Solitude should be cultivated, bodily solitude as well as mental solitude. Bodily solitude means to be alone. I don’t mean to say that we should avoid meeting with people. Rather I mean we should spend time by ourselves. Mental solitude means not thinking about anything but being alert and aware. Some people believe that when we are not thinking about anything, then we must be deeply asleep, or dull and sleepy. People don’t understand the importance of solitude. They want to be with somebody who can give them some fun or stimulate them somehow. Craving for stimulation. When there is nothing to stimulate them they become bored. Even when they are alone bodily, they read or watch TV, listen to the radio or cassette, or they think about things they’ve done or about the things they will do. Being alone, not reading or watching TV, listening to the radio or cassette, and not thinking are things they never thought of as productive.

Wisdom is the fruit of solitude.
Solitude is recharging.
Life flowing out of deep stillness of my heart
Everything else is incidental. (Sayadaw U Jotika)

I’m now in M., arriving here a week ago. Nice and quiet. Simple. No big dayakas (supporters) here, just village folks, farmers. A simple place with simple people. Only my mind is complicated. A lot of birds; I like to listen to them. Wind rushing in the trees, calming and soothing. So different from the busy, noisy cities. A totally different world. Big cities and big important people are very disturbing.

It’s much easier to meditate here. I have no big ambition. Just living simply and seeing clearly. I cannot change the world; I cannot change anybody, not even myself, but I can watch. If I’m wise I will just watch without getting upset about anybody or anything. Who am I to carry the world on my shoulder?

Sometimes I wish I had a friend with whom I could really talk. A lot of people like to come to me. Wherever I go there are people coming to see me. Maybe they get stimulated, encouraged, and inspired to practice mindfulness, or at least relieved temporarily from the monotony to listen to somebody who is provocative, radical, and challenging. There are a lot of people running around doing things for me, offering this and that but there isn’t anybody here with whom I can share what is really meaningful to me. At least I have learnt to keep my thoughts to myself and live peacefully.

Yes, the world is crazy but what can I do about it? Nothing. Why waste time and energy being upset about it.

It is raining slowly. No wind. Makes me feel calm. The trees are much taller than they were last year. In a few more years there will be a good forest here. The Forestry Department gave me about eight acres of land. Cheap, eh? Good spring water and good weather except in the hot season. Good enough food also; mostly vegetarian. I have all the things I need. A lot of solid time.

People don’t come to disturb me. Sometimes a few people come to clean the monastery grounds. I have a mosquito-proof room with screen windows, a bed and an easy chair, books, medicines, papers and pens. Ah! What is there for me to be unhappy about?

Drinking a pot of good tea from a beautiful glass. It tastes and smells wonderful. Makes me feel fresh and alert. Celebrating the tea ceremony alone. Rain getting heavier.

As far as I know this is the only place where there is no disruption. Scarcity of food (rice) everywhere, but not here. It is now about 1.15 p.m. So quiet. Some crickets and cow bells. The monks are meditating in their kuti(s) (huts).

I dreamed an unusual dream last month. In my dream I was holding a bunch of papers and tickets in my right hand and was going through the checkpoint in an airport, boarding a jet plane bound for America. Maybe it was because of what happened here which made my unconscious mind want to go away. No place is perfect. This place is good enough. The people here and also the monks are kind to me. I look after the monks when they are sick. They think of me as a doctor. Yet it is so hard to get medicines.

There are three forest monasteries in this forest. My place is the most secluded. No visitors most of the time. A few people come on full moon days to work. Since we don’t need much, we have everything we need. I want to read some books, but I can’t get any. Maybe I should let go of my craving for intellectual stimulation.

One day is almost the same as another. We walk up and down in the evening. Nothing has changed much in here, as if time has come to a stop or slowed down. The outside world is in a turmoil but here it is quiet; nothing to do, nothing seems important. All, or almost all, the problems seem imaginary. If only we knew how much of our problems are imaginary.

