a trumped up story

POSTCARD#296: Bangkok: Passivity is killing the endgame (thanks Kismet) this is it exactly. Watching CNN reporting on POTUS’s latest scandalous remarks ignites a fire within and I can’t seem to break free of how ‘bad’ that is; thinking for a moment there’s safety in apathy: Ah well, here we go again. Sticking with it, falling for the overwhelm, rolling thunderous clouds of imponderable thinking. Thus the history of my own rumble and tumble… starting up all that again? A flash of  justified outrage illuminates the room – fans the flames. This is a bizarre form of entertainment, we’ve seen the Punch & Judy show before of course, we know how to sidestep the action/reaction.

And suddenly we’re among the crowds in a market place, 17th Century England. Hungry for performance, anything’ll do, follow the noise: it’s over there, over there! Outrageous, disgraceful behaviour gets everyone’s attention… the trick is to have them all hate you, and in the push-and-shove, jeer, boo, a sleight-of-hand in that unseen instant, and suddenly things appear to be other than what they are. Derisive laughter at disbelievers, Mr. Punch in the spotlight, brazenly facing the uproar and law and order doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal. Then, as all this is taking place, the same kind of concealed actions change the scenery, Kuroko on stage, switch it all around and bit by bit, we start to get hooked on the drama, as we do in a Netflix series binge-out.

The world becomes a big hungry, greedy, grabber of things – a devourer, a multi-mouthed feeder of objects presented by way of the five (six) senses – isn’t that what they’re there for? But seeing the need to tread carefully here, I let go of all things hateful, burning hot thoughts scald the tongue, lip, and fingertip. For everyone else, let go and run for your life. I’m looking for the way to stay alert, camouflaged from fearful imagery, allowing only sleep to find me.

The glow of the city at night turns the sky orange, up here on the 7th floor of my hotel, looking out the window and down there at the trucks reversing back up the hill, round the corner at the top. It takes a moment to see it’s because they missed the sign that says the road’s closed… here comes another one. There’s something about this noise of high accelerated reverse gear… a nightmarish absurdity. Yet fascinating how the drivers are able to do this at speed. Well, everything is as it should be, the seemingly obvious really has no other meaning. It’s all a trumped up story… yes, but beware, thievery abounds – mindfulness is a necessity.

“Having lived through the transition from totalitarianism, I am acutely mindful of the need to never take for granted the basic freedoms of thought, expression and belief that democracy brings.” [Daisaku Ikeda]


Image above linked to the story of the Buddha,  reinterpreted by 12th Century Christianity, having arrived there by way of Hebrew, Persian and Arabic legends.

auld acquaintance

POSTCARD#295: Bangkok: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” The first line of Burns’ song, sung at midnight at the end of the year, could be seen in a Buddhist way – shouldn’t we simply let go of things? Relinquish whatever is held, be it for good reason or otherwise. The Second Noble Truth: suffering is caused by attachment, therefore detach from the object.

The old year is going, the new year waiting behind the curtain. I am another manifestation of awareness, a world of sensory data passes through me at entry points: eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, and mind. There’s no tangible self here, life looking in through the eyes, as well as out, input/output, and the experience of this room, outside-in space that contains the embodied sensory apparatus I identify as ‘my’ self… and a self slips into view, as if beckoned; flimsy, insubstantial ghostlike being, a temporary presence appearing in an agreed-upon reality.

In another sense, the question: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot? “ helps me to understand there’s nothing to be gained further by fighting with this headache that sometimes stabs me unexpectedly and grumbles in a discontented way the rest of the time. So I live with it, and take the medicine. It means I’m a bit unsteady on my feet, and I forget things not clearly stated in their own place and time – otherwise I’m okay.

Yes, it’s been so long now, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not have a headache all the time. The medicine does seem to work, or maybe the headache is not as bad as it was. I don’t feel it as much as I did, it’s just always there – I’m aware that my life is not quite the ‘it’ that it was… but thankful for small mercies, as one of my aunties would say.

