It’s two weeks ago when we past Santipada Buddhist monastery near Keri Keri, North New Zealand, the first time. Early in the morning the gates were still closed, but the women living next door told us they should open soon and it’s possible to visit the place. We decided to wait and prepared some coffee in the back of the car. Around half an hour later a monk opened the gates and seemed quite surprised about people waiting outside. We took a seat in the monastery kitchen and had an interesting chat with the monk and the nun living here. There’s a volunteering possibility and we made an arrangement to come back…..And he we are now, one week of volunteering and meditation ahead.

Let me describe the monastery in some detail. It is places on a beautiful piece of land near the sea. Covering a nice little canyon with a shallow creek and mainly surrounded by forest. Bhante Yasala and a monk are living here. She is the abbot and obviously, the “boss”. They’re both from Korea. She came to New Zealand in 2003 and founded the monastery a little later. He came over to help her after spending some years in India. Bhante is living in an own building which is also the office. He lives in a cottage near the creek. There is another building with community kitchen and  Dhamma hall (meditation hall) side by side. Our designated home for the next seven days will be a caravan near the cottage of the monk. It is a nice renovated green painted tiny home with a meditating monk drawn onto the side.

Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of animals have chosen this place as their home, too. So, we use it only as storage for our bags and decide to sleep in the car. After preparing our new living place we walk up to the kitchen to get an introduction about the estimated work and general stay here. The schedule for the next days will be

  • 05:00 – 06:30 Sitting Meditation
  • 06:30 – 07:00 Breakfast
  • 07:00 – 11:00 Working Meditation
  • 11:00 – 12:00 Lunch
  • 12:00 – 16:00 Working Meditation
  • 16:00 – 17:00 Break
  • 17:00 – 21:00 Chanting / Walking Meditation / Sitting Meditation

It seems intense, but we’re looking forward to the mixture of meditation and working. After weeks of travelling around and seeing a lot of things it’s a good possibility to calm down.

Helen’s main responsibility is to take care for the kitchen and food preparation. She’s quite nervous about it. If you consider the special circumstances you might understand why: two korean people, a fridge full of korean food we never saw before, only vegan ingredients and only things coming from the monastery garden or supplies that have been donated. Sort of a challenge. Additionally weeding and painting.

I’m supposed to cut a path through the bush along the outer border.

Every second day we have a session with the monk, called Dhamma talk, to discuss our experiences during the meditation. The monk is an amazing teacher and understands our struggles and sensations we experience while meditating. His patience, deep wisdom but also sense of humor is inspiring, impressive and so much helpful in making progress in our meditation practice.

His perspective on buddha’s teachings is quite special for me. He studied the sutras on his own and came to the conclusion that a balance between concentration and mindfulness is the key to liberation. Based opon this they practice three different types of meditation. First sitting for concentration, second walking for mindfulness and third living meditation for mindfulness throughout the day. This part is, in this intensity new to me. Daily routine is put into the focus of attention, which means eating mindful without talking and with the awareness of every action you do while eating, like scooping, chewing etc. He advises us to be also mindful during doing our work.

The days are passing by in a happy and satisfied mood. Helen serves better food every day and I’m cutting, sawing and hacking the bush. The meditation practice grounds us in the here and now and it wouldn’t be to bad to stay forever.

But like one of the Buddhist teachings says, continuous change is the only thing we can be sure about, and so it is time for us to move on. But before we leave we experience a korean style green tea preparation and have a last talk to Bhante.  What an amazing experience. True loving kindness. Thank you!