It is as peaceful as ever. Lots of birds here. No conflicts and no problems except the occasional minor ailments. My health is good — nothing to complain about these last four months. I’m learning to take care of myself. I eat a lot of vegetables, less oily food, and very little sugar. Peacefulness helps a lot. This place seems to be the best for me.

Life is very peaceful and quiet here: No fights, because there is no organisation here. I’m also getting less and less attached to many things and many people.

Cloudy today. It drizzled. Quiet. The birds are singing. Dried leaves all around. The trees are holding up their bare arms welcoming rain. Hot and dry. No problems. We drop all our leaves. We’ll grow new ones when the first rain falls.

Now it’s getting cold. Winter is here. Morning temperature is 58蚌. The sky is very clear these days. Only a few puffy clouds way near the horizon. The air is cool and crisp. In the night with the full moon, it’s really beautiful and peaceful.

Last night I went for a walk alone. Where are cares and worries? Couldn’t find them anywhere. It’s only imagination, I think.

It is early in the morning now, 4.45 a.m. All the birds are singing. There are hundreds of them in the monastery, and they seem to be pretty cheerful. Since the weather is quite warm nowadays they like to take baths. So I set out two small terracotta bowls (earthen bowls) of water for the birds to drink and swim. It makes me very happy to watch them bathing. They seem to really enjoy that. I give them rice every day. A lot of them come for the food and water. They don’t come and take my food and water for nothing either — they sing for me and teach me not to worry; to take my life one moment at a time; and not to think too much and muddle my mind. To accept life as it is and also to be ready to die at any moment. They say life is hard. (Who said it was easy?) But still you can be cheerful and learn a lot from your life. And if you prefer you can get out of this round of existence. (Is it a merry-go-round?)

I am now sitting on the veranda of my little kyaung (hut) here, very quiet. I hear a couple of doves cooing from a distant tree, the wind in the trees. It’s about 4 p.m. Rested for a while after a hot bath.

Sometimes I think of finding a cave in the mountains and going to live there alone, but nothing can bring real satisfaction.

I want to live a quiet and peaceful life. I have freed myself of all responsibilities. I want peace, freedom, and deep understanding of life. I don’t care for having a following or disciples, recognition or fame.

I want you to understand the way I live my life: Simplicity, quiet, peaceful, with few possessions. I give away most of what I get anyway. So if I don’t tell you what I need, it means I don’t really need them. To live with few things is much easier for the mind. My friends are Ryokan, Thoreau, Zeno, and my vinaya (discipline) teacher.

You (I) should live in a place where you (I) feel totally relaxed, at ease, and psychologically free, free from the expectations of others; a place where you (I) feel really yourself (myself) and don’t have to say or act to please anybody.

I have learnt to live alone. Sometimes I want to express my deepest understanding, but it’s hard to find a person who knows how to listen and understand and appreciate. Mostly I am the one who listens. People like to talk to me.

Went for a walk in the forest. Very quiet. Met nobody. Only birds singing cheerfully. Human beings are gloomy.

I have to try to isolate myself from the world.

The higher you climb, the less travellers you find. Oh mountaineer, can you endure loneliness?

My life is quite simple and peaceful. We are three monks here in Mahamyaing. All of us are content and very much in touch with our own mind. Knowing what’s going on in the mind is the only way to sanity. I read a few hours a day, meditate quite a lot, walk in the evenings, and talk with my friends. It is very quiet here. I hear birds and crickets. People are very nice and friendly.

I’m not always happy though. Sometimes I feel very sad for not being able to help my kids in more ways. But I will not disrobe. I really love being a monk and living in a forest. I think I am by nature a hermit. I love talking with my friends who really have something to say. I also like to spend a lot of time meditating. Without these things life would be a mess.

