Not This, Not That ~ A TALE OF TWO
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
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.
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
“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 ~