the end of the line


IMG_4239 (1)Safdurjung station: Welcoming committee, red carpets and flower petals strewn around the platform, it’s the end of the line; the end of the trip. It’s where the train stops and we get off, but not really the end of the line. The line goes on from here and connects up with other lines in the network and links up with neighbouring countries then ultimately with the network that stretches out over the whole planet. It doesn’t start anywhere and it doesn’t end. There’s an interesting reference to this in the Hermann Hesse novel, ‘Siddhartha’, saying that time doesn’t exist in a flowing river, it’s everywhere at the same time, only the present exists, no past, no future….

There’s something about being on a train that imposes a kind of inevitability of circumstances on everything. There’s no deviation from the direction the train is moving in. The thought sequence, following an ongoing linking, travels along of its own volition, and takes shape as it goes; episodes from an anthology of short stories. It stops sometimes but that’s not the end; the stopping/starting of it is a characteristic of the story’s unfolding.

A particular event occurs somewhere in the process that suggests how the beginning might have taken place. Later this goes into ‘refresh’ and there’s a new possible beginning. Then another one after that and again, then it’s not important anymore. Mind links it all up or associates random parts of it in some barely satisfactory way and this is how the whole thing seems to sustain itself from moment to moment. It’s samsara; driven by some kind of underlying seeking-for-something that can never be found; there’s only the ‘seeking’. A slightly suffocating, enclosed feeling about it all – it can’t be “held” beyond a certain limit, and eventually I wake up. Everything still quite clear in the memory for a while then completely forgotten.

With mindfulness of papañca (mental proliferation), the process of conceptualising is just a process – no person there doing it. The application of mindfulness, which puts an end to belief in the fictional ‘self’, is also just a process – no person there doing it. It sort of does it itself. As long as there is an intuitive notion of “wholesomeness”, the recognition that what I’m doing is ethically correct sila, then there’s an opportunity to sense if something is right, or it’s the right way to go about it and the process of mindfulness runs by itself. No self, anatta, nobody at home; just an operating system, Windows 8, MacOS Lion, and beyond. A determined and purposeful search to find out exactly where this ‘no self’ exists will yield nothing, of course, because ‘no self’ doesn’t exist. Follow this reasoning to its obvious conclusion and it’s a way of saying nothing exists. So, if there is no ‘self’, who or what ‘sees’ there is no ‘self’ and I asked Ajahn about it: ‘If everything without exception is “not self” including the “I” that’s investigating this – then where does it all lead?’ Without hesitation, Ajahn said “enlightenment” and looked at me with these grey eyes, waiting for the next question ….

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Many thanks to Khun Witit Rachatatanun for the photos in this series of posts

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