Very beautiful sunrise this morning. Beams of light coming down through the clouds. What a mystical world I’m living in! There are enough beautiful things right here. Of course it lasts for a while only but that’s OK. Do you feel the mystery in your life? Everything around us is a great mystery. I am a great mystery. You are a great mystery. In a way very sacred too.

I’m living with tremendous awe. How wonderful everything is! They say life is terrible. That’s true in a way, but how terribly wonderful life is also. Sometimes I feel so alive and so happy that I’m alive. I look forward to living a long and healthy life. Just recently I’ve learnt how to live anew. My life has just begun. I’m beginning to appreciate myself, my life, you, my daughters and their mother, and my friends here; also the blue sky, the white clouds, the trees, the birds. I’m really in love with life. (It seems like I’m becoming a heretic.) No, I don’t hate life. Yes, there is suffering. It’s OK. That’s the price I pay for life. I’m really grateful to life. I thank life for all the pain and all the joy it has given me, and I know there’s more to come. (Do you think I can teach Buddhism?)

The bamboo grove near my cabin has about fifteen new shoots: beautiful, big, fat, lovely shoots. Every day I look at them and feel very happy that they are growing up so well. They are my kin. I just love them.

Sipping a cup of ginseng tea. Tastes great. Just wonderful. The cup is also very beautiful. Greenish brown with grains. I’ve fallen in love with the Japanese cup too. Have I taken acid? No, no, never seen acid in my life. I’m quite sober. Or, I’m drunk from drinking ginseng.

I’ve got the book of poems you’ve sent me: The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse. I really love it. You know what sort of poems I like. I love Stonehouse just as I love Ryokan; both of them are right here near me and I read them often. Actually, I live them.

Another cup of ginseng. Wow, how wonderful!

It’s sunny. The birds are quite excited; they’re calling out to each other. They really enjoy life, not like human beings. Human beings are gloomy, dissatisfied, complaining, dull, and most of them are depressed. I’ve never seen a depressed bird in my life! I’ll learn from the birds, not from depressed and ungrateful human beings.

Just came back from a walk. So nice to feel the warm sunshine and the cool wind. To be with nature in nature. I feel like going jogging. I’ve been

doing exercises. My muscles are quite strong, radiating energy. I’ve put on some weight. I must do more exercises to burn off the fat.

A third cup of ginseng. What millionaire can enjoy such pleasure?

I’ve read your letter more than ten times. I have time to read and think. I want to know what you are trying to say. I will go on doing that. I want to understand my friend very deeply. I will spend all my life trying to understand myself, my friends, my family and my daughters. That’s my priority. The rest of the things, I’ll do if necessary. I will not consider my life a success if I don’t understand myself and those who are dear to me. Now, I don’t value just information and knowledge about external things. The inner world is so rich and wonderful. The more I understand and appreciate those who are close to me the more meaningful my life becomes. It took me so long to find out this truth. They say life begins at forty. That’s true for me. I’m so young in this sense, very enthusiastic. I’m beginning to see for myself, with my own eyes. I’m beginning to feel in my own way. I appreciate my life, the people who are close to me, the world I live in, and in general how everything is. I appreciate it when people care for me, help me. I appreciate their help, their kindness; I’m grateful to them. I used to take these things for granted.

How can I curse my life? How can I complain that life is meaningless? Life is so wonderful, so full of wonder. When I die I want to die with gratitude in my heart, and not with bitterness.

Thank you for your sharing and caring.

I’m really glad that we can write to each other (thanks to the mail service). This is very precious. There are only a few people who are deeply meaningful in my life. You are one of them. How long have we known each other? Ten years. I feel closer to you. I can tell you all my silly thoughts and feelings and I know you will not judge me. I’m becoming more and more like a human being. I love my children and their mother more than ever. How strange that I don’t become more and more indifferent. A good monk should not have attachments. So, I’m not a good monk. That is proven. Well, anyway, I’m a human being. Not a bad one I suppose (I hope). Never mind. I hope you understand this unscrupulous monk.

