only the world ends


POSTCARD#319: Chiang Mai. It’s my birthday 6 July, tomorrow, or today if you’re over the date line, somewhere over the rainbow. Laughed at this video going viral on Thai networks (my first attempt at uploading an MP4 file, apologies if the download is a problem). For me, the vid shows us how people in that part of India are not phased at all by what we would call difficult situations. I often return to this simple fact that these people sliding down the pole are more able, resourceful, than most Western populations. They would beat us hands down if there was even the slightest support system removed from our world. In Delhi, power cuts happened every day at all hours. I never managed to get my mind focused with the darkness, except maybe for the following post from 5 years ago.

New Delhi: February 23, 2013: Power cut and everything in the house goes totally black; street lights are out too, the whole thing…. I use my phone as an island of light to help me with the fumbling for matches striking one and a candle placed in a porcelain plate, exactly for this eventuality… immediately drawing comfort in the small light and scented flame. Okay, so how long is it going to be? Listening to all the generators out there like a fleet of helicopters has landed in the street, rotor blades whipping round – time passes, yep! it’s going to be a long one. fumble my way through to bedroom, get into bed with clothes on because it’s cold, heating is out too.

Unexpected, unplanned situation. The warmth of bedding, face on pillow; no other input from the outer environment except sounds coming from the freezer in the kitchen: creak, crack, creak – ice is starting to melt. Listening in the silence between the creaks, no other sounds, only this; the listening action, and that small space before the thinking process is engaged. What is it that is aware of this? Consciousness removed from the sensory experience of everything I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think; outside of the elements: earth, water, fire, air – and not held by time.

Unsupported consciousness, an awareness that’s different from the basic functions of interacting with the world; distant from the usual state of simply being aware of what’s going on in the body/mind organism and that’s enough – living in a dream; the deluded not-knowing state and random karma: ‘a tangled skein of thread, a woven nest of birds, a thicket of bamboo and reeds…’ The thinking thing gets a hold, loves it, hates it; tries to control it, tries to figure it out. And beyond all of that is the unsupported consciousness. It’s there that my curiosity is drawn.

Nibbana, the unconditioned consciousness, non-temporal. Further than that leads to the idea of a soul and the god/creator thing outside the system and we’re familiar with this from church conditioning… for me, that’s not the way to go. Maybe I’ll get there by a different route. All the Teachings were intended to be tools to assist in our awakening. We don’t attach to them, develop a clear mind, let go and see for ourselves.

Blinding light, suddenly, all the lights in the house start up at the same time. Generators outside shut down, fridge begins to hum, water heater starts to hiss and bubble. The world as I know it returns. I go through and figure out where I was at the computer, and see how that goes.

“The word, ‘loka’ in Sanskrit, is the world. The world as we experience it: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought, emotion and feeling – my world, your world. ‘Loka’ is not the abstracted, geographical planet, universe-type world. It’s the direct experience of the planet, the people and the cosmos. Here is the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the way leading to the cessation of the world.” [‘Consciousness: Invisible, Radiant, Limitless’, Ajahn Amaro, Buddhadharma, December 1st 2003]


Reflections on an older post with the same title

6 thoughts on “only the world ends

  1. Enjoyed your post, tirimit. We have so many ‘safety’ regulations here, a scene like this would be a litigator’s dream. 😉 The developing world is certainly very resourceful and adaptable. Westerners are soft by comparison.

    • Thanks Eliza, it’s the kind of thing that puts me on the spot, even after 34 years in Asia how will I, as a Westerner, be able to cope in adverse circumstances when my wife and family, friends and neighbours are all taking it in stride? Westerners as a community of equals would pull together for the sake of the whole. One single Westerner in a family of Thais can only offer plane tickets out of here…

  2. Loved this video and your interpretation of it. Yes, we westerners are soft and in need of so many comforts. I often wish I had been born Indian, for so many reasons. Thank you for this piece.

    • Thanks again Ellen, I realise now I was thinking about myself too much and how to what extent I’m able or unable to cope and live comfortably in South East Asia. Western societies are just different, in the event of a world apocalypse, I’m fairly optimistic Western populations would come together and help the less able through the difficulties. Particularly valuable would be recently arrived Asian, South American and African immigrants, where daily life may have some of the characteristics of an apocalypse or similarities with living in a war zone.

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