The one who loves the dhamma
lives happily,
with his mind at ease.

Dhammapada verse :79

At 10.32 on the 10th May 1987, I became a monk, with the name Paññadipa, meaning Island of Wisdom. This, as my teacher told me, was reference to the fact that I come from an island, not because I was wise !
It was a very special time for me, not only because I could surrender completely into the ways of a Buddhist monk, but also becasue I would be even closer to my teacher, perhaps the most important person in my life at that time.
The guest of honour at the ordination ceremony was U Nu, a former prime minister of Burma, Buddhist authority and devoted vipassana meditator in the style and tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw.
U Nu stayed at the monastery with some members of his family for two weeks after my ordination and much to my surprise and delight, he would seek me out each afternoon to sit together with a cup of tea and discuss Buddhism, Dhamma, meditation and life. I felt privilidged to spend time with this great man, who was so devoted to the Buddha Dhamma that he had even taken the Theravada Bodhisattva vow, where he determined that he would be reborn as a Buddha some time in the future.
On his last morning at the monastery he came to me when I was alone in the Dhamma Hall to tell me he was leaving. Having said goodbye, he immediately bowed before me and touched my feet. I thought nothing of it as in my mind, it was something cultural and a recognition of the symbolism of the monks robe.

Seven years later I was sitting in the car with my teacher, who was driving me to the railway station after another long retreat when he asked me if I remembered U Nu ?
‘Yes of course,’ I replied, ‘he was a lovely man.’
‘Do you remember when he bowed at your feet ?’ my teacher continued.
I was surprised that he knew about this as we had been alone when it had happened and I had never thought to mention it to anyone.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but he was only showing respect to the robe.’
‘No, that is not the case,’ he continued, ‘he came to my room later to tell me that he had bowed before you, and that it was an acknowledgement of your heart and the Dhamma that he felt manifested from you.’
I was completely shocked to hear such a thing, but my teacher continued, ‘I also have the same feeling as U Nu, which is why I accepted you as my disciple all those years ago. Now, to the station !’
For the rest of my long journey home by train and boat, I sat in a stunned silence, with, I’m sure, my mouth hanging open. To be told such a thing by two beings that I had infinite respect and admiration for, did not in any way empower the sense of ego and self importance, rather the opposite. I was filled with the feelings of humility and the intention always to be worthy of the respect of these great men.
I have never spoken publicly of these moments until today, twenty four years later. Perhaps it is only the fact that we are now in the special Buddhist month of May, the time of my ordination and the death of my teacher, that I reflect upon these things.

Ego and self identification is everywhere, and the spiritual life is not different. Praise and blame follow everyone and they can be used as self glorification or motivation for continuation on our path. It depends only on our own purity and understanding.
For myself, I wanted only to be a good disciple of the Buddha, Dhamma and my teacher, and later when instructed to teach myself, only to continue the purity and integrity of Dhamma. To share the blessings that I felt that I had received.
Dhamma is the letting go of the delusion of self identity until we realise the beautiful and liberating truth of anatta that the Buddha spoke about.
If there is no permanent or abiding self, who is it that can take credit for their accomplishments or suffer in front of their critics ?
It seems to me that everyone has the potential for liberation, we just have to get out of our own way. How others see us says more about them than it does about ourselves, so no need to be lost in that.
If we truly want to know the depth, purity of our Dhamma understanding, we must look at our ordinary, everyday, minute to minute life. There, if we are honest, everything will be revealed.
I offer this with respect and humility.

May all beings be happy.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Kewley is the former Buddhist monk, Paññadipa, and now an internationally acclaimed Master of Dhamma, presenting courses and meditation retreats throughout the world.
A disciple of the late Sayadaw Rewata Dhamma, he teaches solely on the instruction of his own Master, to share the Dhamma, in the spirit of the Buddha, so that all beings might benefit.
Full biography of Michael Kewley can be found at www.puredhamma.org