Not This, Not That ~ A TALE OF TWO TOILETS

When I returned to Bataan in ‘87, I found the temple in a worse condition than ever, and though there was a temple-committee, composed of people who couldn’t live without some kind of position and title in society, nothing had been done to and around it since my last visit the previous year. Unable to bear it, I started to clean up, but the committee-people not only just sat around and watched me working, without coming to help in any way, they even tried to obstruct me in different sneaky ways. I went ahead and did what I thought needed doing anyway, in spite of these useless people.

Raising funds in Manila, I hauled in material from Tomas’s store and, with the help of volunteers, replaced the temple-roof before the monsoon.

Since my last visit, the Camp authorities had taken note of the toilet in the temple and built a new one, complete with cement walls, door, a decent roof, and a toilet-bowl of the sit-down type. This was for use only by monks and special visitors to the tem-ple. Other people who were staying in the temple were using the pit I’d dug the year before, with a few boards across it, shielded by a few brambles and long grass. Using old material from the roof of the temple, we built a new toilet-hut where the old ruined one had stood, and installed a new toilet-bowl of the squatter type. It was by no means luxurious, but was a great improve-ment over what it had been, and was clean. I felt satisfied with it.

My satisfaction, however, was short-lived, because two months later, I asked one of the young Vietnamese nuns living in the compound and who used that toilet, along with other people: "How is your toilet now? Is it clean?"

"Yes," she said, "very clean". I took her word for it, so didn't go to inspect it until a few days later. I was amazed and appalled at the condition of the toilet-bowl: what had been brand-new and spotless just two months before was now so filthy that it looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned for ten years! To make matters worse, when I confronted the nun about it, and reminded her that she’d told me it was very clean, she insisted that it was.

"Clean?" I said; "you should look at our toilet and see the differ-ence!"

"Ah, but there are only few people using your toilet," she coun-tered, "while there are many people using ours".

"Well, then," I said, "you have many people to clean it, don’t you?"

Unwilling to back down, she said: "But we don't have duty to clean toilets!" (meaning not their responsibility). I was astonished! How could a Buddhist nun stand there and brazenly say such a thing?! Whose duty was it to clean the toilets? Was she above such work? Did she expect me to do it for them? No wonder there was little understanding between me and many of the people who stayed in the temple!

I’d taken a photograph of the two toilet-bowls before confronting her about it. And only after I complained about it did they condescend to clean it somewhat, after which I took other photos; I still have these as evidence of the kind of things I had to put up with from these people. What I did there was for everyone ~ the good, and those not so, the intelligent and the foolish.

Enlightenment is like the moment of death: when it comes, it is always instantaneous, but the process leading up to it is gradual; in fact, we spend our entire lives building up to it ~ no, more: the moment we are born, we begin to die, for death is not something separate from life, but part of it; it might even be said that living is dying ~ the wheel turns, and the life-force runs out.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is.”
~ Albert Einstein ~

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