thank you for five years

POSTCARD#273: Chiang Mai: Woke up this morning and it was my birthday, go gently into that septuagenarian world and remember there’s gravity, mindfulness is a necessity. I’ve been here since Tuesday, wandering around these rooms looking for words… unfamiliar with the aloneness, and all this enclosed empty space. Just ‘me’, mirror reflection of the world out there, in some form or other. Consciously aware of it sometimes, other times not. There’s seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognitive functioning – the all-of-the-above option, an all-inclusive experiencing of awareness receiving itself. What I don’t know is assimilated (we are Borg). Walk to the window; look out (no ‘out-there’ out there separate from what’s in ‘here’). Go back, sit at the desk for a while, look at the laptop monitor, the keyboard… write something, get up and walk around again.

Then I’m off downtown in a tuk-tuk, engine noise and wind in the face blows away all thought. What is the story so far? My niece M reached the age of 13 and now she is an elongated stalk, turns sideways and disappears. Taller than her mom by one inch – but, looks to me like M remains the same height and her mom is shrinking away, squeaky voice nobody pays much attention to. M still calls me Toong-Ting, the foolishness of it insists on dignity. I feel like I should have something wise to say… there’s no self, or there’s only the ‘self’ appearing in the awareness that’s here and has always been here “Pretending you’re not “it” is exactly the same as “it”‘ [Alan Watts]

You could probably say the illusion of self is part of what the whole thing is about… an all-inclusiveness, buy-one-get-one-free acceptance and given over to the care of a Higher Power, Brahman, God. Or whatever it is that carries meaning; the optimum reality, selecting the data that fits the theory; looking for the story that makes it all make sense. Hard to say, for me, it’s not there, unless I focus on it being there… maybe that’s just what it does.

Culture is a link that needs to be updated all the time and if I’m not in that culture, the software isn’t updated. More than thirty years living with other people’s preferences, and only returning to how I choose to live my life when there’s an opportunity. As the years go by, one forgets what some of the original choices were, and those are replaced by some of the more recent familiarities.

And there’s this blog and all my blogging friends and their friends, and I’m really so glad to know you. Thank you for five years of dhammafootsteps.com

‘Wandering through realms of consciousness like a refugee, thought looks for a home. Thought thinks that perhaps by clinging to this or to that, it can find a home. In this way, thought forms attachments with names and forms, with concepts such as “is” and “is not,” “self” and “other,” “me” and “mine,” and with emotions like envy, pride, and desire. It is the mission of thought to form these attachments in hopes of finding a home. Thought wants to own its own home.’ [Thought Is Homeless/The Endless Further/ 2012 July 16]


 

the look of flowers

POSTCARD #261: New Delhi: looking at Facebook pics of my niece M aged 13, in New Zealand, reminds me of how it was when I was her age; studied many things in school but never learned (or escaped from learning) what lay beneath the overlay of becoming some ‘body’ – a person with a job, an identity and this is ‘me’ how are you?

Intuition told me it wasn’t the whole story. Living a lie, I must have thought. Nobody taught us about the art of living (or maybe I wasn’t listening), somehow missed the bit about being at peace with the sense of I-am-ness, only that jittery feeling of physicality, and living on the edge. Mind searching for motivation in situations that offer comfort, gratification in pleasure, gratification in displeasure too, justified raging and things out of control, everything thrown to the wind.

Stumbling and crashing through the successes and failures of many lives, and coming to India more than thirty years ago – there to be suddenly awakened to The Whole Thing. So much can be said about that, but now here in New Delhi on a Sunday morning, no traffic noise, just blue sky and birdsong. Flowers seen in a passing eyebeam with that look of being looked at.

