halfway through the hot season


roofsala2New Delhi: I wake up sometime deep in the afternoon. No need to look at the clock, the haze of light tells me it’s not yet 4pm, the time when it turns towards late afternoon and the cooler evening. So I continue lying there on the sofa, for a while, letting it sink in that I need to go upstairs to the roof terrace and get my laundry off the line – left for too long, the clothes get crisp and semi-baked. In a few minutes I’m upstairs, open the door at the top landing and step out into +40° centigrade, a blaze of mature, afternoon sunlight reflected off the concrete floor and walls. The air is a tangible thing, heavy like liquid, consistency of thick translucent soup. It has weight; there’s a sense of displacing the quantity of it that equals the mass of your body as you walk through – it squelches around the back and over your head and occupies the place where you were a moment ago. The presence of this extraordinary heat causes the mind to create reasons for it. Difficult to see clearly, most of the time I am involved with it (or I am it), depending on perceptions and understanding of the circumstances:

lnvestigating the mind… requires the use of the very thing we want to study. The mind functions as both the subject and object in this case. ln a conventional sense, this limits us to a superficial understanding, possibly coupled with a glimpse of some deeper aspects in the mind (or qualities of mind) that we recognize only through intuition. The superficiality is locked in by our descriptive language that attaches labels to the surface of things, preventing a meaningful exploration of either subject or object. Meditation is the entering into this process. It allows us to penetrate the barrier of chaotic language, taking us beyond rationality and placing the mind’s eye beyond the influence of the intellect.’ [Ajahn Sumano, ‘Meeting the Monkey Halfway’]

I go over to look at the tap where the monkeys come to drink and when they’ve finished, leave the water running and the tank goes dry. Then we have to start up the pump more often than usual. But no sign of any activity here, no puddles, no monkeying around. There’s a large basin full to the brim sitting below the tap. Jiab suggested we put it there, instead of the monkeys allowing the tap to run like that, and they can drink and fool around with the water – generosity. The neighbours would probably not approve of us providing facilities for the monkeys, even though we’re just allowing them to do what they do and be what they are – monkeys. For me it’s a novelty; they’re our near cousins, there’s a mutuality, we have some understanding of how we each see the world.

I was in a taxi one day, 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. I noticed the workers smiled and laughed at this amazing skill. Then the taxi moved on…

I get my laundry off the line quickly. Held in the fold of an arm, the clothes are hot and burning. Open the door, scald fingers on door handle, step into the stairwell, close the door behind me to stop the furnace heat from getting in. Down the stairs, drop the laundry in the basket and into the L-shaped room; two air-conditioners running, three ceiling fans, and my desk is in there, in the coolest corner of it. Smooth tiled floor where I walk barefoot and all curtains drawn closed to keep out the glare, except for one that offers a shaded view through the foliage of the large leafy tree outside in the garden and the various tints of transluscent green leaves through which sunlight filters. I see in the newspaper today the southwest monsoon arrived in Kerala, South India. Here in Delhi, we’re maybe only halfway through the hot season…

garden1

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‘… the impact of the innumerable impressions crowding in upon man from the world of outer and inner multiplicity, papanca.’ [The Heart of Buddhist Meditation Nyanaponika (Thera)]

Note: The monkey and the orange story developed from a discussion with Lisa A. McCrohan

4 thoughts on “halfway through the hot season

    • Hi Manish. It means: “Nothing whatsoever should be clung to”. Here’s how Ajahn Buddhadasa explains it: ‘There is a section in the Majjhima Nikaya where someone approached the Buddha and asked him whether he could summarize his teachings in one phrase and, if he could, what it would be. The Buddha replied that he could: “Sabba dhamma nalam abhinivesaya”. “Sabbe dhamm” means “all things”, “nalam” means “should not be”, “abhinivesaya” means “to be clung to”. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to. Then the Buddha emphasized this point by saying that whoever had heard this core-phrase had heard all the Teachings, who ever put it into practice had practiced all the Teachings, and whoever had received the fruits of practicing this point had received all of the fruits of the Buddhist Teachings.’ So that’s it, you see, kinda summed up…

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