Very beautiful sunset this evening, with golden colour clouds. Beyond words.

I hear the call of the wild. At last I have to accept the truth that I am a hermit by nature. I know enough about the world; I will leave it alone.

Have you found a place where you’ll be happy and content for the rest of your life? I haven’t found a place like that yet but I hope to find it some day. I think every place is a temporary place. Better to have a temporary place which is quiet and secluded. Hoping, hoping, hoping.

You said that you liked Chinese paintings. I like Chinese paintings too. So if you have any prints of Chinese paintings, please send me some. I like old (traditional style) Japanese paintings too — big mountains with waterfall and small huts and farms, simple wooden and bamboo huts. Japanese gardens are very simple and peaceful. You can make a small one with a gravel walking path, some wooden or rock benches, flowering bushes, and of course some bamboo, maple or cherry trees, and you put a small pond or stream somewhere. You need a lot of time to cultivate a garden; so grow something in a pot or in a box, a mini-garden. You can even grow some moss in a box or in a corner of your house.

Just doing office work every day must be tiring. You need to do something creative.

I enjoy looking at the Chinese paintings of hermitages very much. I would like to go deeper into the mountains and live near a simple and quiet village. I might do that some day. This world is becoming more and more crazy. Discontentment and displeasure is burning like a forest fire, spreading far and wide. It’s like a contagious disease. Very few people appreciate ancient wisdom, contentment, simplicity. Westernisation is the in thing.

It has been raining since last night. No sun. Cloudy and cold instead. My little charcoal stove is burning slowly. After my meal I drank some tea with sugar. Earplugs in my ears. Have been reading poems from Cold Mountain. Here are some of my favourites:

I came once to sit on Cold Mountain
And lingered here for thirty years.
I divined and chose a distant place to dwell
T’ien T’ai: What more is there to say?
Monkeys cry where valley mists are cold
My grass gate blends with the colour of the crags
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns, I pass the years that are left.
Cold cliffs; more beautiful the deeper you enter
Yet no-one travels the road.
White clouds idle about the tall crags;
On the green peak a single monkey wails
What other companions do I need?
I grow old doing as I please.
Those face and form alter with the years
I hold fast to the pearl of the mind.
Wise men, you have cast me aside.
Fools I do the same to you.
I would be neither wise man nor fool;
From now on, let us hear no more from each other.
When night comes I sing to the bright moon;
At dawn, I dance with white clouds.
How could I still my voice and my hands
And sit stiff as a stick with my grey hair rumpled.

I love ancient China. Maybe I was a Chinese in those days. I’ve been reading Cold Mountain poems again. It is my favourite. I am living here doing as I please. I go for alms in the morning; have my meal for the day at 8 a.m.; walk and sit and read, think, meditate. That’s what I want to do all my life, whether I live here or in some other place. I see my attachments and I’m learning to let go more and more. Attachments are heavy burdens — I, my, mine. If you have no strong attachments you can live in a quiet place like Han Shan.

I imagine the scenes when I read poems like these. Sometimes, in my imagination, I take you for long walks in the forest and introduce you to the quietness, the trees, many different kinds of birds such as song birds and wood cocks, and to the deep peacefulness which you can never feel living among people who are always upset about one thing or another — non-verbal relationships with animals and nature.

I think about the Buddha quite a lot. I have a postcard-size picture of the Buddha sitting in deep samadhi (concentration). He’s sitting under a big, old banyan tree with roots coming down from branches. There are some rabbits near him. And it’s close to a big ancient lake with lotuses abloom. On the far side of the bank is a big forest and mountain. The moon, a full moon, is just above the mountain. There are some ripples on the surface of the lake. The surroundings are quiet and peaceful. And there the Buddha, my teacher, is sitting in complete tranquillity. No greed, hatred, pride, envy, jealousy, or delusion — a perfect symbol of peace. His face is radiating, glowing with a soft white light, his whole body all very soft and relaxed, perfectly at ease with no tension anywhere. And I, I’m sitting under another tree not far away (but I’m not in the picture). Peaceful. You can join us if you choose to.