Then, ‘regret’ arrives from somewhere thousands of miles from here and in a great expanse in time. It appears in the form of a small boy, bowed head, scruffy uniform, string showing at the collar, latch-door key kid. Headmaster in a huge voice says, ‘you have to think about what you’re doing before you do it, okay?’ Small boy nods, says some words of respect, and shuffles out of the room. Headmaster was talking about mindfulness decades before it came to be what it is today – for me, it was something intuitively know but still unlearned.

In a split second I see that moment there and then encapsulated in the here and now of present time. The boy in a state of anxious urgency every day, no real home, slightly unstable and the struggle to get it right without anyone to reassure him that yes, you can use intuitive guesswork even if you have nothing to go on. The built-in reasoning of mind in these circumstances is enough. So I’m the adult here, now playing the part of headmaster, saying, ‘yes kiddo, you’re right, and it’s allright, you can do that, no problem!’

Even now when I see the English word ‘ignorance’ translated from the Pali word ‘avidya’, it brings a slight twinge of anxiety of school days, built-in conditioning and authoritarian adults. Then, reaching out to that kid with the burden of failure, standing before the Headmaster, I can correct the thought enslavement of ignorance, because it’s not that. You need to have the context of stability, look at this state of not knowing, and being as open as you can to it, see that it’s not not-knowing, it’s ‘knowing’. Then it becomes the Pali word ‘vidya’ The seed of knowing planted deep in the ground of what is not known… the metaphor of the lotus rising from the mud.

Looking through M’s photos of her in New Zealand, being who she is, and for me it’s surprising to see it’s as easy as that. Thus stepping into my own timeline to make these corrections so that everything unfolding from there and then to here and now is free of obstructions – gone is the dark fear experienced by the schoolboy and in its place is the light of knowing.

“And the bird called, in response to the unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, and the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.” T. S. Elliot, The Four Quartets


Photo: sunflowers in our garden. I took the photo not expecting to see the bee in the flower head!

there and back again

img_0371POSTCARD #241: Chiang Mai: Went down to Bangkok with Jiab and our niece M, aged 12, for the New Year get-together with family, which was happening in the house where we used to live. Strange familiarity of furniture and objects seeming to jump out and call to me… M’s old toys abandoned here and there – a childhood almost gone. The next day, she went back to Chiang Mai with her mum, Jiab set off for Wat Poo Jom Gom, a remote Buddhist monastery near the border with Laos, and the others who were there all left for their homes in the South.

I stayed on in the Bangkok house for another day, a quiet time reflecting on how it used to be, living there, but mostly revisiting the things we talked about the night before – as we do, thinking about what was said, received, held, seen, nurtured… and noticing then, how the memory is displaced by the next moment of remembering – a kind of a death – and all of it, soon enough, fading away into forgetfulness.

Too much to be retained in conscious thought, and a gentle amnesia takes the place of that which groups all conversations in the mind so they form into one. A fleetingness takes away a thought, complete in itself, a picture seen in an instant just as it’s passing away. I seem to understand what was said better than I did when saying it at the time, busy as we are, putting the thought-forms into words… with a return at the end of each response and remark for the others to link with the place where I’d entered the dialogue.

Without trying to make it into anything, just playing my part in the discussion, waiting to see how it was going and where, while all sorts of things came tumbling out in unrehearsed, articulated speech… slotting into the right places. And something is said which fits in place of the piece that’s missing but we only see how it belongs there, after it’s placed. And the whole thing works so well after that, there’s no memory of it ever having been other than what it was/is, perfectly balanced.

Jiab returned from the Wat and the next day we went to the airport together. She was going South and me, back up North. Her flight to Hat Yai was leaving just before mine to Chiang Mai. Bye-bye at the turning of the ways in the long corridor at Don Mueang Departures. Waiting for boarding, she sent me a text saying to look out the window because her aircraft at gate 46 was opposite mine at 55. Her plane took off and mine must have followed on the single runway. Up and away… taking our separate directions above the clouds. How strange and funny to be up ‘there’ together in the air, she in her plane and me in mine, as if we’d been in two ships sailing in an ocean that reaches all other oceans and seas everywhere in the world.

