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The power of LOVE

by NathonCity @January,28 2009 23.23 ( IP : 118...121 ) | Tags : เก็บข่าวมาเล่า , HOF

จาก Bangkokpost (ออนไลน์)

By: Karnjariya Sukrung and Yingyong Un-anongrak
Published: 27/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Outlook

For writer Pramuan Pengchan, love and marriage can be the gateway for a noble life of Buddhist practice 

Without his wife, Pramuan Pengchan said he could not have made his historical and spiritual quest _ a 1,200km walk from Chiang Mai to his hometown Samui _ which he turned into the best-selling book, A Walk to Freedom

''Without her understanding, I could not have pursued this project,'' said the former professor of philosophy who retired early, at the age of 51, to embark on his pilgrimage. ''Each step I walked, my wife was with me. We did this together,'' said the tan-skinned man, his shoulder length hair tied at the back _ a visual reminder of a recent pilgrimage to India.

Sompong, his wife for 20 years, was always close to his heart. ''My dearest wife'', as he usually refers to her both in his books, his lectures as well as in our interview.

''Our partnership is an invaluable gift,'' he wrote in his recent book Pramuan Kwam Rak (Pramuan's dialogue on love and relationships with youngsters).

During his journey, Pramuan wrote several postcards to her. The notes were as sweet and loving as their early exchanges were. He also wrote Sompong letters every day, some of which were 40 or 50 pages long.

''Consistency is important in love and relationships,'' he once said.

''My love has grown up as I have aged,'' said Pramuan, 54. Yet, it has never grown old.

Now, in their mid-fifties, they still hold hands while walking in markets and other public places. Such a gesture impresses many, including a food vendor who waits every day to see them. ''Seeing such love lifts up my spirits,'' the vendor told them.

For Pramuan, love and marriage is not just a natural and social stage for human beings. It is an integral part of Buddhist practice and a noble love and life.

''The meaning of love is the meaning of life. How you love will determine how you live,'' said the soft-spoken Pramuan. ''For instance, if you think love is giving, you will give. If you think love is patience, you will be patient.''

Unfortunately, he pointed out, we tend to impose our meanings of love on others. When we define love as giving, we tend to ask for others to give. And when we expect, it is likely that we will be disappointed, he said.

As for him, he said love is an aspiration to give and serve others. ''It is a powerful force that can transform us,'' he said.

''When I was young, I was quick tempered and my patience was thin. Even so, love gave me the power of patience and perseverance.''

''When my mother and sisters mentioned they wanted something, I would try to fulfil their wishes. For example, in a normal shift at the para rubber plantation where I worked, I would collect latex (sap-like extract) from approximately 500 rubber trees. But to get more money for my family, I did 1,000 trees, which took me from midnight to noon the next day.''

''Also, I could wait for a long time or walk for three or four hours a day for several months just to see the face of someone I was in love with.''

At 18 and in love, Pramuan was ordained as a Buddhist novice. He said that he learned about love, sex and relationships from his time spent wearing the yellow robe.

''When we became sexually aroused, we were told to think the opposite,'' he said. ''I was to contemplate on corpses, or go to the cemetery and meditate there, reflecting on death.'' This helped, he said, as sexual arousal was replaced with the sense of fear.

''I learned that love can be imagined. The imagination I had then kept me away from sexual and romantic feelings.''

''In this respect, I think a beautiful imagination on love is important in our relationships. Without imagination, we may be distracted by our instinctive forces,'' he said.

After two years as a novice, Pramuan chose to continue his monkhood and went to India to study philosophy, where he finished a doctorate degree. 

''It was the major turning point. I found that the genuine meaning of my life is not entirely my own. It is others who help construct the meaning of our lives and sense of self,'' he said. ''Our life is deeply and intricately interconnected with others.'' 

After completing his doctoral degree, Pramuan disrobed and took up a lecturing job at Chiang Mai University, where his wife was also working. It was during this time that they developed an intimate bond.

''Marriage is not only about love or physical contact. It is also an opportunity to practise and learn about interconnectedness and interdependence. In our marriage we aspire to create meaningful and beautiful lives together.'' 

Living together has taught him to be less self-centred, he added.

''At mealtimes, I used to put rice on my plate and begin to eat without thinking about my wife. 

''But I realised that someone who is really in love wouldn't do that. To love is to put the other before oneself. So I now offer the rice to my wife first.''

His wife also thinks along the same lines. ''When each of us puts the other first, we don't demand anything from each other. This leads to a good and loving married life,'' she once said in a press interview.

Love is a process, Pramuan said, in which one has to learn endlessly. But first, the learning process should start with faith and commitment.

''On our wedding day,'' Pramuan recalled, ''when the monks started chanting, I made a vow: From that moment on, I would do anything in my power, even if it meant to sacrifice my life, to nourish this marriage and to discover its true meaning.

''I would not have eyes for other women. I would not see or think about other women as more attractive than her. My life is committed to her.''

''Today, I am still strongly on this track,'' he smiled. ''My wife is the most beautiful woman for me.''

His unwavering determination came partly from his attempt to redeem his father's mistakes.

''My mother was badly hurt in her marriage. She always complained how bad my father was to her. Even at my father's funeral, she refused to attend,'' he recalled. His father had met another wife and had had children by her. ''The damage had been done and my father could not reverse it although he wished to.''

''I really wanted to alleviate my mother's pain as well as redeem my father's guilt,'' he said. ''So I decided that I would be a good husband.''

Aspirations to become a good lover is important for a good relationship, he said.

''When we think we want to be a good partner, it creates a sense of responsibility, a direction of action that we want to pursue.''

''Like a gardener, we should not blame a tree if it does not bear fruit or bring flowers. Rather, we will look at ourselves and ask what we have done wrong and try to correct it, or what we can do to help the tree grow and yield more fruit.''

That is a more constructive approach. Mostly, when something is wrong in relationships, we usually point our fingers at others to mend it, he said.

''We should aspire to be lovers rather than the beloved,'' Pramuan said. ''If we want to be the beloved, we will face disappointment.''

As lovers, Pramuan said, he and his wife have never quarrelled in 20 years.

''We have different opinions and we discuss about them. But we respect each other, so we never argue or compete against each other.''

Has he ever had any bad feelings towards his wife?

''Once, a long time ago, I confessed to her that I was a bit agitated with her. She did not know it, in fact, but I knew it in my heart. I needed to confess it to her. So I told her that I was sorry to have such feeling and asked her to understand the reason I felt so.''

Quarrels or frustrations can not last if one understands the nature of impermanence and trust, he said.

''There were times when my wife was frustrated. I understand that it could be a change of hormones or some other factors. But I always knew those feelings would not last. It is not her true self, so I do not peck on this behaviour. 

''Rather, I take care of her, understand her and allow her to express her feelings.''

It is a similar idea to the saying: If the feet trip over and get hurt, the hands should neither hit nor blame the feet. Rather, the hands should try to alleviate the pain of the feet, he said.

''A husband and wife should be like that,'' Pramuan said. ''They should become one whole body.''

And without his wife, he confesses, he could not possibly have come up with all these meanings of love and life that he has shared with his students and readers

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