Begging in Bali- A TTC experience
Relieved permalink October 13, 2010
Freeagain I honour you for telling your story and for presenting everything you have to say in a succinct way. Your story has once again opened the last part of my AoL journey that has stayed with me and has caused me shame.
I too was at the 21 day TTC, although as I had done TTC 1 at the ashram I did not have to attend the first few days. This one was held in a 5 star hotel in Bali and we were often told it was the 5 star TTC. My reservations grew whilst there, things did not seem right to me on many levels. I have to say that my time was easy, I was never in the hot seat but found it hard to bear witness to it and at times it almost felt voyeuristic. We were sleep deprived, the evenings finished late and the mornings started early but I can honestly say it was not as intense as the ashram schedule.
My real discomfort came with the Buddha process – which entails going into the streets to beg. We were told to wear our dirtiest oldest clothes, not to brush hair and to look as scruffy as possible. We were all given a letter to keep with us at all times in case we were caught by the police as begging is illegal in Bali. Those of us of western descent were told we should not beg and they wanted us to promise we would do this in our home cities, I made no such promise. Instead of begging we were told we had to go out and earn food and drink by offering to work for the locals. I started off with a friend and in the first place the lady wanted to cook us breakfast and we had to then shun her hospitality as she was about to cook us eggs that we were not supposed to have. We then split up, the only places to ask was in shops or hotels for work. One place I went to was a tailer’s shop and I was asking to sweep the floor in exchange for some water, the lady was not able to understand me so when an american customer came in who spoke the local dialect I asked her to translate, which she did and got an answer from the shop keeper that still shames me. She told me that I was asking the impossible of her as I was ‘high caste’ and she could not ask me to work like that. I felt such a fraud, I was going back to the nice hotel, to as much food and water as I wanted. At that point I felt I could do no more and went for a walk and ended up working with room service cleaning rooms.
Those that had been begging all came back with money that was handed over and I have no idea where it went to, although I think it was staying in Bali and I hope was given to a charity. The Balinese are kind generous people and gave freely to my classmates, including new clothes and food and showed great concern to those seemingly reduced to beggar status in their country. They are not a rich nation and income is largely from tourism that of course was reduced after the Bali bomb. We were told that it reduced karma to take from those who had less than us and not to worry about it.
It is with relief that I tell this story that has haunted me and I am so grateful that this site provides the means to do that. It has certainly been a healing place for me as I have made my way back to being the fun loving, creative person that I lost along the way. I too thought that AoL was my calling, in many ways I am grateful to have gone through the experience and come out the other side with having learned so much and with my dignity and integrity intact.