Imagination is very powerful. When you imagine a peaceful situation, your mind becomes peaceful. On the other hand, you can scare yourself to death by imagining terrible situations. Since you have a choice, choose peaceful images, like sitting in meditation near the Buddha in a peaceful setting. Imagine all the details. Imagine that you are deep in the mountains. Cool, quiet. Near the Buddha you feel very calm, tranquil, safe, secure, and free from dirt. Or collect some poems which make your mind calm. Copy them neatly in a small notebook, which you can carry with you.

9.30 p.m. I came back from a short walk just now. The moon is very bright. It was a full moon day yesterday. The moon is perfectly round tonight. Cold and misty also. The rain has stopped. It’s beautiful, unearthly.

I came back from a walk just now. The bright moon is just above the trees. It’s cool. I live in a twelve by eight foot, one-storey house, alone. There are two other monks living in separate kutis, not far away. They are good meditators. There is a small pond near my kuti. A lot of water insects swim and dive into the pond, and many kinds of plants are growing there. I like to stand near the pond in the evening and watch the insects in the water. I saw two tadpoles yesterday. We have no electricity here. So I am writing this aerogram by candlelight. I like it. I feel very relaxed here. People are very kind to me. They believe things are better when I’m around.

I got sick for a few days. People brought some food to me. A doctor came. It wasn’t serious. People are too concerned for me. I live among a lot of people who love me dearly.

I have all the things I need. I’ll tell you when I need anything. I am used to economising everything, even rain water, which is free and abundant, I use it sparingly. It has become a habit with me. I used to live in remote villages where everything, even water, was scarce.

I took a nap. I woke up and went for a walk. It’s cloudy, going to rain soon. I hear the thunder. It’s been raining for a week; farmers are happy. The birds are happy too; they’re singing and calling out to each other. One little bulbul is taking a bath in a water bowl. Life goes on. Because of my opinions about how life should be I get upset quite a lot. So now I decide to do what I can and leave the rest alone. Being unhappy doesn’t pay. People have different opinions and they fight. Let them fight. I won’t join them. I won’t let them disturb my mind.

The weather is very beautiful today. White clouds against a deep blue sky. Occasional showers of rain and rolling thunder in the distance. Very quiet. I have everything I need: books to read; enough to eat; a nice cabin. People leave me alone. I have no reason to be unhappy. Discontentment is a disease. People don’t see that they’re making themselves unhappy. Greed, pride, envy. A lot of people want to leave Myanmar (Burma). Agitation is everywhere. I’m here like an oasis. Some say they feel happy when they come to the monastery. People are reinforcing each other to be aggressive. They don’t see that happiness is not out there. If you carry all your defilements with you, no matter where you go you’ll be unhappy; something is always wrong with every situation. People blame each other: ‘I’m unhappy. It’s somebody’s fault.’ How strange it is that we don’t see our own faults.

A very colourful sunset. All of us watched it from the top of the hill. The colours changed slowly from light yellow to a deep glowing red. Sometimes we forget to see the beauty of nature, we’re so occupied with our problems instead. Mostly we live in a world of our own creation, which is full of problems.

It’s early in the morning before sunrise. So many birds are singing. Because it is safe in the monastery many birds live here. I get to see them and hear them all the time. I love them more and more. They live a hard life, it seems, but they are so cheerful and independent. Different sizes, shapes, and colours. No matter how long I watch them I never lose interest. Do you remember reading about Water Oozle by John Muir? I read John Muir’s book again and again. The only book I have by and about him is The Wilderness World of John Muir. He was marvelous; he didn’t care for luxuries at all, never owned a car. Lived with so much love for nature; he is one of the Americans I love.