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“Because the mind has no beginning or end, you can’t use the mind to put an end to the mind. Because there’s no inside, outside, or in between, if you look for the mind, there’s no place to find it. If there’s no place to find it, then you can’t find it. Therefore, you should realize there is no mind at all. And because there is no mind at all, demon realms can’t affect you. And because you can’t be affected, you subdue all demons.”
Hui-chung (578-650)


Lower photo: Curious rock formations at Poo Jom Gong, the sea that went away…

hypothesis

IMG_2366bPOSTCARD #181: Chiang Mai/Bangkok flight: Here today and gone tomorrow or here today, next week tomorrow, time warp in an itinerary that is only continuous interchanges. Shrill announcements in Chinese, nine tones, so much air needed to get it all to sound clear, they’re almost shouting. Pain in the head, swallow medicine with a glass of water. Small tables seem to leap up and strike me with food, stabbed by cutlery and glass in the mouth, at night soft pillows try to smother me. Now sitting in an airport coffee shop with M my niece and she says, Look Toong-Ting there’s a mosquito on my chocolate brownie! And I need a moment to figure out what she just said, M looking into my disbelieving face, almond shaped eyes, black pupil almost fills the space. So I lean over to her small plate and M points cautiously with her little finger and there is a mosquito sitting there, or standing there (do they have knees?) on the edge of her brownie. I look at it closely. Do you see it Toong-ting? It’s a boy mosquito. This intrigues me… so small, the genetalia would be hypothetical – how can she tell? Where is this conversation going? Girl mosquitos drink the blood, she says. I shoo away this rude boy mosquito, and ask M if she would like me to go buy her a new chocolate brownie instead of that one that’s been walked upon by a boy mosquito? No she’ll just not eat the bit where the boy mosquito was standing. And she’s eating with a spoon so that looks possible; yes she carves away that chocolate brownie so what’s left is the tiniest cliff teetering on its own in a sea of white porcelain plate with crumbs of its relatives scattered around.

The whole world is a hypothesis – that’s the hypothesis. I’m reminded of something I think I heard somebody tell me about already, it’s only the females who go for the blood, hmmmm, typical, the males hang out in coffee shops and eat chocolate brownies. Then it’s boarding and we’re passing through apertures in walls, holes in the fuselage and sitting in 43H&J. I stow away the hand-carry bags in the locker above, a volume inside a volume, and M selects the aisle seat, sits quietly and perfectly straight, long-necked and graceful, looks around to the back with a fleeting glance that scans for detail all around the inside of the plane, right down to the front, her small eye beams flash through the interior between seats and all through the crowd unnoticed, absorb all data, processed to the brain to see if anybody looks interesting.

Meanwhile I’m sitting with my knees squashed up against the seat in front trying to find the optimum position of comfort – Thai planes are made for little people – ask M if I can put my leg in the space on her side and she agrees and seems pleased to have it there, a fallen tree trunk occupies part of her space. Asks me if I want to put the other one in as well, so I do that, one leg folded on the other and she’s fascinated by the size anomaly, but it’s too much. People will think I’m taking advantage so I take one out and fold it up against the seat in front like the mattress on a bed settee when it’s closed… it’s only a 50 minute flight

She continues looking around, stands up to look at where her seat belt is at, with head spinning nearly 360 degrees, long black hair sweeps around like curtains, then settles into her seat with the thump of her small weight and ‘click’ goes the fastener of her seat belt. These days, M is being an individual, self-contained ‘self’. She’s nearly twelve – and at that age you’ve got to know what you’re doing … I’m thinking it’s a bit sad that the crazy playfulness is gone. There’s just this beauty and sweetness and I don’t know where it comes from. M tells me to fasten my seat belt. I feel that soon it’ll be M taking care of me on these flights.

