POSTCARD #116: Bangkok: We got here yesterday, flight from Chiang Mai, one night’s sleep and in the darkness of five o’clock in the morning next day there’s a voice in M’s room. It’s her mom saying, time to wake up. I can’t hear exactly because I’m at the desk, listening to a YouTube music video with the ear buds in. There’s the glow of the video in the dark room and mom’s voice is a mumble going on and on… a sound that cannot be switched off – the option of going back to sleep is ruled out. I hear M’s voice, a baby bird calling, tiny high-pitched utterance; small resentment enclosed in a whimper.
Just as I start to forget, she creeps up behind me – gives me a fright… I turn round, see her sleepy face lit up in the illumination of the screen; what you listen to Toong Ting? I pull out the left earbud and give it to her, it’s Liquid Mind – Awakening (Cosmic Sea), click the link: here, extended peaceful music with nice visuals of stars and galaxies. She stands next to me, level with my shoulder, ear bud in her left ear and my ear bud in my right ear – we watch and listen together. Somewhere outside of the sound cloud we’re in, I hear ‘the voice’… this time it’s an urgent questioning pitch. I should tell M to go see what mommy wants but this music is so nice and we’re transfixed by the visuals. There’s a stirring beside me, then the curious sensation of M gently placing the earbud back into my ear – and she’s gone.
I am given the last hug, she’s out the door, into the car and off to the airport with Mom for the early morning flight to the South. M will have her 11th birthday there in the house in the trees. It’s the clan thing, the elders will study her face, her posture and see in her the ancestors. Those who are long gone will come alive again. She will be taken from house to house, she will anjali, show respect sawat di kha and it’ll be very boring because there’s no internet.
I sympathise with her why-do-I-have-to-do-this? feeling, I’ve had to do the clan thing too – more of an idle curiosity on the elders’ part, since I come from a different planet… but they’ve gotten used to my visits over the last 30 years of births, deaths and marriages. I arrive at the house in the trees and it’s a déjà vu moment, the ever-present now. The place is always associated with the last time I was here, no difference between time and space. Conscious experience is only ever happening in this body/mind organism, always here-and-now, the event is forever in present time. Usually it’s when somebody respected and venerable is approaching the end of their life. Last thing is, they may raise up slightly from the deathbed, hold my forearms in both hands and look into my eyes. A blessing given with this frail touch, held with their last ounce of energy. Next time I see them, they’re lying in a flimsy coffin as if asleep, hair looking nice and wearing reading glasses. After that, there’s the smoke rising from the crematorium chimney… those not busy being born are busy dying.
We’re all in transit, small children and old folks. I miss M, her laughter tinkling like a fragment of a Mozart piano concerto; her unbearable lightness of being….
‘I was not ‘there’ then, just as I am not ‘here’ now. I was not, am not, and will not be a separate being. If I am something, I am flow, I am experience, I am perspective.’ [Tashi Nyima]
No coming, no going, no after no before 🙂
It’s a fascinating thing, just these different views of the ‘now’ moment experienced in passing…
Beautiful words, beautiful music. (Stole the music)
Hey, yr welcome, recycled, found it in the Reader after it was stolen… thanks
Very sweet. I am in Luang Prabang after 2 days on the Mekong. Hope you are well. You sound well. You write well.
Thanks Gary, sorry I missed you in Chiang Mai. Hope all is well in Luang Prabang, everything is okay here. Will be in touch…
I think we all know that why-do-I-have-to-do-this feeling. I’m not sure I have a clear opinion on this one, but I think in some ways it’s a good thing to be raised within shouting distance of a tradition. There’s a challenge with historical traditions and their increasing anachronistic modus operandi within the modern world, but the gap between the old and the new traditions seems like it could have the tendency to let people spill through the cracks.
Maybe that’s a good thing. You can see I have no clear opinion here. Without tradition, perhaps you are forced to ask yourself: what is the world? What is it to me in its raw form? But I don’t think everyone is ready to ask themselves those questions, and it seems that without some sort of tradition, we end up looking for one later. We end up realizing how massive the task is of making sense of it all without the help of those who came before us.