Every morning I go for alms down the road. Just about seven houses nearest to the monastery. Mostly I get vegetables, potatoes, beans and rice. I get more than I can eat. Simple food (no processed food), good for the health. I eat only one meal a day, mostly (except when I’m sick). The weather here is good (not so hot). I have a nice kyaung (hut) for my own. I’ve some books to read; enough robes and blankets to keep me warm; medicines and vitamins to help my body stay healthy. I travel very rarely, maybe once a year. I have some supporters who provide me with the things that I need (and I need very little). So, I don’t need to complain about anything at all. In fact, compared to some other monks, I’m rich (not in money though). I don’t have any money to my name; I don’t need it. I’m glad that I can do away with money. Living without money is much easier for my mind.

I’m rich in time: I’ve all the time I need to study and meditate. I’m never in a hurry.

I like reading Ryokan. Here is a good one:

It’s not that I do not wish
To associate with men,
But living alone I have the better Way.
A lonely four-mat hut
All day no-one in sight.

Alone, sitting beneath the window
Only the continual sound of falling leaves.
When it’s evening, please come to my hut
To listen to the insects sing;
I’ll also introduce you to the autumn fields. (Ryokan)

How simple life could be. Why are people creating such big burdens for themselves?

People are so busy they don’t hear the birds singing. They don’t know how to appreciate the birds singing.

I love birds, trees, clouds. Walking in the forest is my favourite exercise. I like reading dhamma and meditating. But I don’t like preaching. So, if I don’t teach any dhamma, please forgive me.

I know I can live in luxury if I want to but I choose to live a simple life. Maybe I’m a fool (or a Daigu — Japanese for Big Fool).

I’ve no intention to make a big name (or a big noise) for myself. I don’t want to become a big teacher. My biggest ambition is to live my life peacefully, quietly, simply, and mostly alone. I don’t give any lectures. People can come and talk to me if they want to. Sometimes I tell them to try meditation. But then, they have to go to a meditation centre.

Early in the morning. Lots of birds singing. They seem to be very cheerful, welcoming the sun, beginning a new day with a new (fresh) mind. They don’t carry any psychological burden or guilt from yesterday, and they don’t worry about the future. How wonderful it is! People are losing intimacy with nature. Instead they watch nature on TV.

I went for a walk in the forest and listened to many kinds of birds singing. I want to live deep in the forest and be a friend of birds and deer and all sorts of animals; and also with trees, streams, clouds, sky, rain, and fog. When I lived in a forest I made friends with some rabbits, squirrels, lizards and a peacock.

I am quite well too. I walk every day. It makes my body healthy and energetic. My mind becomes much more relaxed after walking. I have everything I need. It is peaceful here. No worries, no cares. One day is the same as another. Months go by so fast. Even a year doesn’t seem so long. As I become older I hope I become more and more peaceful.

I hear a wood cock crowing. How nice to hear him. A couple of big black forest crows have come. They are not afraid of me. They come quite close to me and look at me directly.

It’s been raining for six days now. It’s very peaceful. I go out for short walks whenever it stops raining. I would like to go for a long walk in the forest away from people. People are very unpeaceful nowadays. I pick up their minds. I try my best to make them soft, mellow. They’re very upset about the situation in Myanmar. It seems like the whole world is burning with greed, anger, envy, jealousy, pride.

A lizard is climbing the tree in front of my kuti and a dove is cooing behind my kuti. What more do you want to know about my life?

Early in the morning I go for alms at about 6 a.m. and eat my meal for the day between 7 and 7.30 a.m. Then I walk for a while. After that I sit and watch the birds and trees and meditate. If I have a good book to read I’ll read. Sometimes people come, two or three, to talk about many things but always back to the dhamma. In the afternoon, a young Shan monk comes for his Pali lesson. In the evening, I usually go for a walk into the forest. It’s very peaceful in the forest. My minds gets very calm when I get away from people. Birds and trees are peaceful companions. The next day is much the same.

My only indulgence is reading books.

