By Warangkana Tempati
Photos courtesy of DMC Channel
Coming to Thailand with an interest in meditation, Jonas Rosenberg from Fredrikstad in Norway ended up finding just what he was searching for. Now he can, with surprise, look back at the period that transformed him from a regular Norwegian to a ordained monk maintaining a strict routine of deep daily meditation.
“Often, all I see is darkness, which is ok. Sometimes, when I can go deeper, and I see a white bright light flashing at my center. The amazing thing is not so much seeing the light, but more a deepening feeling of happiness and calmness that I have never experienced anywhere else,” the 22 year old Jonas Rosenberg says.
“On my very good days, I can still my mind longer than usual and see a soft white light pouring out of my center and quickly expanding to cover my whole body. At these moments, I feel profoundly peaceful and ecstatic. Suddenly, the world seems more beautiful despite everything else in my life being the same. It is amazing how something as simple and cost-free as closing your eyes softly and relaxing your mind can give you such wonderful feelings.”
The search for something…
The story starts in the middle of 2010, when Jonas Rosenberg decided to visit Thailand for a longer stay. Here is the story of the young, Scandinavian monk.
“Sometimes destiny can surprise us and take us in a different direction of life. One we had never thought of. I am a Norwegian who, until October this year, never in my entire life of 22 years ever thought of becoming a monk. Growing up in a non-Buddhist family and in a country where Buddhists account for less than one percent of the whole population, I was surprised that the decision came to me easily and rather naturally.”
“Before I came to Thailand, I was interested in learning about meditation because I had read that it could help one relax the mind and improve brainpower. At my home in Fredrikstad, I tried a few meditation techniques. Although I did gain a bit inner peace, I never felt anything more than that. Deep down, I felt there had to be something about the meditation that I had yet to discover.”
From thought to action
“In July 2010, I decided to take a long trip to Thailand. During the trip, I signed up to join an English meditation course in the Prathum Thanee province. At the beginning, I couldn’t sit for more than 10 minutes without changing the position. The mentors are Western monks who speak fluent Thai and are very understanding of new students from the West. They answered me every question and every doubt I had about meditation.”
“As I continued to follow their advice, I was able to let go of thoughts, worries and problems faster and more easily. After days into the program, I found myself meditating blissfully instead of constantly looking at the watch. I simply focused my mind on the center of my body and silently observed whatever there was to see – without any thoughts.”
“Later, I learned about an international ordination program and decided to give it a try. My feelings and intuition told me that I was doing the right thing for myself. The one-month program began with a two-week training to help people familiarize themselves with the life of a monk and how to behave. During these two weeks, I wore simple white outfits and observed the Eight Precepts which includes, among other things, not taking meals after midday. I had to memorize Pali verses for requesting ordination. It was not easy, but I thought, since hundreds of foreigners had done it before, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to.”
All suited up
“Finally, the big day came. I was touched to see many Thais come to this holy ceremony to express support and rejoice in the ordination of all these foreigners they didn’t even know. At the strike of a temple bell, I walked in a file along with other white-clothed ordination seekers. At the next bell strike, I sat down before an elderly supporter who was sitting in a row along with other well-wishers. As she handed me a set of orange saffron robes, my heart swelled. I almost cried out of joy as I slowly marched back, carrying the saffron robes in my arms.”
“After that all of us ordination seekers changed into the monk’s uniform. I thought I would feel strange wearing the robes for the first time, but when it actually happened, it felt surprisingly natural. I was delighted and proud. Two days later, we all travelled to a meditation village up on top of a mountain in Chiang Mai. The place was perfect for meditation. The air was fresh, clean and cool. There was a botanical garden, lots of trees and a pond. At the end of the program, some disrobed and returned to their countries. Others, such as myself, decided to stay on as monks.”
Feeling of happiness
“While I cannot say how long I will remain in the saffron robes, I can certainly say that I feel happy every day. I wake up at 4.30 a.m. and join other monks in the morning chanting and meditation session. After that we walk into a village for an alms round. It’s touching to see villagers getting up early to cook and offer meals to you.”
“After breakfast, we do some cleaning to keep the place nice and clean. In the afternoon, I either study Thai, Dhamma lessons or meditation. At night, I do evening chanting and I meditate more. My life has never been simpler; yet, I have never felt happier.”
“The happiness I’ve found in meditation is greater than the joy of winning a football match or receiving a certificate on my graduation day. Best of all, it doesn’t hinge on some special events happening or some problems disappearing from my life.”
“It is ironic that everybody wants happiness, but many pursue it in a complicated or unhealthy way and end up feeling stressed and exhausted. For me, happiness is as uncomplicated as closing my eyes, quieting my mind and doing absolutely nothing. After all, life is too short to be unhappy.”
“Suddenly the world seemed more beautiful despite everything else in my life being the same,” Jonas Rosenberg.
The next international ordination program starts in February. For more information, please write to [email protected] or visit www.ordinationthai.org or call (083) 922-1199 or (087) 771-7639.