And surely they would be aware of the need simply to be mindful (although the word mindfulness wasn’t in the collective vocabulary in their day, when paying attention to what was wise), thus being careful not to misjudge the dimensions of a step in going upstairs and thus fall in a heap. It’s like ‘fumbling the ball’ the object leaps free from our grasp inexplicably (how could that have happened?) and you’re in hospital with two broken ribs.

I’ve been there, recovered from it, and have a wary eye open for the next attempt by gravity to bring me down. As long as that level of mindfulness is present, all is well. So I’ll take this opportunity to wish fellow members of the blogosphere, one and all, a Happy New Year 2018.


Photo by Berti Buffy, Shwedagon Burma

it seems

POSTCARD#294: New Delhi: Received this photo from a friend and at first glance it seems like a full moon in the sky. Then I can see it’s a street light seen from above and some distance away. Curious illusion, I was drawn to it for a moment; the memory of seasons of darkness revisited and inside each of us the light of the universe shines. Nostalgia for winters so long ago, the seasonal snowy days and nights don’t exist for me any more, the sun shines nearly every single day.

Something to be thankful for, some would say, to be away from the cold, but exhausting for me now, it seems, the permanent headache starts in the morning. I put up with it for as long as possible before going on the meds because they slow me down over the course of the day and by nightfall I’m like the Walking Dead. Then sleep and a few hours free of it in the early morning, before the cycle kicks in again. Otherwise comfortably at home here in our Japanese friends apartment. They went back to Japan for the holidays, taking with them their little dog named Noina – the name of a Thai fruit, Custard Apple in English (see below).

That’s what I notice particularly about this apartment lacking its usual inhabitants, the presence of a little dog who is not here.  I like the words, ‘it seems’ as if she’s here. There’s something cautionary about ‘it seems’, there’s the appearance of it but we know it’s not real – walking the tightrope of mindfulness. Anyway, I’m picking up on some of Noina’s doggie-world context here. She used to come to investigate me, very timid, looking from a safe distance with silent eyes. Listening and nose searching the air for olfactory smell-data – never barks unless someone is at the door and such a small sound comes out, only one isolated yap, voiced warning. The quietest dog I’ve ever known.

It’s the silence she’s left behind. I keep thinking she must be in one of these rooms somewhere listening, tuned into the doggie wavelength. But she’s doing all that in Tokyo now, 3630 miles away. It’s where she came from, and here’s the thing, Noina is not at all what she seems to be, there’s a remarkable story to tell.

Noina was rescued from a breeding kennel known as a “puppy mill” that raises dogs in cramped, crude, filthy conditions. She had had four litters of puppies, all sold for high prices in pet shops, and was so weak, no longer any good for breeding. Who knows what would have happened to her then. That’s not all, Noina had been attacked by a much larger dog in the cramped kennel space and the lower part of her front left leg bitten off.

Her new owner, Aya Chan, found her in the kennels as part of an investigation into cruelty to animals in these puppy mills, and decided to take her away. That was more than two years ago, and now Noina is very well looked after as this photo shows – the missing leg you can’t see, unless you know the story.

We’re here until Friday morning, then to the airport, a flight to Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. More than once, in my forgetfulness, I’ve started to look for the return flight info, but there isn’t a return flight, this is a one-way ticket. The letting-go, farewell India after a stay of six and a half years, older and wiser and sadness too; it feels a bit like leaving the family. All of it swept up in the embrace of the Christmas season, end of year clearance, closure and Jiab’s new job In Bangkok starting 2nd January 2018.


Note: this post had its beginning in an email discussion with Ellen Stockdale Wolfe and her post, the light within, on Moonside. Upper photo, one of a series, this time by Berti Buffy’s son in west Germany. Middle photo a portrait of noina in Tokyo after the flight. Lower picture shows the Custard Apple fruit, called “noina” in Thai. See the coloring inside the fruit is nearly the same as Noina’s fur, and the similarity between the seeds and Noina’s eyes.

