Umbrellas

Umbrellas — Excerpt from Going For Broke from "Walkman Karaoke" (2004)

Rainy Season is luckily my favorite. I love all five months of it. It is the perfect temperature also, not too hot, not too cold. It's quiet and the noises around me get white washed out from the rain striking the metal corrugated roofing.

We had over 350 Bhikkhus and a total of more than 600 residents this past Rainy Season. One problem is that nearly everyone has the same brown or silver umbrellas. Surprisingly, up until last Rainy Season, everyone sort of knew which umbrella was theirs just by the markings. Some would put string on the handle while others might have some tape along the fabric to stop the leaks.

This past Rainy Season gave us a little too much confusion and we now have laminated umbrella name tags in addition to the markings. One time, when someone took my umbrella, I replaced it with a communal umbrella, and the next day someone took that one too! Later on, I recovered my lost/taken umbrellas, but if you don't have an umbrella during rainy season, you are in big trouble.

Umbrellas surely break, and we now have an Umbrella Repair Service Station at Kuti #1. I call this monk "U THEE" which means Venerable Umbrella. You can actually use the "I'm sorry I was late, my umbrella was in the shop." as an excuse in this monastery. With this umbrella service, I was able to make my umbrella last almost two rainy seasons before giving it away to a visiting monk. Umbrellas really take a beating here and my umbrella was in the shop three times! U Tee is a real pro. He can do anything with your umbrella and there are plenty of parts available from the umbrella graveyard.

Once there was a person who donated a few high-tech umbrellas from Brookstone, a nifty gadget retail store in The States. It has two umbrellas in one: an upper deck and a lower deck. It's like an umbrella with a rain-fly. My teacher was offered one of these umbrellas and shortly afterwards, many of the reconditioned umbrellas started to appear in the same style. Sometimes the simple life can get high-tech too.

Update: kuti #1 and #15 are umbrella kuties. U Thee is not here anymore but the tradition still exists. Almost all sangha reconditioned umbrellas are double layer now.
The green piece if plastic on my umbrella is a broken clothes-pin for marking it. Since everyone has the same labels, my umbrella can be identified with a quick glance.


Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.