New Delhi: Flocks of chattering green parrots in the trees and birds of prey slowly circling around in the upper sky. I watch them from our place on the roof terrace. There’s a table, chairs, an extension cable for electric kettle and all kinds of plants in the sunshine; bougainvilleas and chrysanthemums. If you have ‘chrysanthemums’, why can’t you have ‘chrysanthedads?’ I ask Jiab who is reading the Matichon (Thai) newspaper with great scrutiny. But this doesn’t seem to be worthy of comment right now… and after a period of silence, I get busy with shifting these heavy flowerpots full of earth into a beam of sunlight. Much huffing and puffing, when I’m finished with that and sitting on my chair, looking at what I’ve done, Jiab says to me: ‘… happy now?’ And I suppose I am.
Happy, yes – except of course for that lingering sense that things are not right; not as I’d want them to be. But I’m happy enough, yes. Why? Because all these things that I think are not as good as they could be or should be (even worse); all these things are just there – then they’re not there, I’ve forgotten about them. That’s how it is, I’m not holding on to them. The dark cloud of unhappiness is not hanging over me today up here on the roof terrace with flowering plants in the sunshine. No, it’s a clear blue sky and I can see there is suffering dukkha in the world, yes, but that’s because we’re holding it there, unknowingly. Let it go and there’s no suffering – can it be as easy as that? Maybe it needs sustained effort, over a long period of time. But even so, that’s the idea of it. One can feel inspired, motivated knowing there is an end to it. And I suggest this possibility to Jiab, who now inclines towards me thinking maybe I seem to be making a more intelligent remark this time.
And we talk about that for a while. It’s always interesting for me to hear what she says because like most Thais she knows the Pali terms in the buddhasassana, having learned the chanting by heart in elementary school. Jiab is also fortunate because her Dad was a monk for a couple of years and was able to explain the dhamma to his children: that life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases and that enlightenment obtained through sila, samadhi, panya (right conduct, meditation and wisdom) releases one from desire, suffering, and rebirth.
What it comes down to in the end, is the basic truth that everything that arises passes away and the Venerable Assaji statement: “Of things that proceed from a cause – their cause the Tathagata has told. And also their cessation — Thus teaches the Great Ascetic.” [Venerable Assaji answers the question of Śāriputra the Wanderer], and how Śāriputra was totally blown away by that and people were getting enlightened on the spot as a result of the Venerable Assaji statement. In this context I’m thinking it means if you can see and are aware of suffering caused by tanha, the attachment to things you love and hate, that’s all there is to it; you see it, you know it, ignorance is gone and no matter how much it is held or the tenacity of the habit to hold on, suffering will pass away of its own accord: “Whatever is subject to origination is also subject to cessation.” And there’s a sudden burst of noise from the green parrots in the trees opposite, so we go and take a look at what’s going on over there, but it’s not anything.