 

this too

POSTCARD#293: New Delhi: Getting ready now for a change in surroundings, mindfulness is not a choice but a necessity in these preparations for the last hop, skip, jump through the window leading to another reality. First is the enthusiasm (viriya), Right Effort and an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities and virtuous actions. Thus I am here, candlelight, and seated on the meditation cushion, heavens above, earth below. There is foundation in this locality, weight; gravity prevents attention from flying away. A large bathroom towel wrapped over the legs and tucked under to keep out the cold. Blanket over the shoulders and upper body and head enclosed in the darkness surrounding flame flicker of a single yellow candle.

Respect for the the noise of neighbors in rooms nearby… a muffled clatter bang crash from next door doesn’t disturb me, watching the in-breath, out-breath, and this is how it is. Familiarity of place, not looking for anything, not trying to find ‘it’, or whatever, just sitting here. Cool air on my face, framed in the small opening at the top of a warmly wrapped body – and even if at times, attention is drawn towards a small enactment of accelerated thinking, it can be asked to leave here for the time being… this too is overseen by another awareness.

The fact that there is peace in the absence of stormy times, helps of course and seeing that, the sensation of peace becomes bliss. Even so, all this is seen by all pervading non-self awareness, and with that thought I find that everything has side-stepped the sense of ‘wanting’ this and that and the next thing – ‘I’ am not creating it, got nothing to do with it, ‘seeing-awareness’ remains as it is; awareness of the awareness. Seeing the seeing, knowing the knowing. It moves on as I return to the breathing.

Again and frequently there’s the enactment of thinking arising and turning now to how I see it in the mind’s eye; the last of our things packed and the flight to Bangkok leaves in the morning of Friday 22nd December. Getting through the airport congestion is of course a way of preparing passengers for the contained experience of air travel. Rows of seats with as much personal space as there’d be in an elongated flying bus, you could say. Walking with cabin bag on wheels following behind, through a series of corridors like tubes in a telescope, one inside the other, becoming smaller and smaller, reduced to gradually squeeze us into the self-construct; the way we are and the lifetimes lived with it. Finding my seat number, the ‘me’ in the body, the voice in my mind, the narrator telling the story saying, this is how it is… we are seated, please fasten your seat belts, a small window to see blue sky out there, above the clouds.

Landing at Bangkok and another flight into the early evening of Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. Landing, exit, placed on the ground, carrying the medicated headache as if it were a luggage item at the belt. Taxi and we’re at the apartment. Hello everyone, put on the clothes of who I am here, become the person who lives in this location. Pick up the thread, the sequence of time unfolds by itself, events occur in the forward momentum I create by facing the direction I’m in. The identity I have is here-and-now, home is where the heart is… hold that thought, Seasons Greetings and Best Wishes fellow Bloggers for 2018.


Photo by Berti Buffy: An official at the Sri Harmandir Sahib (lit. “the abode of God”), also known as Golden Temple and the Darbar Sahib, is the holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism – also an open house of worship for all men and women, from all walks of life and faith.

 

in the end there is no ending

POSTCARD#292: New Delhi: Packing has started here, the rental agreement comes to an end 18th December, and we stay with our Japanese friends until 22nd December, then it’s goodbye everyone, we’re on a flight to Chiang Mai via Bangkok. Gone from India with all our possessions, after nearly seven years here. Gone too from this sweet little apartment – I want to have something to remember it by… steal some cutlery or a bath towel? Can’t do that, relinquishment… accept that that part of my mind where it once was, is now claimed by new tenants who walk around these rooms, saying; well, this is nice, thinking for a moment, who lived here before we came? Territorial self kicks in and it’s gone, bearing a new identity.

Gone is gone, but the PHN headache is with me again… a buzzing old fluorescent tube light that needs to be fixed but never gotten around to doing. Under the influence of powerful pain meds then, you could say, I’m writing to my future self about living here, in order to open a window on this thin slice of time, and revisit these rooms, the conversations and all that was said here, received, held, seen, nurtured… noticing the tendency for a particular memory to be displaced by the next moment of remembering… and on and on until sadly, the whole thing dissolves leaving no remainder.