“A king heard the sound of a lute and it delighted him, so he ordered them to bring that sound. The servants brought him the lute, not the sound, and they had to explain to the king that the sound has no independent existence, but is created by the separate strings, box and arch, all elements acting simultaneously. Just as the king cannot find the sound of the lute, we can not find our self. “ [Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya]

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With thanks to to inaendelea @ the closed room for the end-quote
~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all in the blogosphere

pasta in the past

IMG_2234bPOSTCARD #152: Delhi: Video call from M, my Thai niece, she’s showing me her new glasses… they make her look so grown-up, hard to believe she’s only 11 years old. I remember when she was little, using English words and that creative playfulness: ‘pasta in the past’, something she learned about the word ‘pasta’ having its origins in China and brought to Italy by Marco Polo in the 13th century. So it became pasta (in the past) – as in pasta/ presenta/ futura – but it was also from the movie ‘Frozen’ where the main character (Elsa) sings the song, ‘Let It Go’ and there’s the line ‘the past is in the past…’ (click here for 9 second link) and M was singing along with a video of it as, ‘pasta in the past’, either because that’s how she heard it in some other animation, or she thought it was funny, or both… I can’t remember.

The wisdom of this childlike intelligence that seeks/finds creative solutions to problems – I must have had in my own childhood, over many horizons, long ago and far away. All the ups-and-downs; all the dramas embedded in our history that make us who we are now and form the characteristics of our future time. Births, deaths, marriages; I have a fragile, old, yellowed newspaper clipping of an obituary column that describes my grandfather who came from the Orkney Islands in the North of Scotland and was drowned in a fishing boat in the Moray Firth before I was born. The unseen cause/effect of emotional catastrophes enduring for decades; we’re unknowingly driven to take responsibility for things over which we have no control, thinking (or believing) that by chance we might stumble upon the key to unlock it all; the karma that’ll undo the karma that led to this.

M asks me: Toong Ting, you feel better now? How about your Chingo? (Shingles)… I tell her, yes, I’m okay now, thanks. She looks at me, Did you go to the hospital? (we go to the outpatients section of the local hospital rather than a private doctor) Yes, I went to the hospital, showed the doc my skin rash, looked really yukky, told him about the bad headache all the time. Did you eat the medicine Toong Ting? Yes… we take medicine, we don’t eat medicine, and she knows this but can’t be bothered to make the change from the Thai translation: kin ya

I took homeopathic medicine towards the end of the three-week frenzy of stabbing pain, then the recovery and falling into a huge landscape of pain-free, ease and gentleness. Altered state, revisiting old memories with such vivid clarity it all seemed quite different – I thought the past was irredeemable but it’s not. The past changes according to how it is perceived in present time. And I’d been so firmly attached to the endless thinking-about-thinking, watching the same old rendition of the story I’d assembled over the years.

My world was transformed, ideas and perceptions started to change; a fierce face appears in a kindly way, the scary familiarity of events unfolding but portrayed differently… a completely new production of an old movie. Kindnesses and sorrows, things I’d not noticed at the time become redefined in the process of mindfully remembering the situation. It’s as if I’m seeing my missing grandfather coming back to life; a rebirth happening here and now – in the same way this video call from M is happening now, although she is 2000 miles away. Toong Ting?, M asks, when you come to Thailand? I tell her it’ll be 29 September, that’s next Tuesday… Okay, bye! Everything comes full circle again.

A monk asked Yueh-shan, “What does one think of while sitting?”
“One thinks of not thinking,” the Master replied.
“How does one think of not thinking?” the monk asked.
“Without thinking,” the Master said.
[Zen mondo]

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gentle ways

IMG_2243POSTCARD 144: Bangkok: Impossible to write about Thailand without reference to the car bomb last night in downtown Bangkok, the Thai word for it is ‘baa’ (insanity), was it a madman or was it a politically motivated act intended to provoke retaliation? There’ll be a long investigation and what it means is ordinary people will endure the traffic jams as roads are blocked off; life will go on as usual. Extremists give Thailand a bad reputation; it’s a story we know all too well these days – a created enemy.

