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James M's Experience

Experience description:   

I became a Peace Corps Volunteer after graduating college in 1966. I was placed in a  village on the Mekong River in rural Northeast Thailand. During my service, I became aware that Thai men had a long-standing tradition of being ordained as Buddhist Monks, called Bhikkhus in Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhism. So when I completed my Peace Corps experience, I decided to become ordained myself. If nothing else, it would be an interesting topping on my cross-cultural experience. But the true reason was to find an answer to the pain I was having. I was raised in family with an alcoholic father and a mother who would taunt him, resulting in a vebally explosive situation. My parents seemed to be always fighting with each other and my reaction was a state of depression. So when I heard that 10% of Thai monks were meditation monks, most practicing in "The Forest Tradition" of Northeast Thailand, I was attracted to it as a way to access a level beyond the pain.

I was ordained in Bangkok at Wat Bawawnewait (Phonetically spelled) in Bangkok on June 30, 1968. I remained there while awaiting my permanent resident visa, then proceeded to Udorn in N.E. Thailand about a year later. We would eat one meal a day in the morning, then meditate at night. We would eat that meal cross-legged and eat with our fingers out of our "begging bowl" (we don't actually "beg") as a meditation practice. For meditation, we were instructed by our teacher, Ton Ahjahn Maha Bua, to practice at least four hours per day, to keep from falling back, but more to go ahead in our growth.

One day in 1970, give or take a year, I had been doing intensive meditation practice and , as a result, felt like I was walking on an emotional tight rope.  This sometimes happened when I was conscientious about my practice and meditated for the "more than four hours per day".  I felt very vulnerable. This state was frightening, like I was losing control of my mind, but  also opened my mind to higher states. Then a Bhikkhu from another wat (wat is monastery or temple) appeared at our wat. He was wearing the saffron robes of a "town monk" in contrast to the more subdued colors of forest monks who wore a yellow-brown color, dyed by ourselves. I also believe he practiced Metta (loving-kindness) meditation and was very skillful at it, which allowed him to do what followed. I also think my teacher had imported him to assist me. Suddenly, he said something (it did not matter what he said) and stated it in a very loving manner. It was as though he were shooting an arrow of loving energy straight into my heart, bypassing all of my defenses. This was a powerful, energy-filled arrow and my reaction was to come to my knees as it had the strength of a kick to the groin, only this was a very pleasant, not painful.

The experience that followed was like a spiritual orgasm, with the release of a sexual orgasm but a hundred times more powerful. I felt concentrated love, joy, bliss, euphoria which is hard to translate, that is why I equate it with an orgasm.  And I knew this was ME and I had been here sometime in the past but had, at some point, tensed up and lost this awareness. Then I had been searching for return to this state, constantly, from moment to moment, without even realizing it.  I equate this experience to the Garden of Eden, which I think resides in our hearts right now, not in the distant past, or in some distant place.  To analyze this experience technically, in Buddhism there are states of Jahna or full absorption Samadhi when one's mind, normally centered in the head, drops into a state of profound rest in the solar plexus. When this happens, one can experience states of beautiful calm and bliss. I believe I merely had a "neighborhood Samadhi" wherein my mind only momentarily dropped down to my heart area, then bounced right back up. And yet this was the most beautiful, and real, experience of my life. Many monks develop their meditation to the point where they can drop into this state of serene bliss and stay there for long periods, sometimes hours. I believe the Thai Monk who enabled this in me was practicing loving-kindness's meditation and had reached a level of full absorption Samadhi. Ahjan Mun, my teacher's teacher, once said that this experience, in relation to Nirvana, is like the pieces of food we pick from between our teeth after a nice meal, in relation to the full meal itself. Rather than call it an "out-of-the-body" experience, I would call it a "within-the-body-experience" in that, in order to go there, we need to let go of the body consciousness in order to experience the spiritual body. This is why I was brought to my knees. I was within my body but no longer attached to it.  I will never forget it. I have never returned to this profound a state, that of being in my authentic state of mind.