But that hasn’t happened yet, events are still unfolding. On 26th December I go to the Pain Clinic in Bangkok to see the headache doc about a date for the next electrical pulsed needle into the right occipital nerve in the scalp. Until then, a malaise of discontent rules; flashes and flares in spurts and sparks nearly all through the day and waiting for me to wake up in the morning for the start of another day of jostling push and shove, tug and pull. Not writing much, only the wild lightning flickering of illegible words scribbled in notebooks, keyed in just before the crash and burn, and assimilated into the whole as it forms.

The present moment seems as if it is forever waiting in the transit lounge on the brink of becoming future time while engaged in contemplative pondering over the past. The present moment is always underway, and even if it feels like I have to hold it, tether it and adhere to it in single-mindedness, there’s no need because the present moment is inclusive of all of that too. I’m the one falling into and out of hypothetical mind states, spinning across the ceiling in speculative conjectures; a runaway from frightful things unforeseen – disaster movie showing it crashing through the restraints of planning; too much for the flimsy structure built to keep it in place… and I’m suddenly back in the present moment again.

We’re always only part the way through anything, anyhow and anyway at any time; here, there, or anywhere it’s always somehow incomplete, never reaching the end, letters I’ve written, never meaning to send – how could we reach that final completion and know what happens after that? Nobody ever came back from What Happens After That to say what it was like. All we can say is that the world, as we know it will come to an end eventually, collapsing like a dead star, matter reduced to an atom and gone in a flicker, a spark, pftt…

Or maybe it’ll be slower; bits start to fall off, clink, clatter, crash – you hardly notice it, and there’ll come a day when the Final Ending and all who sail in her begins to fall in on itself, as do great empires that have spanned the centuries, like castles made of sand, tumble to the sea eventually… but surprise-surprise, in another kind of temporality, the Final Ending rises with the waves on to the surface again and we can continue where we left off. It makes good sense to say that everything is subject to change, anicca and in the end there is no ending.

“We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. 
This is true for the entire universe.” [Aitareya Upanishad (Inland Empire)]


Picture shows sun setting on the lotus temple, Delhi, a Bahá’í House of Worship

looking forward to getting back

POSTCARD#291: New Delhi: Saying goodbye seems to be happening more and more these days… ‘See-you later’, becoming less and less. No immediate future here, it’s the countdown to the last goodbye; leaving Delhi after seven years. Then ‘hello-again’ Bangkok looming on the horizon but somehow I can’t see it yet; stepping out of one life and into another. Less than three weeks to go, each new day dawns and takes the place of the day before; each hour replaces the one before it and the memory of what happened in the interim is gone as we tumble into the descent of ‘no-time’.

Looking forward to getting back, but resting in this place where it’s always today, even though it has different names; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., tomorrow becomes today as future time slides into present time, and consecutively each day occupies the place where the one before it was. As we get further along on the journey to get there, a whole new landscape deletes the one before and is itself layered over by successive landscapes in the grand scheme of things.

Hovering on the edge of the smallest pause where the ‘now’ is on the brink of falling into the past (the future form not arrived yet) and pondering the conundrum of how we can revisit the past and change it around so it’s less burdensome in the here-and-now, and long after the event, in the blinding white light of ten thousand leagues into the future, the karma of how that event blossoms.

Everything said and done in a spontaneous leap of words, arranging themselves as they fall: to whom is this happening… is there a self? Something wrong with the question, it’s suggesting ‘self’ is an object… out ‘there’ somewhere. ‘Self’ must be the subject, but when I search for it in a subjective sense, there are only the mind/body characteristics, otherwise nothing is there or here or anywhere.

What is nothingness? Same thing again, the tendency is to think of ‘nothing’ as something, as an object – and that’s not it. Nothingness must be both subject and object… what’s happening? I am not here, incognito, perhaps concealed in a makeshift identity. I don’t really know, it all seems to vanish as each new day dawns and deletes the memory of the previous day, an hour replaces the hour before it and I can’t remember anything that recently happened.