A cuckoo is cooing. So mellow and sweet. It makes me happy and cheerful. “my life is like an old run-down hermitage. Poor, simple and quiet.” (Ryokan) I live outside of this busy, noisy, crazy world. Don’t become too busy. Cut down all unnecessary activities. Get enough time to rest and relax and meditate.

People should find time to go and stay for a while in the forest. Whenever I go into the forest I feel very relaxed. It is not natural and healthy for people to live in a crowded place. You should live more in touch with nature. At least get out of the city to visit some shrine in the mountains and meditate once in a while.

People are a little crazy living in such congested cities. They don’t know what they’re doing. Some are born there and used to living there. Some have no choice; they work there, like you, although they don’t like living in big cities.

I live in a very different world no matter where I live, because I have a different mind. I don’t care for the things that people care for, like money, pleasure, and tradition. I feel more akin to birds and animals and trees and clouds. I understand people and their suffering. They are going blindly down the wrong path. I have compassion for them. They have no quiet space in their mind, and they don’t hear my message. They’re full of second-hand opinions. Becoming more and more like robots. How I long to see a human being whole, intelligent, alert, awake, sensitive, not dogmatic, always learning and growing.

I’ve lived in forests for too long. I don’t like to be in dirty, noisy, polluted places, where people are so greedy. It reminds me of a poem I read when I was young: “Goodbye proud world, I’m going back home”.

I like to eat a lot of fresh vegetables and beans cooked simply. I noticed a long time ago that if I don’t eat vegetables and beans I don’t feel well, and if I eat a lot of meat I get sick. Taking some vitamin and mineral supplements helps my digestion. If you don’t eat a lot of vegetables you surely have vitamin and mineral deficiency, which results in tiredness, weak digestion, and anaemia. I wish I could get brown rice. All the people here eat white rice only, which is nothing but starch.

I intend to stay here this year. Although it is hot it is very peaceful here. Many people say that they feel very peaceful when they come to the monastery. Let the body be hot as long as the mind is cool.

A magpie robin
sitting on a tree
singing and singing
I look at the sunset.
And I think of you.

Summer evening.
How different our lives are
And yet there is something
We both have.

How strange that we’ve met.
And the memories
Will last until we die.
A heart which wants to reach out
And touch another heart.

Why is there so much fear?
A symphony of birds and cicadas.
Is there a music which is any better? (Sayadaw U Jotika)

Who can imagine the mental life of this monk?

It’s about sunset now and I’m sitting outside near the bamboo grove and writing to you. Lots of mynah birds calling out to each other, talking about the day. Well, they must have a tough day, the weather getting so very warm… Such a beautiful and wonderful world we are living in.

I’ve been sick for a week with a bad throat infection. The weather is cold. Trees are dropping old leaves. After travelling for five weeks, meeting and talking with people it feels really nice to be alone in a quiet place again. People are very unmindful and unsettling, their uncertainty and lack of information is really tiring.

I’ve been quite busy last month. Discussions, questions and answers with visitors and monks. People and monks come to ask me questions as if I have all the answers. Well, I told them what I know. I’m glad some people are really interested in living a meaningful life.

One of the reasons why I feel so peaceful here is that there is no board of directors here and no organisation. Do you think people can work in harmony? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen an organisation (monastic) working in harmony. So my motto is: If you want peace, stay away from organisations.

Because I live a very quiet and peaceful life here, sometimes I don’t know what to do with so much time. So I write letters to my friends, read a little and meditate. I don’t have anything serious or important to say; so it is not easy to write a letter.

You asked, “Sayadaw, do you think I could really live a peaceful and natural life?” Yes, if you really want to, but the transition period is very important (because it isn’t easy). After being so busy we don’t know what to do with so much time, and sometimes you might think that you’re not doing anything productive. You might think that you’re being selfish to live such a peaceful, easy life while the whole world is suffering, because you feel like you’re somehow responsible for the world. It’s not easy to do nothing, to be still, to be a nobody, and to have no responsibility. Especially for you — you feel guilty if you don’t suffer.

