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Homodynamics

by Steven Guth

Buddha statue with painting of "Deer Park" behind.

Every morning for hundreds upon hundreds of years the monks in the village temple start their chanting with the following words "The exalted one, far from defilements, perfectly enlightened by himself, I bow low before the Buddha, the exalted one." They than bow down before the statue.

This is the start of the ritual that focuses the local water deva into the statue and opens a gateway between the spirit world of ‘Deer Park’ and the village.

This is a part the daily homodynamic ritual described in the article.

Another part of the homodynamic ritual.

A householder reverently places steaming cooked breakfast rice into each monks begging bowl. The monks - dressed in their formal clothes and with bare feet - receive it and give a blessing. The rice will be used for breakfast, their first meal since midday the day before. The rounds take about half an hour. About 30% of the villagers contribute the amount of rice collected is about ten times more than can be eaten by the 25 village monks - the surplus is not wasted, it feeds the village dogs and chickens. Each family grows its own rice, dries it under their houses and has it hulled at the village mill half a bag at a time.

I've just spent 5 weeks sitting on a pile of dirt floating on a sea of rice paddies. It was located in northern Thailand somewhere between the River Kawi and the Burmese border, with a 400C green house climate. Only about 150km from Bangkok, it was back in the 14th century.

I was in a Monastery sitting at the feet of a Chinese-Thai 'Master', trying to cope with the verbally transmitted esoteric side of Buddhist meditation how to use guides, how to cloud fly, psychic self-defence, fortune telling, exorcism, self analysis and the viewing of past lives. The system revolves around the accumulation of power. Good breathing is critical, visualisation skills are the key and clairvoyant ability is helpful.

The Monastery was home to about 30 monks and a symbiotic part of the 3000 people village which surrounded it. Thailand is made up of such villages and in total there are 300,000 monasteries in the geographically small 60 million people nation. In the hot, wet fertile rice areas the population density is high. Here villages and monasteries spread like a web over the countryside, as they have done for thousands of years.

In that time the flow of life between people, animals and plants evolved into a system that found its own balance. The spiritual side hides under the guise of Theravada Buddhism and is focused in the Monastery. It took me about 2 weeks to develop the understanding that I present below. I call it Homodynamics because of its similarity to the biodynamic approach. Alas, it is changing rapidly, with chemical fertilizers, Pesticides and the rotary hoe altering the natural balances.

At an obvious level, cows have changed from being the honored family member who pulled the plough to merely a family pet. The Monastery had 2, tended by an old monk. In the fields cows were still used to graze on rice stalks, trample weeds and fertilize for the next planting. Thai cows are very human conscious, far more like Australian dogs than Australian cows. At night they have little smoking fires lit besides them to keep off mosquitoes.

Another example, at a simple level, were the monastery dogs. A motley crew of about 20 animals, they took a week to recognize me and allow me access to my hut. Before that 1 carried a stick and watched my back. By the third week they kept visitors away from my hut as effectively as they had kept me away. They knew who belonged where. They were fed the huge surplus of food collected by the monks on their morning alms round. They breed at random and nipped within reason.

The Monk's Day

The day started at 4am, with the morning bell. 1 think everyone ignored it until first light at 6am. Then 6 groups of 2 to 4 monks collected together (the word 'assembled' could be used here, but it implies a level of human organization and will that just wasn't there). Each group also had a cart and a boy or 2 from the village to push it.

The boys who came to help the monks had a direct payoff - a huge and varied breakfast. Every street in the village was covered and so all households had a chance to participate in the homodynamic cycle, and 30% did.

The monks were formally dressed in their full robes and walked with bare feet. The boys ran ahead and yelled "The monks are coming!". Householders came to the road carrying a chalice of boiled rice and a plate of food. The monks stopped and lifted the lid of their begging bowl. Reverently the householder spooned into it a huge dollop of rice.

When 1 placed rice into a begging bowl it felt like reaching into the stomach, or perhaps the womb, of the Mother Earth - a strange feeling. The rice, 1 should add, is hand cut from each family's own paddy field, dried under the house and dehulled at the village winnowing mill, half a bag at a time.

The next part of the cycle is heavy breakfast and the feeling of bloat. The monks last meal having finished by 12 noon the day before - a gap of 19 hours between rice loaded meals. Then at 8 am the bell goes off again for the morning's chanting.

The Role of Chanting

Chanting is what village level Buddhism is all about in Thailand. It's done in Pali to a simple rhythm that takes a little for the body to adjust into. Then it helps with meditation. It took me a time to work out that it creates a space for the nature kingdom devas. They come when called by song and, because of centuries of interaction, co-operate to human requests. The Thais, like the Greeks, classify things into water, earth, air and fire.

The chanting hall at my monastery is virtually identical to all the chanting halls in all the other monasteries that spread out through the valley. It is a double cube (like a Masonic temple) built on what 1 call the Asian yard about 30 inches. It is 8 units wide, 8 units high and 16 units long, and sits on a cement pedestal 3 units above the growing water level of the surrounding rice paddies. The elaborate roof was roost to hundreds of pigeons that feed off dropped rice.

Evening chanting makes the huge golden Buddha statue radiate with light~ The painted scene behind it becomes 'The Deer Park' where 'The Buddha' preached to the novice monks. The scene all comes together and breathes life during the evening chant, during which one can feel the presence of a landscape angel sized water nymph who watches over the surrounding paddy.

To me she appeared whenever asked to, in the form of a water lily flower. She liked to give blessings.

The morning chanting used energy that came from the monks' digestion of their heavy rice-loaded breakfast. As the monks chant and the energy builds up, it rises as a column into the sky. It then spreads out like a cloud to open up and rain down as a million sparkles onto the villagers' rice paddies.

The sparkles float over the paddy water and are drawn back into the chanting hall to be recharged and sent forth again and again. The cycle runs for about 5 minutes. It reminded me of the vortex that is created when biodynamic 500 is stirred in a bucket.

The whole process has been refined over thousands of years. The bare footed monks collecting, the people giving, the monks eating, the monks digesting and the monks chanting. The same chant day after day, for 20, 40 or 50 years of their lives. A symbiotic process - the humans, the paddy, the rice, the animals, the plants and any number of devas and nature spirits all working in an ecological loop for thousands and thousands of years.

The Future?

How long will the yin power of Thai tradition keep it strong, against the destructive extreme yang of the Western ways? Will Thailand remain as one of the few Asian nations to largely escape foreign domination, including the power and influence of China?

Perhaps soon it's systemic harmony will all be gone. The removal of so much Thai forest and the coming of TV, steel, roads, cement and chemicals have altered the balances past the known and well established ancient equilibrium points. A new balance is needed .....


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page uploaded 14 December 2001, last modified 15 December

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