the opportunity

200620131896_2New Delhi: I leave the door open that leads to the roof terrace and come downstairs. Ksum is in the kitchen, cleaning up. She says: You no close door up? Pointing, so that I can understand her English; large black eyes look at me; blue sari, olive skin, Assamese Buddhist, originally, converted by Christian missionaries. Then she’s smiling in a kind of patient way when I start to explain I’d like to have the door open, to get fresh air? Looking at me like, does she have the energy to tell me this? Ked come in. You know Ked? …raises her voice because maybe I’m deaf or something, Ked come in, you open door. And I’m thinking… what’s Ked? And there’s that incredulous look. You no unerstan’ Ked?  Ked come in door, come down stair, into house steal food from all th’ trash‘n make a mess everywhere! And then I understand Ked is ‘Cat’… pronunciation is different. She sees the dawning of recognition on my face. Ahh… she says on my behalf, and nods her head with a sideways slant, goes back to her work; like I need to be told everything. I go upstairs to close the door then decide to step out on the roof terrace where the air is cool and nice.

Wow, Ksum having a bad day. But she’s right about Ked, cat; instinct and the window of opportunity – or door, in this case. There’s also monkey, of course, and rat, and all the other freeloaders and opportunists out there in the world of Wild Life, claws, wings, beak and teeth, quick and clever; skills evolved from when they were all dinosaurs. The ability to grasp, snatch, hold and eat. Human beings similarly motivated, driven by desire. Reacting to the sensory world – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, mental objects, and grabbing at these with extraordinary speed. The habituality of it inherited from former lives… the reason I was reborn in this world is that I’m attached to everything I love and hate. We keep coming back. It’s the relentless search to feel good about everything, and avoid feeling bad about everything when the good feeling falls apart.

Carrot-and-stick; the good feeling is nice when it’s there and the bad feeling is nice when it’s not there. The good feeling makes it seem like everything in the world is allright, joyful, a sense of success; it’s rewarding. And the bad feeling is the opposite; a strange sense of failure, guilt, and fear – I’m bounced off the wall and wanting the good feeling again with renewed hunger. Chasing my tail. Stuck in the duality of exchanging the bad feeling for the good feeling – something thought to be deservedly earned, a reward for time spent in bad feeling. Stuck in a rut on the consumer treadmill without any belief in anything beyond that. Seemingly there’s no choice, earning just enough money to pay for what it takes to make me feel good for a short time, then I’m feeling bad again. All I really want is some peace and calm but it seems to be so hard to find.

210620131902Loving kindness and compassion for those in Suffering. The system creates the predicament. Most people think there’s no way out, even though the opportunity is there. It’s like the example of being locked up in a prison cell for years. Then, one day somebody comes into the cell and gives you the key to the door, so you can open it and you’re free. But instead of doing that, if you’re a ‘believer’, you put the key in a special place and pray to it every day, believing you’ll be able to endure all the hardships of your prison cell by worshipping the key. You don’t know what to do, doubt, uncertainty, fear, confusion. Other people, ‘non-believers’, disagree with your worshipping; they say, we don’t believe in religion or anything, so they decide the best thing to do is just get rid of the key and throw it out the window.

The key is not an end in itself. Just a key; meditation practice, mindfulness, just the intention to be mindful is enough. Back off from the automatic pull; the sense of something out there that I’m drawn towards… and the internal sense of ‘me’. There’s nothing there, only the Five Khandas (Five Aggregates): form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. ‘… stopping the mind, stopping the flow of thoughts that are proliferating, stopping the flow of moods that get drawn into either attraction or aversion. We return to a clear center, to awareness’ [Ajahn Pasanno, ‘On Becoming and Stopping’]. No holding on to anything, no holding on to the teachings even. Learning how to use the key. Maybe it’ll take a lifetime, but what else is there to do that’s as valuable as this? Allowing everything to arise and fall away. Cessation. No remainder. Nothing whatsover is to be clung to: sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya.

200620131891‘We use the pleasant and unpleasant feelings to measure our success or failure. If we experience something pleasant, we think we’ve succeeded. If we experience an unpleasant feeling, we think we’ve failed. This comes from a place of becoming, what we have become through bhava tanha or vibhava tanha. We judge it in terms of the desire to maximize the pleasant and minimize the unpleasant.’ [Ajahn Pasanno, ‘On Becoming and Stopping’]


The story about the key comes from ‘Religious Conventions and Sila Practice’, Ajahn Sumedho, Cittaviveka 1992. Upper photo: the door to the roof terrace. Middle photo: sitting area on roof terrace. Lower photo: a plant called ‘Ladies Who Wake Up Late’ (flowers every day but late in the morning)

21 thoughts on “the opportunity

    • Thanks for sending this wonderful link. I’m going to study it later, having to work with the iPhone screen at the moment because I’m on the road. The subtlety of it is something I’d like to try to write a post about. Good to hear from you again

  1. So the intention to be mindful is enough? Seems to me to be good but not enough. To be sure it is a constant challenge, for then likes of me. You have spent a lifetime in pursuit. I just picking up where I left off so many years ago. It will, alas, take me many lifetimes I fear. It has taken a lifetime just to begin my quest for the. Self. Always enjoy your posts but often feel too low on the totem pole to write. And, yes, a friend has told me of the monkeys coming in the house in India.

    • Thanks Ellen, I was just looking at that statement: the intention to be mindful is enough. And now it seems too easy, I agree. What I meant at the time was that there’s a quality of remembering… it’s like you can remember you did this once before and discovered the value of being mindful. So the intention is triggered by remembering how that happened, and that it was successful. We all have this ability to be aware, awareness, no matter what you might think about how many lifetimes and where you are in the hierarchy – I think I’m pretty low on the totem pole too compared with others I know. I was just watching this video about awareness when your comment came in, have a look, it’s different people’s comments about awareness, thoughts and mind things in general:

      • Thank you so very much for sending this link!! Been struggling with illness and a new computer so I just got to watch it now. So appropriate because tomorrow I start a 5 day retreat online with Mooji who came in at the end of this video. Would it be okay to reblog? I was going to do a post about the retreat and this is/was the perfect segue into it. The SRF monk was very inspiring, too.
        Thank you so much, Tiramit! Namaste, ellen

      • Thanks Ellen. If you reblog, credit the source: and I’m glad it was so helpful. I liked it because we hear so many different views on awareness and it’s all always pointing more-or-less in the same direction. I hope the online retreat goes well…

  2. Pingback: Is Awareness Aware Of Itself? | MOONSIDE

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