consciousness, which is accompanied by pain. The same thing with the moral minds except the body consciousness is accompanied by happiness and the investigating consciousness is accompanied by pleasure. There are also functional consciousness without roots. They are the five sense door consciousness and the mind consciousness, which are both accompanied by indifference Furthermore, the smile consciousness is accompanied by  pleasure.
Before I realized it, the retreat was coming to an end and I had a sensation of sadness because I felt bliss and peace during the retreat and I wanted to stay longer.  But as I was thinking about the retreat experience, I had I finally realized what Bhante Wajirabuddhi had meant by a new person. I wasn’t a new person physically. I looked the same. I hadn’t grown or anything like that. I had changed into a new person mentally. I had more knowledge, merit, and wisdom. I wasn’t the same ignorant Dunisha. I knew how to properly keep my concentration. I knew more Abbhidharma and I knew the foe in disguise of friends, I knew the discourse of blessings, and most importantly I knew more dhamma. To whomever may be reading this you are blessed to have found this religion of Bhuddism, so don’t waste your time on foolish things because you never know  when death is upon you. It is important to get the most merit you can in this life and to attain nibbana. I am so lucky to have been introduced to the dhamma at such a young age and I hope to get more merit in the future. I’d like to thank Venerable Wajirabuddhi  thero,Venerable Wajirabodhi thero, Venerable Deepaloka (Deeptha Jayaratne), Bhanthe Mangala (Justin Howell), and Bhante Ananda (Steve Reidy) who helped me get more knowledge about the dhamma. Also, thanks to all the parents who helped during the retreat. May the triple gem bless us all. More Photos

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