finding suññatā in Lucknow


16maya3POSTCARD #249: Lucknow, North India: A short flight from Delhi brought us here, hired car to the Ambedkar Memorial Park. A vast space of nothing but polished marble flooring – no trees, no earth left uncovered. Two and a half acres of marble paving rising in a gentle slope, with some monuments and an avenue with hundreds of life size elephants carved in stone.

The panorama of it, an oasis-mirror-like flatness as far as the eye can see; a heaven realm… hold that thought, from two thousand five hundred years back in the distant past, comes rushing towards us now, into present time, 2017, the Buddha’s First Noble Truth – as valid as it was all these centuries ago.

‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’, yes, I’ve been wondering what that bad feeling was, gnawing away at the innards… the urgency of the human condition applies to everything I can possibly experience or do, or think concerning the past, the present or the future. The relief is in knowing the Buddha has a name for it.

That’s what it is, situated at the heart of everything, caused by the constant craving for something, anything that’ll satisfy a created hunger; the yearning for it not to be like this, please, no, I want it to be better than this. Thus, relentlessly on the run from what we don’t want it to be, towards what we want it to be; that just-out-of-reach object, or state of mind, or any way of seeing it, by any means possible.

This great marble-floored landscape of Ambedkar Park is exhausting; it needs to have something immense in it. The sense is of something huge that’s missing perhaps. Or is that what it’s intended to be? Can’t think, there’s nowhere to sit, then we see a marble bench over there, so we head towards that and stop for a rest. Thinking still of those who are caught in the conundrum of chasing foreverness, conditioned by society into this way of thinking.

dr-bhim-rao-ambedkar-samajik-parivartan-sthal-in-lucknow-images-8-1Now I’m in fear of this floor dissolving under our feet into a lake of water, grasping at anything and everything, but I’m sinking anyway. Then I see something I can hold on to coming towards me as if it were a boat… but it’s not a boat, it’s dry land, so it must be me who’s on the boat. Step on to this small island… a space opens in the mind: this must be the neither-here-no-there place… this gentle detachment from things, neutrality, “the middle way”… and I find there’s room enough to see how I can think about what a thought feels like without getting involved in the content of it. Flames of desire flash all around but do no harm. Allowing it all to ‘become’ without becoming it. Recognizing the sense of self without that solitary aloneness of the enclosed ‘me’.

There’s just this huge space, maybe one day filled to capacity with the ‘many crores’ (millions) of people gathered here, to be part of this vision of Shakyamuni Buddha as a political and social reformer. According to Ambedkar, a person’s unfortunate conditions are not only the result of karma or ignorance and craving, but do also result from “social exploitation and material poverty – the cruelty of others.”

Until that happens, there’s only the empty space, a sense of the vast no-thingness, suññatā.


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Top photo source, with Gratitude. Centre photo source, with Gratitude. Lower photo, the author with two Theravadin Monks at Ambedkar Park. In the centre Thai, on the right India.
~  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  ~

19 thoughts on “finding suññatā in Lucknow

  1. Dhukka. I’m learning about the 3 poisons: Aggression, Desire, and Passion. This months Lion’s Roar has some good articles on anger and this was covered in one of them. To me they’re about ego and attachment.

    • Thanks Sonnische, I looked at one anger article in the Lion’s Roar titled: “RAIN Cools the Flames of Anger”. Dukkha, the first Noble Truth of Suffering; people often think it’s a long drawn out pain and they don’t want to know about that, thank you bye-bye. But that’s not it, Dukkha is the underlying feeling things are always not as good as they could be, variations on that.
      Greed Hatred and Delusion (lobha, dosa, moha,) sounds like three players in a heavy metal rock band :-D. The three poisons, here’s a link for some background on this.

  2. I love the clear explanations of the dharma by Bhikkhu Bodhi. On page 32 of the March 2017 in “Buddhism by the numbers” the 3 poisons are named as passion (attachment, greed, lust) aggression (aversion, anger, hatred) & ignorance (indifference). So much to absorb and incorporate. Thanks for your take.

  3. Wonderful photos Tiramit, I love all those elephants!
    That paragraph you wrote starting: ‘That’s what it is, situated at the heart of everything,’ It’s just so true. And we can experience it in many different ways. The wanting things to be different. I would say relationships have brought me the greatest lessons, heartaches, and challenges – the wanting of a partner to be different. In the last years I’ve started to be able to ‘let go’ of the wanting. I’ve kind of come to rest like a bird on a branch, and it’s a very calming feeling. Of course I still have days when I could kill him!

    • Jude, your comment was of great help to me this morning, “I’ve kind of come to rest like a bird on a branch.”I realize that despite the best and most compassionate of intentions I get often get angry or worried and fire off a retort without realizing how unskillful this is until I hear it hanging in the air and he reacts with anger. May I recall your wise words of skillful experience!

      • It seems to take many years and hard work, and reading Mindfulbalance a lot. Letting go too, and only trying to change the things you can. Maybe should be called work in progress! Glad my words helped Shielagh. 🙂🙆🙎

    • Thanks Jude, I’ve also come to rest like a bird on a branch in recent years. Still struggling with an attachment to things but it gets easier. Your comment reminds me the Noble Truth of Suffering, identified by the Buddha long ago, may have come about as a result of hearing something along the lines of what you’re saying here, told to him by someone coming to ask for help. It’s a universality, it fits with any culture since the distant past up to the present day and into the distant future. Wanting things to be better than they are is a fundamental human characteristic. Finding that unique way of solving your/my problem means letting go of it, and sometimes that’s enough. Or letting go of it triggers something that facilitates a deeper understanding. Either way, it’s revealing to think of the 2nd Noble Truth that suffering is caused by ‘wanting’. And the 3rd is that there is a way out of suffering. The 4th is the Eightfold Path…

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