The pilgrimage around the world has led me to many sacred places. A few of them hold a special place in my heart. Those are the communities that I wish to return to again and again, knowing that I will be welcomed home even if I don't know anyone there. Sathira Dhammasathan is one of them.
Sathira Dhammasathan (SDS) is much more than a thriving nunnery in the middle of Bangkok. It is an urban oasis, a Dhamma park, a second home for all, located "in seven acres of trees, with lotus ponds, winding paths and meditative nooks. It is a tiny drop of water, radiating peace and serenity amidst the oceanic mega-city of Bangkok."
If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.
- Ram Dass
Affliction is Bodhi (wisdom).
- Zen saying
It has been seven weeks since I've returned "home" to China, after two years on the global pilgrimage, and ten years of living abroad.
"Being home" is to share the same space with my parents every day, as we drove through China. "Being home" is to live for a month with my maternal grandparents during the Chinese New Year, caring for them as they are advanced in age. "Being home" is to see our hometown in Inner Mongolia, a place I've only occasionally visited since leaving before the age of two. "Being home" is to get to know China again, a familiar and foreign place, full of possibilities and paradoxes. "Being home" is to continue the heart connections with my global family, and to deepen in daily cultivation.
Before two American monks embarked on their 800-mile bowing pilgrimage in May 1977, their teacher saw them off, saying, “Be the same on the highway as you were in the monastery.” I've been holding onto this same advice as I "return home".
In my case, the global bicycling pilgrimage is my "monastery", where things are sacred, simple, solitary, and structured. And coming back to China is my "highway", where things appear to be complicated and chaotic. The challenge now is to maintain a pilgrim's mind back in the "real world". In some sense, it is much easier for me to be out there on the "highway", but that's the whole point of a pilgrimage -- a rehearsal for life.
Below are some reflections from 7 weeks "back home".
A pilgrimage around the globe by bicycle, in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time.