It’s a green, green world I’m living in.
Whichever way I look it’s green
How beautiful the world is.
I’m deeply in love with the world. (Sayadaw U Jotika)

What have I done to have such happiness and peace?

Some people think that a monk shouldn’t love anything, instead be totally disenchanted with everything. I’m not sorry to say that I’m not disenchanted with everything! I love and appreciate many things in life, and I’m very glad that so many nice things have happened in my life. Of course there were/are some bad things in my life too, but that’s OK.

We’ve finished making the ceiling (of the kuti); it looks like the floor, upside down; it’s very neat. We made it with good teak wood. It will last for a long time. It makes the room cool and less noisy when it rains. I like it very much. I will leave it as it is; I won’t paint it. The grain and the colour of the wood is much more interesting and beautiful than a plain white colour.

I’m becoming more of a Daigu everyday, forgetting more and more of what I have learnt from books, and seeing and learning more from life. Life is the best book for me. My heart is becoming more simple and open. I don’t preach.

Yes, trees are my friends, companions, teachers. I’ve lived with them so long. I love them very much.

It is very peaceful here. A lot of rain this year. The little pond near my cabin is full. It is sunny today. Very beautiful. I wish you were here.

The weather is getting cooler. Misty in the evenings and mornings. The moon is bright. A nightjar is making a knocking sound — tok, tok, tok, tok, tok, tok. A dog howls from a distant village. I love nature.

I am sitting in the same old easy chair, outside my cabin near the bamboo grove. It is 2 p.m. now. The weather is getting cooler, north wind blowing. The rain has stopped. The sky is so clear and so, so blue. I hear cowbells; bulbuls are chattering; and the best of all songs, the most pleasant to my ears, guess what, it’s the wind blowing through the trees. I live with trees and birds, clouds, sky, sunrises, sunsets, moon, and stars. What a wonderful, beautiful, peaceful world I live in. I live a poem. Everything here is almost the same. U.H.S. comes as usual; he gives us brown rice every day. As if time is an illusion.

I live here quietly and peacefully, but this isn’t chance happening — I worked very hard for it. It’s about hard work, not just good kamma. I chose to live quietly and peacefully. Every day I choose to live quietly and peacefully; it’s a constant choice. Needs a real strong determination, a letting go. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

I have found a place. It is very peaceful there. No country, no nation, no government, no religion, no judgment. I go there quite often. Some day I’ll go there and stay there for good.

There is a whisper among the bamboo groves
Those who do not depend on words to
understand the meaning will understand the meaning.

I went on trip to Saw in the Ch’in Hills. I’ve been to a very different world, meeting people who live in a very different way, with different values. They have just the bare necessities and yet are very happy people. No psychological problems. The mountains — oh! They are majestic. The mountains have a very deep meaning for me. I will go back to the mountains and live there for a longer period. People living in big, modernised cities are all crazy. That’s what John Muir said a hundred years ago, and I agree with him. I have a lot to say about the mountains, but I don’t have time now. I will tell you all about my travels in the mountains later.

I love the simple way of life more than before. Do we really need so much?

I have been very busy for many months. I hope to be back soon; only there can I live quietly and peacefully. I don’t like being busy all the time.

We take our old habits of mind wherever we go.

Happiness is such a simple thing: you are happy when you are not trying to be happy. True happiness is not made, not put together, not something you can possess. Why am I so happy? See, when you are happy you want to know why you are happy! That’s the way the mind is — always wanting to know why.

I don’t have any strong desire for anything. My mind is calm. I feel a lot of metta (loving-kindness). I wish you all the good things I have, dear friend.

I don’t want to force myself to do anything. I let my nature move easily into whatever is its natural course, and I’ve found that it’s always positive. My way of life really fits my nature.