sustaining factors

monkey-tap-india_1626153iNew Delhi: Monkeys swing through the trees, jump down on to the roof terrace and turn on the tap to have a drink of water. I don’t mind; except that they don’t turn it off when they’re finished, just leave it running – water trickling down the drain from up above – that’s how I know they’ve been there. The neighbours have the same problem. I see somebody climbing up a ladder to the water tank up there at the highest point… what’s he doing? hmmm, replacing the tank lid; the monkeys have pulled it off to get in and drink, and have a little freshen up. Yes, well, it’s hot here, Jiab said around 45°C. Not worth it, being precise about temperatures above 40°, just waves of hotter air wafting around in slightly less hot air, something like being in a swimming pool of hot water. It’s so hot, I feel like a pancake on a hot plate. I don’t want to eat a pancake, I feel I am a pancake… cooked and kept warm. No problem, really, we have a room in the house with air-con, and I’m in there. All I need to consider are these long power cuts, but nothing more than 10 minutes. Longer than that is uncommon. But it did happen once [Link: Power Failure], what can you do? If it happens, it happens – the uncertainty element. Causes and conditions, no more than that. Phenomena are sustained only as long as their sustaining factors remain:

‘When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.’ Samyutta Nikaya 12.6

I can’t say I’m as detached as that when it comes to coping with stifling heat but knowing that this is how it is helps me to ease off and away from the proliferating stories in the head I don’t know are there because I’m seeing through them [Link to: The World is Made of Stories]. If there happen to be long periods with no air-con, it’s best to go outside, find a shady spot to sit and say hello to the neighbours, who’re all outside for exactly the same reason. Outside is better than in; the heat is trapped in these brick and concrete oven-like buildings. But, so far-so good, most of the time I’m sitting in this cool room.

It’s still early morning but I better get on and cook the food for the day because the kitchen will be like a furnace by noon. I open the door to go in there and enter an atmosphere that could be the planet Mars, images of volcanic slopes and bubbling lava… I have to boil water in the electric kettle, a curious old thing made of metal and if you forget to empty out any remaining water at night, when it has cooled down, tiny ants climb up the side and sit there enjoying the coolness of this small reservoir. Then, for some reason I find them drowned in the water the next morning. I think they must drift off in a dream state and fall in. I suggested to Jiab we just spoon out the ants, then boil the water but this is not well received: I do not want tea made with water that has been swam in by ants! So I’ve learned to empty out leftover water in a bucket to give to the plants.

Kettle boils, add the hot water to the steamer, put in the vegetables and switch on the gas. I can sympathize with the ants, there’s a ceiling fan spinning around, swooshing and splooshing the hot air in gusts and not doing much to lower the temperature. I have to switch it off, even so, when using the gas cooker because the gas flames get blown out and I’d asphyxiate in gas-flavored hot air (limp bizkit, chocolate starfish and the hot dog flavored water – no, no, not that, please…). Switch on the extractor fan, maybe that’ll help. The stove heats up the atmosphere by another 10 degrees and now it must be about 50°C. Strangely, it seems okay because there’s an object in awareness; the heat is coming from that; the gas stove. I don’t notice it’s hot, just standing waiting for the food to heat up, then it’s done and I can return to my cool room…

All there is is sitting in the coolness with this mindful alertness: the possibility that the power may go out any moment. There are more attention-grabbing existential phenomena but this’ll do me… listening for the monkeys and M’s little rhyme she taught me in Thailand comes to mind…

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said: “No more monkeys jumping on the bed.” Four little monkeys…



Upper Photo: monkey-tap-India_16761531 GIRISH KUMAR : Message : Animals in News. Lower Photo: Cassia fistula, golden shower tree (the tree the monkeys use to access my roof).

13 thoughts on “sustaining factors

  1. “Strangely, it seems okay because there’s an object in awareness; the heat is coming from that; the gas stove.”
    That is indeed the expected, we are attached to the expected, and 40 degrees in the shade is out of proportion to ever be expected. (except in the desert – mind is strange)

    • Interesting. It’s related to the discussion: consciousness without an object. In this case there is an object, the object is the body experiencing ambient temperature +40°C., but I’m not a local person, it’s relatively unfamiliar to me. When the gas stove is included in consciousness, there’s a familiarity. It triggers a childhood memory of a coal fire burning in the hearth in Scotland. There’s a precedent; a file exists in the memory, so the mind makes the link. There’s something in the Buddha’s teaching about water flowing down a hill finding the easiest route…

  2. I agree with Zen Doe — your posts always “take me there”. It’s so crazy because I FEEL myself there and yet my life right now is sooooo different (ok, well the surroundings are quite different!) than yours. I had a sense, as I read this post, how the monkeys, of course, could also be metaphorical and your “posture” toward them is a metaphor for how we can be in meditation — formal and informal meditation – one of allowing, watching, being with…with no attachment.

    Really beautiful, Tiramit!

    Love to you,

    • Thank you Lisa. It’s interesting about monkeys, how they’re near cousins to us, and we have some understanding of how they see the world – a kind of living metaphor in themselves. What happens if you stretch the metaphor like that? For me it’s a novelty. I was in a taxi, passing a garbage recycling area at the side of a road; workers sifting through the trash with long rakes and forks and the whole thing watched by a large troop of silent monkeys sitting in the branches of an overhanging tree. Suddenly this big monkey tumbled out of the tree, so fast I didn’t see how it was done, rolled across the ground and with very long outstretched arm, pointed fingers, grabbed an orange that nobody had noticed lying there in the trash. And in a moment was back up in the branches again, unpeeling it and guarding against covetous looks from other monkeys. The workers smiled and laughed at this amazing skill. Monkeys are funny…

      • Tiramit! This story totally made me smile this morning! I am so grateful you shared it! The monkeys of enlightenment in my life right now are my little ones! They point things out in clear, get-to-the-deeper-truths kind of way.

    • All kinds of stuff… thinking of these ants diving into the reservoir of kettle water, doing the breaststroke with six legs, then climbing out and diving in again. And for some reason they fall into a dream, floating on the surface. So I find them there the next day, tip out the water into the plants and maybe they revive again? Who knows…

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