I wasn’t able to discuss it with M my Thai niece in Chiang Mai, who’s thinking of things much more important than crazy people with bombs and anyway I’d left for Bangkok the day before, and had no idea there was a bomb because my place there is nowhere near the disaster area and I don’t watch TV. M told me when I called her about the pictures of the chocolate tart she sent me that we made when I was in Chiang Mai. She got the recipe from a YouTube video; created from a packet of Oreo cookies and 2 bars of good quality dark chocolate and one bar of milk chocolate. Open up the cookies and discard the pasty yucky bit in the middle. Smash the Oreo itself to a fine powder and mix with butter to make the base. Then break up the chocolate and melt in milk in a bowl inside a larger bowl of hot water. Pour on top of the Oreo base and put in the freezer overnight.

It’s a kinda reconstituted thing, I thought, yeh nice! Fun thing to do with M and she liked the idea that we are engaged in this activity together, impressed that I was able to scrunch up the Oreo with a spoon really well because of large strong fingers. I was rushing to get it finished though and M was holding things up with her attention to detail, The sequence is important, you have to do properly Toong-Ting, its work like that, she says. I correct her because, well, it’s natural to do that: ‘it works like that,’ I say. She looks at me, then goes back to her scrunching of Oreo: Why he, she and it have ‘s’, and the others don’t? And I say it’s because it’s Third Person Singular, you know? (knowing I’ll have to think up an explanation fast).  But… Why? So I decide to try this: it’s just the way words relate to each other, the way things fit together, and the he-she-it one is different from the others. Just different, that’s all. M accepts this explanation and I’m relieved. We go on scrunching…

The Thai culture values peaceful, gentle ways. The Buddhist teachings guide people through the delusion arising from hot emotions like confusion, anger; the mindfulness of knowing that whatever arises, falls away. Thais have this deeply felt jai-yen (keep a cool heart) attitude that’ll hopefully allow things to remain calm in the years to come. Everyone is quite well aware of the danger. It’ll take more than a single bomb at Erawan Shrine to cause a reaction.
(Note: At the time of writing a second bomb has exploded in the river at Sathorn Bridge)

“Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” [Helen Keller]

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Note about Helen Keller: Helen was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. [The] big breakthrough in communication came when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”.
Photo: Flower seller Phuket

looking out and looking in

IMG_0627POSTCARD 143: Delhi-Bangkok-Chiang Mai flight: The flight from Delhi arrives at Bangkok a bit behind schedule so we have to move along quickly to the transit desk and transfer to the domestic terminal for the next flight to Chiang Mai. In-flight bags on a small trolley, and we’re zooming along on the moving walkways in this celestial structure of steel and glass. As yet, passports are unstamped, les frontaliers, the no-man’s land between country borders. We’re unregistered, no identity, invisible data.

It’s always the journey to get there… after I get to where I think is ‘there’, there’s another ‘there’ to get to, and all of it leads back to ‘here’, an ‘everywhere’ place made up of everywhere else… then it’s extending away again. It can only be the journey itself, not the destination – the Path is the goal, this is where we live. Isolated scenes from parts of the surroundings seen flashing by as we’re soaring along the high speed walkways; smooth as swans gliding on the surface of a lake. Two thousand miles of transportation corridors from Delhi to here, flight corridors connected end-to-end, through which we travel in the sensory cloud of transient ‘now’ consciousness looking out and looking in. There is nowhere that consciousness isn’t present. Consciousness is everywhere, so vast – indeed everywhere is included in consciousness, “And the deep lane insists on the direction”, an extended corridor projected out towards the designated destination where everything in the perspective it creates seems to disappear in a vanishing point.

