the end of the world


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‘In my beginning is my end. In succession
, houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
 are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
 is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
 Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires, 
old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth 
which is already flesh, fur and faeces. Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
 Houses live and die: there is a time for building 
and a time for living and for generation 
and a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
 and to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
 and to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.’ [T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, East Coker 1]

Delhi-Bangkok flight: The stewardess comes to my seat and asks me, would you like a hot towel sir? I say OK, thinking, do I need that too…? Altitude of 28,000 feet, travelling at 500 miles per hour; we must all be moving along here like extended strings of spaghetti in a streak of light. She takes one out with her little forceps from the small box she’s holding, drops it in my hands so I can catch it and it burns my fingers for a moment then becomes a cold and clammy thing with which to wipe the face and hands. Not the ‘hot-towel’ experience I thought it’d be and I notice in passing it’s like all other sensory experience, a bit of a let-down. The sensitivity of the mind is not held by the limitations of the body and I’m always looking for more than what there is. The mind continually searching beyond the present instance; using one thing as a springboard to get to the next, means that everything is driven on and on, and the present time is not here at all.

Consciousness, perception, and reality interact by way of the six sense doors: eye, ear, nose, tongue, feeling, and mind. The one that is accessible is the mind sense-door, leading to awareness of all the other senses, including the sense that it is self-aware; a cognitive functioning focussed on the sense of awareness. Everything falls away, leaving only the arising and ceasing of things. Then that falls away too and there is ‘the end of the world’. Beyond that, awareness continues – not dependent on conditions supporting awareness.

‘When no personal image is created… there is nothing to lose, a sense of gladness, uplift, joy and serenity.
 With the cessation of such a death-bound frame of reference there is the living of the True life, the Holy life. [Ajahn Sucitto, from the Introduction to “The Way It Is”
 by Ajahn Sumedho]

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“And what is the ending of the world? … Dependent on the intellect & mental qualities there arises intellect-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. Now, from the remainderless cessation & fading away of that very craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering. This is the ending of the world.” [Loka Sutta: The World” (SN 12.44), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu]

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