A portrait about Mahathera Nyanasanta – an Austrian Bhikkhu living in Sri Lanka
– Interview from the 21’st of April 2019, Kottawa (District Galle), Sri Lanka –
In the beginning of our talk Nyanasanta disagreed to publish a picture of him on my blog. When I found out he doesn’t want to leave traces and appear in the public we could agree on making a picture with a shadow in his face.
- When was the last time you felt happiness from the bottom of your heart?
I think it was in the time I learned about Buddhism when I saw this is a way towards permanent happiness. It’s difficult to explain with a few words but I think it’s enough.
- What was the most significant heart touching experience in your life?
Well, I can’t give you a specific heart touching experience, but I can tell you a very nice story of my time in the Himalaya on my journey. In the Himalaya I wanted to go to the base camp of the Annapurna. I attended a Japanese group to climb the Annapurna. First, I was just walking with my sandals and my tracksuit between a lot of snow and that was my single equipment because I’ve been bicycling. (laughs)
So I came to that base camp and I saw the cook of the Sherpas from the Japanese expedition. I noticed so many oranges around there and I asked the cook for the price because I wanted to buy one. He said: “5 dollar the piece.” And I was like: “What? One orange 5 Dollar, are you mad?” He explained me that so many Sherpas have to go from Pokhara the village down the valley up to here to transport one orange. Until the orange arrives at the base camp every Sherpa has to earn money to provide their families and I was wondering about the price. I asked the cook for something to drink. He answered: “Same, same. The Sherpas have to carry up the water as well, but I can make you a present. Here, you have a metal dish and outside we have tons of snow. When you wait till the snow is melting on your dish you can drink for free.” It was a situation in my life I learned so much. We shouldn’t forget to look behind the people and understand them.
- How would you describe spirituality in your own words?
Spirituality is a way of inner attitude and thinking you don’t want anything anymore. You don’t want money or goods. You just make it for the long–lasting effect on your mind and you can call it heartwarming. I want to explain the Buddhist view on spirituality. First of all, we have to think what Buddhists want. Buddhists don’t want the insight which gives them everlasting peace. The real Buddhist wants everlasting happiness, which is for free. You can have a beautiful car or millions of dollars and you need to protect this because some people could steal it. This is not happiness.
You have to come to the point you don’t want any more things. Greed, hate and delusion. Greed can’t be fulfilled as long as you are wanting anything. If you are free of greed, hate and delusion you are automatically happy and don’t need anything else.
- Do you believe in a god or a higher power?
No! It’s a beautiful thing about Buddhism. I was so impressed that there is no god. Buddha was a living being 2500 years ago and what he reached you can reach too. He was born as a human being made of flesh and blood and you are the same. Buddha achieved a mindset and a high level of awareness. He realized how to understand feelings of any type are born. If you listen to his teaching and follow it, you don’t want any more things, like hate or greed you can reach the same free of charge. (laughs)
- Imagine, the last day of your life has come and there is nobody who has any information about you and your life. All the information has mysteriously been deleted. If I would give you an empty sheet of paper and you could leave a message with the three most important wisdoms of your life, which three wisdoms would you write down?
NIRVANA (Sanskrit word, liberation of the continuous repetition of birth) including DESIRELESSNESS, PRIORITIES
- Do you have a saying which shows your vision or attitude of life?
You know, your way of asking is very difficult. I should concentrate my whole life experience in one sentence or even shorter. The best idea to find your own way is to take a bicycle and make a long trip. Unfortunately it’s not possible anymore because there are too many terrorists.
Addendum: 18 hours later a terror attack of radical Muslims on Christians and Western people with over 350 dead people took place in the nearby Colombo.
I know a beautiful saying by Lao-Tze, who was living in the same time of Buddha but they never met. They didn’t want to change their knowledge and mix their teachings. Lao-Tze says: “Those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know.”
- How do you prefer your funeral to be like?
First of all on my gravestone would stand “forget me”. It’s really important for me. In general my funeral would be like a Christian funeral with a priest and a monk who will tell a fitting sutta, one of the Buddha’s thoughts. The guests of my funeral would decide which music is played.
- Which thoughts give you hope?
(thinks about it for a few seconds) It’s hopeless anyway. (laughs) Not.
I think people are not so stupid we sometimes think. From the news we get informed about very bad things. The last extremely stupid thing I was heard in the “Neue Deutsche Welle” news was about a man. There was that idiot who was pouring some kerosene over a young girl and lit it. That 18-year-old girl was burning. He just wanted to give her a teaching. So stupid!
8.1. Your answer was filled with negative examples. You have hope, don’t you?
Of course, I have hope. My hope is that the people will wake up of the illusion of life.
9. If an artist would draw a picture about your life, what animal would he choose as a symbol for you? What would the landscape around you look like in the drawing? What kind of weather would it be there?
I couldn’t tell you an animal as a symbol for my life because I try to live a life connected to reality. Therefore it is hard to figure a close relation to an animal. The artist would draw a tropical forest as a habitat because I am used to it.
Additional information: 75 years old, living as as monk since about 35 years in Sri Lanka //3