An incidental episode of familiarity comes along… the déjà vu of cups of coffee taken at these restaurants, bars where they have wifi. Have I been here before? Must be the last time I came through, or was it the time before that? Was I going – or was I coming back, transit to New Delhi? I spoke with some people there, if I happened to meet them now, I wouldn’t remember. No time this time, we’re at immigration, passport stamp thump! through to security, take off my belt, shoes, my watch. Laptops out of bags and put them into the tray together with my phone to go through the X-ray machine.

Just then, the phone rings… reflex movement to reach for it, but it’s too far and the security officer shakes her head… let it go through. Phone ringing happily as it rumbles on its rollers into the machine. I pass through the X-ray, muffled ringtone continues then lovely ascending increased volume as it comes out the other side. I want to pick it up but people are waiting, a bit harrassed; there’s the putting-on-of-the-belt and shoes. Security officials seem unmoved by the tremendous ascending 4D heavenly ringtone, probably happens all the time… eventually I get the phone. Hello?’ It’s M, my Thai niece: Where are you now Toong Ting? I tell her we are boarding the plane in a minute and will be in Chiang Mai in about one hour. Silence for a moment, then she says: I make choc-o-late-cake. Clearly punctuated percussive articulation, she speaks English as a second language. I tell her, oh nice! and try to explain how the phone got X-rayed as she was calling me, but she can’t find anything to say to that… attempting to find a link with something else it could be related to, mind travels away with this information. No time to discuss, we have to go now, bye. Speedwalking through to the Departure gate and they’re boarding just as we get there; processed, find seats, strapped in and ready for take-off… engines roar, climbing again up into higher altitudes.

You hide me in your cloak of Nothingness
Reflect my ghost in your glass of Being
I am nothing, yet appear: transparent dream
Where your eternity briefly trembles [Rumi]

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beyond belief

IMG_4118POSTCARD #131: Delhi: I received this photo of a plane journey on my phone from M, my 11-year-old Thai niece. She was on a night flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. All our devices are connected so I get her photos, downloaded images, screenshots, kiddie’s apps and have to subscribe to an increased GB storage plan due to these thousands of ‘cute’ digital items, increasing daily. I read in Google somewhere that the number of mobile phones exceeds the population of the world, due to users that own multiple devices. Let’s say there are trillions of images all around the planet… whatever, there’s just this sense of vastness. Like the stars seen through M’s downloaded pic of the plane window. More than that; a quick look at Google tells me there are 200 billion galaxies out there, a Universe filled with a septillion: 1024 planets –on ‘the short scale’ (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) and 1042 on ‘the long scale’.

Changing from the Macro to the Micro, each star that can be seen from the plane window out there looks like a micro particle – wiki tells me that ‘point-particles’ are zero-dimensional. So it doesn’t take long to start thinking about transparency, lightness, non-being:

You are boundless space.
You are nothing that you appear to be.
You are the fathomless ocean, forever flowing.
The waves do not affect you.
Nothing affects you, for there’s no you.
[Robert Adams]

(reblogged from: Known is a drop, Unknown is an ocean

It’s just that everything I’ve been taught as a child is the received perception that’s passed down through generations of those with the same mind/body organism as I have. Most of us hold on to creationist belief systems, “God” – the ‘Big Bang’. But what caused the big bang? What came before that? A lot of people I know spend most of their time in contemplation, one way or another  – meditation or focused thought, and seeking a way of living that allows for this because it’s possibly the most important thing you can do with your life.

Advaita Vedanta talks about Brahman being the cause, and the world is the effect. Without the cause, the effect is no longer there. What that means is the ‘World” is real when seen with Brahman but it’s false when seen without Brahman. So basically Brahman is the original cause and those of us who see without Brahman are seeing the World as an illusion. Sounds like the sky is blue, the grass is green because the human sensory system creates it like that, and there’s no way to prove this is ‘real.’ That’s how it seems to be, in a manner of speaking – the sense there’s something missing… Brahman/Pure Consciousness/Reality? Not seeking, just considering the question. I like what cabrogal says: ‘Pure consciousness has no object’ – this has become like a kind of koan for me.

