Okay, I'm going to try to wrap up my description of the hermitage in
After lunch there was another break time. Followed by meditation
instruction for an hour, more sitting/walking meditation for an hour
and a half and then an hour of Pali chanting. By the end of chanting
it would be 6pm and there would be another break during which tea was
served in the dining hall and people were allowed the use of the hot
springs that were on the grounds.
At 7:30 there would be another Dhamma talk and more meditation until
9:00 when we were dismissed. Dormitory gates were locked at 9:30
(meaning you had to be inside them before that) and dormitory power
was shutdown at 10:00.
Climb under your mosquito net, rest your head
on the wooden pillow, sleep 6 hours and then repeat.
There are many rules to be followed while staying at the hermitage.
There is a vow of silence that states you will not speak unless
absolutely necessary. Communication with your fellow hermits is
considered a distraction and as such you are also supposed to avoid
eye contact at all times.
Personally I found the silence to be
wonderful. I've never before experienced a sense of peaceful solitude
while surrounded by people, and found it to be a very novel
The rule I found the most difficult was to never
injure/kill a living creature. That's all well and good on paper, but
the hermitage isn't owned by the people who made that rule. The
hermitage is owned by ants. Although they came in both red and black
colors and all manner of sizes, I quickly learned that there are
really only two kinds of ants in this world. The kind that crawl all
over you, but don't bite and the kind that crawl all over you and bite
as hard as they can.
After a few days I learned enough self-control
to stop crushing ants just for walking on me and towards the end I
didn't even bother brushing off the non-biting ones (why bother, there
will always be more). But by then I had a new temptation to break the
no-killing rule... Each day that we stayed there, the mosquitos seemed
to double in strength. By around day 4 using the bathrooms had become
a real challenge. When you opened a toilet stall you immediately
heard the humming. I wore pants the whole time since shorts were
against the rules also, and when I was peeing I'd sway erratically
from side to side so the mosquitos couldn't land on my arms or head.
But that still left my ankles available and they were one solid mass
of bites by the last day.
And then came day 9...
On the evening of day 9, I awoke around midnight. I could hear some
kind of crunching/crackling noise. Sitting up, I opened my eyes but
of course it was pitch black inside my room. I began fumbling around
for my flashlight when I realized the noise was coming from my right
ear. From inside my ear.
I suddenly remembered all the tiny little
red, non-biting ants that lived on my concrete bed. The ones I always
found all over myself when I woke up from naps during the day. I
shook my head around a little, but the crunching noises continued.
Taking a couple of deep breaths I sat still and tried to rationalize
that I wasn't actually feeling any pain so it probably wasn't doing
The noise it was making was probably just the grinding of
mandibles as it gorged itself on my ear wax. The noise stopped.
If the noise starts again, I thought to myself, I'll go wake the dorm
manager and they can drive me to the hospital in Chaiya if they think
it necessary. It's only a ten minute drive. I pondered how much this
sucked and tried to decide whether I should get dressed. The
crunching noise started again. I got dressed.
I woke the dorm manager, who was a guy named Jimmy from Toronto.
He groggily told me to give him a few minutes to put some clothes on.
I went back to my room and threw a few things into a backpack in case
we needed to go for a drive. The crunching in my ear continued the
When I went back to see Jimmy he showed me a little squeezer with a
spout that he said he used to clean salt residue out of his ears after
diving. He gave me a cup of water and I filled the squeezer up and
started squirting water into my ear. I refilled the squeezer and
flushed my ear out about a dozen times. Besides earning myself a
wicked sense of vertigo I also managed to achieve some blessed
Being midnight there was no power in the dormitory, so I was
doing this by candlelight. Which made it far too dark to actually
check the puddle at my feet for signs of a drowned ant.
I went back to my room, telling Jimmy I'd come get him if I heard
anything more inside my ear. I moved my pillow to the opposite end of
my bed where there was less ants. But I didn't get to sleep again
until around 15 minutes before the 4:00am bell starting ringing for us
to get up.
I guess that about raps up all the hermitage anecdotes that I have to
share. It was a very educational experience for me. For one thing I
no longer believe Thai monks have an easy life. Just because people
feed them and they don't have to do anything but follow their rules,
doesn't mean it's easy.