five good years

POSTCARD#495: Bangkok: I remember on my seventieth birthday thinking there was ten good years left, now I’m seventy-five, there’s only five good years left… ‘Time is just slippin’ away.’ as Bob Dylan says.Even now, it all seems to be coming to an end… ‘sorry, can’t stay, got to go now!’ No space for unfinished undertakings. Return to Go. At the edge of my vision, household objects look at me as I pass… poised in their choreography of dance steps, there’s a feeling in the air; the next house move is coming up soon… shipping company coming to wrap them up in packaging paper and tuck them into cartons again? No, no, the time is not here yet… household objects remain as they were. The stillness of things, no-self (anattā)interests me more and more these days. Anattā refers to the Teaching that no permanent self can be found anywhere. For a long time, I thought it was a denial of the existence of a self, but it is a strategy of mind-training to attain non-attachment by recognizing everything as impermanent (aniccā), while staying silent on the ultimate existence of an unchanging essence.

For Christians, the realization of no Self can bring with it a profound sense of ‘lack’ [The nature of Lack, David R, Loy]. The thought that there is no soul facilitates the entry of God to fill the emptiness; a significant turning point for all Christians. Buddhists face this ‘lack’ in the same way, but they don’t fill it with their sense of God, they just stay with the emptiness. It can trigger a revelation that the emptiness (śūnyatā), no-self (anattā), is everywhere and in all things.

I came from a Western-style Christian God community but that didn’t work for me. I noticed it didn’t work for most people in the low-income/poverty section of society in the West. The devastating emptiness of it all is there with or without a Self. The population is driven to get and do and attain and protect and defend. Self is political, ordinary people are subject to fear and anxiety over the flimsy nature of their existence, so they structure their lives around employment and can’t escape from that unless they step out of the earning momentum, and risk losing everything. They don’t see they are maintained in an unknowingness of the world like penned animals are by the farmer, well intentioned though he/she may be, in order to cultivate a special kind of hunger, upādāna taṇhā (clinging and craving) – the greater the craving, the more consumers will purchase products to satisfy their hunger (a forever kind of hunger-dependency). The Western style of God together with governments and the corporations are simply involved in farming the population.

The outer world just rolls and tumbles along, in all its diversity, and totally neutral. Whether there’s belief it’s this or that, makes no difference; it’s just how it is. I found that resisting the emptiness was hard to bear so, I took on board the ‘lack’ and deep knowing there’s nothing there, and found refuge in Buddhism in the East. That was more than thirty years ago and I’m still here. The emptiness is no-self helps me contemplate the constructed nature of mind, and it becomes possible to see the whole picture; how everything works and where we go from here. It’s an investigative approach that leads to an understanding of the non-duality of the observed world and the observer of it, together as a oneness.

So, where to, now? Go look for a place in the North? The same as all the other moves, I can picture it now; going to look at homes with the agent. Walking up the path, open the door… ghosts of previous inhabitants rush away to their hiding places in a whisper of movement. For me there’s only the dust of empty rooms, a faint smell of cooking in the kitchen, and a disappearance of the past – looking for somewhere to sit in a room with no furniture. Leaning thus, in a doorframe, thinking maybe this will do – maybe here I can spend the rest of my days. Awareness takes it all in, puts it away in a new folder. A new reference point: is ‘this’ where the heart is? Home is where I hang my hat.

‘Both Jesus and the Buddha were pointing to something that could not be found in the context of ordinary ‘mind’, the Buddha’s goal was to strive to realise the unconditioned, the unoriginated, the deathless, that which is free from mortality. So, did the Buddha find God? Was it this that he called Nibbana? God is not Nibbana, because when we speak about ‘God’ we start getting ideas in our head about what God is and that is very far from the unborn, the unconditioned, the uncreated, the unoriginated, the deathless. All these words tell you nothing. What comes into your mind? Nothing. Anything you might say or try to put into words to describe God is an image in the mind. There are no words for it.’ [John Cianciosi]

‘God is God only in relation to man. God appears in the material world like the reflection of the moon in a pool of water, as part of the illusion that is the context of man searching for God with his mind. What man sees becomes “God” (gender neutral; “He” only for explanatory purposes). He is Omniscient, Omnipresent, Creator of the world. He is both immanent and transcendent, full of love and justice. He may be even regarded to have a personality. He is the subject of worship.’ [Wikipedia Brahman page]

5 thoughts on “five good years

    • Good to hear from you K and I note you’ve been saying something a few times about how these posts seem to reflect “EXACTLY” what’s been occupying your mind. It’s like these comments are the postcards from the present moment, not the posts which are too long to fit on the back of a postcard. It’s not surprising this time I suppose, since the post is about ageing and the ‘un-seeing’ of the general public, manipulation over generations by governments, and the construct of our lives… except maybe if you’re living on the edge, as you are I think, and me in somebody else’s country.. It all encourages ‘voice’ and the here-and-now dialogue because it’s all in the ‘moment,’ there’s the immediacy of communications even though huge distances exist and the time differences on a rotating planet. Tell me more about what’s on your: “…er.…mind”?

      • Edge is putting it mildly!! mostly of late i’ve been attempting to parse the combination of grisly reality and the overlay of What IS. Immense love for all life and then finding myself wishing i had a big hammer. The biggest thing is the constant attention to the..Cosmic reality when the small mind starts to attempt a take over by worrying….all while navigating around hungry mountain lions and the occasional polite bear! no comment on the gun toting righteous folks all around- my experiment was to actually smile when encountering someone threatening me…so far it has actually worked quite well. Things have gotten to the point where i think we are all realizing we do, in fact, need each other. AND the sage. Carry on! Take care of yourself T! xxxxxxxxx

      • I picture you in a situation where you’re looking for some endearing qualities in the population; few and far between. But you see that “we are all realizing we do, in fact, need each other.” The Buddha might put it like this: How to love the unloved? You have to have metta (loving kindness) for the unwillingness, failure in yourself to love the unloved. Tight-rope walking over areas of blameworthiness and guilt… how to love the unlovable? Have metta for the fact that you can’t do it right now but you keep looking into it. All strength to the adventure.

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