The Buddha didn’t agree with the external, eternal creationist idea:

“As far as the suns and moons extend their courses and the regions of the sky shine in splendor, there is a thousandfold world system. In each single one of these there are a thousand suns, moons, Meru Mountains, four times a thousand continents and oceans, a thousand heavens of all stages of the realm of sense pleasure, a thousand Brahma worlds. As far as a thousandfold world system reaches in other words, [the universe], the Great God is the highest being. But even the Great God is subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be.” (Anguttara-Nikaya X 29)

It’s like saying these are all concepts and true reality is not a concept – words cannot reach that far. I received another picture from M, her painting of a beehive, done after she got off the flight and back in school again. It’s a natural hive in the forest. When Jiab asked what the bee outside the hive was doing there, she gave it some thought and said it was counting the stars – a created answer, sort of an on-the-spur-of-the-moment thing…

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Note: I Googled the title of this post after I’d set up the thing for publication and discovered in Amazon it’s the title of a book: ‘Beyond Belief’ by Elaine Pagels about the “secret” Gospel of Thomas. The idea that the Jesus Teachings were changed by Churchianity. Jesus was saying he was the son of God but we are all the sons and daughters of God, no difference. We can all be enlightened. I was wondering if anybody had read this book and should I order it from Amazon?

thinking about it

1ChannaiPOSTCARD #128: Delhi: After I finished writing this post I went back through the draft and changed it so much I forgot how it originally started and how it ended. Decided then the best thing to do is accept that this is not the beginning of the story; this is an entry point in a story that goes on and on and obviously it starts with Jiab’s photos of the visit to the coast at Chennai (Madras) South India, and the perfect silhouette of flying seabird upper right.

I came to Madras more than 30 years ago, and now remembering how things were then. I must have been convinced it was of real value at that time but the fact that it was all forgotten about later says that this was mind-created… things appear then disappear. So now I’m returning to the place I set off from but not the beginning – too remote and lost in time. Returning to this as a starting place riding the waves, flip from one journey to the next; it’s all connected. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey to get there – the Path is the goal.

And sometimes in the process of creativity you have to destroy all kinds of things you really like. Deconstruct everything to the point where you still kind of half-remember how to put it together again but usually it ends up as something very different from what you intended and surprisingly, somehow better! Sometimes, though, it can’t be reassembled in any satisfactory form at all, remains as fragments of rememberings and has to be let go of completely.

Mostly it’s thinking about it, thoughts, a function of the mind that synchronizes with the sensory data received and the world and objects appear the way they do. Fortunate or unfortunate, we may find ourselves with the karma/vipaka of received knowledge misinterpreted – maybe adrift on a boat without a sail, depending solely on the happenstance of things. There’s sadness about remembering how things could have been and having to accept they’re gone.

IMG_1262At first I thought how beautiful these little fish are … then I realized they had all been alive just a few hours before this photo was taken. Now they are dead. It’s like this in all fish markets everywhere I’ve been in Asia. People look at, feel, examine the animal they intend to consume, negotiate a fair price and it becomes the evening meal.

I remember my niece M when she was very small, crouching down close to a plastic bucket of water containing a beautiful yellow fish that mommy had bought at the market and she was watching it die as the man whacked it on the head a few times with the wooden handle of something designed for the job. Beautiful fish wrapped it up in plastic and then in a bag, sold! This was part of her education.