Or maybe I totally ‘am’ here and from this point of view, the world is spinning around me, new landscapes take the place of what was there before… endless flickering cycle of daylight into darkness in the countdown of remaining days in Delhi. When the departure finally arrives, I picture it as the familiarity of airports, the journey itself, Hindi signage changed to Thai, same Sanskrit roots of words, similar culture, but a sense of being in a smaller place. Thai voices, unobtrusive, so quiet it’s hard to hear what they are saying… the inter-relationship of all and everything, same days different names. Adjustments to Default Voicemail after 22 December: “Sorry we are not here to receive your call…” The empty space of not-knowing exactly what it is, until it gets here.


“Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.” [Swami Vivekananda]

déjà vu & familiarity

POSTCARD#290: New Delhi: We find ourselves in short-term lodgings just six weeks before it’s time to leave the country – all things are transitory and, uncertainty is the only certainty. Return to cheap rental days, and goods and chattels taken up the steep staircase, key in lock, open door, enter… so here we are. Belongings brought in, boxes and cases placed on the floor, on chairs, on any place handy, where there’s room – anarchy of packaging disassembled becomes an orderly system… catastrophe in reverse, clatter, bash, crash. Hoover, sweep, dust, clean; everything in the quiet interior held by these walls, ceilings, floors, for decades, re-energized. Sponges and cloths in water, squeezed out, wiping surfaces of furniture there to serve, in furnished accommodation; old paint painted over with new colour. Shadows of past lives seen for a moment then gone.

Like playing a video backwards, we end up at the beginning of our six weeks here; kitchen suddenly populated with cups and plates, forks and knives and spoons and things. Switch the kettle on. Empty spaces in closets, doors wide open, clothing leaps up from suitcase, as flat-pack garments shaken out, become animated beings, hang themselves on hangers. Drawers slide open, folded things inside, and slide closed. Everything seemingly peopled, inhabited, tenanted, yet there is no presence.

A cup of tea or coffee, sit or stand and look around, or feel how the room feels; déjà vu of familiar objects in unfamiliar surroundings. Shoes lying in the hallway by the door as if the owner has suddenly flown away, like the absence of the clown in a room full of laughter; missing from reality, or not back yet – or “coming soon”, and returns somewhere in another life becoming this, or being that, like an actor becomes the part he plays so well, there is no player.

What remains to be considered, completed, prepared, and made ready in this tiny slice of time? The process is just a process – things are done but there is no do-er. One event is naturally linked to the one it’s most likely to link with, and that linked to the next and on it goes, round and round as in the Buddhist Chakra wheel turning. Wheels within wheels turning, turning, and we don’t see it unless it’s interrupted, held, examined as subject/object; this is that and that is this: an effect following a cause which in turn causes the effect to become a cause affecting the next event (Spooky Action At A Distance). All of the above, altered, shaped to fit and assimilated into the whole… the forever turning.

Somebody in the TV room is fiddling with the remote. A news program broadcast in a language I don’t understand. Another channel, different language, same news. So many languages in India, all giving me the same news but each is a different version of it. Recognition when we reach the English News – newsreader skilled in face acting; flickers of faces within faces, shifting around features to create emphasis, to insist, to infer, to imply, to suggest, to offer a whole portrait of compelling meanings I may believe to be true, or not.

Triggered in a certain way, Mind makes up the reason for things being the way they are; reasons for this, reasons for that, reasons why certain things are done according to some unwritten rule we comply with, and other things not done, as defined by Mind, but when looked for, it is nowhere to be found. Dispersed, dissolved as soon as we of think it, and everything comes to a standstill… a sudden lack of things to think about, or an absence of things I think I should be thinking about. No words, no nothing, emptiness, vanishing act, gone. Inability to articulate, and in every sense of the word, indescribable….

Even the sense of ‘I am’ is composed of the pure light and the sense of being.
The ‘I’ is there even without the ‘am’.
So is the pure light there whether you say ‘I’ or not.

[Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That]


Thanks to: thisunlitlight.com for the Nisargadatta quote.
Thanks to:https://spookyactionatadistance.blog/ for the short text on cause/effect
Photo: Berti Buffy on the Buddhist tour

 

the sense of coming home

POSTCARD#289: Bangkok – New Delhi: The early evening flight, leaving Bangkok at 7pm, arrives at Delhi 9.30pm local time; a four-hour journey swiftly moving into the darkness of an evening already turned to night. How many times have I been on this flight? Must be at least thirty times; travelling back the 1½ hours to India Standard Time as if it were an unseen future event just arrived in the space where it hasn’t happened yet. Now it’s almost the end of all the there-and-back-again years, we pull up our roots and return to Thailand in six weeks, after nearly 7 years away. Looking forward to getting back… yes, when we get there, it’ll all just seem like yesterday…

Now it’s later, the descent into Delhi and attention focused on this last arrival. Directionality of Plane-Rush to hit Runway where it is expected to be, where wheels touch earth, first the left side then the right… deep sink-down lurch, take the weight, waiting for the bounce-back tipping point – contemplation of death, and disaster averted, we have arrived. The last Delhi flight I’ll be on, last chance to feel the sense of coming home, taxiing over bumpy ground towards the lights of Indira Gandhi Airport in the distance.

This is how it must be, wandering from one life to another with no direction or purpose other than Jiab’s office, and to go on doing it – but I came around to seeing how it works; how fleetingly one life passes and another arises in circumstances that suit the event as it’s looking for some reason to “be”, seeking name and form in waves of samsaric yearning. That’s how long the thought of it lasts before the letting-go-of-it intention comes to mind, and the whole thing is let-go-of in a shavingth of a slice of time.

Everything else remains to be seen. Passengers de-plane; step into the great halls of Arrivals and Moving Walkways for nearly a mile, then stand in line, passport stamp, thump! Get bags and out into the Delhi night – into ‘severe-level’ air pollution, visibility 200 meters, over 20 flights delayed. It smells of dung fires, red diesel and something like fried eggs? Why do I need to be here? That tenuous awareness is all that’s attached to a wholesome direction in this pattern of peaks and troughs. Every now then mindfulness cuts in and I remember again, to let it all go. Hold on and let go – hold on to the intention to let go.

Thus everywhere I look there’s a sense of ‘self’ searching for the opportunity to ‘become’… anything’ll do, whatever. I see it’s what holds beings in the cycle of rebirth – finding that reference in so many words, again and again these days. Breaking out of the cycle is by non-becoming. Allowing it to ‘become’ without becoming it.

Bags in car and we’re off in a tunnel of light surrounded by darkness and other’s tunnels of light. Nothing can change it – only the mind, of course… but that would mean starting up the engines again… seeing it from one moment to the next. And moments do not lead to other moments as I used to think, it’s only one moment, one long, extended moment, beginningless and without end.

‘You are the one witness of everything and are always completely free. The cause of your bondage is that you see the witness as something other than this.’ [Ashtavakra Gita 1.7, translated by John Richards]


This text dedicated to Kimberly Wilhelmina Floria
Photo by Berti Buffy, on the Buddhist Pilgrimage and a visit to Sravasti (Jetta’s Grove)

sadness of passing things

POSTCARD#288: Chiang Mai: It’s all coming to an end here, I go back to Delhi tomorrow and today is the 5th of November… remember, remember the fifth of November. Scary things, monsters and Halloween coming to an end too, for my Thai niece M aged 13 who is not interested in it any more. Not interested in witches hats and dressing up – dressing up maybe yes, interested. Or dressing down, torn jeans and earbuds in, and deaf to the world. It’s about how one is seen, ‘selfing’ like an actor playing a part, and the audience is swept away. “Bye-bye Toong-Ting, see you in December”, and she’s in the car and gone. I go downstairs to get something, along the lane to the main road, warm air, tall buildings create shade. Sadness; remembering M as a cute kid holding my hand and skipping along beside me… these days are gone.

Sadness still, over the passing of the King, noticeable in the absence of remembrance wreathes that were there everywhere in the town (and all over the country) for a year of bereavement. The feeling that something important has been taken away; this is how it is all through Thailand these days. A sense of his presence remains in the hearts of the population, manifest in all of the thousands of rural projects he initiated over a lifetime. I feel the presence too, it’s simple, the King lives on… he was a devout Buddhist, and the way I see it now, he reached enlightenment – I thought, surely it must be that everyone else can see it this way too, but then understood such a thing was best left unsaid.

