POSTCARD#53: Delhi – Chiang Mai journey: A day of travelling, 9½ hours door to door – say two miles of walking through corridors in three airports and a total distance of about 2000 miles. It’s like a long tunnel of facing mirrors, continuously extending out in front of me as I’m moving through; the illusion that I’m entering something but never really getting there because another environment contained inside it opens up, and within that environment there’s another. No end to it and dizzy with the glitz of endless duty-free, life-size enhanced photos of celebrities wearing impossibly expensive watches, diamonds, gold; perfect dental work and a great wealth of cosmetics and perfumery. Pause for a moment to consider the mental state of marketeers who create this outrageous fiction. All the suffering, sadness and disappointment in life is caused by attempting to gratify the desire to make things different from what they are.
It doesn’t have to be like that – there is the Noble Eightfold Path. Keep walking, the corridor extends on through areas of wall-to-wall alcohol and tobacco products – follow the signs, stay on the route. Look at my watch frequently, look at boarding pass, look at time of boarding… calculate the amount of time remaining as I’m walking along. Bag on shoulder, laptop inside and a book: ‘Unborn’ by 17th century Zen Master Bankei. “The farther you enter the truth, the deeper it is.” Speed up the pace slightly, legs appear below; left foot, right foot… and a slight arm-swing – eyes looking out, reality is a projection of sensory functioning and the experience of containment in a body with four limbs, a head. The skull is worn like a crash helmet; brain occupies all the space inside… feeling like it’s cramped in there? Strange how this metaphor is everywhere, things inside other things, corridors inside other corridors.
Down the last corridor and into the aircraft. Stewardess with palms held together as if in prayer, bows head and says, “sawadi ka.” It’s the Thai flight and today I’m sitting in seat number 48G. Have I been in this seat before? Did I sit here last time, here in exactly the same seat, in exactly the same aircraft? I feel like I should carve my initials somewhere, or do something to say I was here, like the handprint found in the prehistoric Lascaux caves in France. Waves of human beings pass through these corridors, no individuality, only data, anonymous builders of the pyramids, information about itineraries, arrivals point A – departures point B. Clearance from control tower, taxiing to runway, a huge acceleration, velocity and takeoff…
“The mind that’s not conditioned is originally unborn; what is conditioned doesn’t exist—that is why there’s no delusion. Though the years may creep ahead, mind itself can never age… always just the same. Wonderful! Marvelous! When you’ve searched and found at last the one who will never grow old—‘I alone!’ The Pure Land where one communes at peace is here and now, it’s not remote, millions and millions of leagues away.” [Zen Master Bankei, 1622-1693.]