It’s difficult for me because I was brought up with fish and meat already chopped up and prepared for display in the supermarket. This is how it is, in the West we choose not to think about that, meanwhile the majority of the world sees the truth; the whole animal, head, tail; fully aware of what they’re doing. Yes in the West we decide not to think about that – even though thinking about all kinds of other really weird stuff from time to time – so we can decide not to think, we can stop thinking when we need to.

fishnet1This is why I try to give that great turmoil of thoughts a rest for a while… the whole thing. Stop thinking. The state of no thought, no language, no images, a great emptiness for a while; but eventually another thought comes along. I examine that for as long as it takes and let that one go too, then return to the state of no thought. Vipassana meditation, yoniso manasikara: proper, wise, or appropriate attention; skillful, wise, or critical reflection. Purposeful, systematic and methodical thought (please take a look at this link).

But then of course we all continue to eat fish. In UK it’s deep fried in batter with chips (French Fries), pretty basic but tasty. It comes in all forms. I remember walking through a fish market in Yokohama with a friend named Curtis Cairns and Curtis stopped me to look at a whole fish on display, pinkish grey in color, “I think that’s a Grouper’ he said, but I’d need to have them cut off the head, tail and part of the skin, take a slice of it and place it in a polystyrene tray held with Clingfilm with a barcode label and then I could recognize it.”

“… thinking I am this and you are that is what separates you or I from everything and we become something. In that something the ego is and as it is everything isn’t. That dream of thought the ego “knows” is the making of a reality that isn’t but thinks it is. So my ability to walk with one and see the other is what allows me the ability to see love in everything. The love I see is the love or “God” I have. The thought I think is the making of a reflection that wants and lives in need. The thought is an expectation of something to come. That something though isn’t real and what is real is left behind as the thought chases something it needs” [tommyg1231’s Blog “Tell Me Why?”]

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Just a note about Curtis Cairns. Hey Curtis I lost you! It’s been years. If you happen to read this, please be in touch…

change in plan

IMG_1935POSTCARD #124: Bangkok: Ah well, life’s like that, we made a last minute booking after M went to Koh Krabi and Jiab and I got a flight to Bangkok. No traffic on Sunday so we were at the house before we knew it. The plan is Jiab goes to the Bangkok office on Monday, leaves for Delhi Tuesday and goes to Kathmandhu in a few days to organize the rebuilding, after the earthquake, using local staff. ‘Bare-foot technicians’, on-the-job training, they get paid quite well, mostly clearing rubble and then re-establishing infrastructural stuff. It could take a long time. For a more up-to-date account of how things are check out garyhorvitz’s blog: Kathmandu Komment, Everything is Everything and more recent posts.

IMG_1369I’ll go back to Ch’Mai and continue with care-taking duties of M until 16th May then back to Delhi. If I stop and think about it, I find I’m starting to take a position against it, locked into the suffering and looking for some kind of punishing way to develop the problem – a grasping reaction, I have the cause but no effect. Let the mind unstick from it, the karma of cause/effect/ flowing like a torrents in a river. Present time contained in the here-and-now of where I am, as if it were contained in a book I’m reading… open at the page where I was, re-enter at the same place and time when I was last here. I am a character in a story about a world seen through clouds of thoughts thinking thoughts embedded in this self I recognise as ‘me’.

How am I to inhabit what remains of this lifetime, feels like I’m at the end of the railway track, can’t go any further, step down from the train and there’s this open view out to sea.

“Lal Shabaz was wandering through the desert with a friend as evening began to fall. The desert was terribly cold, so the two pilgrims began to gather wood for a fire. With their pyre neatly constructed, they realized they had no way of igniting it. Lal Shahbaz’s friend suggested that he transform himself into a great bird and fly down into hell to collect coals for a fire. Lal Shahbaz considered this a wise suggestion and flew away. After many cold hours Lal Shahbaz returned to his friend empty-handed. Puzzled, he asked why he had not returned with fire to keep them warm. Lal Shahbaz replied, “There is no fire in hell. Everyone who goes there brings their own fire, their own pain, from this world.” [William Dalrymple]

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upper photo: a Thai mythological creature guarding the gates of a Buddhist temple.
lower photo: a Buddha Rupa unharmed in the Nepal earthquake
With thanks to Gary Horvitz ~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~