This year’s Dhamma Talk Series finished at the end of October. We had met for 6 weeks at the Pharmaceutical Association of Thailand, for Talks and some meditation.
I arrange this set of events each year, mainly due to the absence of other Dhamma programs in Bangkok. It takes a lot of work – basically every day for at least 3 months it requires attention – doing all the graphics for the website, clickable icons, email flyers, posters, and alerting the newspapers trying to get them to post the information free of charge. The actual talks are the least of the job! In October we had, marginally, the busiest month ever on the blog with 7952 hits – partly due to the Talks Series, with a boost from the huge interest in the Ajahn Jayasaro talk in November.
While other teachers we invite do talks vaguely on this or that subject, the intent of a series is to give highly specific subjects, with notes for further investigation. If anyone is new, they should get a good overview. For those who know Buddhism, we can go into different topics in more detail than usual.
Most monks prefer to stay quiet in their rooms. It’s a big thing to put yourself in the firing line, inviting a crowd to come and listen to you … in fact one friend of mine, a monk in the forest lineage for a total of 18 years, did not contact me last time he was in Bangkok. When I found out he was here (the day before he left) I chided him for not letting me know he was in town. Well, he was afraid I’d pressure him into giving a talk! Several senior monks, even abbots, I have invited, but they do not wish to step outside of their comfort zones. It is different going out in public rather than doing things in the familiar environment of your own temple.
The usual plan is to do a series of talks, and take donations. All the money goes to Dr Holly who keeps it on behalf of the group, and is not given to any individuals or myself. We then use that money to pay for expenses through the year, such as paying for vans or room hire on the times when there are not enough donations on the day to cover costs, or else paying for transport or inviting other teachers to give talks. With the teachers we invite, there is usually a donation box on the day for their expenses too.
For the most part we do not have to pay much out, thanks to the generous offering of facilities by various groups; we can do things for free most of the time. Still, these venues usually accept donations too, so as a group we need to try and support them. Generally the price of a Starbucks coffee is plenty.
This year we had to pay for the venue, at 3000 baht per time. Khun Tiwarat gave us 3000 baht to cover one session. Sadhu! Dr Holly reports :
Total collected, including K. Tiwarat’s 3000 came to 31.600 Baht Biggest nights were #4 and #5 when we took in the exact same amount, 6,910. . . weird.
From the 31,600, we laid 18K on the Pharma folks for room hire, plus 900 for water, and we gave monk taxi money of about 700 each night, total 4,100 Baht.
Balance earned, in the can: 9,610 Baht.
Together with previous balance that makes 26,380: not chopped liver!
This is plenty to keep us going for another year.
Talk topics ranged from faerie tales (Rumplestiltskin being the main one), ‘Story Arcs’ and breaking the habit of mind that drifts into unconscious behaviour, to the psychology of learning. Throughout all was the theme of mindfulness, along with specific talks on Dukkha, Kamma … and a few other things. Some people are coming new to Buddhism, while others are old hands and want specifics.
Since we had been holding meditation weekly on Mondays, I figured to spend more time talking, and skip the meditation each week after the talk – but several people commented that we should definitely keep the meditation before or after the talk. We can do that next year.
In the meantime, when any known teachers are passing through Bangkok we can invite them. Ajahn Pasanno is here in December, HH Phakchok Rinpoche in Jan, and Ringu Tulku in Feb. Plus the first ever second annual picnic – which is now a definite feature.
Thanks to everyone who helped out in different ways, even if it was just coming along and supporting. It is a big help when regular faces are welcoming to newcomers – lets try to be a friendly and welcoming group! Rubby did a great job managing everything, and thanks to the monks too for joining in.
Notes on the talks :
Some of the weeks we got a sound recording, and some of the weeks we got a video (took several attempts to figure out the video settings). Right now it takes a bit too long to edit, and re-encode into smaller files to post up on Youtube…. The sound files need splitting, filtered for noise reduction, and resynchronised with the video file … all takes time. Maybe for next year.
The next task, when time permits, is a revamp of the Littlebang blog.