I am writing from Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary on Ko Samui. In my previous posting, I was sharing that the modern-day retreatant can expect a level of nurturing and pampering that truly answers his or her chants, incantations, and prayers, to relax … relax … r-e-l-a-x …
Yesterday, I wrote that what is above and beyond extraordinary, here at Kamalaya, is that the Wellness Sanctuary sits very near to a centuries-old cave, once used by Buddhist monks as a place for meditation and spiritual retreat. I invited you to imagine a ‘divine call centre’ with a direct line to God.
And further, I asked you to imagine being a monk in meditation, sharing his living space with a cobra, having an agreement for peaceful cohabitation with it, as if made telepathically ?
The cobra story fascinates me, and brings to mind other stories about the power of the mind to communicate with cobras. I am reminded of Bapak Eco Yulianto, who is Head Gardener at MesaStila Resort (formerly Losari Spa and Coffee Plantation) in Central Java. No long ago I had been invited by that resort’s General Manager, Bryan Hoare, to offer coaching in confidence and self-esteem building for the hospitality staff. And then, in a task out of the blue, he asked me to help to create the text for a Heritage Trail, and to walk in the footsteps of Gabriella Teggio the founder. Here is Bapak Eco’s cobra story.
Please do not disturb!
The year was 1986, and Babak Eco, then aged thirty-six, had been asked by the former Javanese owner, Bapak Tjokro Prawiro to sleep in the dilapidated mansion house (now the Club House), and the only building of habitable standard in the plantation at the time. One night whilst sleeping in what had been home to the former Dutch plantation owner, he woke suddenly, and found his eyes meeting snake-eyes. A cobra was before him, a risen beast, and was confronting him – eye to eye – at the level of his bed. The snake could certainly have killed him and eaten him – its girth being quite able to accommodate the man himself. Inside his mind he heard these words emerging, and he spoke to the snake thus: “Please, I did not disturb you, so please do not disturb me.” As happens at such times, the soul rose to the occasion – and without another word or sign the snake bowed his regal head and slithered away… Eco took this to be ‘sign’ that he was to be protected, within this environment.
Did the Monks live with cobra snakes?
Back to Ko Samui. One of the monks known to have stayed in the cave, was Arjan Daeng, a Buddhist sage, renowned for his knowledge of healing plants, and his ability to communicate with other life forms, including the cobras who shared his living space. I set out to speak to Dr Pipadh Eksengsri, Kamalaya’s Chief Medical Officer, who guides the weekly temple tour, to ask him whether this tale were true. Dr Pipadh informed me that, “the cave is half way to a spring of fresh water, and therefore it is likely that the cobras would have slithered down the mountain to drink.”
In a world where an ‘inner world’ lies in waiting…
The cave is the heart of Kamalaya, both physically at the centre, and the bedrock upon which the philosophy is built. “Over 300 years ago, the island of Ko Samui was Muslim. And the cave,” Dr Pipadh, tells me, “was involved in the first steps to Buddhism”. This hallowed space has been the home of many Buddhist masters. First, Arjan Daeng, was followed by Arjan Pet, and then by Arjan Mahasumreong, the most recent monk to inhabit the cave. Arjan Pet was known as the ‘Diamond Teacher’ and it was he that set the method for Buddhism. There were many followers, and the method was passed down through many generations of monks. For this reason, Arjan Pet was considered a great reformer of Thai Buddhism. Arjan Mahasumreong followed. He translated many original Pali texts into the Thai language. The latter sage continued to teach into his nineties in a monastery in the Thai province of Kanchanaburi.
The calm in the eye of the storm
Dr Pipadh informs me, that the Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai) on Samui is in memory of Arjan Mahasumreong who ‘saved’ Ko Samui some fifty-one years ago when the island was directly under the eye of a storm. “He was a bridge connected to the unknown, transferring blessings.” Arjan Mahasumreong, sat and faced the storm, at the point on Samui where the Big Buddha stands today. “The people saw that Arjan Mahasumreong was with them, and sharing their impending plight. The monk offered up a chant, a prayer, ‘Forgiving and Giving… Forgiving and giving… Forgiving and giving…’. The whole island joined in the refrain, ‘Forgiving and Giving’ as one voice, ― a direct line to an unknown ― higher power. The storm calmed.”
Nourishing the spirit
Dr Pipadh tells us that the monk Arjan Mahasumreong nourished his spirit some fourteen hours a day, in contemplative, meditative prayer. Today some twenty percent of the monk population maintain this level of dedication to nurturing the bridge between the ‘unknown’ and the earth, and they tend to commune in the forests. Imagine fourteen hours a day on a direct line to higher power, insight, and wisdom. One assumes that on this direct ‘spiritual line’ he was never held in a queue, and never had to select numerical options on a phone, other than selecting the One within.
Today in Arjan’s Cave
Guests and hospitality staff can sit and be, inside the cave. They can take off within themselves. They can fly. And they can land, safely, and softly in their heart’s desire for peace, happiness, clarity and love. They too can dial in ―- hands-free and distraction-free. And they can do so, secure in the knowledge that the cave is cobra-free too.
And outside the Cave
The chants, metaphors, and the poetry of spa-speak whisper in rhythm, filling the ways with choruses the ways, in massaging words that promise transcendence in this lifetime, in this week, on this day! Transcendence starts each day of a guest’s stay in Kamalaya, as they check in, to check out the sensory journeys of holistic healing and the sensations of well-being. And let’s trust they too are smartphone free, and hence released from outside pressures and distractions as much as possible!
Remember though, there is a huge and vast space available that each of us can access when we too, reflect, contemplate, or meditate ― call the activity what you will. This space is there within each of us, and one does not need a cave to discover it. Choose your place. Pull up a chair. Sit still, and step inside yourself. Breathe. And be.