This is how the experience was for me; I’d been watching the cremation ceremony on TV until quite late, and in the morning I felt his presence all through the apartment, out on the balcony, in the sky, the clouds, reflected light in the fields of paddy and all the way, it must be, to everywhere in the country. I feel his presence in the air, assimilated in the structural elements of materiality; the buildings and all through my surroundings now walking along the lane, as I used to with M as a child, holding on to one of my fingers as if it were the branch of a tree.

Out of the shadow, into the sunlight. Same sunshine we all feel as it strikes the retina… reaching for my sunglasses. A wetness in the eye, vestiges of mourning almost gone with the experience of the passing-away of someone dear to us. A large part of the Thai has simply gone… yet things just go on. Behind me comes the sound: toot-tootle-toot! And a man on a three-wheeled bicycle gets my attention with his little horn: toot-tootle-tee-tootle-too. He’s selling pieces of cut fruit – inquires with raised eyebrow if I’d like to buy some. I fell drawn to it but politely decline, thanks no; I’m just looking around.

As silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.
As some strings, untouched, sound when no one is speaking.
So it was when love slipped inside us.
As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.
The heart’s actions
are neither the sentence nor its reprieve.
Salt hay and thistles, above the cold granite.
One bird singing back to another because it can’t not
[Jane Hirshfield, Come, Thief]


Photo, Buddha Rupa Ayutthaya: http://13966960783_a630225cb8_b.jpg

last of the world’s kings

POSTCARD#287: Chiang Mai: Thailand is in mourning today, the funeral ceremony for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Everywhere in the land, Buddhist ceremonies combined with Hindu and Animist beliefs are taking place, and TV coverage in all channels of the ceremony as it’s taking place in Bangkok.

A quote from Sir John Gielgud, narrator of the 1979 BBC documentary, ‘The Royal Family of Thailand’, describes the Thai king as, “the last of the kings of South East Asia” and, “one of the last of the world’s kings” – unknowingly descriptive of our time, 48 years further on, and the mourning day for the late king. There’s a new king of course, King Vajiralongkorn, the only son, but naturally there’s a feeling right now that with the old king, the lineage of historical kings has come to an end.

It’s this sense of ‘the end’, for me, a Western resident in Thailand since 1984; ‘the end’ is present in all our thoughts, bringing everything to a close. A sense of release and the sudden discovery that the death of the king is another teaching for the people who have followed him all their lives; a bridge from life to death for all of us and we knew it already, everyone and everything comes to an end; there is death and the passing on.

Another quote from Sir John Gielgud: “Thailand, one of the last countries in the world, still in touch with its past. Where ancient traditions can be adapted to suit the pressing needs of today’s world. A well-loved king, distinguished successor to ancient ancestors, who made use of his ritual sanctity, and his personal popularity to get things done to improve the people’s welfare.”

There’s no doubt in the minds of the population; the king lives on in the form of all of the projects he initiated. HM began the royal-initiated projects in 1950, and now there are thousands, all over the country, agriculture, water management, training, education. One of these is the artificial rain-making project for farming communities dependent on seasonal rain to grow crops, having to face severe drought conditions in the dry season. HM read research work on meteorology and weather modification and in 1955, HM used his own funds to launch the Royal Rainmaking Project.

Kukrit Pramoj “The monarchy is the soul of the Thai people. The king is more than a ceremonial head, he is the head of the clan; the father of a very big family of Thais. He is the source of Thai culture, everything emanates from him; behaviour, his way of life; the Buddhist religion seems to us, to emanate from the king and the monarchy.”

Ninety-five percent of Thais are practising Buddhists. “Thailand’s devout Buddhism is both a strength and a weakness. The weakness is that Buddhism encourages an acceptance of the status quo, for each person has many lives and the next one may be pleasanter. The strength is that there’s a moral and philosophical unity here that very few countries in the world now possess.” [Sir John Gielgud]


The night before, sleeping in the rain.
Cremation of the king