Then we want to give our children a chance to find that wisdom as soon as possible… 🙂
We all mean well, all of the time… Everyone doing their best…
I have no clear opinion here either 🙂 … a kind of ongoing investigation? I’m an escapee from the hypnosis of televison, and Scottish Presbyterianism where even the question itself doesn’t apply. ‘What is the world in its raw form?’ The Buddhist ‘emptiness’ is not an appealing thing to most people… there are other words we can find to replace ‘emptiness’ and there are different traditions that describe it one way or another. After 33 years living in Asian countries I arrived at something like there’s a received common-sense wisdom which includes ‘the tendency to let people spill through the cracks,’ as you say and finding the Way on from there.
But it’s necessary to teach children something that’ll help them find the Way, and for M that’s the Buddhist teachings. It’s a tradition, yes but there’s a lot of flexibility in it and that would seem to me to be the way to go. The difficulty for the West is how to teach children about virtue, integrity without it leaning towards the word ‘morality’ and Thou Shalt Not. I would like to use Thai culture as a model but it is very self contained, and besides I’m seeing Thai culture from the point of view of an outsider even after three decades. Looking at the Post again and the “why-do-I-have-to-do-this feeling”, I think M doesn’t see it quite like that, it’s more of a putting-up-with-it thing. Thai children are taught othon [Khanti] patient endurance and there’s an old Post you can read about M and the subject of othon titled: the holding on habit.
Thanks for your comment Michael, looks like this is a kind of a big question, maybe we can get back to it again…
Oh how glad am I to have stumbled upon your blog today! 🙂 On the same wavelength, on a similar path, so nice to meet you. Beautiful writing, you are truly gifted, and I am utterly happy to meet another Buddhist on WordPress (I am new here, so the more that Follow me and interact with me that are on a similar path the better). I adored this post, and after checking around your blog I noticed how fabulously similar our minds meet.
“Why do I have to do this?” A nice question and feeling that springs from the ego, but after her journey is complete she will be so grateful for the tradition. If not right away, when she looks back on her past. 🙂
I am following the Bön Buddhist tradition myself, but guess what I supplement my beliefs with? Advaita Vedanta! On April 1st I am participating in a WordPress challenge and the post that day is on Advaita Vedanta philosophy. I hope you Follow along and stop by that day. _/|\_
Thanks for this lovely comment and nice to meet you. This is the wonderful thing about blogging on WordPress; sharing conscious experience of what’s happening at this very moment in all parts of the planet. The Buddhist/ Advaitist investigation fits very well in this context.
My niece M is a Thai Buddhist (Theravadin) by birth, of course, and although sometimes reluctant (“Why do I have to do this?”), she wouldn’t question her tradition to the point that it doesn’t exist for her – the situation for many young people in the West; spirituality deconstructed, cannot be put together again and without instruction, becomes a kind of samsara.
I am learning from M, how these received teachings can be an ongoing lesson in life. It’s not about belief, it’s a reflective ‘seeing’, looking at what’s really happening subjectively around the body/mind organism.
I will remember April 1st and to come over to your blog to check out your first letter of the Spiritual alphabet; A for Advaita… nice idea. Thanks for visiting here, we will be in touch.
I like that “a reflective ‘seeing'” 🙂 Well met!
This is how it is…
I’d forgotten just how wonderfully evocative and kinesthetic your blogs are. I love the way you share your journey and insights in such a beautiful and poetic way. Blessings and much love 🙂
Hi and thanks. Good to hear from you again from very far away up there at the top of the world, in the Moray Firth. It’s been a long time, I see you have a new book out, I’ll be over to check that out…
It has been a while! I have neglected my blog and blog reading for the best part of a year while I wrote, studied and traveled a bit. I’m back though! And the moray fifth is currently very cold haha. Yes, I have my Tao Te Ching book out and a novel coming out in the summer I’m very excited about 🙂
Things come and go, I got your Tao Te Ching book in my Kindle library quite long time ago. Look forward to the up-and-coming. Best wishes
Thank you Tiramit, I appreciate the support and kind wishes! And to you 🙂
Hope you are okay. No posts in a long time. Concerned.
Thanks Ellen, you could say it’s the suffering of Easter. All will be well…
Wishing you blessings and healing, Ellen
One blessing, ruptured.
One mind, lost in wandering.
One blessing in all.
‘One blessing in all.’ This is it exactly, blessings are all-inclusive…
Just got back from my committed class at my local sanhga. Might have mentioned it already, but we’re reading Small Boat Great Mountain. An amazing book, although no longer in print. Great class discussion tonight. Your post here goes right in line with our discussion.