habituality of former lives


WatPohGuardianChiang Mai: 07.00 hours, alarm rings…. It takes a moment and then I remember I’m in the Chiang Mai apartment, arrived from Delhi last night. Heavy curtains over the window; a darkness I’m not used to. It’s quiet here, the sound of monks chanting anumodana on the edge of hearing… takbat. A motorbike whizzes by in the distance; nothing else. Senses are alert, listening, feeling, searching for a way to ‘become’ something that will establish ‘me’ in this place, at this point in time and all the clutter and stuff that’s associated with that. But I can’t fall into habitualities right now, I’m distracted by these new surroundings and keep returning to the minimalism of no thought. There’s an opportunity to leave it all in the impersonal state of not becoming.

I go to the window to see the monks, through the empty rooms as yet uninhabited; space/time occupied with the moving of its integral parts – chapters from a book about tenants moving into a new apartment, the ending hasn’t been written yet and the beginning is a continuation of what happened before. Future time slides into present time, tomorrow becomes today, and ‘now’ becomes yesterday – here we are in the awareness of this moment, the means by which we arrive at this point in time remains a mystery. More chanting, open the curtain and all the windows. Three monks in orange robes and a small group of kneeling Thai tourists from the hotel opposite. Ah yes, many people are on holiday today and it’s quiet like this because it’s Christmas day 2012, I’d forgotten about that – here in a Buddhist country where, really, Christmas is just an ordinary day.

Jesus and all the other great teachers in history were really saying the same thing. In the peace and quiet emptiness of the moment there is no hungry ‘self’, no driving ‘urge’ and it’s possible to see that this world of suffering is a self-created delusion. We are continually re-born into this state due to the habituality of former lives; trying to get what we want or to get rid of what we don’t want, thinking that this is how to get it right. But still caught in attachment upadana; the desired state belongs to ‘me,’ the act of possessing it requires that there has to be an ‘I.’ Everything I have, everything I want, all of this is ‘mine.’ Even that which I consider to be ‘my’ enemy, this is also ‘mine.’ Thus creating a self that is incomplete, unfulfilled, I’m searching for the truth in this and fail to see that it’s the searching that maintains the state of being lost.

In the same way belief in an external creator creates attachment and unthinking devotion to this returns me to the same point of entry, again and again. It’s not about taking refuge in the Jesus or Buddha of the mind. It’s about sila, samadhi, pannya: virtue/ mindfulness of present time/ and the applied intelligence that goes with it. Slowly waking up to this awareness of reality….

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‘If those who lead you say to you, “See, the kingdom is in the sky,” then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, “It is in the sea,” then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.’ [Selected Sayings of Jesus from Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi manuscripts]

Photo: Elaine Henderson

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